Cookie Fonster Critiques Homestuck Part 21: Down the Chitinous Windhole

Introduction

Part 20 | Part 21 | Part 22 >

Act 5 Act 1, Part 1 of 7

Pages 1989-2070 (MSPA: 3889-3970)

Elsewhere in paradox space, we examine another planet, forgotten by time.

After nearly two thousand pages mostly covering the adventures of our quartet of nerdy teenagers, we pause our adventure for a stretch of about 600 pages dedicated to thoroughly getting to know what Homestuck is best known for: the trolls. This part of Homestuck is sometimes called the troll intermission, because like the Midnight Crew intermission, it focuses on an entirely different cast of characters from those four kids. Like I said in my first intermission post, some people skip the trolls’ arc, or skip all the way to the trolls’ arc, which, needless to say, are both bad ideas.

Before we begin, I’d like to say stuff about Homestuck’s trolls. Although their existence was not planned from the start, they’re a very integral part of what makes Homestuck what it is. For many people, when they hear “Homestuck”, the trolls come to mind. It’s hard to hear about Homestuck without knowing that the trolls are going to show up at some point, and I’m no exception. Like I said in posts as early as Act 3, I saw a handful of pictures and videos of Homestuck stuff before reading it, so I knew about the trolls beforehand. Because of the trolls, for quite a long time I had the impression that Homestuck was pretty much just plain weird. The trolls are weird, sure, but they’re a very colorful and appealing cast of characters. They range from a lovable paranoid grouch to a stoned juggalo who eventually turns evil to a pretentious wanna-be wizard and more. What adds to the appeal of the trolls is that each person has a corresponding troll based on their date of birth because of the zodiac stuff. If you’re wondering, my zodiac sign troll is Aradia.

The trolls have a lot of things specific to them like their lusus, blood caste, shirt symbol, typing quirk, residence, and the quadrants that pretty much beg readers to make their original characters. Even though I’m a pretty big fan of Homestuck, I’ve never made a fan troll or anything like that. I’ve read some fan-made adventures and similar stuff, but I’m not too much into those, mostly into Homestuck itself. The same goes for the year-long phase where I was a brony. I didn’t care much for fan works, but I was pretty into the show. I even considered making a video series in which I review all the episodes of that show similar to the blog post series you’re reading, but that never went anywhere. In retrospect, I think I mostly was into MLP:FiM because of the fanbase, which is for some reason REALLY MASSIVE. It’s an alright show but it’s definitely not the best thing ever, and I think the controversial thing of Twilight Sparkle turning into an alicorn kind of serves as a reminder that despite its fandom it’s still a little girl’s show so of course there will be princess shit. But let’s not get too far off track here.

This young troll stands in his respiteblock…

The trolls’ arc opens up by introducing us to the planet on which the trolls reside, called Alternia. Then we get a call back to the very start of Homestuck, shown above. It’s essentially the first page of Homestuck, but with troll terminology mixed in, which is an amusing way to make the trolls sound alien. It’s also mentioned that Earth doesn’t exist yet, an early hint of the trolls created the kids’ universe. It’s not exactly the first hint because a little while ago Karkat claimed that Superman was created by humans subconsciously admitting to the trolls’ superiority, but still one of the first hints. This is followed by Karkat slicing the naming bar in half right when a derogatory name is entered, telling us that we will not be rehashing every single little gag with the trolls the way we did with the kids. His introduction page is similar to John’s introduction page, but more expansive. He is a huge fan of awful romantic movies, is horrendously bad at programming, is irritated by almost all his friends, and will supposedly play a game with not 11 other friends, but only 5 other friends.

Out of all the trolls, Karkat Vantas is my definite favorite. Almost every scene with him in it is either hilarious, emotionally touching, or both. His defining traits are his perpetual irritation, excessive paranoia, and care for his friends’ well-being. He has compelling dynamics with many different characters, largely stemming from aggravation at everything they do but growing on from that—his dynamics with Gamzee, Sollux, John, Dave, and Jade are all kind of like that. I’m not too keen on what’s been made of him after the post-retcon meteor journey—feeling unworthy of leadership or of his own skill in general, and having an ambiguous thing with Dave which I personally believe is a former relationship*—but he’s still overall an amazing character.

* I’m not a fan of Dave and Karkat being an actual thing instead of just being bros, or the Dave sexuality thing in general. But I’ll talk about that later.

** 2019 EDIT: HOOOOOOLY SHIT, WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT STUPID HEADCANON OF MINE. I REFUSE TO BELIEVE I ACTUALLY THOUGHT SUCH A THING.

TC: wHaT iS uUuUuP mY iNvErTeBrOtHeR? 
CG: WHAT IN THE SWEET ALMIGHTY TAINTCHAFING FUCK DO YOU WANT. 
TC: NoT a MoThErFuCkInG tHiNg BrO. 
TC: oThEr ThAn I bE cHeCkIn OuT hOw My BeSt MoThErFuCkIn FrIeNd Is At Yo. 
CG: I REALLY CAN’T STAND YOU AND I HATE HOW YOU TYPE, IT JUST BOTHERS ME SO MUCH, HAVE I MENTIONED THAT? 
TC: YoU SaY iT pReTtY mUcH eVeRy TiMe We TaLk YeAh. 
TC: but uh, i don’t have to… 
TC: uhhh see? 
TC: but i mean man this feels so motherfuckin unnatural and shit. 
TC: YoU jUsT gOt To Be GoInG wItH wHaT fEeLs RiGhT aT wHeRe YoUr HeArT’s Up In, YoU kNoW? 
TC: bEsT fRiEnD. 

Gamzee goes on to talk about miracles and Faygo, which screams “juggalo” unless you don’t know about ICP, which was the case before I read Homestuck. It’s also mentioned that the thing which the trolls all think is a big deal (which we can presume is their game of Sburb) is apparently something made by Sollux. I remember when I got to this conversation in my first read-through. I immediately got the impression that Gamzee and Karkat are a pair of characters similar to SpongeBob and Squidward respectively, where Person A thinks of Person B as a good friend but Person B can’t stand Person A. There’s quite a lot of pairs of fictional characters who are like this, and SpongeBob and Squidward came to mind because SpongeBob SquarePants was my favorite TV show as a kid. Another such pair in Homestuck is Jake and Erisolsprite, which I think is an even stronger resemblance than Karkat and Gamzee. 

And then we switch perspective to Gamzee.

It’s the most important character in Homestuck!
Also the troll it took the longest for me to remember by name.

Gamzee Makara is a character with mixed views among the fandom. A lot of readers dislike him because since Act 6 started, he has mostly been used as a plot device rather than a voiced character. No character really understands his motives, not even Hussie. But unlike many people, I don’t hate Gamzee. He’s an amusing guy with his clown religion (100% definitely just a throwaway gag) and his juggalo shtick; because of Homestuck, I burst out laughing whenever I watch or read anything related to ICP because it’s so ridiculous. Before he turns evil, he seems to be a legitimately nice dude. At this point he’s practically the opposite of Karkat: while Karkat is uptight, almost always in a crabby mood, and finds most of his friends extremely annoying, Gamzee is spacey and carefree, never gets annoyed at anything, and is stated to like his troll friends a lot. Fitting, because their zodiac signs are at opposite times of the year. I mean, look at all those bike horns and bottles of Faygo strewn about his room, compared to Karkat’s clean room. Also, I wonder what kind of music he listens to on that iPod-like device next to his husktop (probably awful rap music). It’s interesting how Hussie chose to make this troll be the one who flips upside-down and turns into a murderous psychopath. Out of the trolls, Gamzee was enough of a secondary character to safely sacrifice to antagonist land. He didn’t do much to the plot at this point, and he didn’t already have traits of a potential antagonist like Vriska or Eridan did. This makes his turning evil is an exceptionally shocking twist. But enough about that. What fuckery does Gamzee get up to?

The first thing we learn about Gamzee after his introduction page is his fetch modus, called the Miracle Modus. He has no idea how it works, and doesn’t want to know. He likes watching the flashing colors of objects he puts in the modus though. Then we learn that he eats sopor slime, which he doesn’t know does funny things to a troll’s brain. I’ve seen people wonder at that time, what’s Gamzee like when he’s not stoned on that slime? We all know that without the slime he’s absolutely terrifying. Why didn’t the meteor crew ever think of feeding him slime again so that he can be the spacey fake clown he always was? Gamzee then checks on his lusus who is nowhere to be found, and we get a mention of the supposedly hostile sea dwellers. He sends a bottle of Faygo flying out of his sylladex, and gets his husktop out of his sylladex by literally reaching into it with his hands. I guess his drugs must let him think of the sylladex as a physical thing you can get objects from. Gamzee answers Terezi, who recruits him to play games with her, but only because his name sounds like “game”. We get some mention of what the trolls’ custodians are like, with Gamzee’s being a goat, and Terezi apparently not having one. She is somewhat rude to Gamzee, wondering why nothing anyone says bothers him.

Karkat does some more programming, and we get some exposition about the workings of the ~ATH programming language. It works with infinite loops that last until something dies. He checks out some programs his impossibly good programmer friend Sollux made, which he doesn’t understand at all, and it’s spoiled for us that he will run one of those viruses in a fit of stupidity. Then Karkat and Sollux have a very mature and friendly conversation.

It’s such a beautiful thing. This troll disease called friendship.

Sollux tells Karkat that he’s setting him up to play a game with some people. They share a laugh over how ridiculous Gamzee’s miracle stuff is, but then Sollux tells Karkat the deal with the game. He explains that he adapted it from some technology Aradia dug out of some ruins. Karkat gets angry that it’s yet another private thing between him and that spooky girl and the conversation descends into an angry argument. The argument pauses when Sollux says that the game has a red team and a blue team, and that he himself will be the leader of the blue team while Terezi will be the leader of the red team. Karkat promptly throws a fit:

TA: uh… 
TA: bro youre not the red team leader. 
TA: ii piicked GC for that. 
CG: WHAT???????????????????? 
TA: dude ii diid NOT thiink youd be iintere2ted iin thii2 dont act all offended. 
CG: OH WOW NOW I SEE. 
CG: REALLY FUCKING CLEVER, PICKING THE BLIND GIRL TO LEAD THE TEAM YOUR COMPETING WITH. 
CG: I KNEW YOU WERE CHEATER LOWLIFE FUCKING SCUMBAG WITH NO SCRUPLES OR SELF ESTEEM AND WERE BASICALLY WORTHLESS ON EVERY LEVEL, BUT SOMEHOW I’M STILL DISAPPOINTED IN YOU. 
TA: yeah ii am 2uch an iidiiot for not rewardiing your bubbly per2onaliity and iimpeccable people 2kiill2 wiith a leader2hiip giig. 
TA: what an iincon2iiderate knuckle2ponged a22hole ii have been. 

and they trade some more insults, but after that Sollux says that he doesn’t actually care who the leader is, and tells him to talk to Terezi about it. They agree that their conversation was embarrassing and delete it from their logs. Karkat and Sollux are stated by Gamzee to be best friends, but half of this conversation is throwing insults back and forth. I must say, those are some elaborate insults they trade. Those two troll dudes are both simultaneously self-aggrandizing and self-hating, making for an interesting relationship which can be somewhat friendly, extremely childish, and rather testy as shown in another conversation between them a little later. They eventually seem to have drifted apart though, and I wonder if we’ll ever see them interact again.

Up next on the troll itinerary for us to meet is the devious blind girl who smells colors and stuff.

It’s that blind weirdo.

Terezi Pyrope is one of the main trolls in Homestuck, and as such she’s a pretty dynamic character. She takes delight in messing with people, has a special skill in tricking and confusing others, has tomboyish tendencies, and is also kind of flirty, shown most especially in conversations with Karkat. Later, emotional issues will really grow on her, with regrets about Vriska, abuse by Gamzee, feelings of inferiority to her dancestor Latula, and after the timeline is changed up, inferiority to her own alternate self, who I really hope will get some dialogue with (Vriska) (and who I correctly guessed would reunite with her after death), though her cunning ways remain in place as shown in the retcon mission stuff. Like I said in an Act 4 post, she will often have a dynamic with one character built up, then scratched in favor of expanding on a different dynamic, which would itself be scrapped, and so on. She first talked to John several times, but then seemingly abandoned him in favor of Dave; now, she’s going to have her relationship with Karkat built up.

Teresa’s* introduction page is the first mention we get of the FLARP cycle of revenge, namely as an accident she had in roleplaying which we can guess is what led to her blindness. Then she plays Courtblock Drama with her scalemates. That scene is the first time we get a link to a password page, something many readers will look at but generally get confused by. I’ve seen readers getting to that page guessing a password that leads them to get spoiled on some things. Some readers argue that the password pages are really unnecessary, but I think they’re a nice touch to the retcon arc. The one problem is that maybe the password hint (namely that you’re not supposed to know the password if you don’t know it yet) should be more conspicuous, not hidden under a button where you can open it. I don’t have much else to say about the scalemate roleplay scene, other than that it gives readers a taste of how messed up troll society is.

* 3/19/2019: I am keeping that autocorrect fluke, it’s too funny.

Terezi’s planet is glimpsed in a rather charming panel, then we go back to the present. Terezi, who is presently the designated leader of the red team, starts recruiting members. Out of all the trolls, the first two she recruits are both odd choices: a roleplaying furry and a spacey juggalo. The narration’s description of Terezi’s opinion of Nepeta is worth quoting:

Ok how about this girl. You like to roleplay with her sometimes via chat. You pretend you are a member of the mysterious and noble DRAGONYY’YD RACE, while she does her own goofy thing.

You don’t have it in your heart to tell her that your chat RPing is meant f4c3t1ously I mean facetiously.

The line above says something about Terezi’s character. As ironic as she likes to be, she can tell that some people just aren’t like that and plays along with them so as not to disappoint.

After Terezi and Nepeta do some roleplaying, she asks Nepeta to play games with her. But not so fast—she needs ask some guy for permission. Why does this girl who kills animals with her bare hands (something about Nepeta that’s easy to forget) have a guy who bosses her around? Terezi and Karkat both think it’s stupid that she lets Equius boss her around like that. And yet, they are the textbook moirallegiance, and their relationship becomes rather lovable over time.

Terezi recruits Gamzee in a conversation we already read, only now we know the context for it. Then she answers Karkat, conversing with him for the first time in Homestuck. Karkat tells her that he is the leader of the red team, and Terezi says that unlike him, she doesn’t care that she isn’t the leader. Their exchange is a mix of Karkat/Terezi tease and explanation about the game. For example:

GC: OK 1F YOU 1NS1ST 
GC: F4R B3 1T FROM M3 TO STOP YOU FROM B31NG SO D4SH1NG 4ND COUR4G3OUS 
GC: 4ND TO B3 P3RF3CTLY HON3ST 4 L1TTL3 B1T H4NDSOM3 >:] 
CG: YES, EXACTLY. 
CG: NOW YOU ARE MAKING SENSE. 
CG: THIS IS THE KIND OF THING THAT SANE PEOPLE SAY. 
CG: KEEP AT IT, THERE’S HOPE FOR YOU YET. 

Also, a few things about trolls are mentioned for the first time in this exchange. The word “lusus” is first used (cue readers thinking “what the fuck is a lusus”), and Karkat casually mentions that he thinks one of his neighbors was recently culled, which is obviously something pretty unsettling. This all but confirms that trolls are kind of fucked up.

Karkat’s hive in the medium.

Next we skip to some time after Karkat entered the game. As you can see in the picture above, Terezi messed with Karkat’s home, painting it, building it weirdly, and even drawing his face on it, and Karkat alchemized some cool stuff. He complains to Terezi about how she ripped his load gaper—or as she calls it, a toilet—out of his house, and how bad she is doing at building his house the right way. The trolls’ arc is filled with skipping back and forth like this, and I like the way that’s done with the whole server player stuff, with skipping to a point when the house has been built up somewhat. It’s mentioned that Terezi has blue blood, and that Karkat keeps his blood color a secret. Terezi explains more about client/server chains, and when she mentions meteors, for some reason Karkat doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Assuming Karkat lives on present Alternia, he must have gotten into the game really early or something.

Aradia and Eridan pose for teasers, the former telekinetically desecrating the frog temple’s head for an unexplained reason (though it’s stated that there is some reason), and the latter being sickened by a bottle of Faygo he found. I like the way trolls have teasers, gradually having bits and pieces of them shown to us before their introductions. Aradia’s teaser in particular is a character establishing moment, showing us how spooky and emotionless she is.

Then we rewind to get some exposition about troll lusii and how trolls reproduce, namely by putting their genetic material in buckets which are sent to the mother grub to lay hundreds of thousands of eggs from one massive incestuous slurry to create insect trolls who eventually turn humanoid, while adult trolls are away from the planet conquering galaxies. The trolls’ arc has a decent amount of pages used to exposit about trolls, their session, or whatever else, which I think is because it’s hard to reveal such information through conversations between characters. I think I remember reading somewhere that the section where the quadrants are explained was made because explaining them through the terms mentioned in conversations didn’t really work out and mostly confused readers. Karkat strifes his lusus which is not devoted to a flash, rather just a gif page plus a link to a snip of a song. And you can’t forget about that drawing of his lusus on the fridge. 

Up next is Sollux’s introduction, meaning that this is a natural stopping point: three trolls introduced in one post. See you next time as we get to know another batch of three trolls and the story gets pretty damn gloomy.

>> Part 22: Psychic Snaps and Computer Explosions

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