Cookie Fonster’s Homestuck Commentary Part 38: Ascensions and Failures Thereof

Introduction 

Part 37 Part 38 | Part 39 >

Act 5 Act 2, Part 11 of 32

Pages 3075-3132 (MSPA: 4975-5032)

I haven’t had title images with John in them lately, so here’s one with him I guess. We aren’t going to see him for a while anyway.

John levels to the top of his echeladder and the air returns to being cloudy, and I guess this is kind of meant to indicate that the echeladder is not at the end of the line. We’re about to get introduced to the concept of god tiers.

Up next is another walkaround game featuring John. It’s similar to the Act 4 game (with very similar music) but I guess it switched to the Earthbound style. John answers Vriska in the game, and I have a few things to say about that.

VRISKA: 8ut mostly, I am congratul8ting you……..
VRISKA: FOR GAINING ALL THE LEVELS!!!!!!!! ::::O
JOHN: oh, right! i got to the top of my echeladder somehow. i didn’t even really think it had a top, or that i would get there so fast.
JOHN: so i guess that’s it, then! don’t have to worry about leveling up anymore. that’s pretty neat.
VRISKA: Don’t 8e ridiculous, John.
VRISKA: While you may have technically gained all the levels just now, you did not truly gain ALL of them just yet.
VRISKA: In a way, this is really just the 8eginning.
JOHN: it is?
VRISKA: Yes. You are now ready to 8egin your ascent through the god tiers.
VRISKA: No8ody I know was a8le to progress this far anywhere near as fast and you, John. Not even me! I can’t tell you how proud I am.

Vriska is telling John how proud she is of him, which brings to mind the “so proud of you” thing his dad does.

VRISKA: 8ut mostly, I am congratul8ting you……..
VRISKA: FOR GAINING ALL THE LEVELS!!!!!!!! ::::O
JOHN: oh, right! i got to the top of my echeladder somehow. i didn’t even really think it had a top, or that i would get there so fast.
JOHN: so i guess that’s it, then! don’t have to worry about leveling up anymore. that’s pretty neat.
VRISKA: Don’t 8e ridiculous, John.
VRISKA: While you may have technically gained all the levels just now, you did not truly gain ALL of them just yet.
VRISKA: In a way, this is really just the 8eginning.
JOHN: it is?
VRISKA: Yes. You are now ready to 8egin your ascent through the god tiers.
VRISKA: No8ody I know was a8le to progress this far anywhere near as fast and you, John. Not even me! I can’t tell you how proud I am.

Here Vriska’s playing the role of an NPC (non-player character), which seems fully intentional. As I’ve said several times, Homestuck is a very video game-themed comic, and the concept of NPCs has been there from the beginning. In Act 1 Dave kind of served as an NPC, giving John advice with his sylladex and whatnot. All the carapacians and consorts in the game undoubtedly count as NPCs, and now Vriska is playing that role. I’ve never realized that the trolls kind of serve the role of non-player characters.

I’ll run down other stuff in the game bullet list style.

  • Lots of salamanders congratulate the Heir for doing a windy thing, and John is somehow unaware that he is the Heir, though then again, neither are the salamanders. How ironic that the character who loves video games remains unaware of how many typical video game concepts are featured in Sburb.
  • John gets a can of Tab soda and I wonder if WV appearified some of them out of John’s land. It’s kind of presumed that Serenity the firefly was appearified from John’s land, so I suppose cans of Tab having a similar story would make sense.
  • Some salamanders talk about John’s planet quest thing which kind of was forgotten for a long time but made a grand return shortly preceding the retcon section. Walkarounds have lots of information and foreshadowing stuff like this that people might miss.
  • John calls a smuppet he gets “one of Dave’s dumb butt puppets”. Why does everyone call them Dave’s puppets when they’re clearly his brother’s thing?
  • Apparently some salamanders alchemized Barbasol to try extinguish the flames??? Oh my god that’s simultaneously hilarious and tragic.
  • One fraymotif shop is the first appearance of aspect symbols other than breath. The symbols for light, time, and space are shown.
  • John talks to another salamander towards the end of the game and it turns out that he actually knew he was the Heir all along, apparently.
  • For parts that aren’t in the progression to the quest bed, the salamanders see Bec imps as horrifying demons.

Next, John goes to his quest bed and gets ready to take his legendary nap.

EB: ok, i think i’m ready to take this legendary nap! 
EB: and then climb the god tiers, i guess? 
AG: Yes, exactly! Pretty exciting, isn’t it? 
EB: yeah… 
EB: maybe it is a little TOO exciting. 
AG: What’s that mean? 
EB: i am not sleepy at all! 
EB: also, this is not much of a bed. more like a really hard slab of rock. 
EB: i don’t see how i will be able to sleep. 

At this point, we’re led to believe that you must sleep on a quest bed to ascend to god tier. If that was indeed the case like Vriska suggested, then ascending to god tier would no doubt be tricky. Not just because it’s a slab of rock, but because, as John pointed out, it’s such an exciting prospect that it’ll be hard falling asleep. You’d need to bring blankets or something, and even then, below you would be solid cold rock. So you’d need to probably bring a mattress, and in that case would that really count as being on a quest bed? I’m not sure.

EB: you mean, you’re asking me this time, instead of just doing it? 
EB: what happened to you wanting to be responsible for me becoming a hero! 
AG: John, I am clearly involved in your rise to power now regardless. That can’t 8e changed! 
AG: I am giving you the option, 8ecause at some point a hero has to start making choices. 
AG: Once you take a 8r8k from hunting treasure and stop getting distracted 8y side quests, you eventually realize that’s what this game is all a8out. 

What Vriska is saying is showing that her plan for John’s rise as a hero is actually succeeding.

Upon his request, Vriska puts John to sleep and then…

Protagonist death.

John’s death came as quite a shock to me on my first read. I knew in advance through Homestuck videos that lots of characters die, John included, but knowledge of that didn’t stop his death from being a surprising twist. I’m sure the thing of dying before you can come back to life with new powers is some kind of symbolism, but I’m not sure what.

The death is accompanied with Vriska saying “8888)”, making readers perhaps wonder if this was all a ploy for John to get killed. But the command following the page, WV telling John to rise up, promises that the main character might not be gone for good. Admittedly, I don’t know how common it is for the protagonist not to make it to the end of a story.

In the following flash, titled [S] JOHN. RISE UP.*, John ascends to god tier.

* Often mistakenly referred to as [S] John: Rise up. It’s important not to confuse the title because it signifies that WV is commanding John to rise up in hopes that the windy boy will come back to life, and as far as he can tell, the command failed.

To kick things off, WV sees John dead on his screen, and his wall drawings representing the incipisphere that he made back in Act 2 are brought to light as they zoom in to LOWAS. I like this reminder of WV’s drawings being relevant, as if to say, “Hey, remember that thing? That was foreshadowing stuff.”

Jade, Dave, and Rose are apparently watching John ascend to god tier—why else would they be shown in this flash? I’m not sure exactly how that works. Maybe it’s just stylistic effect, seeing the protagonist’s three friends watch him rise to a rank well above them.

The newly-ascended John sees his corpse in a Skaian cloud, which must be to clear up to him that he just died and then came back in grander form. I’m not sure how much sense that made to him. If memory serves me, I think John talks about how he saw his body in a Skaian cloud later and didn’t get what that meant, and I guess I’ll have to wait and see what he says about that.

It’s tragic how the last thing WV sees on his screen before it blacks out is the fearsome Jack Noir having just murdered John.

Up next is Terezi trying what we just saw with Dave, but with very different results. Although I didn’t realize it in my first two reads, it’s now pretty clear to me that this scene is meant to contrast against Vriska successfully bringing John to god tier. I’ll list out the differences as I go on. First off, John got killed by Jack, but Dave was supposed to be killed by his alternate self.

I read (present tense) the pesterlog accompanying this page and I really can’t think of anything to say so far, so I guess I’ll do the empty description thing I did a lot back when I had my old posting style of paragraphs with occasional quotes. I think I’ll be doing that sort of thing for much of this scene, so feel free to call this a Cookie Fonster Throwback™. Here we go: Dave sees another version of him sleeping on his quest bed. It’s not his past self, and according to Terezi it’s not his future self either, so it must be a doomed version of him.

There is a part of this pesterlog I do feel like commenting on:

GC: YOU WOULDNT STOP BUGG1NG M3 4BOUT WHY YOUD N3V3R B3 4BL3 TO C4TCH UP W1TH JOHN 
GC: 1 TOLD YOU YOU WOULDNT B3 4BL3 TO F4C3 YOUR D34TH 
GC: 4ND TH4T W4SNT GOOD 3NOUGH FOR YOU! SO H3R3 W3 4R3 

Comparing himself to others is kind of a big thing in Dave’s character arc. Thinking of that, maybe part of John’s role in the story is as a counterpoint to Dave’s arc. As I’ve said, many readers find the Prospit kids’ character development unsatisfying compared to that of the Derse kids. The weird thing of John being a counterpoint character is that he is the protagonist, and it’s very common for there to be a character who acts as a foil to the protagonist (TV Tropes calls it “the lancer”), but it’s stranger for it to feel like the protagonist is a foil to the lancer rather than the other way around. It’s surprisingly easy to imagine a version of Homestuck where Dave is the protagonist; however, this hypothetical “Davestuck”* may well have a different more adventurous mood than regular Homestuck (or should I say Johnstuck?) does.

* Not to be confused with the thing where people take scenes in Homestuck and change every character to Dave, which is also called Davestuck.

Also regarding protagonists, Homestuck is one of these works where there are multiple main characters of equal relevance, but at the same time John feels like the protagonist. Maybe it’s kind of an intermediate between multiple-protagonist and single-protagonist works? I’m not sure.

Protagonist digressions aside, the original topic of these paragraphs also brings to mind another thing about Dave’s arc. His whole spiel on sexuality feels like it has a purpose of arc closure, but it doesn’t really solve the issue of Dave and heroism, almost strengthening it. As I’ve said earlier, Dave has kind of excessive complications compared to other major characters, and my feelings on that are iffy, to say the least.

OK, maybe I’m being hard here, but here’s the point. I really like some things about Dave’s character, but he often feels like way more of a tragic figure than any of the other major characters.

This is an interesting Trollian feature glimpsed that isn’t exactly explained well but can be deduced easily.

Terezi explains stuff about the coin flip and if I’m reading it correctly, she’s doing it to demonstrate to Dave, who wanted to ascend to god tier to be up there with John, why he can’t face his own death. I’m going to compare this to the previous scene with Vriska and John. Vriska simply went the efficient way, bringing John up to god tier status by tricking him into dying and resurrecting anew. Terezi, however, complicated things with a coin flip decision to teach Dave a lesson which ultimately failed. What’s up with that? I thought about that before reading these pages and figured the problem may ultimately lie in Dave’s obstinacy, but now I’m not sure. I guess I’ll just roll along and see what happens.

Another bit of note in this conversation is:

GC: 4ND YOU W3R3 L1K3 hey sure terezi i will hella go along with your two face thing 
GC: WH4T3V3R TH4T M34NS >:\ 
TG: oh yeah 
GC: WH4T D1D TH4T M34N, BY TH3 W4Y 
GC: WH4TS 4 TWO F4C3 TH1NG 
TG: twoface is a human batman villain whos half ugly and flips coins all the time to make evil decisions 
GC: OH… 
GC: W3LL TH4TS K1ND OF D1SH34RT3N1NG, 1 SORT OF THOUGHT MY CO1N FL1PP1NG W4S 4 COOL 4ND UN1QU3 TH1NG >:[ 

This is one of many in-comic nods to storytelling devices Hussie has used. He has said that many of the trolls are inspired by superheroes and villains from other works of media. Terezi, for instance, is based on Daredevil and Two Face.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s pretty relevant to this discussion so I’ll say it again. It’s heavily implied that in the Homestuck universe, ICP is based on people’s subconscious knowledge of Gamzee, which further suggests the same for other things the trolls are inspired by. So all is not lost for Terezi; Two Face may well have been inspired by people’s subconscious thoughts of her. Even though nobody in Homestuck has put two and two together and realized that. For instance, Dave finds it no more than bizarre and hilarious that Gamzee is a blatant juggalo who doesn’t know about ICP. Maybe when our heroes create a universe the new civilization will have fictional superheroes based on John and company and it’ll all click and they’ll finally realize what’s up with Gamzee being a juggalo?

Occasionally Homestuck clarifies stuff through diagrams. Diagrams are cool.
Also, in my first read, I recognized the bottom part of this picture from Know Your Meme’s page on Homestuck.

Back to where we were, alpha Dave picked good heads to mean Terezi shows him how to reach god tier now and bad heads to mean she shows him later, but a doomed Dave made the opposite choice. Both times the coin landed bad heads so now there they are.

TG: then 
TG: this is kind of useless isnt it 
TG: i thought you were bringing me back here to finish a stable time loop not murder a guy you punked whos gonna die regardless
TG: whats the fucking point of giving a doomed version of myself superpowers anyway 
GC: M4YB3 H3 W1LL STOP B31NG DOOM3D 4FT3R YOU K1LL H1M? 
GC: M4YB3 H3 W1LL G3T TH3 D4V3 POW3RS 4ND L1V3 4 LONG 4ND COOL L1F3 NOT B31NG DOOM3D 4NYMOR3 
GC: HOW WOULD YOU KNOW UNL3SS YOU T4K3 4 ST4B 4T 1T? 
GC: H3H3H3 
TG: its just the worst thing when you get morbid 
GC: >:P 
TG: anyway maybe 
TG: but i kind of doubt thats how it works i mean 
TG: doomed means doomed doesnt it 

Dave is pretty much right here. Turns out Terezi’s trickery failed this time. What exactly went wrong? Terezi went along with Dave’s desires and made it into a choice whether he went god tier, and I guess paradox space made it so that Dave wouldn’t make it either way. The Dave who went straight to the quest bed was made to be a doomed Dave; both Dave and Terezi know this, the former realizing there’s no point in making the doomed Dave god tier if he’s, well, doomed. The non-doomed Dave I guess wasn’t going to immediately go god tier regardless. So by making it into a choice thing, Terezi failed.

Vriska, on the other hand, successfully brought John to god tier without any complicated gimmicks, just directing him to his quest bed, putting him to sleep, and the rest plays itself. I guess Vriska and Terezi have different ideas of how to make their corresponding kids into the best ones they can be. Or maybe it’s because Dave knew about the idea of going god tier and was nervous about facing mortality, so Terezi turned this into a lesson or something? I’m really not sure; as I said in response to a comment on last post, I get a migraine whenever I think hard about the coinflip stuff. 

TG: the loopholes are only temporary like look how davesprite turned out 
GC: >:[ 
GC: R1P MR OR4NG3 CR34MS1CL3S, M4Y H3 R3ST 1N D3L1C1OUSN3SS 
TG: am i wrong in guessing that 
TG: shouldnt you know better than me 

As we all know, Davesprite’s death turns out to be a so-called “Disney death”, where the character thought dead was alive all along. Davesprite has a second Disney death later on, where everyone thought he was dead but the pre-retcon version of him made it to the new timeline to everyone’s shock. Both times, the possibility that it’s a Disney death is specifically noted; it’s lampshaded especially hard the second time, where Dave says he’s sure Davesprite is dead and won’t come back as a stupid surprise, and that’s after pre-retcon Davesprite is confirmed to be alive.

Terezi tries to convince Dave to kill his doomed self because it’s going to happen anyway, but I guess he doesn’t have it in his heart to do it. Dave eventually figures the whole thing was a prank played on him, and then asks her if he will go god tier. Terezi says no but it doesn’t really matter when he has fraymotifs and is at the top of his echeladder, and the same goes for most of the trolls. I’ve seen people suggest that going god tier is just a fast way to achieve a level of power that can also be achieved with more difficulty through ordinary means. Just like Vriska, Terezi proceeds to leave Dave to his own devices and give him a hint as to what to do next: go to Jade’s land and help her out. Terezi goes on to explain stuff about her role as a Seer of Mind: 

GC: 1 KNOW YOUR M1ND B3TT3R TH4N YOU 
TG: oh do you 
GC: 1 4M NOT PSYCH1C, BUT 1 H4V3 TH3 S1GHT S33RS 4R3 M34NT TO H4V3 
GC: 1T W4S MY ROL3 TO H4V3 1T 
GC: TO T4LK TO P3OPL3 4ND S33 TH3 TUNN3LS 4ND VORT1C3S 1N TH31R M1NDS 4ND TO UND3RST4ND TH3 R34L1T13S TH3Y WOULD CR34T3 1F THOS3 THOUGHTS L34D TO 4CT1ON 
GC: FOR MY 3N3M13S, 1 W4S M34NT TO BR1NG 4BOUT TH3 1NH3R3NT R3TR1BUT1ON FLOW1NG FROM TH3 R34L1TY M4D3 BY TH31R OWN 3V1L THOUGHTS 
GC: 4ND FOR MY FR13NDS, TO PROT3CT TH3M FROM TH31R T3ND3NCY TO UND3R3ST1M4T3 TH3 POW3R TH31R CONFUS1ON H4S OV3R TH31R F4T3 
GC: TO K33P TH3M OUT OF TROUBL3, D4V3 >:] 

The conversation concludes with talking about luck and seeing people’s thoughts, and Terezi saying that luck doesn’t actually matter. The whole point of this coin flip  is rather unclear compared to the purpose of the other two doomed timelines in the kids’ session (Davesprite’s timeline and the Journal Dave timeline). It remains a topic of debate among readers as we learn more about paradox space and doomed timelines and stuff; not just the coin flip, but the whole point of doomed timelines altogether. Doomed timelines and their purpose is a debate topic right up there with the retcon, the classpect system, whether Dave and Karkat are in a relationship*, and most of all, everything about Vriska.

* It’s pretty funny when you think about it, how whether two characters are in a relationship is up there with these major plot points. It’s even better than the huge controversy surrounding Vriska. 

EDIT (8/31/2016): As of now, it’s an even bigger debate topic than Vriska, which as per fandom memes shouldn’t be possible but it is after all, somehow.

Up next is a flashback scene with Vriska and Tavros where we see how the former, beaten bloody, ascends to god tier.

Tavros comes close to using a breath kiss to revive Vriska or something? I’m not sure. Vriska chokes him via mind-control, refusing to just be kissed back to life. Hearts Boxcars also gives up on commanding him to kiss her.

Vriska starts controlling Tavros into writing messages with her blood, and that’s a really clever way to dodge face-to-face dialogue. Why does Homestuck go out of its way to avoid regular plain face-to-face conversations? Maybe it’s to emphasize the theme of isolation present throughout the story. Characters never mention friends outside the group we focus on. The closest we get is things like fans of Dave’s websites. Even when dialoglogs become a thing, there are some restrictions: only players and sprites can be involved in these conversations, no guardians or carapacians or consorts.

Tavros brings Vriska to her quest cocoon, and Vriska gives Tavros a chance to kill her. This is kind of reminiscent of how she does the same with John, and it brings to mind yet more parallelism stuff. Vriska tries on John what she tried and failed to do on Tavros, but with a somewhat different, less malicious approach.

This is seriously just WAY TOO MUCH BLOOD.
Like, ten times as much as should fit in a troll’s body.

Vriska refuses Snowman’s suggestion that she controls Tavros into doing what’s necessary. Maybe this is because it’s kind of her last attempt at strengthening Tavros or something, her ultimate test. This whole scene is significant partly it shows what caused Vriska to finally give up on Tavros. Vriska’s whole dynamic with Tavros is largely presented in anachronic order. This scene is presented between her conversation with him I covered last post and her kiilling him, and in addition, Vriska crippling Tavros is presented to us after our first impression of Vriska following Tavros’s introduction.

Vriska begs Tavros to just kill her already, and apparently she ran out of blood and uses brown stuff, which is either Tavros’s tears or his own blood, I’m not sure. I never realized that this means Vriska may have forced Tavros to stab himself or something. No wonder he broke down in tears.

Vriska ascends to god tier, Tavros flies away in tears, having failed his final test. Snowman’s final command to Vriska “Rise up, Thief”, which is notable because it’s very similar to WV’s final command to John; the childish mayor guy and the sly femme fatale both said pretty much the same thing.

From this point to her death, Vriska walks around in her god tier outfit. This is probably just a stylistic thing, but I can’t help but wonder, did she have any personal motivation for changing her clothes offscreen? Just to look like a badass or what?

Snowman’s screen shuts off, signifying that this scene parallels John’s ascension in some ways. So basically, I guess we went through three scenes that have to do with ascending to god tier.

See you next time for the conksuckiest Christmas special ever.

>> Part 39: the CRISMATS SPECAIL

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