Act 1, Part 1 of 3
Pages 1-46 (MSPA: 1901-1946)
NOTE: This is not a restart of my Homestuck post series. It’s just an experiment where I try going through the beginning of the comic in the style of my most recent Homestuck posts. My next Homestuck post (EDIT: that isn’t a rewrite) will continue where I left off at Act 6 Act 3.
I made this almost a month ago and was originally going to release this alongside some other stuff, but I kind of abandoned the other stuff so enjoy this on its own instead. I feel like it’s in the spirit of the /r/homestuck community reread that’s going on right now.
“Bedroom Screwaround Session, Remastered” is already taken, god damn it.
Homestuck’s starting page… everyone who’s been invested in the comic knows how it goes. “A young man stands in his bedroom. It just so happens that today, the 13th of April, 2009, is this young man’s birthday. Though it was thirteen years ago he was given life, it is only today he will be given a name! What will the name of this young man be?” The beginning of Homestuck builds off the intro of the prior MS Paint Adventures, by introducing a protagonist in a simple setting, but quite a bit more elaborate than prior.
I would go into more detail about this opening page, but the beginning of the comic is kind of hard to talk about without comparing it to later parts so I think I’ll go sparse on commentating on all the useless nonsense. Not to mention that way too many Homestuck analyses similar to this one start strong by dissecting this simple first page and then fall off.
The second page of the comic is an immature joke where the imaginary player of this “game” tries to name him Zoosmell Pooplord. Immediately, we see that Hussie wants to do a lot more complicated things with it than he did with Problem Sleuth. This gag has a lot of potential interpretations as to what it means for the meta narrative*, but I think the main point of it is nothing more than to establish that this comic’s going to show us a comedic take on video games and their mechanics. Think of an establishing character moment, but it establishes the story as a whole, not a character.
* this is where I almost typed “meta knarrative”
Ah, John Egbert. A name that captures the spirit of early Homestuck compared to its later parts: the protagonist’s general traits and mannerisms are decided on a whim, and his actual character is built off on those traits. His name is no exception. John Egbert’s name was suggested by a reader (the first name suggested in fact), and I think it captures his personality nicely: it’s a normal first name, plus a slightly weird but quaint last name. Anyone who stumbles upon that name will immediately know this guy is a lovable nerd, somewhat airheaded but a pure-hearted person at his core.
John’s introduction page, again, gives a simple smattering of interests that serve to build up his character later on, starting in maybe Act 3 or 4.
Your name is JOHN. As was previously mentioned it is your BIRTHDAY. A number of CAKES are scattered about your room. You have a variety of INTERESTS. You have a passion for REALLY TERRIBLE MOVIES. You like to program computers but you are NOT VERY GOOD AT IT. You have a fondness for PARANORMAL LORE, and are an aspiring AMATEUR MAGICIAN. You also like to play GAMES sometimes.
John is kind of an empty protagonist for the first stretch of this comic, but these interests work surprisingly well to make an actual character out of. John likes 90’s movies because that was the last time era Hussie was tuned into pop culture when he started Homestuck; that interest is later expanded on to demonstrate that John is buried deep in old mediocre media he idolizes, rather than the real-world trends of his time. The rest of his interests mostly establish him as a nerd who is amateurish about most of the things he wants to pursue. His lack of skill in programming is expanded on when we meet Karkat, his troll equivalent of sorts, and Sollux, Karkat’s programmer friend/rival; his interest in “paranormal lore” I can only think connects to his interest in Ghostbusters
Matching with the usual course of callbacks to prior adventures, John’s first real command is to retrieve his arms, since he’s depicted without arms. But instead of the usual “you’ve already got arms, [insult]!”, he actually retrieves a pair of fake arms from his chest. It doesn’t take long at all for the comic to make it clear that it’s going to toy with the mechanics of not only video games, but the prior adventures as well.
The first new game mechanic of Homestuck, the sylladex, is introduced here, and it’s more of Hussie having fun with video game mechanics. The sylladex system is used for a bunch of useless nonsense at first, but then it starts getting used first for the characters’ quests to get copies of the game, then ties in with them starting Sburb.
Oh yeah, I forgot this system is based on computer programming, as are the other fetch modus systems we see. That’s the other thing early Homestuck toys with and makes fun of, though the theme of making fun of computer programming doesn’t really stick.
This simple note from John’s father is another small thing that is expanded on in surprising ways.
“John: Squawk like an imbecile and shit on your desk.”
One of many one-off gags that are made into patterns: Rose and Dave follow this pattern, while Jade subverts it.
Here we get a bit of a feel for what can be done with the captchalogue mechanics.
This sort of stuff isn’t really revisited later on; it’s just more silly video game satire.
John hangs up his new Little Monsters poster, then examines his posters for other favorites of his: Con Air and Deep Impact. I think the theme that these simple parts of Act 1 are expanded on later is now clear to anyone rereading this comic, considering how much John’s favorite movies are referenced later on.
Now here’s where we learn about a game called Sburb, which John is excited for. We don’t learn what the game is about though; it seems to be deliberately left vague, or maybe John is just excited for this game for no particular reason.
Ah, here we are at the comic’s first dialogue between two characters. John and Dave’s first conversation has two major parts, each of which establishes something different about this story.
TG: hey so what sort of insane loot did you rake in today
EB: i got a little monsters poster, it’s so awesome. i’m going to watch it again today, the applejuice scene was so funny.
TG: oh hell that is such a coincidence i just found an unopened container of apple juice in my closet it is like fucking christmas up in here
EB: ok thats fine, but i just have one question and then a word of caution. have you ever seen a movie called little monsters starring howie mandel and fred savage?
TG: the seal on the bottle is unbroken
TG: are you suggesting someone put piss in my apple juice at the factory
EB: all im saying is don’t you think monster howie mandel has the power to do something as simple as reseal a bottle?
EB: try using your brain numbnuts.
TG: why did the fat kid or whoever drank it know what piss tasted like
TG: i mean his reaction was nigh instantaneous
EB: it was the 15th day in a row howie mandel peed in his juice.
TG: ok i can accept that
TG: monster B-list celebrity douchebags are cunning and persistent pranksters
TG: also fred savage has a really punchable face
The first half (way more than half) of this conversation, as you may know, is adapted from a conversation Hussie had with a friend of his. Listing random trivia isn’t the important part though: the important part is that this is yet another small thing that’s later extrapolated upon into something real. In this case, when we get introduced to Dave and see this conversation from his perspective, the stuff he is talking about actually makes some amount of sense. And the implications thereof are certainly a thing of their own; Hussie has way too much fun extrapolating Dave’s character as the comic goes on. And I mean too much fun—I hope you can figure out what I mean by that.
TG: but who cares about this lets stop talking about it
TG: did you get the beta yet
EB: did you?
TG: man i got two copies already
TG: but i dont care im not going to play it or anything the game sounds boring
TG: did you see how it got slammed in game bro????
EB: game bro is a joke and we both know it.
TG: why dont you go check your mail maybe its there now
The second half (way less than half) of this conversation establishes Dave as an NPC in John’s pseudo-video game story. Dave here is characterized as John’s sarcastic somewhat stuck-up friend, but at the same time throughout this act he provides John with bits of advice. This seems to build off of how NPCs work in video games: they are typically established with a certain personality, but may break character to give hints, telling what the player should do next.
The little red arm-swingy-dealy thing or whatever it is called is flipped up!
What the hell is that thing called anyway. You do not have time for these semantics. The red flippy-lever thing means you have new mail. And that means the beta might be here!
Are you ready for something I find funny? Here’s something I find funny.
When I first got to this page in my blog post series, I for some reason found it obligatory to mention that later characters named Jane and Roxy have a conversation about the little red arm-swingy-dealy thing or whatever it is called, where this time there’s someone around to correct the misconception. I later removed that part because I realized it was an irrelevant thing to mention.
But here, the alpha kids’ callback to this scene is absolutely worth mentioning. It’s—you guessed it—yet another instance of a simple joke being expanded upon to mean much more later on. The second time this scene happens, someone corrects the misconception, just to demonstrate Jane’s character I guess. And yes, I know one could argue the terms “Jane” and “character” don’t go well together, but that scene happened in her formative stages, just like how this scene is arguably before John’s formative stages.
John’s dad comes in and oh hell, how is John going to receive his mail now??? Surely his kind, loving father couldn’t just give him his birthday present. That definitely isn’t a thing that could ever happen.
If you go down stairs to get it, he will likely monopolize hours of your time. You decide to chill out up here for a while until the dust settles.
Sometimes you feel like you are trapped in this room. Stuck, if you will, in a sense which possibly borders on the titular.
The title of Homestuck has been analyzed far too many times, and I think it’s generally accepted that it refers to, among other things, characters being trapped in their own mental bubble and world. Here, John is stuck in the mindset that his father is maybe a video game miniboss or something. I would talk more about parallels/subversions with Jane, but if I keep doing that this post would secretly become an analysis of early Act 6 instead of Act 1.
Read this mini-post if you please.
I think at this point I should cool off on calling forward to later events.
… Maybe a little. It’s hard to resist.
John converses with Dave again, with Dave again taking the role of an NPC—both doing his usual character behavior and helping John learn game mechanics. This time, the first half (way less than half) is Dave talking about Rose who really wants to play Sburb with him (another thing that makes more sense from his perspective), and the second half (way more than half) goes like this:
TG: whats your modus
TG: how do you retrieve artifacts from it
EB: oh. like one at a time i guess. and if i put too much in, something falls out.
TG: stack?? hahahahahaha
EB: what is yours?
TG: hash map
TG: my bro taught me a few tricks he basically knows everything and is awesome
EB: what the hell is that?
TG: you should probably brush up on your data structures
EB: i guess.
TG: did you at least allocate your strife specibus
TG: it could free up a card for you
TG: plus let you attack stuff whenever things get too hot to handle
TG: which is never
TG: what have you got
EB: well, i’ve got a hammer but it’s trapped under some arms.
TG: wow you really suck at this dont you
TG: just get rid of the arms and then allocate the hammer to the specibus
TG: i dont know just use the arms on any old thing and see if it works
This is some true NPC talk right there. More on Dave’s role as an NPC when I compare him against John’s conversations with the other two kids. Dave’s line about his bro gives an in-universe explanation for why he can reasonably hold this role for John.
John allocates a hammer to his strife specibus and we get an interesting exchange:
EB: ok, i did it.
TG: ok that will be the permanent allocation for your specibus
TG: i guess i should have mentioned that
TG: hope you like hammers dude!
EB: yeah, that’s fine i guess. i can’t imagine it’s going to be all that relevant.
This reads really well as dialogue in a video game, between the player character and a guide character; probably not as much as a regular conversation in a story. Needless to say, hammers as John’s signature weapon kind of grow to be part of his character too.
The GameBro article on Sburb is kind of interesting. A theme in Homestuck, only touched at once or twice, is that background characters tend to be a blank slate, a zone of pure speculation. At one point, a doomed timeline version of John speculates on what his neighbors must be like when showing someone else* around his memories; this speculation is based on how little we know about them. The article reviewing Sburb similarly speculates based on how little is known about it; all we know about it is its release date and the spirograph and house logos, which means one can reasonably speculate it involves building houses but not much more. The reviewer goes on to discuss a useless unrelated story because of course he does.
* It didn’t take me long to end up having a reason to reference you-know-who, to probably nobody’s surprise.
John puts on a clever disguise to fool his father, which might work in some video games: put on a beagle puss and boom, nobody will know who you are! But the comic only takes a few sentences to realize this disguise is total trash.
Since this is where I stopped in my first Homestuck post, I’ll stop here as well.
See you next time as I go back to the present and dissect probably some stuff involving Caliborn. wait no I’m continuing this, see you next time as John explores more of his house or something, I don’t feel like putting something witty here.