Cookie Fonster’s Homestuck Reflections Part 120: The Part Where I Keep Getting Distracted Thinking About Fireflies by Owl City


< Part 119 | Part 120 | Part 121 >

Act 6 Act 6 Intermission 4, Part 3 of 8

Pages 7059-7099

You would not believe your ghosts
if 120 Homestuck posts
were written by cookiefonster

(120 is pronounced “one twenty”)

Before we begin, have an obligatory plug of my 8-bit cover of Fireflies. Also an obligatory statement that this post includes the oil retcon scene.

Alright, let’s begin this post!

Jade and Calliope commence their storytelling session for real, wielding pens in their respective text colors. Jade tells the two stories about John as promised in their last scene.

JADE: im starting to remember the things she told me so vividly now
JADE: its amazing what a creative project can do to get your mind turning

I know exactly what Jade is talking about regarding creative projects. These posts have gotten my mind turning about many matters, Homestuck and otherwise, definitely not to an excessive or distracting degree or anything.

CALLIOPE: what shall i draw first?
JADE: the land of wind and shade!
JADE: that is where the story starts
CALLIOPE: i see.
CALLIOPE: which story, exactly?
CALLIOPE: her story, or yoUrs?
JADE: hmmm
JADE: both, as a matter of fact
JADE: my story began with a tragedy on lowas, which led to meeting her in the first place
JADE: and then, she used my memory of that tragedy as a starting point for her story, which turned out to be related
CALLIOPE: ooh, fascinating!
CALLIOPE: (i love stories)
JADE: (i know)

All three voiced cherub characters in Homestuck—I consider the regular and god tier Calliope separate characters—display a strong affinity for circumstantial simultaneity. In their many stories, they frequently tie together seemingly distant events using common points; in this case, the stories about pre-retcon John and post-retcon John are tied together using their visitations to LOWAS.

Apparently Calliope can accurately draw LOWAS from memory. Is it a normal part of being a good artist to be able to accurately draw things from memory? Because I sure as hell can’t draw anything from memory without getting a lot wrong, unless an image has been thoroughly drilled into my head like, say, a map of the United States of America. I think the beta kids’ planets, and many other images in Homestuck’s story, have been thoroughly drilled in Calliope’s head, so maybe it’s not surprising she can draw LOWAS from memory.

I imagine that Jade in this picture is pondering over whether the Squiddles show is really as good as she remembered, like she so discussed on John’s fifteenth birthday pre-retcon.

Jade starts narrating the tragedy of how John died in a scene that reveals how BRUTAL the retcon was to Jade before we even know what John retconned:

JADE: but yes, the tragedy is why i was alone on the golden ship
JADE: it was not long after our three year journey began
JADE: i was relaxing in our makeshift livingroom, giving john and davesprite some space to themselves for a while so they could catch up
JADE: john wanted to visit his home again
JADE: so i happily obliged and shrunk them both down so they could hang out in his tiny tall house
JADE: it seemed like the nice thing to do…
JADE: but i came to regret that decision more than any ive ever made

Jade’s description of the post-retcon battleship journey starts with an expansion into the events of the pre-retcon journey, or at least events we can safely assume happened pre-retcon. The battleship journey is also expanded upon a bit later in A6A6I4, where John tells Roxy about the funeral they held for Dave’s bro. It’s interesting to see this journey elaborated on from Jade’s perspective instead of John’s. Before the retcon, John’s first time going to his home after scratching the session is hardly worth noting; after the retcon, it’s a very plot-relevant event narrated by the new alpha timeline Jade, since her timeline’s John is shafted to irrelevance.

JADE: i was minding my own business when out of nowhere…
JADE: lowas exploded!!!

As I discussed last post, post-retcon LOWAS exploding is significant because it leaves a spot open for the pre-retcon planet, where John’s house has been since the start of Act 2. It’s a clever way to keep the starting location of Homestuck intact, which helps set John apart from other characters who are not the same versions of themselves throughout the story. John being the same version of himself throughout the story is an interesting uniqueness that Hussie has discussed in his book commentary, which has made me see the retcon rather differently from how I used to.

The symbolism in this panel, with John staying his same self while most others are retconned, is extremely clear. I just don’t get why it had to happen near the start of the battleship journey. Maybe post-retcon Typheus decided, hey, I might as well blow up my planet before I forget and fall asleep for three years. And then right before the explosion, he was like, oh wait, isn’t Jade on the ship? Oh whatever, not my problem.

I suppose Jade spending three years with John and Davesprite dead is symbolic of the cruelty of paradox space, a topic that Karkat has talked about time and time again.

JADE: i couldnt believe it
JADE: it was totally inexplicable
JADE: there was no trace of them at all… they were both dead
JADE: i supposed it must have meant johns death was heroic… but i couldnt for the life of me imagine how
JADE: to me it was as pointless and arbitrary as a death could be

Jade is very much right that John’s god tier immortality works very differently from other players. Back in Act 5 Act 2 when Doc Scratch narrated John’s resurrection from a neutral death, he said that when the Hero of Breath dies for good, it won’t be as a scoundrel. But he didn’t say John would die as a hero either. Between Doc Scratch’s trademark lies of omission and John’s overridden perma-death in the Meat Epilogue, it’s clear that god tier John never dies heroic or just deaths, but rather a special third kind of death that serves as full erasure and is neither heroic nor just.

JADE: i looked within myself as hard as i could to see if there was some power i had, in all my omnipotence, to bring them back
JADE: but i couldnt
JADE: they were gone

This is the unfortunate thing about doomed versions of John. While other characters have their relevance spread across many alternate selves, John’s relevance is concentrated entirely within his main self, leaving his alternate selves unable to ever contribute something significant to the story. John “Poppop” Crocker from the B2 universe is a good example of this: while the pre-scratch alpha kids knew a lot about Sburb and played parts in setting it up, and most of the post-scratch beta kids played a big part in the rebellion against the Condesce, scratched John simply lived out life as a beloved old-timey comedian without any role in political matters. I’ve always found it a little mysterious whether John Crocker played a role in all those rebellions, but thinking about it now, I highly doubt he did, especially because he lacks regular John’s narrative relevance. Even the version of John from Davesprite’s timeline served merely as a catalyst for Davesprite existing, and then went into an offscreen relationship with Vriska before Lord English killed him for real.

Oh yeah, post-retcon Davesprite was killed along with John. I honestly don’t have much to say about Davesprite being dead in this timeline; everyone forgets about him anyway. It’s pretty unfortunate that Davesprite is so forgettable when he has such strong relevance to the story.

God, look at Jade here. She isn’t doing the hilarious exaggerated thing where a female character eats tubs upon tubs of ice cream while loudly crying to herself in a locked-up room. No, she’s eating Nannasprite’s hand-crafted cake all alone, which is much less humorous than ice cream, especially since John isn’t around to make snide remarks about excessive amounts of cake. The portrait of John’s father no doubt increases the utter sting of it all.

JADE: sure, there were still consorts and chess guys to keep me company
JADE: but the loss was too much for me to bear
JADE: i felt so alone
JADE: weeks and months went by…
JADE: i didnt have the slightest sense of how quickly or slowly time was passing
JADE: any sense of purpose to reaching the destination had vanished, and delicious though it was, no amount of nannas cake would bring me comfort

Reading Jade’s description of what the bulk of her battleship journey was like, I’m reminded of Jade’s secretly extremely depressing and tragic childhood. The trauma of mysteriously losing her grandpa at a young age, the desolation of living on an island in the middle of nowhere, the drive to keep going because of dreams foretelling the game of Sburb, the joy of exploring Prospit in her dreams themselves… for post-retcon Jade, all that hope and pursuit led her to participate in all these cool adventures for a day or two until the death of John and Davesprite yanked her all the way back to square one.

I’m not going to try and come up with a narrative justification for secretly horrible things happening to Jade—god tier Calliope provides plenty of that near the very end of Homestuck. Instead, I’ll remark that Jade’s years of desolation somewhat remind me of Jadesprite (before she was a sprite of course), who similarly thought John was dead and spent an eternity getting to know presumably the Beforan trolls in dream bubbles until she was yanked out of the afterlife because… fuck, I don’t even remember why Jade created Jadesprite. Jadesprite is like Davesprite except even more forgettable, like a hundred times more.

I like this stylish rendition of Jade’s characteristic big letter Z.

JADE: toward the end of the journey, when i feeling particularly despondent…
JADE: i fell asleep and had a dream
JADE: and that is when i met a very powerful, strangely charismatic creature…
JADE: her name was calliope 😉

Jade mentioned in the conversation with Tavros where he revealed he killed her grandpa that she had trouble sleeping for a long time after her grandpa’s death. I wonder if she similarly had trouble sleeping during the battleship journey? Like it or not, most of Jade’s plot relevance happens while she’s asleep, so that probably makes sense. Not to mention what she said earlier about being unable to keep track of time.

Jade talks about her dream encounter with god tier Calliope and I’ll skim over stuff for a bit, since it’s kind of weird trying to analyze a character we haven’t even heard a word from yet. I will, however, point out that it’s a little unfortunate god tier Calliope doesn’t get to speak until within the last 500 pages of the comic, leaving her without much opportunity to have her character fleshed out. I suppose having her remain mysterious for so long might make sense given she’s the polar opposite of Lord English? English has been mentioned by name since the Midnight Crew intermission, indirectly referenced since Act 2 with Lil’ Cal and all those Saw references in Dave’s apartment, and then has his past self get lots of screen time in Act 6 as Caliborn. On the other hand, god tier Calliope doesn’t get a speaking scene until around the middle of Act 6 Act 6 Intermission 5 and was shrouded in total mystery before the scene I’m on right now, not to mention she doesn’t even get a cool snappy alternate name of her own. The Muse? Alternate Calliope? Alt Calliope? Calliope as opposed to Callie? I think I like “God Tier Calliope” the most, so get used to me saying that.

JADE: she went on to say that lowas was destroyed because johns denizen had suddenly woken up
JADE: typheus, a great monster of truly terrifying power
JADE: she said he had destroyed his land and slayed his own heir of breath not out of malice, but to make a slight correction
JADE: i asked her…
JADE: what do you mean, “correction”?
JADE: she said that the john from my reality, and his entire planet, needed to be erased
JADE: and that the slumbering denizen in all his mysterious wisdom knew this
JADE: she told me that the dreams of a denizen draw from the same well of potential from which every conceivable possibility arises
JADE: the same place skaia gets its power from
JADE: so if an agreement with a denizen is reached in one reality, that same denizen in another reality could become aware of it, and respond accordingly

This is a very well-placed reminder of something that one may have forgotten regarding denizens: they’re aware of alternate timelines and their actions often intersect between timelines. We saw this sort of deal with Typheus in Davesprite’s timeline all the way back in Act 4, and I think similar such matters happened with Davesprite and his whole sword quest thing with Hephaestus? If there’s any part of Homestuck’s plot that I can never quite get straight, it’s the timeline of Dave’s swords with Caledfwlch and Caledscratch and the Royal Deringer and whatever the hell else. I don’t know if other Homestuck fans have the sword timeline ingrained in their heads, but it weirds me out to imagine someone who does.

JADE: it seems that john, somewhere, in some other plane of existence, had made just such an agreement
JADE: she said that the john i knew, like herself, was only one version of a person
JADE: there was a different version of john from another reality poised to play a more significant role
JADE: you see, the john from that reality in an act of desperation had gone to see typheus, and struck a bargain with him
JADE: she would go on to explain the nature of that bargain in the next part of her story
JADE: but from my perspective, the consequence of this bargain was to lose my friends, and to live with that for years without understanding why
JADE: losing them still hurt, but i was so relieved to at least understand the reason, and to realize their senseless deaths were actually serving a bigger purpose
JADE: i thanked her for letting me know

Typheus’ bargain, as Jade so explains, was to give the post-retcon players some of the same grief John and Roxy experienced at the loss of their friends. However, this grief is distributed ABSURDLY unevenly. Jane and Rose get a little dash of that grief with post-retcon Roxy’s death, the bulk of it goes to Jade with losing John and Davesprite for three years, and everyone else is exempt. Maybe in meta terms, killing John and Davesprite this early in the journey was the only viable way to return the grief, because there simply was no way to subject the meteor crew to the same amount of grief. Jade is truly paradox space’s punching bag.

JADE: she told me she was not human, and had no frame of reference for empathizing with my feelings
JADE: but if there was one thing she could relate to, it was the feeling of being alone
JADE: the feeling of waiting for what seems like eternity by yourself, until finally your purpose presents itself

The first line of this passage is interesting because it suggests god tier Calliope has a very different relationship with her cherubic identity from what regular Calliope has. God tier Calliope seems to have always taken it as fact that she can’t empathize with human feelings, which is a question regular Calliope perpetually wrestles with and has tons of insecurities about. Which statement is true: is Calliope inherently capable of empathizing with human feelings, or is she inherently a stone-cold brick on these matters? Personally, I think neither is true. Cherubs, like any other species in Homestuck, are malleable enough that the same individual can become two completely different people depending what life path they take. It’s kind of like the whole thing with Roxy’s gender identity in the epilogues, at least the message I personally took away from that.

JADE: ….

An extremely minor detail, but I think it’s pretty cute that Jade’s ellipsis consists of four periods while Calliope’s consists of the standard three. Shows their differing typing styles simply using periods.

CALLIOPE: i feel sorry for her.
CALLIOPE: er, for myself, i suppose. but then again, that feeling is nothing new.
JADE: heh
CALLIOPE: it’s an odd statement she made, thoUgh.
JADE: what?
CALLIOPE: not having the frame of reference for empathizing with hUman feelings.
CALLIOPE: if yoU asked me, i woUld say i have the vantage to relate to both hUmans and cherUbs, so when yoU describe yoUr feelings of sadness over losing friends, i’d have more than enoUgh groUnds for commiseration.
CALLIOPE: do you think that this version of me never…
JADE: never what?
CALLIOPE: never had hUman friends like i did?
JADE: i have no idea
CALLIOPE: what a strange thoUght.
CALLIOPE: to grow Up with only my brother for “company”…
CALLIOPE: and not even have my hUman friends to get me by.
CALLIOPE: what a dreadfUl fate. the poor thing.
CALLIOPE: maybe that was the difference?
CALLIOPE: what let her predominate over her brother, whereas i was too, erm…
CALLIOPE: “hUmanly socialized” to sUcceed in my cherUbic rite of passage?
JADE: could be!
JADE: i dont know enough about cherub rites of passage to say either way
JADE: human rites of passage either, for that matter

Calliope says basically the same stuff I had just said. Even when she’s not her cold and stern god tier self, she’s very fast to pick up on narrative patterns and differences between realities.

CALLIOPE: so then what happened!
JADE: right! anyway…
JADE: thats when she began her story in earnest
JADE: the one she summoned me in my dreams to tell me
JADE: the story of the other john who made a deal with typheus
JADE: it began with the same place mine did
JADE: lowas
JADE: so, go on
JADE: draw lowas again!
CALLIOPE: all over again?
JADE: ummmmmm
JADE: no, you can just copy the first one you did 🙂
CALLIOPE: what a lovely idea.
CALLIOPE: i’d hate to hold Up the pace of yoUr exciting tale with a bUnch of sUperflUoUs doodling.

This passage is implicitly talking about the efficiency that comes with liberal use of visual callbacks, which is another thing that all cherubs take delight in (even though Caliborn aggressively complained about callbacks in his first pesterlog).

The second half of god tier Calliope’s story takes place on LOWAS as we last saw it—as one of two planets in the alpha session left intact after the events of Game Over. Jade and Calliope agree not to bother drawing the glitches, which together with this non-Hussie art style (these scenes were drawn by Shelby Cragg who is a massive fan of Calliope) sets this storytelling scene apart from the usual depiction of Homestuck’s events. It is quite rare for John’s storyline to be depicted from a perspective other than his own; the last time I think was during Doc Scratch’s narration takeover, which this whole scene has a fair bit in common with.

CALLIOPE: how did she begin?
JADE: let me think…
JADE: hmm, maybe we should pause before i go on?
JADE: like
JADE: some sort of intermission
JADE: so i can collect my thoughts a bit, and to give the audience a little breather between two significant arcs
JADE: we were at it for a pretty good while there, after all
CALLIOPE: what… aUdience?
JADE: well, that would be you in this case

Here, Jade takes a turn to poke around with the fourth wall, which is amusing because that’s normally the cherubs’ job. Jade did interact plenty with the fourth wall during her introductory scenes in Act 3 so it’s not entirely surprising she’d decide to do so again, especially since this is the biggest stretch of screen time she’s gotten in Act 6 thus far (aside from her grimbark scenes).

JADE: ooh i know!
JADE: i can doodle a quick story about the antics of the silly consorts on the golden ship before moving on

I love these scenes where Homestuck pokes fun at its own concept of intermissions. It’s quite an integral part of storytelling to take breathers between two significant scenes, either to tease at a brand new plot point or, in this case, switch to something incredibly silly. In this case, it’s more than appropriate for the storytelling scene to take a turn for the silly before going back to juicy plot stuff.

JADE: one of the things i did to pass the time on the ship was give them funny names
JADE: lets meet our cast of characters for this intermission shall we?

Given that the pre-retcon battleship and meteor journeys presented us many of comedic scenes, it’s only natural that Jade would present us something from the post-retcon battleship journey that’s humorous instead of completely depressing. This forms a parallel of sorts with the many humorous scenes in Vriskagram.

JADE: lets see, there waaaas
JADE: bubbleupagus
JADE: thips ahoy
JADE: nak be nimble
JADE: slowpoke malone
JADE: detective glubsbudget
JADE: fidgety herbert
JADE: doctor snausages
JADE: yiffyiff

Hussie has such a knack for coming up with absurd names for things. These names give off a similar vibe to the names of echeladder ranks or the many things that get absurd names in Problem Sleuth and his prior works. I imagine these names are partly meant to parody fantasy novels, which tend to give lots of things absurd names for no reason. We also get a dose of Hussie’s weird furry jokes with the last two names, Doctor Snausages and Yiffyiff.

JADE: huh?
JADE: wow, ok sorry!!!!!
JADE: yes youre right this is a stupid diversion… lets continue

Calliope interrupts the list of consort names right after the eyebrow-raising “Yiffyiff”, which I can only presume was going to be followed by a whole bunch more furry-related names. Her interruption only adds to the humor value of this little interlude before we get back to the story.

JADE: um callie…
JADE: your hand 😮
CALLIOPE: oops. :u
CALLIOPE: ahem. pay no attention to that.
CALLIOPE: do carry on.

And then this humorous interruption is interrupted with a brief reminder of Calliope’s appearance insecurity arc. With that out of the way, we can resume the story.

JADE: so… anyway
JADE: like i said, she just finished telling me that she was able to beat her brother in this reality
JADE: but apparently, that wasnt supposed to happen?
JADE: so she lived out the rest of her life in a doomed timeline and eventually died
JADE: she didnt mention how

God tier Calliope apparently didn’t mention how she died, which shows us that there are still more scenes yet to come where we learn about her. We learn how she died in the portion of A6A6I5 where we learn even more about denizens, like her and Jade’s versions of Echidna, and Karkat’s unnamed denizen.

JADE: and then…
JADE: and then she did this kinda fancy transition
JADE: darn, i dont think ill do it justice
JADE: a transition to a story about MY brother… who was stuck in a doomed timeline too
JADE: i think ill mess it up if i try to match what she said word for word
JADE: she had a really fanciful way of putting things

God damn it, I really want to read that fanciful transition Jade mentioned. I imagine it may have been the textual equivalent of transitions through circumstantial simultaneity or juxtaposition of contrasting scenes. That kind of transition is very difficult to pull off merely through words.

CALLIOPE: there’s no need to try to recite what she said.
CALLIOPE: jUst tell the story in yoUr own voice, as yoU have already been doing!
CALLIOPE: it will be more fUn that way.

Calliope is right that it’s a nice change of pace to have exposition told by one of the less expository characters. Jade is easily one of the characters whose voice is least like Hussie prose.

JADE: ok
JADE: so the bottom line was
JADE: almost all our friends had died
JADE: and johns only hope was to return to his planet, and attempt to complete his personal quest
JADE: as you know, we all have personal quests that are unique to our planets
JADE: the nature of the quest is never easy to understand at first
JADE: they are presented to us through enigmatic riddles conveyed through the lore of the land
JADE: for john it was to journey to the place where “constellations danced beneath the clouds”
JADE: it was said the heir of breath was to free the stars from the shade and release them into heaven
JADE: this was just a mysterious way of saying what he REALLY had to do

Sburb’s riddles are a concept characters in Homestuck have long ridiculed, with such conversations as the trolls’ pesterlogs in Act 4 where Karkat claims it ultimately comes down to a whole bunch of meaningless nonsense. But here, the concept of cryptic riddles is played straight at long last with John’s planet quest. After he went god tier in the beta session, he set planet quest matters aside and instead spent time on Skaia doing all the Tumor and bunny stuff. It’s very refreshing to see him finally get down to business and complete his planet quest, which is about the only thing he can do in this wrecked session.

JADE: the stars were actually fireflies

In order to not be distracted as I do this, I’m going to acknowledge right now that this scene makes my mind keep diverting to the song “Fireflies” by Owl City, in case the title of this post didn’t make that clear. I’m also going to acknowledge right now that meme or not, Fireflies is a total banger with rather striking lyrics about fantasies and dreams. Hopefully acknowledging that song up front will also prevent you from getting too distracted.

JADE: theyd been flying around trapped beneath the overcast sky ever since john first brought lowas into existence by his arrival
JADE: and paradoxically, theyd been imprisoned there for ages even before that
JADE: such is the way of our lands
JADE: they are newly born the day we arrive…
JADE: and yet they always were

I’m pretty sure I discussed this in a prior post, but it’s really interesting to see the cast of Homestuck acknowledge the oddities of the state their planets start in. These planets don’t exist until their players enter the Medium, but they’re already set up with lore of events that supposedly happened, much like any story-oriented video game. This sort of deal is taken to the extreme with Jane’s planet in the Myststuck games, with all those dead ancient consorts who may or may not have existed.

Calliope’s drawing of the organ on John’s planet is very accurate, which makes sense because its appearance is very memorable. The organ is shown in some very plot-relevant exposition parts of Homestuck, including the dream bubble scene with doomed John and Vriska—scenes that stick out very clearly in Calliope’s knowledge of the events of the comic.

Jade goes on to explain that John can’t yet play the “special song” to free the fireflies because the organ’s pipes are clogged with oil, which he can only fix by facing Typheus. She also says that although John’s reason to see Typheus was because of retcon powers, denizens always know what the player truly wants or needs. I don’t even need to say what came to mind when I read the words “special song”.

JADE: is something wrong callie?
JADE: go ahead and draw typheus!
CALLIOPE: yes, Um…
JADE: you do know what he looks like dont you?
CALLIOPE: i believe i do.
JADE: it doesnt have to be perfect
JADE: just draw a big green snake monster!
CALLIOPE: a big green snake monster yoU say…
JADE: yes
JADE: a snake monster with the most unspeakably hideous face you can imagine
JADE: but you dont have to be too literal about that
JADE: feel free to draw something a little more representational 🙂
CALLIOPE: i am not sUre if…
CALLIOPE: i am particUlarly comfortable rendering sUch imagery.
JADE: why not?
CALLIOPE: it strikes me as…
CALLIOPE: rather indecent.
CALLIOPE: for reasons i woUld be too embarrassed to explain. u_u;

Man, poor Calliope. It must suck for such a pivotal Sburb construct to evoke sexual imagery to your species. It’s the cherub equivalent of bucket jokes, minus being obnoxiously overused among fans. It’s probably like playing a video game with an item that happens to be shaped a lot like genitalia—you’re unable to focus or take it seriously because you’re too caught up in sexual humor. I guess Sburb isn’t exactly designed with cherubs in mind.

JADE: thats ok
JADE: why dont i draw it?
CALLIOPE: very well.
CALLIOPE: bUt yoU mUst excUse me if i giggle.
JADE: ok but i dont see whats so indecent about a big old snake!
CALLIOPE: tee hee!
JADE: lol

It’s rather fitting for Jade to take her turn drawing at this point, considering one of our first exposures to Typheus was that huge minion her grandpa kept in his basement. Jade’s drawing of Typheus is sure to evoke that old minion whose origin still isn’t well understood.

Jade has an endearingly simple art style: geometrically faithful to the scene at hand, but with line style and expressions considerably simplified. Here, Typheus’s face looks very silly and scatterbrained, not menacing or hideous at all.

This sound page, on the other hand? An awesome rendition of Typheus in full form at long last. The art style—still Cragg’s doing, I believe—suits itself very well to a denizen’s proper appearance. Typheus’s face is obfuscated by glitches, fitting because John, not the reader, is the only one who can understand his speak, and because we aren’t viewing this scene from John’s perspective.

JADE: his choice was presented as a kind of riddle
JADE: spoken in a language only he could understand, spelling out the conditions he must accept
JADE: but speaking from experience, once a player is given the choice between two courses of action, it will hardly feel like a choice at all
JADE: if the heart is in the right place then the right thing to do always seems obvious

I know what Jade is talking about here. When a choice is presented in front of you with two options you can immediately choose from, it tends to change from a complex decision to a swift and easy choice. Immediately knowing which option to choose demonstrates a good grasp on the ways of Sburb.

JADE: so john accepted his denizens terms
JADE: and with that…
JADE: typheus opened valves to the core
JADE: and flooded it with oil!
JADE: there was no way out
JADE: he could not transform into wind because he was completely submerged!
JADE: so he was faced with two possibilities
JADE: either he could figure out how to make himself disappear completely, using the ability he hoped to master
JADE: or he could drown in the oil
JADE: drowning obviously would have been bad :p
JADE: but disappearing wouldnt be much better!
JADE: he would appear somewhere else, having made no progress on his personal quest
JADE: his planet would still be polluted and he would be no closer to playing his song

… and now, John’s true challenge begins. Unlike last time, neither of these two options are very desirable, leaving it in his own hands to come up with a better solution. Now that John is well beyond mere wind powers, it seems Typheus has altered his planet quest to focus on retcon powers instead. It’s just like what Jade said about denizens: they know what the player needs far better than the player does.

JADE: somehow he understood the only way was to conceive of a third option
JADE: an idea beyond the simple binary set of outcomes before him
JADE: and interestingly
JADE: it was coming to this understanding which gave him the first glimpse of how to control the power
JADE: he realized it wasnt himself that he needed to make disappear…
JADE: it was the oil!

This is where we’re introduced to A6A6I4’s recurring motif of choosing a third option. It’s a pretty awesome motif if I say so myself: instead of picking between two disadvantageous options, you come up with your own better option, perhaps with blackjack and hookers for good measure. Jade seems uncertain as to how John managed to come up with this third option, but I think it’s quite clear: John is his best, most clever and courageous self when given a purpose. Scenarios like these are where he can think outside the box and come up with his own solutions to whatever he’s presented with. His freedom to make his own choice probably also relates to his Breath aspect, but I’m not in the mood for classpecting right now.

John’s oil retcons are like his arm retcons (which I had gone through in this post) except much more thorough, demonstrating that he can now control his retcon powers far better than before. The arm retcons got into 52 (4 times 13) panels, which I completely forgot about until today; the oil retcons got into 100 panels, a number whose impressiveness more than makes up for its comparative cosmic insignificance. The oil makes it into a lot of creative spots; one of the first is on the side of his copy of Data Structures for Assholes, a book whose title cracks me up now that I actually know shit about data structures.

As with the arms, the oil finds its way into plenty of debatably non-canon scenes, like Dave’s Little Monsters pee joke panel on the top left. The odd scenes the oil ends up in help make the oil retcon sequence more meta than it already is. It’s not going through the reality of Homestuck, but rather the canon of Homestuck—all the events thus far that have occurred onscreen. As Jade puts it, nudging ever so slightly on the fourth wall:

JADE: he dispersed every drop throughout existence
JADE: leaving a little mark for anyone who might notice, signifying his final mastery over his confining reality

John’s mark left on his reality is deliciously metafictional, which is NOT just a longer way to say “metafictional”.

Again as with the arm retcons, I’ll go over a few of the highlights from here on out.

Somehow I forgot Jade’s drawing of Typheus has the same expression as this minion.

Jade’s Typheus minion is a very fitting place for John to zap oil into; I already mentioned the minion a few pages prior. It shows how long Typheus has been a part of the comic and how we’re concluding John’s denizen story arc at long last.

Pretty crazy John’s oil reached the world of Dave’s pee jokes twice.

Easily one of the sneakiest places to put oil. At least oil that you probably wouldn’t expect to be the same mysterious oil from the other panels.

I wonder if this retconned image led newer readers to believe there was such a thing as black-blooded trolls?

Of course the oil would make its way into Hussie’s absurd self-insert SBaHJ interlude in Act 5 Act 2 that I always forget about. Why wouldn’t it?

This retconned panel is interesting because John’s oil doesn’t end up in the same 16-bit RPG art style as the rest of the panel. This artistic difference helps hammer in (no pun intended) John’s transcendence of the usual confines of canon, though it’s weird because when John himself later zaps into this scene, he’s rendered in 16-bit style. Still, though, the oil not being pixelated is a cool touch.

Same deal as above, except John doesn’t later zap into this scene.

Looks like a fairly large portion of the oil ended up on this memory of Beforus’ pink moon. One of the most conspicuous instances of oil, but also one of the most seamlessly worked in.

It was John’s oil the whole time. Hence the myserty.

As with the first appearance of the Typheus minion, John’s arm retcon scene is another that it’s all but obligatory for his oil to end up in. It was his first time using retcon powers after all. I love how while the arm retcons were the result of his clumsy tomfoolery, the oil retcons are a deliberate solution to his planetary predicament—the grand resolution of his planet quest.

John’s initial retcon adventures are spread across a large number of panels, so it’s natural some of his oil would end up in one of those scenes. His brief encounter with his past self is a very fitting scene for some oil to end up in, showing how far John has come both since his LOWAS exploration and since he first gained retcon powers.

Did the oil end up on top of Dave’s photograph, or within the scene where he had taken this ironic selfie? I like to imagine it’s the latter.

This panel with the mind-controlled ghost copies of Damara is the last one John’s oil ends up in. It’s a panel that reminds us of a major reason why this whole catastrophe happened—a certain troll who thought she was going to be relevant. I find it interesting but also fitting that the oil retcons extend no further than pre-Gigapause Homestuck. For reasons I can’t quite explain, it feels like it would be weird if the oil ended up in a scene or two from A6A6I4.

And with his planet clean, John is finally ready to play his song and free the fireflies. He does this in an unnamed flash typically referred to as the Pipeorgankind flash, because that’s the song that plays in it. It’s an organ arrangement of Showtime and Harlequin, two songs from the early acts that serve as motifs for John, and I think the song later segues into several other Homestuck motifs but they aren’t included here.

I’m pretty sure James Roach has given lots of self-deprecatory remarks about Pipeorgankind, which he made.

I personally think the song does exactly what it needs to.

For the most part, the Pipeorgankind flash simply provides some visual spectacle of John clearing the clouds off his planet, with brightly flashing breath and Typheus icons to indicate completion of his quest. One of the coolest things about the retcon arc is that takes John’s basic heroic planet quest arc and recontextualizes it to make it 100 times more awesome.

The shocker comes near the end, where John zaps his entire planet away using retcon powers. Being able to use powers on an entire planet is quite a major milestone in terms of power progression. LOWAS zapping away leaves John’s story arc on quite the cliffhanger.

And then comes the second shocker: John has blown all the glitches out of not just the alpha session, but the entire Act 6 Act 6 cartridge, which concludes the flash. Clearing out all the glitches is a rad side effect of John completing his planet quest and his newfound ability to interact with the narrative.

No meta disc shenanigans this time around; Lil’ Seb simply plugs the cartridge back in, knowing the show must go on. We’re not even close to done with Act 6 Act 6 Intermission 4 anyway.

See you next time as Roxy says “sup”.

>> Part 121: sup

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