[Experiment] Annotating the Start of the Homestuck Meat Epilogue

I still plan not to resume my Homestuck posts until I purchase my own web domain. Hopefully that’ll happen soon, maybe in June? After I have a summer (hopefully not just summer) job and start making money for real. I could purchase it right now but I’d feel guilty dumping out money for a cool personal website before I get a job.

So in the mean time, I might as well flex my Homestuck annotating muscles instead of leaving them in the dust for so long like last time my posts were on hiatus. I’ve decided to go ahead and write my usual annotations/dissection of the first three pages of the Meat Epilogue. I’ve chosen this part because the epilogues are still quite recent and hard to take off my mind. They would absolutely cloud my thoughts if I were to dissect any part of Homestuck proper and I don’t want that.

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Meat opens exactly as the title suggests: the lovable 23-year-old John Egbert eating a hefty chunk of cold, raw meat. Then this happens:

> Think, suddenly, about all the many horrible crimes committed by Lord English.

God, that guy is the worst. The memory of his stupid face and his terrible art and all the abominable misfortune he has caused across multiple universes and time lines makes your meal start to curdle in your stomach. The meat sits there like a big, lardy mass—a black hole bursting the universe apart around it. You feel like rocks are churning in your gut and your mouth begins to water, hot and sour. The flavor of the afternoon air changes around you and it’s too hot, almost suffocating. You swallow back a mouthful of pungent bile as your eyes swim and lose focus.

John’s sudden thoughts about Lord English come out of nowhere and the story knows it. This is an interesting situation that occurs in both sides: Meat with John’s sudden motivation to save all of existence after seven years of inertia, and Candy with John’s sudden motivation to go outside and make friends. Calliope’s meat and candy may both be empowered with some form of cherub magic, which is probably the actual explanation for this abrupt motivation. But both sudden changes stick out too hard for me to just dismiss them through canon, wait I mean ambiguously post-canon means.

The sudden change quoted above came across to me as a natural progression in the plot. But the start of Candy, where all the stuff in Meat was abruptly “cancelled”, came across to me as a change so absurd it may as well be fanfiction, which caused my initial burnout. Upon further reflection, I am almost certain my first impressions would have been swapped if I had read Candy first. I think most of us can agree that the epilogues’ intention to tell two wildly different stories depending which side you start with was an absolute success.

> You know what you must do.
JOHN: i know what i must do.
Of course you know. What kind of guy would you be if you stayed here, when you’re the only one in existence capable of completing the grim task? A pretty shitty one, who just sneezed up a chunk of raw meat in front of a girl you used to have a gigantic crush on.
JOHN: i have to go back and kill lord english.
ROXY: u sure?
JOHN: i think so. it will probably be hard. but i think it’s the right thing to do.
JOHN: everyone is counting on me.
Roxy pulls back and takes a deep breath. It’s a very thin breath, and her bottom lip quivers a bit when she sucks it in. She looks disappointed, though you could be misreading her, as usual.

This passage is an early introduction to this new theme of inscrutable Roxy. Actually, “new theme” is a bit of a misnomer; Roxy has always had such themes, being a void player and all. But the Meat Epilogue is where those themes start to play a role in the story, or rather show the potential to play a role. I won’t go on further about that theme, especially because I already wrote a whole post about it.

John leaves the girls behind, their relationship resuming its underwhelming status quo. I need to write a tangent about Roxy x Calliope sometime, but not now. Do you think this is the Candy Epilogue??? Hell no, we’re in for some rich and juicy MEAT.

> Write: “dear roxy,”
You’ve never written a note so quickly, or with such clarity of heart and mind. When you’re done, you write nine more. Your hands leave grease stains on the paper.
You leave ten envelopes on your bed, arranged in a tidy circle with the names of your ten closest friends written on them.

WE NEVER EVEN GET TO READ JOHN’S LETTERS, IS NOTHING PURE IN THIS WORLD?????????

The epilogues have a fair few cliffhangers; an amount that may or may not be enough for me to crave a followup, a secret true happy ending or what have you. John’s letters totally seem like something the reader deserves the chance to read which sort of makes me desire more epilogue material, but at the same time the epilogues are so GOOD already as they stand… it’s a bit of a weird situation.

Then, with absolutely no fanfare, you leave all of them and this idyllic world you’ve created behind and zap yourself back into canon.

The concept of “canon” is going to be so much fun to discuss, I can just smell it. Too bad I’m only going to discuss the first three pages of Meat, so I may not have much time to get into it.

The second page of Meat gives us our first look at what Dave and Karkat are up to. You may already know that I have a strong opinion on those two as a ship. If you didn’t already know that, then I figure it’s courtesy for me to say what that opinion is. Here goes:

Dave x Karkat is a great ship and I like it a lot.

Go ahead, make all the confused disgruntled faces you want. It won’t change that the above statement represents my opinion on Dave/Karkat in all 100% honesty.

I guess I should make something clear. I still don’t like the way that ship was handled in A6A6I5. That doesn’t mean it ever was a bad ship in itself!!! I just proclaimed it to be a bad ship because I never got to see it presented well (or really, presented at all aside from a few pictures and vague descriptions). The epilogues present that pairing beautifully and I love it. It actually feels REAL and MEANINGFUL, not just as a friendship but as an actual romance that has a bearing on both sides’ story progression! I’d almost go so far as to say it’s just as good as John and Roxy’s dynamic earlier in Act 6 Act 6. The one ship it can’t compare to is John x Terezi, which is by far the best ship in Homestuck.

DAVE: bro
In the heart of the Troll Kingdom’s capital city, Dave and Karkat are sitting on their couch with a foot and a half of space between them. It’s a typically picturesque day outside, but Karkat has the curtains drawn shut all the way. This is part of their compromise living situation: Dave puts up with the trollish non-euclidean architecture and bizarre social mores, and Karkat has adjusted his diurnal schedule to, in theory, see the sun.

As we can see here, John is the only one so far who gets second-person narration. All other characters are narrated in third person. I’ve already talked plenty about John’s mass existential crisis where he feels like the only “real” person in existence; his narration being the only one in second person helps hammer in that point and make us experience that crisis with him.

Dave casts a weary look towards the TV, where Jake English is shamelessly exhibiting what is definitely his best feature in front of a live studio audience. This is a regular highlight of his and Dirk’s hit television show, RUMBLE IN DA PUMPKIN PATCH, a schizophrenic cross-section of rap battle and robot wrestling that Rose once described as “an exploitative, almost Dada-esque clusterfuck of circumlocutory pretension and sweaty, homoerotic astriction.” Jake came up with the title for the show, and Dirk absolutely loathed it. However, before Dirk could insist on an alternative, Jake had already posted an online poll pitting his idea against “Whatever dirks lame idea is.” Needless to say, the second option was much less popular.
The description of Jake and Dirk’s TV show has a whimsical feel we haven’t seen much since early Act 6. A refreshing return to form reminiscent of the narration’s stories about B2 Earth.

KARKAT: ANYWAY, THE MORE I WATCH, I CAN’T HELP BUT NOTICE THE CAMERA’S LECHEROUS FIXATION ON THIS BOY’S VOLUPTUOUS POSTERIOR.
KARKAT: CAN’T SAY I BLAME THEM, I GUESS??? AT LEAST IT SHOWS THEY KNOW EXACTLY WHAT’S PAYING THE FUCKING BILLS, BECAUSE IT SURE AS HELL ISN’T THE QUALITY OF THE SLAM POETRY.
DAVE: ok who gives a shit about that
DAVE: although it pleases me to hear you taking note of the economics of this broadcast since it is apropos to the topic at hand but more on that later
Dave’s economy obsession is far funnier than it has any right to be. Dave talking about politics sounds like the most boring nonsense ever, but it’s somehow done well here. Basically every character in this comic has an absurd fixation or two, so Dave’s insistence that it all comes down to the economy helps anchor his political talk to the usual Homestuck feel.
KARKAT: APROPOS TO FUCKING WHAT?
KARKAT: I DON’T HAVE TIME TO “SCOPE THE LATEST MEME,” DAVE. YOU ARE COMING PERILOUSLY CLOSE TO CUTTING INTO MY IMPORTANT LEISURE TIME AS IT IS.
DAVE: leisure time
DAVE: this is all you ever do all day
DAVE: also its not a meme its much more important
KARKAT: OH, EXCUSE ME, HOT SHOT. BUT WHAT POSSIBLY COULD BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE LATEST MEME?
KARKAT: THAT WAS A JOKE, FYI. NOW LEAVE.
DAVE: jane is running for president
Now THAT’S how you do a wham line. This line sets up a fresh new premise…
KARKAT: WHAT THE FUCK?
Dave scoots a foot and a half closer so that they can both read the news on his phone. Karkat tips his head to the side to get a better view, until it bumps against Dave’s shoulder.
DAVE: got the announcement right here
KARKAT: YOU MEAN PRESIDENT OF EARTH?
DAVE: yeah
KARKAT: WHY THE FUCK WOULD SHE WANT TO DO THAT?
DAVE: i dunno crocker is just an ambitious woman i guess
… shortly followed by a quick picture of what our naive, innocent little Jane Crocker has been up to on Earth C.
Say what you will about Jane in the epilogues, but I really like the way Meat introduces her status. It’s the complete opposite of John’s: while we see firsthand that John has spent his days mourning his father in isolation, we learn through dialogue that Jane lived out her businesswoman fantasies to an absurd proportion and is now literally running for president of Earth.
KARKAT: THIS SOUNDS FUCKING AWFUL.
DAVE: oh it is
DAVE: it absolutely is
DAVE: also like
DAVE: dont tell her i said this but
DAVE: i think shes basically a fascist
KARKAT: WHY WOULD I TELL HER YOU SAID THAT?
KARKAT: WHEN THE FUCK WAS THE LAST TIME EITHER OF US HAD FUCK ALL TO DO WITH *JANE*
DAVE: no i know
DAVE: just like, a figure of speech i guess
DAVE: oh also shes a fucking xenophobe
KARKAT: OF COURSE SHE’S A XENOPHOBE!
John and Jane’s extreme contrast is fascinating and I haven’t seen it talked about much. John is still the pure-hearted and childish Egbert man we’ve known since day one, but Jane is nothing like the innocent girl we knew at first; two of the first words Dave describes her as are “fascist” and “xenophobe”. It’s never fully explained how she became that way, though major divergences like this fit well in the epilogues because they fuel John’s existential crisis.
KARKAT: ALSO, WHAT THE FUCK DOES SHE EVEN MEAN SHE’S “RUNNING”
KARKAT: WHAT A COMPLETE LOAD OF SHIT?
KARKAT: SHE’S A GOD. WHICH ONE OF THE TOADYING IDIOTS ON THIS PLANET WOULD DARE TO RUN AGAINST HER.
KARKAT: SHE’S GOING TO WIN IN A LANDSLIDE, ASSUMING SHE DOESN’T JUST WALTZ INTO OFFICE UNCONTESTED.
DAVE: yeah i dont disagree
DAVE: which is why we have to stop her
KARKAT: HUH?
KARKAT: DAVE, WHAT EXACTLY ARE YOU SAYING?
KARKAT: ARE YOU TELLING ME *YOU’RE* GOING TO RUN AGAINST JANE?
Karkat’s laughter is uproarious, incredulous. He reaches for another beetle as his guffaws subside, and eats it in a manner he hopes will convey his casual contempt for Dave’s insinuation.
KARKAT: ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MIND? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW *RICH* SHE IS?
DAVE: dude were all rich
DAVE: we like invented the fucking economy
KARKAT: WELL, YEAH
KARKAT: BUT NOT LIKE
KARKAT: *CROCKER* RICH
DAVE: anyway no
DAVE: im not running
DAVE: you are
Wham line 2. Dave’s insistence that his (boy)friend should run for president FINALLY addresses Karkat’s leadership role!!! One of the biggest criticisms with the credits is that Karkat didn’t do anything even close to leading the troll race, which was the main point in Kanaya’s prior conversation with Echidna. The epilogues address that leadership role in an unexpectedly brilliant way: Karkat’s campaign fails in Meat, but shines high and mighty in Candy.
KARKAT: ME???????????????
DAVE: yeah man
DAVE: its perfect
DAVE: youre the ideal opponent to take her down and tbh just what this planet needs
KARKAT: NO I’M NOT!
DAVE: yeah
KARKAT: WE ESTABLISHED THIS… HOW MANY YEARS AGO?
KARKAT: I’M NOT A LEADER. I WAS NEVER MEANT TO BE ONE.
KARKAT: JANE PROBABLY IS. ALTHOUGH TO BE FAIR, I’M AGREEING WITH YOU, SHE’S A COMPLETE ASSHOLE.
KARKAT: I’M JUST NOT THE ONE TO RUN AN EFFECTIVE OPPOSITION CAMPAIGN. WHERE… HOW…
KARKAT: I WOULDN’T EVEN KNOW WHERE TO START!
DAVE: obviously you wouldnt do it on your own i would help
DAVE: id be like your campaign manager, or chief strategy guy or whatever
DAVE: also youre wrong
DAVE: you were meant to be a leader and youd be a good one
DAVE: just not the kind of leader you always thought youd be
DAVE: not a bellicose conquering dickhead who commands “fear and respect”
DAVE: just a guy who is cool and nice and actually cares about stuff and everyone loves them for that reason
Dave believes in Karkat. He sees the best in him and can easily imagine him as a strong, good-spirited leader. This passage is great, I can’t even put into words how it makes me feel. Dave x Karkat was a good ship this whole time, I’m telling you.
Karkat goes on to discuss how he doesn’t like being famous or giving himself attention. Dave tries to convince him otherwise, which leads to this passage:
DAVE: jane is…
DAVE: how do i put this
KARKAT: WHAT
DAVE: ok ill just be the one to come out and say it
DAVE: shes going to be a fucking disaster for the economy
KARKAT: …
DAVE: i guess i have to admit
DAVE: part of this
DAVE: for me personally
DAVE: its
KARKAT: WHAT ARE YOU SAYING DAVE
DAVE: its about obama
Obama’s presence in Homestuck has a certain charm to it that wouldn’t exist if the comic hadn’t dragged out so long. Homestuck’s seven-year run took place entirely during the Obama administration, which cements him as part of the comic’s mythos. Dave’s idolization and headcanons about Obama are incredibly endearing and I’m glad the epilogues gave that arc a strong resolution, culminating in Dave and Obama’s conversation near the end of Candy.
DAVE: he barely even got a chance to prove himself
DAVE: he was sworn into office and it was cool and everything was gonna be great but then
DAVE: everyone died a few months later because of meteors
DAVE: dude was just gettin warmed up… so sad
DAVE: i wonder if he would have fixed the economy
DAVE: i bet he would have fixed the economy
KARKAT: DAVE, AS MUCH AS I ENJOY LISTENING TO YOU RAMBLE THROUGH YET ANOTHER CHAPTER OF YOUR FREESTYLE OBAMA FAN FICTION
KARKAT: DON’T YOU ALREADY HAVE A BASIS FOR KNOWING HOW HIS PRESIDENCY WOULD HAVE GONE?
KARKAT: I MEAN, WASN’T HE PRESIDENT IN THE TIME LINE JANE GREW UP IN TOO?
DAVE: oh
DAVE: yeah
DAVE: i mean yeah of course i know that
DAVE: i just dont like to think much about that time line
DAVE: it doesnt really feel like its
DAVE: canon?
Here we get someone other than John talking about canonicity (and lack thereof). I find this bit interesting because it’s an early hint at John’s great revelation at the end of Candy that he is far from the only person who has existential issues with canon. I love finding early hints like this when rereading the epilogues, just as the authors intended.
DAVE: but i mean what if like
DAVE: he could be reborn
KARKAT: YES, WE’VE BEEN OVER YOUR OBAMA GOD TIER HEADCANONS TOO.
DAVE: no like
DAVE: reborn as you
DAVE: metaphorically
DAVE: you could be the great president he never got the chance to be
DAVE: you could give the people hope and shit
DAVE: you could inspire trolls everywhere
DAVE: or really all nonhuman kingdoms
DAVE: show them anybody could be a president
DAVE: not just an endless parade of rich humans who think they all know whats best for everybody
Dave is pushing Karkat hard to prove himself, which is exactly the endearing and meaningful drive that all good ships in Homestuck have. Just as Terezi pushed John to become a hero in the retcon quest and John pushed Roxy to join him in that journey, Dave is pushing Karkat to become the next Obama. If that doesn’t make you smile, then I don’t know what to tell you.
KARKAT: DAVE, I’M PRETTY SURE ANYONE *COULD* BE PRESIDENT?
KARKAT: IT’S ALWAYS SEEMED TO ME THAT HUMANS JUST SEEM TO BE MORE NATURALLY AMBITIOUS, AND THAT’S WHY THE POWER STRUCTURES TOOK THE SHAPE THEY DID THE LAST FEW MILLENNIA.
KARKAT: I MEAN, I DON’T CLAIM TO BE AN EXPERT ON XENOPSYCHOLOGY, BUT FOR SOME REASON I STRUGGLE TO IMAGINE A FUCKING SALAMANDER GETTING THE GUMPTION TO THROW HIS CRUMPLED HAT INTO THE RING FOR THE PRESIDENCY OF EARTH.
KARKAT: OR THE CARAPACIANS FOR THAT MATTER?
KARKAT: THESE ARE NOT AMBITIOUS CREATURES WE’RE TALKING ABOUT HERE, DAVE.
KARKAT: THEY’RE A HUGE FLOCK OF WOOLBEASTS, DAVE.
DAVE: karkat dont stereotype
DAVE: remember the mayor
DAVE: remember how at one point a long time ago he raised an army and rebelled against an evil king
KARKAT: OH YEAH
KARKAT: SOMEHOW I ALWAYS FORGET HE DID THAT.
KARKAT: KIND OF MIND BOGGLING, REALLY.
KARKAT: HOLY SHIT, I MISS THE MAYOR.
DAVE: me too
Dave and Karkat both observe a moment of silence—a delicate and trembling pause of utmost respect to perhaps the greatest and purest being who had ever come forth from Paradox Space. Dave pats Karkat’s knee comfortingly, and Karkat lets out a quivering breath of sorrow, of remembrance.
Dave and Karkat’s discussion about the Mayor is such a heartwarming moment. WV’s role throughout Act 6 is somewhat polarizing; some people like that he’s everyone’s adorable little friend, while others resent his relegation and wish he did more. Act 7 and the credits show him and PM staying behind to rebuild society, which was a decent resolution whose impact the epilogues show full force. The Mayor may be long dead, but his spirit lives on forever. The mention of his backstory as the Warweary Villein is a nice touch.
I can mostly skim over Dave’s ensuing rambles about politics and troll reproduction, because I made my point already: they’re surprisingly fun and insightful reads that prove “political Dave” isn’t inherently a bad thing, just like shipping him and Karkat.
DAVE: but the point is just
DAVE: i guess
DAVE: she sucks and shouldnt be president the end
DAVE: you dont even have to think about economic shit i can do that for you
DAVE: ill be like the treasury secretary or something
DAVE: just please tell me youll do this
DAVE: do it for the trolls do it for the economy do it for the mayor
DAVE: but most of all
DAVE: (sniff)
Dave wipes an invisible tear from beneath the rim of his sunglasses.
DAVE: do it for obama
KARKAT: GOD DAMN IT DAVE.
KARKAT: I DON’T REALLY GIVE A FUCK ABOUT POLITICS, OR BEING A LEADER ANYMORE, AND I THINK YOU KNOW THAT.
KARKAT: I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE ECONOMY, AND WHILE I’M SURE THIS OBAMA FELLOW WAS A HELL OF A GUY, I COULDN’T GIVE LESS A FUCK ABOUT HIM EITHER.
KARKAT: BUT…
KARKAT: I DO CARE ABOUT YOU.
Dave smiles.
KARKAT: SO
KARKAT: I’LL DO IT.
KARKAT: WHY NOT.
This is so heartwarming it’s unreal. I can’t overstate how impressed I am that the epilogues made me like a ship I used to hate.
DAVE: but you also need to be natural and speak from the heart and shit
DAVE: just like
DAVE: talk to your people
DAVE: about stuff they care about
KARKAT: “MY PEOPLE”?
KARKAT: YOU MEAN TROLLS??
DAVE: oh
DAVE: yeah i guess that sounded bad sorry
DAVE: but yeah exactly
DAVE: trolls
DAVE: thats gonna be your base so you gotta rile em up
DAVE: inspire them
DAVE: i dont think you need any fancy speeches to do that youll be a natural
Dave knows Karkat way too well. He can tell Karkat is a natural-born leader just like his Alternian ancestor was. Dave is even something of a prophet later in Meat; he accurately predicts what would have happened if Karkat won the election (which is to say, what would have happened if John chose candy).
Next up, Dave does some math to figure out who will support Karkat, who will support Jane, and who will have to be swayed in Karkat’s favor.
DAVE: as for jade…
KARKAT: …
They stare at each other. Karkat sighs and Dave raps his pen against the tablet screen in a slow, uneven staccato.
DAVE: uh
DAVE: i think its fair to say shes going to be on our side
KARKAT: YEAH
DAVE: maybe a little too much so
KARKAT: UM, YEAH
KARKAT: I WASN’T GOING TO BE THE ONE TO SAY IT, BUT YEAH, I GET WHAT YOU MEAN.
This bit establishes that Dave, Jade, and Karkat’s three-way romance isn’t quite the straight* “all three love each other” many readers had thought. Jade has loved everything about Dave from the start of the comic and the epilogues take full advantage of that. She’s a bit of a wrench in Dave and Karkat’s dynamic that goes in different directions in either epilogue.
* actually only two-thirds straight
Skipping a bit…
DAVE: well no the population isnt THAT big but yes its by far the most populous kingdom
DAVE: swinging them our way should help a lot but it wont be enough to decide the whole thing
DAVE: consorts overwhelm the other kingdoms in sheer numbers but due to unscrupulous gerrymandering, all kinds of fucked up voter suppression policies and some electoral “counterbalancing” measures to account for their ridiculous population growth rate their voting power per capita is kind of pathetic
DAVE: also its hard to drive turnout
DAVE: this may come as a shock but legions of easily distracted low information amphibians primarily concerned with eating bugs and farming god damned mushrooms arent the most politically motivated demographic
DAVE: so to get them out to the polls well need to get them REALLY excited
This ramble is probably the only time on this page where Dave’s rambling kind of has the same “off” feel as in A6A6I5. It’s just a bit too wordy, which thankfully isn’t an issue through the rest of this page. If I recall, Hussie himself wrote the dialogue in Meat’s first few pages, so I’m glad to see him improve in writing political Dave from last time he tried it.
DAVE: jake is a huge wild card here
DAVE: im sure his endorsement would be completely up for grabs
DAVE: he could go any way including just getting turned off by the whole thing and staying “apolitical”
DAVE: so we have to be careful about how we approach him
DAVE: jake is the only one of us whos wildly popular in all four kingdoms
KARKAT: WELL, I CAN’T ARGUE WITH THAT.
DAVE: yeah so an endorsement from him would be huge
DAVE: seriously just running one ad of him doing his double pistol winking bullshit with a thing under it saying “VOTE KARKAT” might be enough to win the whole election
DAVE: just have to get the fickle bastard to agree to that which could be tricky
Jake in the epilogues is a bit of an odd spot, as I’ve discussed before. He starts off as a beloved Renaissance man much like Grandpa Harley, which is a bit at odds with his dorky inner psyche. Since he’s a voiced character unlike his pre-scratch self, the epilogues have to reconcile his celebrity status with his dorkiness. It’s done well so far, with Dave treating him like a wildcard who could end up in any position. But through the rest of the epilogues Jake’s arc is weird and all over the place. At least he gets a touching resolution at the end of Candy.
DAVE: and honestly id be shocked if jane hasnt already started courting his vote
DAVE: theres no way she doesnt understand the political stakes
KARKAT: SO…
KARKAT: IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THE JAKESTAKES THEN.
DAVE: pretty much
DAVE: the jakestakes 2.0
KARKAT: WHAT
KARKAT: THERE WAS A 1.0?
KARKAT: WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN?
DAVE: oh thats like
DAVE: a whole story
KARKAT: IS THIS GOING TO BE ANOTHER ANECDOTE ABOUT THE JAKE SQUAD I WON’T CARE ABOUT AND DON’T WANT TO FUCKING HEAR?
DAVE: that sounds like the exact kind of opinion youd have about it so yeah
KARKAT: THEN I DON’T WANT TO FUCKING HEAR ABOUT IT.
It’s kind of adorable that Karkat doesn’t care in the slightest about those alpha kid stories. Years ago I would have used cases like this as evidence that his relationship with Dave isn’t completely healthy, but now I don’t see any reason to debunk a good ship.
Next up, Dave gets a call from Dirk. After a short nod to fandom’s decapitation meme, we move on to the next page and the last one I’ll cover in this post.
> JOHN: Zap.
You zap back into canon. It’s been so long, you’d forgotten what it feels like. The atmosphere smacks unmistakably of… How can you describe it? Relevance? Legitimacy? Funny how you never would have thought to put it that way until you left.
Come on, John. There’s a much better word to describe how you feel about canon. That word starts with “home” and ends with “stuck”.
John in the epilogues is INCREDIBLY “homestuck”, probably more than at any point in the comic proper. As soon as he tries to place how he feels being in canon again, the comic becomes true to its title once more. John is stuck in the idea that the canon world is authentic and Earth C is a land of stupid nonsense; only at the end of Candy does he realize others feel the same but express it in different ways. Especially dear sweet Roxy, holy shit is her story with John heartwrenching.
It takes you a moment to recognize where you are, even though Rose’s instructions were very specific. A place bright and gaudy and filled with the stench of teenage ennui. It’s your old living room on the gold battleship, where you spent three years caught up in a lot of weird, furry romantic drama while learning to unlove everything you once held sacred. Three long, boring years. Years that, technically speaking, never even happened, now that you think of it. You have the very retcon powers that just brought you back here to thank for that.
You barely have time to take in the sick, nostalgic feeling that all the globes and Tangle Buddies and avant-garde mime art evokes.
“Sick, nostalgic” is quite an interesting combination of words. John’s time on the battleship was a boring trudge, but he romanticizes canon nonetheless.
The fridge pops open and out roll Aranea and Gamzee. Gamzee honks and his codpiece jiggles ominously. Aranea staggers to her feet, looking rather pleased with herself. Until she notices you and gapes in bewilderment.
ARANEA: What are you doing here?!
“I CALLED IT!”, I thought to myself when I first got to this page. I had hoped for a long time that the pre-retcon timeline would make a return of sorts—maybe even a version of that timeline where Aranea didn’t interfere. And I was right! I had also hoped that John would do a second retcon that changes the course of events another time. And I was half-right.
> Rose was perfectly clear about what to do next.
You make a fist, and sort of flinch and look away when you do it. No matter how many years you’ve spent living on a planet with absolute gender parity, this feels wrong. Still, you hit Aranea pretty fucking hard, underestimating your own strength just as badly as you did the last time you clobbered a hapless Serket. She goes flying back, hits the couch, and KOs instantly into a pile of Smuppets. You then take her wrist in your hand, slide the ring off her finger, and pocket it.
If this scene took place in Homestuck proper, it would no doubt be a blatant one-to-one visual callback to the time John punched Vriska. Visual callbacks are fun and all, but towards the end they kind of overstayed their welcome, so conveying the feel of a visual callback through text is a very welcome change of page.
> Isn’t there something you’re forgetting?
Gamzee stares up at you with his horrible, limpid eyes. There’s something serene, sinister, and sensual all at once about the look he’s laying on you. It sends a shiver up the whole length of your spine. Fuck no.
> Do everyone a favor and put an end to his preposterous narrative relevance.
You wisely decide that this clown will lend nothing valuable to the narrative whatsoever if he is allowed to remain outside of your childhood refrigerator. You put both hands on his chest and shove him into the fridge where he belongs. He goes easily, issuing only a pair of weak honks in protest. You slam the fridge shut and resolve to never think about Gamzee Makara again.
Thank you, John. You made the right choice.
Rereading the epilogues is so much fun and the authors knew it. It took me surprisingly long to realize the contrast between this scene and Gamzee’s grand return in Candy. Early in Meat, John zaps alone to a meaty point pre-retcon and wisely stuffs Gamzee inside a fridge; early in Candy, John zaps with friends to a sugary point post-retcon and reluctantly lets Gamzee outside a fridge.
> Zap to the next plot point.
Page 3 of Meat ends with John commanded to move things forward, which probably makes readers that started with Meat feel like they made the right choice. Candy presents itself similarly at first, by swiftly handling all the friendships and character dynamics one at a time. Both epilogues take advantage of this false sense of security so they can veer hard in different directions.
–––––––– –––––––– –––––––– –––––––– ––––––––
I’m going to stop here. Don’t think it’s worth going through further pages in this little experiment, let alone the epilogues in full. What can I say in conclusion? Hmmm, let me think.
I’ve got it. Here goes:
I fucking love Homestuck.

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