What is a Homestuck, exactly? On the most basic level, it’s a long-running webcomic about kids playing video games and forming friendships amidst the apocalypse. It’s a phenomenon that took the internet by storm, inspiring such depths of fandom that the size and enthusiasm of its followers became a meme (“Let me tell you about Homestuck”). From that meme, Homestuck has ballooned into a hyperspecific cultural touchstone. It was virtually impossible to escape its influence during its heyday from around 2010 to 2014. To this day, references to its labyrinthine plot still inspire shivers of nostalgia or disgust depending on your impression of that time. In short, Homestuck is a description-defying juggernaut.
Bet You Thought You’d Seen the Last of Me
In hindsight, Homestuck’s return should not have come as a surprise. When the official Twitter dropped a sequel announcement for Homestuck^2 on October 25th—or 10/25—it didn’t escape notice that the date coincides with one of Homestuck’s many significant numbers. The number 1025, along with 413 and 612, are kind of like “Homestuck holidays,” their calendar equivalents matching up with the dates on which a new chapter of the comic started. Knowing that 10/25 had significance should have clued in the Homestuck fandom to the fact that they should expect something … maybe even something big.
So why is Homestuck^2—the sequel to an epic that never needed one, an “official fanonization” sure to give rise to haters and defenders alike—such an unexpected development?
I can only speak for myself. But it has to be at least partially because we didn’t know—or deliberately forgot—that Homestuck was even still a “thing.”
Before I go on, I’ll explain my bona fides. I used to be a Homestuck superfan. I baked Homestuck cookies, I dressed in Homestuck closet cosplay, I drew Homestuck fanart, and I—well, I thought about writing Homestuck fanfiction (rest in peace, my alternate-universe neo-noir that never came to be). Eventually, though, Homestuck stopped being fun and started being a chore to read—or even worse, just plain bad. So while I was once Homestuck in my ways, I’ve since put away all those parts of me that used to like it. It was too embarrassing to be associated with something that had gone so far astray.
The wild years of mega-fandom were intoxicating and unforgettable. But as Homestuck ballooned past the 5,000-page mark, introducing new characters, killing them off, and then going radio silent for seemingly interminable intermissions, that heyday died down for me and the majority of fans I know. Where we once giggled and gasped over each new development, we slowly ceased to care about the latest updates, until finally a lot of us stopped reading entirely. When the last chapter of Homestuck drew to a close on 4/13 in 2016, I hadn’t checked the main page for an update in over a year.
That’s neither a good nor a bad thing. Ultimately, Homestuck had its moment. That moment then passed, leaving us with some fond memories and a lot of embarrassing cosplay photos. I don’t regret the time I spent as a Homestuck fan. When I finally finished the series on a whim, after learning that it had already ended, I felt mildly satisfied. Not by the ending itself (which, like most of Homestuck, was kind of a mess) but because I’d done it. I read all of Homestuck. My time with this webcomic goliath was finally over.
Except that Homestuck just couldn’t leave well enough alone. A year to the day after its ending, a new chapter appeared: the much-maligned, heavily divisive “epilogues.”
Let Me Tell You About Homestuck
For those scratching their heads at everything written so far, I’ll give some context.
Homestuck the webcomic already set records for word count and section upon subsection of narrative and meta-narrative. Author/artist Andrew Hussie self-inserts at several points just to interrupt the story and provide recaps of what happened, because following along on your own is beyond difficult. Like everything else about Homestuck, its esoteric plotlines (along with its branching timelines, and ghostly chimeric felines) have become a meme unto itself. A straightforward addition tacked onto Homestuck’s ending—something as simple as an epilogue—should have been a nice refreshing break.
But Homestuck being Homestuck, of course it wasn’t; it was more of the same, plus a little extra just to spice things up. The Homestuck Epilogues departed drastically from the comic in format (third-person prose instead of second-person text-based adventure commands), but kept and expanded upon many elements that fans found noxious in the original. (Examples include listing a litany of trigger warnings before the text, seemingly intended to mock oversensitive readers, and opaque jabs at the fandom itself for things like shipping or headcanon.)
On top of that, the epilogues were long. Like, back-breakingly long. Way too long for a normal person, fully extracted from the depths of Homestuck fandom, to read.
Which is why I didn’t read them! Instead I watched from afar, popcorn.gif’ing my way through the surviving fandom’s reactions on Tumblr and Twitter, safe in my cocoon of not caring. It seemed self-evident that the epilogues were, if not intentionally, guaranteed to upset some readers. Why make myself one of them when I could just skip it and learn about their contents through internet osmosis instead? (The Homestuck^2 webpage provides a recap for those interested. Though, at around 5,000 words, it’s not exactly on the short side either.)
I was happy to count myself as a former Homestuck fan, emphasis on the first word. No shade to those still invested; as the Twitter meme goes, “but I’m different.”
Until now. The promise of a new chapter baited me one more time and I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. I have started reading Homestuck^2.
It’s Like You’re Always (Home)stuck in Second Gear
My verdict so far? Honestly, the magic isn’t there, but that’s not going to stop me.
The first few pages appear to pick up from one of the forking timelines, focusing on grimmer, darker versions of familiar characters introduced in the epilogues—which, again, I didn’t read and am not planning to read anytime soon. Yet with the cursory knowledge I’ve picked up about said timeline, I was able to jump in without needing much context. And I have to admit to feeling delighted by the promise of a blinking text box, prompting users to enter a command to move the action forward, just as in the Homestuck days of old.
Maybe it’s because Homestuck’s sequel is currently only thirty-two pages long—a far cry from the hundred-page updates you used to have to slog through to stay, well, up-to-date. Maybe it’s nostalgia for the overwhelming excitement I used to feel when I checked the main site and found a slew of pages I hadn’t read yet. Whatever the reason, I’m reading again, with maybe less interest than I once had, but at least enough left to click through to the next page. After all, the effort of reading Homestuck once paid off with virtuosic updates that melded music and animation to beautiful effect. Maybe this time around there will be another Wake, another Cascade, another side-plot as amusing as the adventures of The Midnight Crew.
Or maybe there won’t be, and I’ll be disappointed with the direction this sequel takes, lose interest again, and call it quits. For now, though, I’m game. Bring on the ==> arrow and the walls of multicolored text. Homestuck^2, you got me again.