If you have a teenage that goes online, or if you interact with one, you may have heard such terms from them as “MS Paint Adventures,” “Hussie,” “Trolls,” or “Homestuck.” They may have started to show an interest in horoscopes or have images of zodiac signs or people with horns on their computer screen. Most likely there’s nothing wrong with them—they are just fans of the webcomic Homestuck. My two teenage daughters are such fans, and after a couple of years of watching them talking about it and running to my oldest’s room to watch the latest installment, I decided to see what it was all about.
Act One: What is MS Paint Adventures and Homestuck?
MS Paint Adventures is the home of webcomic creator Andrew Hussie. He creates webcomics based on the old text-based games from the 80s such as Zork. Homestuck is the latest of his comics and first started in April of 2009. His other comics include Problem Sleuth, Bard’s Quest, and Jailbreak. While Andrew writes the story, he also incorporates suggestions from readers that can influence the stories and characters.
Homestuck starts with the introduction of John, the main character for this first act. It’s his birthday, and he’s waiting for the beta of a new computer game SBurb. It came in the mail, but his dad, his cake-baking, harlequin-loving nemesis, got it first. John must find a way past his dad and then install the game on his computer. Once he starts playing SBurb with his online friend Rose, things really start to get weird: Rose manipulating John’s home through the video game, a harlequin-shaped sprite-thing following John around, and a meteor headed straight for his house!
At first, I wasn’t really sure what Homestuck was about. The story just follows John as he searches for his beta disks and seems random at times. I did feel some nostalgia for the old text games it was based on, and I started to feel a connection with John. Hussie builds the story up slowly, letting us get to know John through the things in his room and his interaction with his online chat friends, so when things really start getting weird, we are invested in what happens to him and his friends.
The humor is very quirky and soon appealed to my sensibilities. I liked the one panel in which John goes out to the mailbox, just in case his dad missed something, and his sense of forlorn loneliness at seeing it empty. How many of us have felt that same way when we’re waiting for something and the mailbox is empty? This feeling is emphasised by a longer animated sequence. And for some reason, I found the shooting of things out of John’s captchalogue, Homestuck’s version of a computer game inventory system, particularly funny. It hit my funny bone in just the right place.
The art of Homestuck is fairly simple. It’s mostly black and white with splashes of color and a minimal amount of animation. But for the type of story-telling Hussie is using, the minimalist style works. The characters are a little goofy-looking and are often shown without arms, though they do have them. But that just adds to the charm.
So what is Homestuck about? I’m still not sure, but I’m invested enough in the characters to keep reading and find out more. Act One ends on a cliffhanger, increasing the need to come back for more. Fortunately, I don’t have to wait to get into Act Two. If you’re interested in reading Homestuck, but not in sitting in front of a computer screen for a couple of hours, Act 1 is available as a print book.
Images © Andrew Hussie