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2013.03.25

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I will have to check out this Homestuck now (even though I'm 103 years old) just out of curiousity.

I enjoyed the descriptions of chemically expanded/bonded city structures and gigantic maze like towers with luminous artworks and their mysterious bureaucracies.

Last year's TCAF had "hoards" of Homestuck fans as well. They tried to actively discourage people from dressing up, but there was still a large amount of people wearing the shirts. It was crazy. The two years before, where Homestuck hadn't really taken off as much, he had just a table beside the rest of Topatoco. For 2012 they had to set aside these mass signing periods with him downstairs in the signing area The Beguiling had reserved for the other 'large guests'/

IT WAS PRETTY NUTS.

For the record, here's the HU piece I mentioned:

http://hoodedutilitarian.com/2012/07/metatext-of-doom/

And here's O'Malley's interview:

http://www.comicsalliance.com/2012/10/02/homestuck-interview-andrew-hussie-bryan-lee-omalley-ms-paint-adventures/

I am now convinced it is my destiny to become the first Homestuck cosplayer at the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival.

I WILL BUY YOU WHATEVER OLIVIER SCHRAUWEN BOOK IS ON SALE AT THE SHOW IF YOU DO THIS.

Joe, can I pick which character?

--

I've written a few pieces on pieces on Homestuck with an eye on accessibility to the sensible and above-age-18 critic. They're not hard to find on my site, I won't bother linking them. My partner in comics-crime Kevin Czapiewski did a piece or two over at the Comix Cube, too.

Ignoring the argument about Hussie's early-stages drawing skills (Whistles and And It Don't Stop are not necessarily in a visual style that I favor, but I don't think there's an absence of craft there - he's always been able to do more technically than the MSPaintAdventures generally allowed him, because of the massive speed and output that requires - to say nothing of specific stylistic choices), there were a few things I thought worth clarifying - blame Joe, he invited me to comment.

1) Homestuck was (and in many ways still is) written for an older audience than non-readers probably expect, based on the median age of the "fandom" (ugh, that word!) that can be seen at shows and online. Even in the earliest pages, you see a lot of references to movies that were a pop cultural concern (at some level) before many of these kids were born. Hell, most of them have never played the sort of adventure game that used a text parser in the way that the game is formatted!

My wife and I visited a friend's home not so long ago, and found some fanart that their eleven year old niece had drawn during a Christmas visit. We instantly recognized it as Homestuck, and I was uneasy about her age as a reader. Foul language is prevalent, certain sections are awash in blood, most of the references were out of her age bracket, the allusions to Platonic ideals would be over her head, and a parent would probably be alarmed by that dildo shaped like a horse cock? Among other things.

2) The young readership and the anime-aligned readership are part of the same thing, I think - I wrote a bit some time ago by the diagrammatic and systematic plotting and character structures, how that appeals to a certain sort of reader, but also there's that shoujo angle (not a style that one would actually apply to his work, but...) where the romantic subplots are well-realized and hinge on very clearly demarcated psychological problems on the part of each of the characters that cause believable and more importantly audience-identifiable friction. That, and the prevalence of internet culture parody (Hussie tends to understand the communities, even in those instances when he's disdainful) still marks it as the rare work that actually reflects their own experience, rather than ignoring it.

3) Which feeds into the point I wanted to clarify about how Hussie takes in reader input. In earlier works, people submitted commands directly, and he took the first command. In his previous work, Problem Sleuth, he took reader commands but usually chose the ones he wanted to use. In Homestuck, the earliest acts involved that latter system, but when he stopped taking command inputs, he still took in input in other ways - letting the audience name a number of the characters, letting them vote on a specific element occasionally, and then later, just responding in-comic to the tenor of the audience more generally. If there was a predominant plot theory in the forums, he'd address it in-comic, even if through a gag. If tumblr had a meme based on a character, he'd sneak in a reference in the background. In this way, even when he had full control over the story, he still allowed his audience a level of authorship that kept them invested. This still happens to this day. This is not a usual occurrence, and the predominance of "fan culture" in places like Tumblr, where the fan narrative of a show like "Sherlock" eclipses the actual scripted version of the tale, pretty clearly explains why this particular sort of audience has latched onto the comic so vociferously.

4) The other side of all this is that oftentimes the things Hussie does as parody (for instance, a race of aliens who have four types of romance, which reflects how a certain type of fan of fiction can view any interaction, including platonic and hateful, as romantic) are taken up as, if not literally serious, then at least as keys and filters for viewing other works. He in-built meme stuff (in the earlier sense of the word) but when the young audience suddenly appeared in the last two years, it almost backfired - just in the sense that they view the work in a very different way than he likely intended.

Ugh, that's probably too much for a blog comment already. I laughed when Joe mentioned me by name (and thanks for mentioning OUR comic, Joe!), but I do get a little uncomfortable at being positioned as Fan #1 or something. I certainly do enjoy the thing, but I just see a case where some critical attention is warranted and there aren't many other people doing it.

Oh - you connected a few dots for me. Just occurred to me that the Peeters Tintin book is the Tintin book I frequently floating around Half-Price Books down here in Texas.

Jog, do you have any ideas about how Hussie's publisher, TopatoCo, ranks in the western comics publishers league?

They've definitely carved out a space for themselves as D&Q/Fantagraphics of web comics, another story that hasn't got a ton of attention.
It's been around for almost 10 years which seems pretty long in tooth for that kind of scene orientated comics publishing endeavour.

No idea how they rank, since they bypass most of the traditional means of ranking... I *think* they probably deal with comics stores on an individual basis, rather than using a distributor like Diamond (unless distributors stock their merch, which I haven't really looked at), and I'm pretty sure they have little to no bookstore presence... at least, nothing that puts them under the eye of BookScan or anything. Basically, you'd need to compare direct sales to direct sales... plus, TopatoCo sells a ton of shirts and mugs and stuff. I sort of mentally slot them in with Graphitti Designs, which is to say a merch source & 'publisher' that releases books that are mostly secondary to the primary reading experience... 'less deluxe' books being primary to print comics, and web editions being primary to webcomics. Of course, any compiled edition of a comic is arguably secondary in this sense... I remain, as always, awash in the biases of my age...

HEY, new Schuiten/Peeters translation effort announced!

http://theobscurecities.com/alaxispress/

OBVIOUSLY DUE TO US.

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