With the release of his massive hit webcomic hitting the bookshelves, I had the opportunity to speak with Andrew Hussie, the elusive and hilarious creator of Homestuck, one of the most ambitious and interactive independent comics ever created.
Q1. You say in this intro that this book is for enjoyment, perhaps a leisurely companion to the media blitz that is your webcomic. So what is it that made you decide to go to print, something more tangible, but far more limited?
- For the reasons you stated there. It’s a tangible presentation of the work, which you can collect, keep on a shelf, and read without messing around with an electronic device. Sometimes it’s better having the option to read something, rather than being forced to stare at a screen for more hours per day than we’ve already committed ourselves to. It is more limited, yes, but offers features that the website doesn’t have, like in-depth commentary on everything.
Q2. Your writing has a very solid voice in this. It’s one of those rare cases where it reads like a face to face conversation, one with someone with a lot of character. 7 years is a lot of time, so I’m sure you grew in that time in general, but do you think Homestuck had an effect on how? If so, how would you describe its impact on you as a person and your life as a whole?
- I’ve probably changed in that time, in some ways, but I doubt those changes would be detectable in the way I write, or the sort of jokes I record in the book commentary. Most people will read my annotations and say, well, this just sounds like the exact same clown to me. I don’t know what I was expecting. I’m not sure how to describe its impact on my life, because it’s been a long time. I started it nine years ago.That’s a whole “life arc”, except the arc never really seems to stop. You can have one really crazy day, that changes your life forever. But what if you have a crazy nine years? Do the nine years change your life? Seems to me the nine years BECOME your life. Let’s look at it this way. Let’s say you walk down a street and accidentally trip over a cranky old wizard. The wizard gets mad, puts a curse on you, then runs away laughing his ass off, and you never see him again. From that day forward, your life is nuts, and you say, man. That old wizard sure fucked up my life. That was the day that changed everything. Ok, but what if instead of cursing you, the wizard jumped on your back, and never let go? And you just live with this wizard from that day forward. He’s your weird, crazy buddy. He’s like, your roommate, he’s always hassling you, offering bad opinions, and never bathes. You get kind of used to the wizard. So you don’t look back at that fateful day and say, wow, that wizard’s curse sure changed my life. You say, that wizard became my life. The wizard WAS the curse. Is this answer helping? Let’s move on.
Q3. April 13th is John Egbert’s birthday, the first time this comic was released, and the day this book hits store shelves. Does that date hold a particular significance to you or is it purely about the significance of the start date to the story itself? Essentially, does the significance of that date come before or after?
- April 13th is just the day I started posting the story online. Originally it was April 10th, because I actually started earlier than that using some different methods, but decided to scrap all that, and start over completely a few days later. So it’s a totally arbirary date, but still a very significant one. Key dates felt very important while it was being updated, because it was always in part a sort of “live performance” in addition to being a webcomic.
Q.3b Okay, hopefully that wasn’t too philosophical. Now let’s get general.
Q4. When did you first start getting into comics, let alone in web form?
- Oh, forever ago. Everything I did before Homestuck was unspeakable garbage. Homestuck sort of is too, but it’s the one thing where I started harnessing my garbage-making tendencies into a more constructive and organized direction, and arguably something more interesting took shape as a result. Complete garbage is sort of my genre. Sometimes I’ve likened Homestuck to a really ornate garbage sculpture. Both as an eclectic media construction, and a ludicrous narrative. I’ve always found garbage sculptures fascinating, much more so than more typical sculptures made with a sense of polish. Like, there are old computer parts bolted together down there, a bunch of plastic milk bottles up there, like fifty baby doll arms and legs screwed together to produce a certain contour… how does this all come together to resemble a big, beautiful horse? It’s a captivating proposition, harnessing objectionable components to promote the illusion of something more transcendent or inspiring than the sum of its ugly parts.
Q5. How much prep went into the start of HOMESTUCK? How much prep did you do for most of the story?
- Not much. I spent time thinking about it while working on the previous story. I drew the first four characters in advance on paper, but didn’t name them. The readers got to name them. I considered a lot of the rules for the game they play in advance. But then just launched into it, to let it grow in the telling, and in response to reader input. This was the point, to let it evolve, and to keep many aspects of it open, and subject to adjustments and improvisation. Minor acts of preparation for whatever was coming next in the story were always taking place along the way.
Q6. Besides terrible movies, ironic or otherwise, where did you draw inspiration from?
- Just, anything. See the above answer where I talk about garbage sculptures. Literally anything can be used, no matter how small or stupid. Ranging from gratuitous focus on computer science minutia, to pages upon pages of dissertation on alien romantic theory based on the four playing card suits. Anything can be used, and anything can be important.
Q7. You certainly have a lot to say in just writing the comic itself, but every page of this publication has notes from you. How long did it take you to write 437 pages worth of author’s notes? Why did you choose to do this?
- They take a while to do. Maybe a couple months per book.I felt like the books should have something significant included in them that the site doesn’t have. They would feel a bit vacant without the commentary, like we just ran the site through a printer and called it a day. You know how sometimes there are these shitty books on amazon, and they’re just half-assed printouts of bad wiki articles, or other public domain type stuff. I’m like, why don’t we not do that. We can add some value to this. I mean, to whatever extent the types of remarks you’re reading right now have value. All the comments in the books basically sound like this. The cash value of this answer, for instance, I would estimate at something like 1.24 cents. Please don’t scoff at that, it all adds up over hundreds of pages. I guess what I’m trying to say is, the books pretty much pay for themselves.
Homestuck Volume 1 is now available for purchase at local and online book retailers, published by VIZ Media (www.VIZ.com) and presents as a 440-page tome of what began a pop culture phenomenon. Millions of fans have gathered around this unusual masterpiece, expressing their love through cosplay, music, artwork; all of this gathering enough to rival fan site favorites like Naruto & Star Wars with the amount of content produced: Deviant Art (820,000+), AO3 (40,000+), FanFiction.net (15,000+).
The Official Homestuck YouTube channel has amassed an impressive over 3.2 million views & merchandise sales have generated more than $10,000,000 in revenue!
You can also find 10 Official Volumes of the Homestuck soundtrack, which is arguably amazing! (I personally enjoy listening to certain tracks while I work…)
Wow, I completely forgot that’s how Andrew Hussie answers questions. I’m really nostalgic for his old question-and-answer blogs.
Part of the magic of Homestuck was that “live performance” thing he alluded to; the essence of the site that spawned it, MS Paint Adventures, was that Hussie’s comics would be led by reader suggestions a là text adventure games, and that ethos of the work being inseparable from the audience’s participation stayed with Homestuck until the end. At its best, Homestuck was a weirdly smart tangle of intertextual references and double-meanings. On the other hand, a lot of the least successful extended jokes from the last act of the story were playing into jokes that had to do with the reader culture.
“Everything I did before Homestuck was unspeakable garbage.”
Andrew, I can’t and won’t make this any simpler for you.
You failed at life. You failed. When one thinks of what man is capable of, pushing himself to the limits physically, mentally and emotionally to achieve heights of success never before mentioned, your name will not be whispered in the same, reverent fashion that others have.
Nobody will remember Andrew Hussie. You aren’t even a header or a footer in the career of someone else. You are nobody. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
In short, you are an enormous failure.
Andrew, being that you’re about 35 years old and your brain has probably hard-wired itself to accept such failures by now and write off such criticism by being “flippant”, really suggests that you’ve passed beyond the proverbial breaking-point. There’s no turning back. This is your career, this is what defines you and this is what you’ll defend to the end.
The abhorrent failure that is MS Paint Comics, Andrew Hussie, that is your legacy.
Maybe I’m over-reaching, however. Who knows? People CAN change. Maybe you’ll read this, Andrew, and think long and hard about what a wasteful life you’ve led. Maybe you’ll think, “wow. It’s incredible just how abysmal and pathetic I really AM!” Maybe you’ll lift some weights in the morning. Maybe you’ll take a self-help class.
Maybe in a couple of years, Andrew, you’ll have learned from this failure. I doubt it, though.
I genuinely doubt it.
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