I’m going to say it up front: MS Paint Adventures, and in particular the current story, Homestuck, is one of the most interesting pieces of entertainment on the entire webnets. Here is the first panel and one of our heroes, one John Egbert, whose birthday is today. The whole adventure is presented in the form of the text-based games of the eighties, in which the character waits for the player to enter a command. You are in a room. What will you do?
The story it tells is entirely ridiculous and, like many of the smaller, sillier stories that have appeared on the site in the past, convoluted to the point of parody. In brief, it concerns four thirteen year-olds (much in the vein of the classic RPG EarthBound, to which the title refers), John, Rose, Dave and Jade, who find themselves physically playing a video game that heralds the end of the world.
Though the plot comes straight out of the nineties-hacker-what-exactly-is-a-computer stable, the characters are friends online and interact in an alarmingly Web 2.0 manner, exchanging youtube videos and in-memes.
The comic is unlike any of the others we’ve featured on this post in past weeks partly because of the sheer size of the thing – well over 4000 pages, many of which are a single panel, a few of which are flash movies, musical set-pieces or both – partly because it uses the internet better than any of its peers.
One of the characters runs an intentionally terrible webcomic which exists in the real internet and is referenced by the characters; there is a parody version of mspaintadventures.com that exists in the Homestuck world which is infrequently tracked by the cast and often gives hints to future plot points; even the site itself adapts to reflect changes in the story’s circumstances.
Of course, all of this clever-clever post-whatever nonsense would be for naught if the story lacked heart. The characters are, for the most part, elegantly fleshed-out with their particular fears and motivations, dreams and senses of humour, partly through the mass of dialogue that accompanies the action, partly by having the characters do some good old-fashioned acting. Many are just (highly effective) comic foils who expand the world of the story, a number of internet-inhabiting archetypes that will seem familiar to fans who know their way around your common-or-garden lolcat.
Hussie keeps an unusually close relationship with his readership, several of whom have become part of the now-considerable art/music team that collaborate in the more spectacular elements of the story. In an interview with NerdGirlPinups he talked about using all the webby tools at his disposal:
That’s part of the fun. That’s part of the point of the website. It was always to experiment and try different things with the mediums – specifically with the web, and everything that’s possible with the web.
I did a lot of animated GIFs at first, and that turned into a lot of other types of experimentations with Flash and other little things about the way you can tell a story. Mixing text in with images – it remains experimental.
Yesterday he marked the end of the longest act in the story with a flash-animated movie lasting over thirteen minutes and featuring a swathe of critical plot points which had to be hosted externally due to the prohibitive costs of running it on the site’s own server. The story is now careering into the finishing stretch, and what has always been particularly true of this project is that anything could happen.
Within the bounds of an internet-based comic format.
Has Homestuck grabbed your attention already? Got any favourite moments? Let us know in the comments.