Order of the Stick and Homestuck: Metafiction and Metaphors

nuclearmentality said: 

mind going a bit more in-depth on what you mean by this?

Order of the Stick: Blood Runs in the Family has basically the same ending as Homestuck: It’s a highly metafictional narrative where the characters are being forced along the path of a story by the villain, and the resolution is them rejecting the story and leaving to do other things.

The main difference between them is that in Order of the Stick it’s explicit. Elan’s dad actively wants a great story to happen, even if it means he’s defeated in the end. Caliborn “controls the narrative” in order to set up time loops that predestine his eventual victory in a manner that serves as a metaphor for “canon” but is within the logic of Homestuck a time travel paradox. This is more convoluted, but what’s most important here is that Caliborn’s goal isn’t to be a villain in a story, it’s to kill everyone and live forever as a god. 

Thus, the audience sees “defeat Lord English” as the goal of Homestuck, not “escape the story”. Homestuck does not, and indeed can not thanks to the metaphor, provide any narrative weight or momentum towards “the characters escape the story” as a satisfying ending. There’s quite a bit of existential angst about what it means to live in a world where there’s one official pre-approved future and everything else was doomed to failure, enough that an ending of “we destroyed the concept of an alpha timeline all timelines are valid we’re free” would have been a perfectly satisfying ending, had that been what happened.

Instead the characters go to Earth C and the story just kind of stops. Can Lord English not be Already Here in Earth C? Apparently not, for some reason. Why? He’s defeated by some other character in some off-screen manner that has no thematic relevance for this “canon” idea and is literally just kicking him into a hole. The literal goals of the characters (escape to a new world) and the metaphorical goal of the characters (escape “canon”) aren’t connected in a logical way Accomplishing one shouldn’t have anything to do with the other, so when they suddenly get treated as interchangable it’s confusing. 

By comparison, the Tarkin arc DOES have a connection between “Defeat the bad guy” and “escape the confines of a story”. Defeating Tarquin traditionally means he wins, so the heroes need to escape the story, and he needs to stop them. Because he wants to stop them. Caliborn doesn’t actually have any reason to care if the kids make it to Earth C, and he never directly intercedes to stop them. He does his own thing and they do their own thing. At no point does Caliborn, like, tell any of the characters he’s got this time loop thing going, meaning that none of the kids and trolls even know he’s doing anything that affects them.

Order of the Stick has the characters actually be at odds over the theme. This allows Order of the Stick to do something Homestuck couldn’t, which is have it’s cake and eat it too. The audience wants to see a final confrontation, and we get one. There’s a big long dramatic battle where all the characters get to do cool things. But since killing Tarquin is giving him what he wants…

They don’t. Elan has a character growth moment where he ignores his meta “good guy” role and coldly lets Tarquin fall off the airship, knowing Tarquin has the HP to survive the fall. Tarquin is left sputtering and furious at his lack of closure, giving us the satisfaction of seeing him defeated while not having him be defeated in the way he wanted. Even though Tarquin still has his empire, he is so thoroughly owned that we’re happy. The story has concluded in an unexpected but satisfying way that makes you think about stories as you realize that all of Tarquin’s complaints here are baseless. Elan did lose something important, he changed significantly as a character, the plotline has a satisfying resolution, and the ending is great.

And I think the new writers of Homestuck understand this to some extent.

Because they’re doing it Rich Burlew’s way now. New Homestuck has a villain who accepts being a villain and is actively trying to make sure that the heroes grow and learn and kill him in the end, exactly the same as Tarquin. He’s probably not going to get that villainous death he’s looking forward to, and it’ll probably be a lot more satisfying of an ending than Old Homestuck got because the story conflict actually has something to do with the metaphor this time.


considering the frequency at which you get evicted from places and then turn down going halvies on real estate, might be time to re-examine priorities a tad?

You’re not the first person to tell me that. Landlord-chan (who bought a house herself with the help of a loan from me then paid it back by letting me live there for nearly free for a year) has been peer pressuring me super hard, and I’ve given it serious consideration because she makes good arguments, but here’s the thing:

The first few months I lived in this apartment, which is a very nice apartment whose only downside is a long bus+subway commute (and my job is moving to a place that happens to have a much better commute from here), I ended each month five or six hundred dollars richer than I started. Once I had my bank account at a level I was comfortable with, I started treating myself a bit more. Probably too much, but I was still putting away ~$200 a month and change while indulging my expensive “writing comics” hobby. I have about 10-12 paychecks worth of savings to fall back on in case of emergency, which is the reason “Hey you wanna buy a house this week on no notice” is something I was even able to consider in the first place. I had zero plans or intention to buy a house last Monday, and the thing that made me consider doing it now (a buyout offer) is no longer available. I’m guaranteed this apartment until the end of August 2020.

To buy the cheap fixer-upper I was looking at, I’d need to drop all my savings into the down payment and closing costs, and then even with a roommate I’m paying like $1200/mo. Which isn’t unaffordable for me, but I wouldn’t be able to easily rebuild my savings, especially with the house needing a lot of work. I wouldn’t be able to survive a big emergency, like losing my job at a company that just had a round of no-severance layoffs and is announcing more are coming. And while losing my apartment kind of sucks, with a house I’d be at risk of losing my *tenant*, meaning I’d suddenly have to pay the whole $1800/mo by myself until I could find a replacement. Losing my apartment is just a pain in the ass and a few hundred bucks for movers.

Like, right now I have the options of

~$700-800/mo  = Nice big apartment in Watertown, but with a longish commute
~$800-900/mo  = Apartment in Allston that’s a five minute walk to the train, but is tiny
~$1200/mo = My own home in Dorchester, which is both big and has a good commute, but expensive and requires most of my savings as a down payment

It’s not unreasonable to choose Watertown, and a lot of my savings are in a Roth IRA that keeps growing, so it’s not like I’m falling further and further behind or anything. Buying a house will be a more attainable goal next year.


Especially since we might be hitting the peak of the Boston Bubble


Tonight on Saffron and Sage, suggestive eyebrow wiggles! 

Normally I wouldn’t make a double-entendre all bold and underlined like that, but Gunwild keeps telling me to do it, and his comic is a lot more popular than mine so who am I to disagree?

Sorry I’ve been ghosting a little. I’m getting kicked out of my apartment next August, and a chance to move out early and buy a house came out, so I’ve spent the last week lying on the floor in a panic over The Big Decisions. I eventually decided against getting it. I’d have to burn up all my savings and, much worse, I’d have to stop making webcomics! Can’t have that, so I’ll just keep putting away a little money every month and maybe….one day.

Faunus’ final line is an oblique reference to the famous balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, and when you go back and read it as an adult you realize that this is a stoner comedy about two idiots. Like, listen to this:

JULIET: Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? We are unable to love each other because of your name. Give up your name, and take all of me instead
ROMEO, HIDING IN A BUSH: I shall never refer to myself as Romeo again!
JULIET: What? Who’s there?
ROMEO: It is I…….hm.

Greatest love story of all time? Or two morons without a brain cell between them? Both, perhaps.


Out of the 9 released so far, (6 mainline story books, and 3 supplemental books) which Order of the Stick book to you think is best?

The only supplemental book I’ve read is On The Origin of PCs, which I remember as being really really good.

Of the books that make up the comic proper, the best is probably Blood Runs In The Family (the one with Elan’s dad). The ending of that book does what the ending of Homestuck was trying to do, but two years earlier and in a far more satisfying manner.


Tonight on Legend of the Hare: Shame

Ah yes, the great freakout of 2014. I felt that the story wasn’t working because I didn’t characterize Jill at all before starting it, and seeing how gruesome the dead rabbits were made me want to abandon the plan for Jill to accidentally burn Molly (even though the CAT TORCHER poster is still prominently displayed next to a bunch of the ale, so I was still holding on to it a little). I also didn’t feel like I’d properly set up Jill, so time for a soft reboot! Jill gets kicked back to Earth so we can learn more about her shitty life before the plot starts again!

Re-reading this, I’m surprised both at how unnecessary it was, but also at how it kind of worked despite being a panic move and a story I didn’t like the start of. “I got super wasted last night and became a magical girl” is an interesting premise, and it it recontextualizes the tattoo in a thematic way that’s pretty slick for how unplanned it is. I kind of lucked into it. It looks planned!

This is also an attempt to establish Tempest as a character. The smart, socially active one who had her shit together. Why is she friends with Jill? Is she friends with Jill, or just roomies? That’s a great question, but she ended up being kind of secondary. I tried to promote Tempest to main character in book 2, but then book 2 got cancelled, c’est la vie.

Here’s some Tempest Trivia, though: Her name comes from Cosby Show actress Tempestt Bledsoe, for no reason other than I thought “Tempest” was a cool name. Her never-mentioned-in-the-comic last name, Flowers, is from Ramona Flowers of Scott Pilgrim vs The World, again just because I thought it sounded nice. While we’re on a name kick, did you know Saffron and Sage is named after a sandwich shop called Bailey and Sage I used to live near? Sage the character was not part of the original plan for that story, but I liked the name enough that I put him in!

Jesus Christ, though. This page has eight panels on it, one of which is an establishing shot! I’m lucky Carlos didn’t fly to America to beat me up.


diebasengen said: 

Could be interesting, but it would definitely need to be more interesting to listen too. That’s why creators who use TTS always use a somewhat janky one. You should also at least experiment with doing your own voice over.

The thing that’s gotten me on this train of thought is the Limit Breakers Dark Souls videos

They use Acapela-Box, which is hella expensive, unless they’re using a chrome plugin or somesuch to capture the audio of the preview, which is simple enough to do but also copyright infringey.

It sounds like there’s interest in the idea but I need to give it a bit more pizazz, which I expected. I can find some royalty free ambient music for YouTube to have playing in the background, and I can learn to screw around with the Amazon Polly voice to make it less robot-y, and find some video clips to break it up as well. 



I’ve been thinking about turning some of my reviews into YouTube videos, but I don’t really have the resources to record my voice in good audio. I’ve been experimenting with various Text To Speech options, and I’ve been thinking of using Amazon Polly to “narrate” my reviews, and then I can turn them into YouTube videos with images of the comics as visuals (kind of similar to the way Shaun’s videos look) and maybe some Youtube stock music to make it a bit less dry to listen to.

Is this something anyone would actually be interested in?



“yeah, it is”

the title is meant to answer the question you ask while listening “is this… megalovania?” then you go and check the track in the credits and it gives you your answer.

anyway thank you so much @totalspiffage for absolutely nailing the vocal part of this track. a long time ago andrew said he never wanted to do vocal parts in the songs because that would be canonizing a voice but wheres andrew now? huh? yeah thats what i thought. i mean.. i know exactly where he is actually. love u, buddy just havin a laugh over here. sorry you couldnt make it this weekend.

anyway i also put nuclear in there uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh for fun???????????????

It’s kind of great how the Homestuck videogame uses a Homestuck song for Aradia Homestuck, the Homestuck character most associated with that Homestuck song, and everyone from the fans to the game’s composer is treating it like a funny meme reference to the skeleton game. 


its very reasonable to try and avoid hurting people where possible but it is much less reasonable to demand that someone else’s risqué jokes be removed from a website that the viewer has full power to just… not visit anymore. The joke was in poor taste, making it one of thousands of similar jokes. If you find the comic offensive, that’s fine, but referring to people who have run a wildly successful children’s hospital charity for over 10 years as “the dick wolves guys” is just shitty.

I never said the comic should be taken down, just that the PA guys were kind of dickheads about the whole thing. They could have either apologized, defended it, or just ignored the criticism and let it blow over instead of bringing it up themselves every few years. 

Anonymous said to thewebcomicsreview:

I feel like you’d be a little spiky too if literally hundreds of people began circulating that LOTH page as proof that you hated burn victims and supported burning people in real life.

It was actually a much later page that got people mad at me for “hating white men” because I wrote Riley as a jerk. 

There’s no shortage of stupid-ass criticism of comics. Part of being on the internet now, and a lot of people have had it was worse over way less. 

Anonymous said to thewebcomicsreview:

Like, not to nelabor the point, but if you think angrily pushing back because multiple people jumped directly to accusing them of having actually raped someone because “only rapists would find that funny” is being an asshole, I just don’t understand your worldview at all.

People accused me of transphobic language when I tagged a Questionable Content page with “the trappening”, but I never felt the need to “push back” on trans people. I considered their arguments, decided they were making a fair point, apologized, and removed the tag.I know some of the people who were originally upset with me were satisfied by this, and I’m sure some of the people who were upset with me were not satisfied with this and stopped following. We all moved on with our lives and I tried to be a little more thoughtful when discussing trans issues so I didn’t say something stupid again.

Anonymous said to thewebcomicsreview:

artists who release their art for free don’t have a responsibility to make sure it doesn’t hurt anyone, are you fucking mental? press the back button. find a different comic. don’t flip the fuck out and demand an apology and then carry a grudge forever when you don’t get it

Sure, lots of comics have difficult or challenging content. Sometimes it’s in the service of a really fucking good comic that wants to say important things about difficult issues.


Such as Drop Out’s discussion of mental illness, or take your pick of [Most “Great Literature” From School]. 

Sometimes it’s in the service of a stupid joke


The Homestuck epilogues have, um, a lot of this, like this segment of middle-aged Gamzee fucking teenage Vriska in a bush for shock value grossout comedy. 

And the Homestuck epilogues got a lot more criticism, mostly because Homestuck’s this big huge corporate franchise but also because this stuff is really dumb and worthy of criticism. Much of the criticism is fair, and I think it’s a little cowardly of Andrew Hussie to hide behind his staff like he does, letting them take all the criticism why he poses with horses. There’s certainly an issue when people fire a massive hate mob at random teenagers making their first comics, but a major webcomic/gaming corporation making rape jokes isn’t quite the same thing.

And, really, if you’re sending a message to “The Webcomics Review” asking me not to have opinions of major popular webcomics, perhaps it is in fact you who should hit the back button. Or not, if you don’t want to. I’d be a hypocrite to tell you not to criticize me, after all. Feel free to leave a comment on my comic over at! 

Anonymous said to thewebcomicsreview:

It’s super good of you to promote humility and accountability like this. Quick question though, how many times has the address of your children’s school been posted on twitter because of a joke you drew?

Hi. This is Daniel Kelly of the Webcomics Review. We recently made a post where a rich and famous comic creator was criticized for making and standing behind a rape joke and selling rape joke shirts and flags.

Some found that idea disturbing.

We want to state in clear language, without ambiguity or room for interpretation: we hate doxxers, and all the doxxing they do. Seriously, though. Doxxers are really the worst

It’s possible you read my blog, and became a doxxer as a direct result. If you’re doxxing someone right now, stop. Apologize. And leave. Go, and dox no more.


Not super sure you’re the guy to be dismissively rreferring to someone else’s poorly executed over the top hyperbolic comedy-evil joke like “dick wolves”, Mr. Villian Burns A Child To Death For Laffs.

People say stupid shit all the time, and I’m no exception. To pick a comparable example, when Claire and Martin had the infamous “You’re Beautiful” strip in Questionable Content, I tagged it as “The Trappening”, which a lot of people got upset about, because using “trap” was transphobic.

The difference here is that when people came to me and said “Hey man don’t say thinks like that it’s transphobic”,  I went “Okay yeah that’s a reasonable request”, apologized, and edited the post to remove the tag

This is not how Penny Arcade reacted when people were upset by the Dickwolves strip. First they made posts with jokey Trigger Warnings, then they made a strip making a joke out of the reaction


Then they started selling Dickwolves shirts and pennants


And when the Penny Arcade store pulled the Dickwolves merch due to the controversy, Gabe said it was a mistake and wore the shirt to Pax, and then, a few year later at a different Pax, went on stage to say he regretted pulling the merchandise to a cheering crowd.

People say stupid shit all the time, it’s part of being human and let he who has not shitposted throw the first stone. But part of being an adult is realizing when you’ve done something hurtful to someone. And then you can either go “Sorry, I’ll fix it” or at least “I realize this is hurtful but I think it’s important to the art I’m trying to make and I understand if that makes you not want to read it” and maybe throw up a content warning.

What you don’t do is spend years making fun of the people you hurt, and sell a bunch of merch making fun of them. Then you’re just being an asshole.