A guide for new Homestuck fans—how to read the comic, what Homestuck is, a complete reading order, and more.
What is Homestuck?
Homestuck is a very long webcomic with a quirky style of narration and presentation that makes it look like an old text adventure game—but really, it's just a linear story that you read and watch, barring some of the flash games. People call Homestuck a multimedia masterpiece because it's got musical segments, playable set pieces, cool animations and everything the World Wide Web will allow an artist to put in it.
The plot of Homestuck is infamously convoluted but boils down to: four kids who know each other online play a video game together, inadvertently causing the apocalypse. To beat the game, they have to interact with the game world's characters, and with a disgruntled group of internet trolls.
How to read Homestuck
Most fans use the Homestuck Collection, a fan-made downloadable archive app which is endorsed by the author, Andrew Hussie, and which includes almost every bit of content listed below.
(Why is this? Until 2020, Homestuck used a now-dead technology called Flash to display animated or playable content. When Flash stopped working, the animations and games on the official website were replaced with low-quality YouTube recordings. To restore the comic's Flash features, a couple heroes named Bambosh and GiovanH created a downloadable executable called the Homestuck Collection, available for Windows, Mac and Linux computers. If you are a mobile/Chromebook only reader, you have no recourse but to use the online beta version or the aforementionedly half-assed official website, homestuck.com.)
Homestuck in order
If you only care about the webcomic, it's fairly straightforward. Start with the first page of Homestuck, stop when you reach the credits. But beyond the webcomic, there's much more!
Most of Homestuck's side-content is non-canon, but provides additional context or tells entertaining standalone stories. Completionists can use this guide and follow my recommended order. You can also use the Homestuck Timeline if you absolutely must read everything in the chronological order it was released (but the Homestuck Collection also presents most of the non-game content that way, so I recommend that first).
The Homestuck Soundtrack (2009-2020): After the fourth volume, over 90% of the soundtrack went unused, so listening to it as a standalone thing (or while reading the comic) is highly recommended. Includes hit tracks by famous Japanese musician Toby Fox, creator of Sans from Undertale.
Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff (2009-2017): Maybe almost as famous as Homestuck itself, it's a so-bad-it's-good-on-purpose side comic about a pair of gamers and their silly adventures. Directly and often linked within the comic.
Paradox Space (2014-2015): Non-canonical side comics mostly written by other authors—think Marvel's What If. Stand-outs include Summerteen Romance and The Inaugural Death of Mister Seven.
Hiveswap (2017-2020): Canonical video game, it tells a side story in the Homestuck universe. Two of a supposed four acts have been released, with the first being widely enjoyed, but the game's extremely troubled development meant the second act was created by an almost entirely different team, released years after the first and widely disliked, with no sign of the other two acts on the horizon. Though not officially announced, I believe this is the only Homestuck project still being worked on as of 2022.
Skaianet Systems (2019): A story released as an easter egg in the source code of an official website. It consists of various scraps of canonical lore about one of the Homestuck villains, narrated like a history book, apparently written as worldbuilding material during the comic's run but not released at the time. Highly controversial but recommended.
The Homestuck Epilogues (2019): Official non-canon prose-only sequel to Homestuck. Controversial events and characterization in spades, but I personally recommend it.
Previous MS Paint Adventures
Before Homestuck, Hussie wrote three other webcomics in a similar style. While they tell unrelated stories, Homestuck makes references to all of them over the course of its run. You can read these at any time.
Problem Sleuth (2008-2009): A much more substantial complete webcomic, excellent in its own right and highly recommended. Starts out as an adventure-game-like parody of hardboiled detective noir fiction, but the situation escalates wildly past that premise.
Informational Homestuck content
These aren't stories, but rather official social media accounts containing canonical facts and information not revealed within the webcomic:
Author Formspring (2010-2011): Andrew Hussie's formspring, with a focus on revealing minor details about the webcomic and explaining major ones at length.
I don't strictly recommend reading all of these, and in some cases like Namco High I actively recommend against it, but for the curious:
Namco High (2013): Visual novel directed by Hussie. Only here because it has three non-canonical Homestuck routes. In my opinion, the most avoidable thing on this list.
Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff Books (2013, 2018): The first SBAHJ book (now out of print) was just a collector's edition of the main comics with bonus non-story content. A second book, The Quest for the Missing Spoon, came out in 2018, written by Twitter e-celeb @dril. Personally I don't know a single person who thought the second book was funny, let alone worth buying, but some people on Goodreads claim to enjoy it, so, your choice.
Non-canon Snaps (2016): A short sequence of non-canonical comic panels sent through the app Snapchat, made not by Hussie but by some of the Hiveswap team and left unfinished. A skippable curiosity.
Hiveswap Friendsim (2018): Non-canonical visual novel made for the promotion of Hiveswap Act 2, though the characterization and storyline are incompatible with the main game. Features only one volume of writing by Hussie, and the freelance writing doesn't quite measure up to the challenge.
Homestuck^2 (2019-2020): A non-canonical sequel to the Homestuck Epilogues. The least official of these, with Hussie's only contribution being a loose outline handed off to some of his friends to revise as they saw fit. Some fans recommend avoiding this—I'd summarize it as trying to be as controversial as the Epilogues, but handled in a puerile way. Early in 2021, future updates were officially called off, with a statement saying it'd continue production in private, albeit slowly. This turned out to be false, but it returned in a way (see Homestuck: Beyond Canon listing).
Pesterquest (2020): Non-canonical visual novel in the style of Hiveswap Friendsim, also including a single mandatory Hussie-written volume, but featuring characters from the original webcomic. In my opinion, some routes in here reach the level of offensively bad (even compared to fanworks) and are not worth wasting your time on.
Psycholonials (2021): Hussie's most recent work, a visual novel made during/about the 2020 lockdown. Makes a couple of references to Homestuck and reads as a rumination on the fandom, but is otherwise unrelated.
Homestuck: Beyond Canon (2023): A reboot of Homestuck^2 with an entirely different team. Similar in style to the original comic, but still very early, and still requires reading the old team's updates to catch up, some of which have changed.
Besides these, there are a bunch of high quality unofficial fanworks. Since a summary would be perennially out of date, I recommend just asking the Homestuck Subreddit or the Homestuck Discord for recommendations.
Why do people hate Homestuck?
You may have heard Homestuck fans were so bad they got entire hotels and conventions banning them. These claims have never been verified, but it's true that the fandom has been historically quite annoying. I'm going to try to explain why. Take this with a grain of salt—these are only my personal opinions and beliefs.
Homestuck was an obscure webcomic appealing mainly to Computer Science nerds and Andrew Hussie's previous fanbase until it reached Act 5 Act 1: Hivebent, or The Part With The Trolls, in 2010. The trolls were twelve characters with strong personalities and a simple, recognizable, easily replicable visual template (custom blood colors, horns, zodiac signs on simple clothing).
Overnight, the makeup of the Homestuck fandom changed. Hordes of teens took over anime conventions, dressing up as the troll who was just like them. Poorly sealed gray body paint, an alien romance system and intentionally abrasive personalities were the perfect trifecta of annoyance to the average con-goer. The recognizable designs pointed people to Homestuck, people got sick of hearing about it, and the hate began to fester. I believe this is the seed of the terrible reputation Homestuck fans get, even when tweens moved on to greener pastures around 2014 as the comic went through endless pauses in content.
In recent years, Homestuck has kept its negative reputation more as a result of behind-the-scenes problems with the comic and its side projects (in particular the Kickstarter-funded adventure game Hiveswap) boiling over into public drama. Andrew Hussie, the various freelancers he's employed over the years, and the fandom have often had an antagonistic relationship. As of writing, development on Hiveswap is supposedly still quietly ongoing, and musician James Roach has hinted there are a few smaller projects underway.
I encourage everyone reading this to remember: it's just a webcomic, you should really just relax.