We are the hollow men, we are the stuffed men, headpiece filled with straw.
September 3, 2011 2:54 PM   Subscribe

Why did the trolls from Homestuck explode at Otakon this year?

Cosplaying the grey-skinned, orange-horned trolls from Homestuck was strangely popular at Otakon this year. I don't follow Homestuck, but I can recognize the characters by osmosis. The quantity of Homestuck fanart of various kinds floating around on the Internet has also exploded in the last few months. Why is the world of anime and manga fandom suddenly paying attention to a semi-obscure webcomic? I can only guess that the trolls, who number twelve, are a popular choice for groups who might have done Organization XIII in past years, but this is just a guess. So far this phenomenon really seems to come out of left field.

If you know what the vector of propagation is, please share your knowledge. Also, if you've cosplayed Homestuck anything at a con, or are planning to soon, what influenced your choice? I'd love to know why Homestuck and why now.
posted by Nomyte to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
4chan's /co/? I see Homestuck threads on there all. the. time.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:59 PM on September 3, 2011

I've noticed a huge increase in HomeStruck avatars at SomethingAwful. I've been slowly reading HomeStruck and the plot is starting to make sense... I'm not sure how I feel about that.
posted by kzin602 at 3:09 PM on September 3, 2011

Homestuck fandom has exploded on Livejournal this year.
posted by Jeanne at 3:24 PM on September 3, 2011

Response by poster: The infection is more widespread than I hoped. But why? How did, e.g., 4chan catch wind of Homestuck? Or is the best explanation just "a single spore lands, finds nourishment in decay, and in turn exhales a cloud of life, a thousand spores land," that the whole thing is a massive fluke?
posted by Nomyte at 3:27 PM on September 3, 2011

I've run across Homestuck mentioned pretty much randomly across several forums and communities I frequent. Seems like word of mouth to me.

I mean, it's not so much of a "fluke" as it is that Homestuck is genuinely compelling to many people (and at times, myself, although I'm not current.)
posted by Phyltre at 3:36 PM on September 3, 2011

I don't know Homestuck that well but I do know Livejournal fandom. Small fandoms can explode and get really trendy on LJ because fandom is so much a group activity -- you become a fan of someone else's small weird fandom so that you can talk about it together and read each other's fanfiction and cosplay together. And I think the "complex, largely undefined fictional universe" (to quote Wikipedia) is something that's intensely compelling to fanfiction writers especially, because it provides a lot of room for exploration and expansion.
posted by Jeanne at 3:39 PM on September 3, 2011

Response by poster: Sorry to threadsit. I understand the unstable nature of fandom, but in my experience webcomic fandom rarely crosses over into cosplay and anime fandom. I hope to be corrected by someone who knows better.

Also, Homestuck has been around for two and a half years, so it seems implausible that it would get big now for purely intrinsic reasons.
posted by Nomyte at 3:47 PM on September 3, 2011

Charles Mackay probably has the answer.

Nobody can predict or explain fads. Remember Cabbage Patch Dolls? For a few minutes they were the hottest thing in the toy market. Then they vanished. When's the last time you saw one?

These things come and go. But in the era of lightning-fast communication on the internet, they can explode with amazing speed -- and collapse just as fast.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:04 PM on September 3, 2011

Best answer: Homestuck isn't really an "obscure" webcomic anymore. The active fan community is gigantic, particularly on DeviantArt and Tumblr. A Homestuck "fan adventure" that a friend of mine created earlier this summer has several thousand followers.

It's a compelling story that a large number of people enjoy. It updates frequently, has a large and diverse cast of characters, and presents a great many opportunities for shipping -- all things fandoms thrive on. And as the fan community grows, the likelihood of your Homestuck cosplay being recognized and praised increases.

As for the timing: many people probably spent all last school year listening to their friends yammer on about HS, and when summer vacation started they sat down and caught up. Just in time to plan their con season costumes.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:15 PM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I suspect that shipping is a big part of the answer, since the HS cosplayers were overwhelmingly female. Organization XIII was also very shipping-prone.
posted by Nomyte at 6:20 PM on September 3, 2011

It's also hard to call it a 'webcomic'. I never know how to describe it myself (this internet... picture... animated... interactive... thing). I'd say it has a lot in common with anime, really. And the open-endedness of the world makes it appealing to cosplayers and fanficcers, as Jeanne points out.
posted by Lady Li at 6:57 PM on September 3, 2011

I have to say, that I'd never heard of it until this AskMe, and I went to take a look.

It's possible that it just hit a critical mass of awareness? I can tell you right now that based on the little I've read I'm going to be evangelizing like mad to everyone I know. It's brilliant.
posted by winna at 7:03 PM on September 3, 2011

Response by poster: Having now glanced over the congeries of pages devoted to it on TVTropes, the other big factor is that HS is a torrid, mindlessly convoluted story about magical teenagers, making it perfectly comparable to other megahits like Naruto and Evangelion. My curiosity is now satisfied. Thank you all.
posted by Nomyte at 7:29 PM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

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