Sorry I haven't had much to post lately--I've been working on a handful of different projects, so the blog has kind of gotten short shrift. But I, like everyone and his brother, have been reading MSPaint Adventures lately, and so has fellow blogger Robert Gryfft of Air Theremin. Gryfft is a screaming raving fan of MSPA, and he has graciously allowed me to share his
WARNING: Like MSPA itself, Gryfft's review contains F-bombs.
Why MSPaint Adventures Is Awesome
And Why You Should Read It
(guest review by Robert Gryfft)
MSPaint Adventures is a webcomic written and drawn by Andrew Hussie. But it’s not just any webcomic, oh no. MSPA is a masterpiece wrapped in a gimmick dipped in postmodernism and stretching out for thousands of epic pages. MSPA is daunting at first, ridiculous in every single way, and absolutely-and-a-half worth the time investment to catch up.
It all started with a detective, alone in his office, waiting for the next job to come his way.
Wait. Let’s back up. It actually all started in an apocalyptic landscape where a Wayward Vagabond activated an ancient piece of sacred technology and semi-circumnavigated the globe:
Wait, no. That wasn’t it either, although you should click on that picture and watch that animation. I’ll wait.
Back? Cool. Okay, it actually all started with Jailbreak Adventures, which was the original prototype for the shenanigans that would evolve into the MSPA I’m so rabid about today. It wasn’t much to look at:
MSPA started as a forum adventure. If you’ve never been part of a forum with a competent artist running a fun forum adventure, you don’t know what you’re missing. Here’s how it works: the artist draws a panel then the members of the forum provide “game input" by making suggestions. The suggestions are usually combinations of helpful advice to the protagonist and silly, destructive, or trolling suggestions (the least helpful of which are usually incorporated by the person running the forum adventure.) It is entirely up to the discretion of the artist running the adventure which suggestions get picked. Stories told in this form can be lots and lots of fun, combining the dizzy random fun of internet threads with the more directed flow of a webcomic.
The panel you see above, the first panel from “Jailbreak Adventures,” shows three elements common to forum adventures. It shows a crudely drawn protagonist, an ostensible exit, and two objects with which the protagonist can interact. Hussie opened a suggestion box on his site’s forums, and they were off.
The beautiful thing about a forum adventure is that the protagonist is not constrained by anything except the imagination of the audience and the whims of the artist. Commands like “Bang your head against the bars until something gives” or “Pee on the pumpkin” aren’t just possible, they’re expected.
The Jailbreak adventures were very short-lived because this format is not very easy to keep stable. So Hussie did the obvious thing: he started a new adventure, called Bard Quest, in which he introduced another dimension in the form of a choose-your-own-adventure style story structure. He promptly proceeded to abandon Bard Quest, and began his magnum opus, Problem Sleuth.
Yep, this guy again. There is only one rule in Problem Sleuth: anything the audience expects will be immediately subverted.
“You are quite positive there has never been a gun in your office, and never will be. Frankly, the notion strikes you as reckless and foolhardy.”
Later, the object duality of the key and the gun would become important. But that’s neither here nor there. What’s important is that
Okay, Problem sleuth just peed on a picture of a clown. Moving o--
Okay, so MSPA contains a lot of pee. That’s... that’s something you should know, I guess.
Anyway, Problem Sleuth proceeds to get WICKED BANANAS, because you see, when you get drunk you can use your Imagination, which is a statistic that allows you to enter the Imaginary World, unless you have an electric window because then you can just walk out into it. The Imaginary world, accessible through every window in Problem Sleuth’s building (because otherwise, he could simply escape his office building) is a vast, wondrous place with its own rules that wind up getting
Okay, that’s a dead man beside a bust of Ben Stiller as Starsky from Starsky and Hutch. That has nothing to do with what I was talking about. Let’s talk about Homestuck.
If Problem Sleuth was Hussie's magnum opus, Homestuck is his magnumer opus. Homestuck is a story about a thirteen-year-old boy and his friends, and a game that they play. It starts off very slowly,
I mean, look, it’s a kid, and what does he do for the next several hundred pages? He fucks around with his inventory. The inventory system in Homestuck is complicated and there’s lots and lots of needless exposition devoted to it.
That is, it seems needless until meteors start falling out of the sky, it turns out that the game manipulates reality, John and his friends were always destined to play this game and become incorporated into a massive self-fulfilling clusterfuck of paradoxes, and remember all the fucking around with the inventory system? That allows him to alchemize egregious amounts of really badass shit.
This is the Wrinklefucker. It’s what happens when you alchemize a sledgehammer, a ghost pogo ride, and an iron. Also he’s wearing a badass suit. Did I mention that John, while incredibly awesome, isn’t even really a character? He’s a viewpoint for the audience (although this actually later comes into play in a REALLY BIG WAY and his character gets kind of awesome actually) and the first character you really see in Homestuck is Rose.
She’s Rose, she types in purple text, she’s kind of goth (intelligent, Lovecraftian goth, not the lame kind) her mother is rich, her cat is dead, and she knits. (Guess what her weapons will be?)
Don’t even get me started on Dave. Just a cool dude and he picks up the alchemization business like it’s nobody’s.
Okay, all these badass characters, all this text. Did I mention that major story events take place in animations with original music? Did I mention you can listen to all this music online for free?
You need to read this webcomic. Start with Problem Sleuth. Wait. Let me explain why.
This comic is full to the gills with callbacks. Virtually every panel contains a clever, hidden reference to a previous one. If it doesn’t, it probably contains a reference to Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff, the worst webcomic in the universe (written by tertiary protagonist Dave Strider.) SBaHJ is so bad, it reaches all the way back around and becomes its own, subtle, living brand of literature, and then reaches all the way back again, shits in your cereal, and then drools in all of your books. All of them.
So don’t read Homestuck first, because not only is it long and difficult to get into, but you won’t get it. You won't get it at all. Well, maybe you will, and you could probably even enjoy it, but the amount of subtlety and insanity here is something that-- okay, go back to the panel of Rose for a second.
There are two Problem Sleuth refer-- wait, there’s three. I think. It’s a cascading clusterfuck of callbacks and references. This comic is its own universe, contained within another universe, which is actually contained by the original universe in the beginning (and this is a not un-common theme within the adventures.) Okay, read Problem Sleuth first, unless you want to really get the full bouquet of the thing, in which case read Jailbreak first, unless you’re a really impatient asshole then just read the first two acts of Homestuck before you give up on it, but even then you’ll just go back and read the rest anyway.
This is the best webcomic. THE. Best webcomic. It’s incredible! You gotta read it. Don’t walk, don’t run, don’t flip the fuck out, just click on this link right here and everything will be okay.