Giorgio Busi Rizzi

Panel 1B: Comics and Sequential Narrative/1
Session 1 – July 1, 11:00 – 13:00

It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s a videogame… it’s a digital comic: Homestuck and the irresistible appeal of retro-remediation

The Wikipedia entry concerning Andrew Hussie’s Homestuck describes it this way: “The webcomic centers on a group of teenagers who unwittingly bring about the end of the world through the installation of a beta copy of an upcoming computer game. The comic consists of a combination of static images,
animated GIFs and instant message logs, as well as animations and games made with Adobe Flash. It has been noted for its complex plot and considerable length: over 8000 pages and 800,000 words”.

This short outline should suffice to explain what makes Homestuck such a stimulating object to talk about, especially, but not solely, in relation to transcodification: its full reliance on the hybrid mediality that characterizes digital comics puts it at the crossroad between traditional comics and videogames – and hypertext fiction; its length and the depth of its plot (which has even led to comparisons with James Joyce’s Ulysses) have been mirrored and counterbalanced by a most passionate and active fan community,
offering a very interesting example of participatory culture; finally, its patent origin in, and close connection to, geek culture is what keeps everything together, mostly through a process that I propose
to call retro-remediation (a concept I borrow and expand from its use in Baetens 2018), which lays the webcomics’ foundations on both the aesthetics and the mechanisms of old adventure games.
Furthermore, since 2018 Hussie started the publication of the Homestuck paper transposition in six volumes (the last one is due on March, 2020), facing the endeavor of remediating on an analogic support a text so heavily relying on the affordances of its materiality.

This contribution will hence try to condensate, untangle and discuss the key aspects of one of the most engaging, successful and critically praised digital comics to date.


Giorgio Busi Rizzi is a BOF post-doctoral fellow at Ghent University. He holds a PhD in Literary and Cultural Studies with a joint supervision by the Universities of Bologna and Leuven, focusing on nostalgia in graphic novels. He is interested in comics studies, TV series, characterization, humour theory and translation.