Jojo Gonzalez is covered in grey body paint.
The 18-year-old dips the tip of a sponge brush into liquid latex, applying the clear adhesive to handmade fins. She sticks them in front of her ears.
Then she carefully paints red stripes on her cheeks to mimic a lionfish.
Finally, she dons a shiny, black wig and a set of candy corn-colored horns.
For millions of people, Homestuck isn’t just a webcomic. It’s a lifestyle.
Homestuck is the fourth webcomic by Andrew Hussie published on mspaintadventures.com. The webcomic has become so popular that clubs devoted to it have sprung up across the country. One such club is centered in Gainesville.
The plot of Homestuck is complicated, but according to fans it chronicles the journey of four friends stuck in a video game that destroyed their universe. Characters John Egbert, Rose Lalonde, Dave Strider and Jade Harley must work through several tasks and trials to recreate their universe.
The webcomic is seen as an epic, with more than 6,000 pages and hundreds of characters.
“If you read it you’re bound to like at least one character,” said third-year University of Florida psychology student Devon Weir.
The 21-year-old sees the webcomic as a creative outlet. Both Weir and Gonzalez are among the hundreds of thousands of people globally who create fan content of Homestuck.
They create costumes of their favorite Homestuck characters in an art form called cosplay.
“Homestuck has amazing cosplayers who are extremely creative,” Gonzalez said. “A lot of the characters people cosplay are really open to interpretation, and I think cosplayers take full advantage of that and come up with amazing outfits and character designs, which I think is one of the things that makes Homestuck really unique.”
The Gainesville Homestuck club is known as Gainesvillestuck.
Co-founder Rochelle Greer, 20, said Gainesvillestuck was created for members to make friends with common interests.
“It’s just about becoming closer friends with people and trying to get out of the house every once in a while,” Greer said. “I can honestly say the number of people I consider my friends has gone up quite a bit since making this group.”
The Santa Fe College sophomore organizes monthly meet-ups for the group, which typically consist of a social activity and collaborative costume making. Members vote on what activities to participate in through the club’s Facebook group.
Gainesvillestuck worked with UF’s student-run anime, science fiction and gaming convention SwampCon in 2013 to provide Homestuck programming like trivia and a Homestuck-themed formal dance. The club plans to collaborate again next year.
Gainesvillestuck brings together fans from Gainesville, Ocala and even Texas. For Greer, the fandom feels like a tight-knit family.
Homestuck provided many fans their first introduction to the medium of webcomics.
“I never knew webcomics actually existed until Homestuck,” Gonzalez said. “I really got into them now because they are so creative and cool.”
Greer suspects the online format of Homestuck accounts for why it’s so popular.
Chapters can be read and shared easily by anyone with an Internet connection, and thousands of archived pages are available with the click of a mouse, all for free. The format also allows for animation and music to be incorporated into the comic.
Fans have always been a major part of Homestuck, and their support is the reason a video game based on the series will be developed.
On Sept. 4, 2012, creator Andrew Hussie started a Kickstarter campaign for a Homestuck video game with a goal of $700,000. Within days that goal was reached with donations from around the world, including some Gainesville.
When the campaign ended a month later, 24,346 people had contributed $2.5 million.
Homestuck is currently on hiatus so Hussie can concentrate on developing the game.
Though fans are sad at the lack of updates, they look forward to the game Hussie is creating for them.
“He wants to give us what we paid for,” Greer said.
View additional photos of Gonzalez and Weir below.