Homestar Runner logo
|Created by||Mike Chapman
|Written by||Matt Chapman
|Animated by||Mike Chapman
|Voiced by||Matt Chapman
|Launched||January 1, 2000|
|Alexa rank||98,805 (January 2013[update])|
The cartoons are normally centered on the title character, Homestar Runner. However, a series entitled Strong Bad Email or sbemail, in which another main character, Strong Bad, answers emails from viewers, is the most popular and prominent feature of the site. While Homestar and Strong Bad are the main characters, the site has grown to encompass dozens of other characters over the years.
The site is one of the most visited sites with collections of Flash cartoons on the Internet and is notable for its refusal to sell advertising space (the creators pay for everything through merchandise sales, which includes a line of T-shirts). The owners of the website had turned down offers to make a television series.
The site's popularity spread via word of mouth. Though the site, and all of its content, remains available, no new content has been released since December 2010. No official explanation has ever been provided by the site's owners for the abrupt stop in new content. As a result, the site's popularity has declined significantly since that time.
- 1 History
- 2 Characters
- 3 Cartoons
- 4 Video games
- 5 External links
- 6 References
Homestar Runner was brought to life in Atlanta in 1996 by University of Georgia student Mike Chapman and his friend Craig Zobel, who were working summer jobs surrounding the 1996 Summer Olympics. On a day off, they visited a bookstore where they found that the state of children's books was dismal. Intending to parody this, they wrote the original story The Homestar Runner Enters the Strongest Man in the World Contest. This story featured Homestar Runner, Pom Pom, Strong Bad, The Cheat, and a few characters that are rarely seen in later cartoons: The Robot, Mr. Bland, Señor, and the Grape Fairie. This hand-drawn book was the only incarnation of the characters for several years.
They later used Mario Paint, a Super Nintendo video game, to create the first cartoon of the series. By 1999, Mike and his younger brother Matt Chapman, who call themselves The Brothers Chaps, were learning Flash and looking for something on which to practice. Digging out the old children's book provided a solution. The site domain was registered on December 6, 1999, and around the start of the year 2000, homestarrunner.com was live. Matt provided the voices of the male characters, while Mike's girlfriend (now wife) Missy Palmer provided Marzipan's voice.
Regarding the origin of the name "Homestar Runner", Matt had this to say, from an interview with Kevin Scott:
"It actually comes from a friend of ours. There was an old local grocery store commercial, and we live in Atlanta, and it advertised the Atlanta Braves. It was like, "the Atlanta Braves hit home runs, and you can hit a home run with savings here!" And so there was this player named Mark Lemke, and they said something like "All star second baseman for the Braves." And our friend knows nothing about sports, and so he would always do his old-timey radio impression of this guy, and not knowing any positions in baseball or whatever, he would just be like, "homestar runner for the Braves." And we were just like, "Homestar Runner? That’s the best thing we’ve ever heard!"
The site grew slowly at first, but by mid-2001 it began to take off with the first Strong Bad Email. The number of visitors to the site grew, and by January 2003 the site had outgrown its original web host, Yahoo!. Merchandise sales paid for all of the costs of running the website as well as living costs of the creators, whose retired parents managed many of the business aspects.
On January 30, 2006, Podstar Runner was launched, allowing people to download select Strong Bad Emails and other toon episodes to a video-enabled portable media player (such as an iPod). Once made available through iTunes' podcast directory, it very quickly took the #1 slot on Apple's "Most Popular" podcast list. Podstar Runner was taken down on September 21, 2007, for reasons unknown. A new version was introduced on Thursday, January 10, 2008, but it is no longer available at the iTunes Store or Zune Marketplace.
Collaborations with other artists
The Brothers Chaps have partnered up with rock band They Might Be Giants and supplied animation for a music video of their song "Experimental Film". The creators of Homestar Runner spent time with the band and those songs have found their way onto the website in the form of "Puppet Jam," a subset of "Puppet Stuff," where Puppet Homestar rocks out with TMBG. TMBG also wrote the music for Strong Bad Email #99, "Different Town.", and on the 200th Strong Bad Email, the band wrote and vocalized the intro song.  Another group, The Skate Party, helped The Brothers Chaps create "The Cheat Theme Song." The band Y-O-U helped with the Strong Bad Sings and Other Type Hits CD, as well as on the strongbad_email.exe DVDs. The Brothers Chaps also employed the services of the a cappella band DaVinci's Notebook to create a theme song for the old-timey version of The Cheat, called "Ballad of The Sneak". Matt Chapman provided guest vocals as Strong Bad on The Aquabats' "Pink Pants!" from their 2011 album, Hi-Five Soup!.
Discussing how he and his sibling decide which projects to work on, Mike Chapman said, "We learned how to politely say no to things that were going to affect our lives negatively. If it’s going to be fun, if we’re going to enjoy doing it, and if the end project is going to be something we want to have happen, we say yes."
In 2003, the site received several million hits a month, and almost a thousand emails a day. According to Matt Chapman, the site did no advertising, but grew on word of mouth and endorsements: "Certain bands, like fairly popular bands and stuff would link us on their site and, you know we were Shockwave site of the day a couple of times over the years." Homestar Runner's popularity, coupled with its positive critical response, has led to the website receiving widespread coverage. Homestar Runner has been featured in Wired, National Review, Entertainment Weekly, Total Gamer, G4, and NPR's All Things Considered.
A review published in National Review characterized the site's humor as having "the innocence of slapstick with sharp satire of American popular culture"—humor that "tends to be cultural, not political."
Hiatus and shutdown
Since December 2009, updates to the Homestar Runner website have been sparse. In 2010, new cartoons were released only for the April Fools' Day and Decemberween holidays (skipping, for the first time in the site's history, the annual Halloween cartoon). The last new Strong Bad Email, "Videography", was posted on October 5, 2009. The last new update on the website, "Which Ween Costumes?", was posted on December 22, 2010. No updates were released in 2011, although puppet Strong Bad did make an appearance at an Aquabats concert in January.
This extended hiatus was originally because of a new baby in the Chapman family. In September 2011, Matt Chapman created a Twitter account in which he stated that he was now working as a writer and director for the Nickelodeon program Yo Gabba Gabba. Chapman also announced that Homestar Runner would eventually be updated, but "sporadically and without warning". Since then, Matt has moved on to work as a writer/director on other programs, such as Gravity Falls and The Aquabats! Super Show!.
On Feb. 27, 2012, Matt Chapman posted a screenshot of part of the script for sbemail 206 on his Twitter, with the message "Someday, when you least expect it..." However, he did not give any further details of if or when the website would resume updates.
At the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con, Strong Bad and Homestar appeared (unanimated) to introduce a panel regarding the history of W00tstock. The humorous skit began with, "Hello, my name is Strong Bad, and I'm from 2002. Ask your parents." referencing the characters' absence in recent years.
The Homestar Runner site frequently features songs and videos within their animated shorts or as stand-alone entities, which serve as parodies of hair metal, death metal, college rock and hip hop. These are primarily sung and performed either by the characters or by fictitious rock bands with names such as “Limozeen”, “Peacey P”, “sloshy”, "Brainkrieg", "Tenerence Love", and “Taranchula”. Real-life musicians They Might be Giants have also appeared occasionally, performing with a Homestar puppet or allowing the characters to perform a video to their song Experimental Film.
The site-generated music has enjoyed surprising popularity, such that commercial CDs are now sold and two songs, "Trogdor" by the character Strong Bad and "Because, It's Midnite" by Limozeen, have been included in the successful Guitar Hero II and Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s video games, respectively. Their inclusion in the games is reportedly because Harmonix founder Alex Rigopulos is a professed fan of Homestar Runner.
The first music included in the site's content was humorously absurd hip hop created by the character Coach Z, who often makes references to hip hop and rap music in conversation. Another character, Strong Bad, sings short intros in weekly cartoons in which he checks his email and provides humorous responses and commentary. In an email titled “dragon”, he draws a bizarre one-armed dragon called “TROGDOR, THE BURNiNATOR,” and performs his theme song. By far, Trogdor became the site’s most popular joke, yielding merchandise such as T-shirts, CDs, messenger bags, etc. all featuring the title character. Trogdor's theme song was included as a bonus track in Guitar Hero II.
In 2002, a faux hair metal band, Limozeen, was first introduced as a parody in the style of 1980s metal bands like Skid Row, White Lion and Poison; their songs include "Because, It's Midnite", "Nite Mamas", "Feed the Childrens" and "Brain Sister". Limozeen (actually the Atlanta indie band Y-O-U along with Matt Chapman on vocals) performed a live show in Atlanta, Georgia on March 17, 2008. They performed live again on November 8, 2008, opening for indie pop band Of Montreal. A few years later, the death metal parody Taranchula was created. Billed as Scandinavian, their songs, done in the style of Sepultura, include "Decoupage", "Trudgemank", and "Moving Very Slowly". The creators later introduced a noise pop band called “sloshy” (always spelled in lower case and rotated 180 degrees as "ʎɥsoןs"), which featured songs in the musical vein of Pavement such as "We Don't Really Even Care About You", "OK Fine", and "Unripe”, as well as a cover of Limozeen's "Because, It's Midnite". Recently, the site has also touched on rap music via the character Peacey P, a rapper who mainly appears as a guest star on various albums, even his own. His singing style resembles that of Snoop Dogg. Another new addition to the site's musical roster is the self-absorbed R&B artist Tenerence Love. Taranchula was later revisited and released a song called "Trudgemank" featuring Peacey P, à la "the early '90s".
Homestar Runner features several "sub-cartoons" and spin-offs. Some of these cartoons take place outside the normal Homestar Runner universe, and the main characters of the normal cartoons do not necessarily appear in them. When they do, it is often not in the same way they appear in the main Homestar Runner world — most of the main characters also have alter-egos that appear occasionally.
These cartoons take place in an old-time setting, with most of the Homestar Runner characters having counterparts in the Old-Timey cartoons. These cartoons are in black and white with a film grain effect added and scratchy audio quality. They parody the distinctive style of animated cartoons during the 1920s and 1930s (à la Steamboat Willie), and can be seen as perhaps deliberately unfunny, to make a slanted joke about such old-style cartoons. The versions of the characters are, for the most part, similar to their standard counterparts. The names are mostly slightly changed (for instance, Strong Bad becomes Sir Strong Bad and Homestar Runner becomes The Homestar Runner) but some are completely different; for example, Pom Pom's equivalent is called Fat Dudley and Strong Sad's equivalent is called Sickly Sam.
Powered By The Cheat
"Powered by The Cheat", sometimes called Powered by Teh Cheat, are cartoons created by the character The Cheat, hence the name. They feature main characters, but have an amateurish style of animation, nonsensical plots and bad voice acting, with the voices provided by Mike Chapman. They parody poorly made Internet cartoons.
Another series of cartoons, Stinkoman 20X6 (abbreviated to 20X6; pronounced "Twenty Exty-Six"), originated from a response to an email asking Strong Bad what he would look like if he were in an anime. The main character, Stinkoman, is an anime version of Strong Bad with blue hair, a shiny body and robot boots. He is always looking for a fight, asking various characters he interacts with to engage him in a "challenge" ("Are you asking for a challenge?"). The characters in 20X6 cartoons each have a counterpart in the Homestar Runner universe, and their features are a parody of anime and Japanese video game stereotypes. The game of the same name was heavily based on the Mega Man series, particularly the first 6 entries. Stinkoman's name comes from a conversation Homestar Runner and Strong Bad had while marooned on a desert island. Strong Bad created Stinkoman by applying several anime stereotypes (head shaped like a little bean, big shiny eyes, shiny body, mouth that is tiny when closed and huge when opened, blue hair, and robot boots) to his own appearance.
The Cheat Commandos is a parody of G.I. Joe that created a cast of characters that are the same species as The Cheat. Each character is based on a G.I. Joe character. For example, the character Crackotage is based on Roadblock, but with a voice more like Scatman Crothers while Reinforcements' generic name and appearance is reminiscent of common grunt soldiers. The enemy of the Commandos is Blue Laser, a direct parody of Cobra, who have their equivalent of Cobra Commander, known as Blue Laser Commander. The cartoon is constantly advertising its products in the cartoons by such methods as referring to the areas they are in as "playsets", a convoy truck as an "action figure storage vehicle", and by ending each cartoon with the phrase (sung in a patriotic way), "Buy all our playsets and toys!" Other cartoons feature the character of Crack Stuntman, the fictional voice artist for the Cheat Commandos character Gunhaver.
Strong Bad Email
Strong Bad Emails (also known as "sbemails") have traditionally been among the most popular features on Homestar Runner. When it started in August 2001, the emails were initially brief, but grew to establish numerous spinoffs and inside jokes on the site. The format, though, has remained essentially unchanged since its inception (with the exception of updated computers): Strong Bad receives an email from a fan or viewer, and starts typing his response. Strong Bad generally mocks the sender, criticizing names, hometowns, spelling and grammar. Most of the time a cut-away sequence is used that gets away from typing the e-mail. Once the events of the email finish unfolding, Strong Bad wraps up the email, and then "The Paper", the "New Paper", the "Envelope Paper", or the "Compé-per" comes down/up with a link to email Strong Bad. Often, hidden animations (Easter Eggs) are displayed when the user clicks on a word or picture either during the email or after it has concluded. Depending on the browser, it may be possible to hold the TAB key or the CTRL key along with the TAB key to highlight any clickable hidden feature in the animation. When Strong Bad uses a laptop computer (emails 119-201), clicking on the screen at any time creates a little ripple, as if you are really tapping the screen. As of October 6, 2009, there are 211 sbemails (including the 6 bonus episodes found on the sbemail DVDs exclusively distributed by Microcinema DVD). Many Homestar Runner objects, such as Trogdor, Homsar, Senor Cardgage, Teen Girl Squad, and 20X6, originated from sbemails.
Teen Girl Squad
Teen Girl Squad is a crudely drawn comic strip narrated by Strong Bad, using a falsetto voice. It began after Strong Bad received an email asking him to make a comic strip of a girl and her friends. The comic features four archetypal teenage girls, with heavy parody evident in the characters' nondescript names: "Cheerleader", "So and So", "What's Her Face" and "The Ugly One". The comic strip is about their lives (and frequently violent, but funny, deaths devised by Strong Bad). The comic seems to be a commentary on teen culture in the United States.
Several episodes have been dedicated to special days of the year. For example, when the site was active, every Halloween, a cartoon was released featuring all the characters in costumes celebrating some traditional aspect of Halloween (such as ghost stories, trick-or-treating or pumpkin carving). The characters' costumes are often famously esoteric, full of obscure pop culture references or characters from movies and television shows made in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s; for example: Flavor Flav, Angus Young, Jambi the Genie, Gizmo, Prince, and Sam Kinison. April Fools' Day features various gags, such as turning the site into a "PAY PLUS!" offer site or flipping it upside down. The characters also celebrate an annual holiday called "Decemberween", a parody of Christmas that features gift-giving, carol-singing and decorated trees. The fact that it takes place on December 25, the same day as Christmas, has been presented as just a coincidence, and it has been stated that Decemberween traditionally takes place "55 days after Halloween".
Other holidays celebrated include New Year's Day, "The Big Game" (around the time of the Super Bowl), St. Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, "Senorial Day" (a combination of a lesser character named Senor Cardgage and Memorial Day), Flag Day, Independence Day (also known as "Happy Fireworks" by Homestar), Labor Day (occasionally referred to as "Labor Dabor"), Thanksgiving and, most recently, Easter.
Marzipan's Answering Machine
Marzipan's Answering Machine has limited animation and consists of a series of phone messages left on Marzipan's answering machine. These cartoons often include attempts by Strong Bad to prank call Marzipan or run some sort of scam. Homestar Runner leaves frequent messages, as does Coach Z, who was revealed to have a crush on Marzipan through a drunk dial in episode "5.0" of this feature. Also, Strong Sad is shown to have called many times, appearing to be friends with Marzipan. In addition, less frequently featured characters appear, such as Crack Stuntman, Stinkoman and Vector Strong Bad.
Homestar Runner.com also features a segment in which the regular cartoons are replaced by puppets that may do skits that can vary from performing in music videos with They Might Be Giants, holiday videos, or Homestar, Marshie (the mascot for Fluffy Puff Mashmallows) and Strong Bad interacting with a little girl. Other videos include "Biz Cas Fri", which displays Strong Bad interacting with Homestar in his office cubicle.
Homestar Runner offers a variety of online games that feature one or more of their characters. The first games were simple in nature and are now found under Super Old Games-n-Such. Among them are the "Homestar Talker", a Soundboard starring Homestar, and "Astro-Lite 2600", a game similar to Lite-Brite. More recent games have been released as products of "Videlectrix", a side project of the brothers. These games are far more complex, spoofing many popular 1980s videogames. "Where's an Egg?" is a good example of their parody games. It is a web-based Flash game that is portrayed as a real, but extremely obscure game with all captions in broken Russian and clunky graphics reminiscent of the early days of computer gaming. The game takes place "in Soviet Russia" — a reference to the "Russian reversal" stock comedy framework originated by Yakov Smirnoff and made an Internet cliché on message boards such as those of FARK.com — and includes references to Lenin's Tomb, Sputnik, and Siberia. You play as an unnamed detective in search of an egg. Videlectrix claimed on its homepage that it purchased the game overseas "some years ago". However, no one at the company could figure out how the game worked until they found a page from the original instruction booklet (in Russian, along with strained translations into English from the seller) for sale on an online auction site.
"Peasant's Quest", arguably the site's most famous game, is an adventure game featuring Rather Dashing, a young peasant in short pants. After he comes home from a vacation he finds his cottage burned to the ground. He vows to kill the destroyer of his cottage: Trogdor the Burninator, a dragon with one strong-looking human arm, created as a result of a Strong Bad email. The game uses a system that is a near-replica of Sierra Entertainment's Adventure Game Interpreter, used in King's Quest, Space Quest and several other early Sierra titles.
"Thy Dungeonman" is a parody of text adventure games. A running gag in the game is that "you cannot get ye flask" (one of the first items mentioned in the first game), as mentioned in the SBemail "video games". At the end of the third game, you manage to actually get Ye Flask. Though the game purports to be set in the medieval era, the text is actually rendered in mock Early Modern English, the language of William Shakespeare's plays and of the King James Bible. "Thy Dungeonman" has two sequels: "Thy Dungeonman II" and "Thy Dungeonman III", the latter of which is on the Homestar Runner website, the former on the Videlectrix site. "Thy Dungeonman III" has graphics, though the SBemail "video games" states that such games had no graphics ("Graphics schmaphics"). "Ye Flask" and "Ye can't get ye flask" have become catch-phrases in the Homestar Runner universe, eventually spawning a T-shirt in the Homestar Runner store.
Strong Bad Zone is a parody of vector graphics games such as Battlezone. The idea of the game is to not only block the items that are fired at you, but deflect them toward Strong Bad's floating head, of which they break off a piece upon contact. Should the player be struck by a projectile, vector Strong Bad will say "Your head a splode", a phrase jokingly described in the corresponding SBemail as a "bad translation". In the website's version of the game, if a player succeeds in breaking all the pieces of the floating head, a new head appears and the game continues without interruption. In the Wii version, once Strong Bad is destroyed, the screen will become covered with lipstick kisses and vector Strong Bad will say "Back Off Baby," a reference to the SBemail "video games". The Wii version also adds music.
Other games include Stinkoman 20X6, an unfinished platform game based almost entirely on the Mega Man series; 50k Racewalker, a game based on track and field video games, apparently involving race walking (although the character moves significantly slower); Hallrunner, a vector game where various encounters must either be "spoken to, jumped over, or fought" before the object is known, while avoiding obstacles; and Pigs on Head, a Game & Watch based game.
Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People (SBCG4AP)
On April 10, 2008, a new episodic game called Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People was announced for the Wii's WiiWare service and Microsoft Windows, developed by Telltale Games in partnership with Videlectrix. The first episode, Homestar Ruiner, premiered on August 11, 2008 worldwide for Windows on Telltale Game's website and in North America on Nintendo's WiiWare service on August 11, 2008. It was also released in Europe and Australia the following Friday (August 15, 2008). The second episode, Strong Badia the Free, was released on September 15 on the Telltale Game's website and on the WiiWare service in North America, and in the PAL region on October 3. Episode three, entitled Baddest of the Bands, was released on Telltale Games' website and the WiiWare service in North America on October 27, and to the PAL region on November 21. The fourth episode, Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective, was released on Telltale Games' website and WiiWare in North America on November 17, and in the PAL region on December 5. The fifth and final episode, 8-Bit is Enough, was released to North America on December 15 and in the PAL region on January 2, 2009. In 2010, it was decided that Telltale games would release SBCG4AP for the Mac operating system due to a vote on the Telltale Games website.
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- Videlectrix releases another game parody: Where's an Egg? - Joystiq
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- Announcing Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People for WiiWare