Homestar Runner is the ever-increasingly popular work of Mike Chapman and Matt Chapman, known simply as “The Brothers Chaps.” Launched in 2000, the site has grown exponentially, and seems to be on the cusp of claiming its role as part of the zeitgeist, having been mentioned in such mainstream pop cultural outlets as the now defunct Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel series. Beyond the Flash site, the cartoon series has prospered thanks to a series of DVDs and other merchandise that with some appropriate backing could – almost – give Disney a run for its money. But, as the series remains independent of larger conglomerates, the family-run business has prospered as an alternative to more sterile, politically correct animation. With everything from a music video by the band They Might Be Giants to its own extensive Wiki – which helps to introduce viewers to the sprawling cast of characters – Homestar is one of those hugely popular websites that people seem to know of, regardless of whether or not they’ve actually viewed the cartoons.
The title character, Homestar Runner, is an armless, none-too-intelligent athlete, perpetually clothed in a propeller cap and giant red t-shirt. His various exploits – including swallowing an insect while jogging, teaching Coach Z how to lose the accent, and writing on walls – involve recurring characters who are as ridiculous as Homestar himself. A sneaky yellow rodent, reminiscent of Pikachu, known as the Cheat, a haughty monarch called the King of Town, and Homestar’s granola girlfriend Marzipan make up a few. They appear in five minute cartoons, shorts, live action puppet shows, music videos, and video games, which range from Atari style action games, to an oddly popular text-heavy role-playing game known as Peasant’s Quest. The most popular segment features Strong Bad – who is reminiscent of the trendy Mexican professional wrestlers, Luchadores – caustically responding to viewer’s emails, a la David Letterman. Viewers wait impatiently for him to dissect the obviously intentional nonsense that comprises most of the emails, and mock everything from the sender’s name to the bad spelling/grammar contained therein. It is perhaps this interactive element that has elevated Homestar’s cultural status.
The Strong Bad emails are the strongest feature on the website, which is extensive to the point of being cavernous – you could get lost in here for days. It is also highly self-referential – a running joke in the email segment became the recurring series Teen Girl Squad, featuring colorless stick figures with names like “So and So” and “The Ugly One”.