Homestar Runner co-creator Matt Chapman delighted a bunch of 20- and 30-somethings when he said earlier this week that the cartoon could make a comeback later this year after a successful experiment on April 1. If you watched the cartoons during their heyday, the news probably took you down a nostalgic rabbit hole where you spent two hours rewatching all your favorite episodes.
If you missed Homestar during its peak, here’s what you need to know: creators Matt and Mike Chapman created many different Flash cartoons for the site, but the most popular were Strong Bad E-mails, also known as “sbemails”. Each week, Strong Bad (the luchador-looking man in the photo above) chose a different fan-submitted email to reply to, and hilarity ensued. the decade became more erratic, and updates largely ceased in 2009 as the Chapman brothers moved on to other projects.
We’ve scoured the archive and collected 10 strong bad emails that pretty much show what this strange internet cartoon could be at its best. It’s impossible to name all the good ones, but if these captivate you, the full collection is still available here.
Email #53, “Comic”
December 2, 2002
“I’m in love with every boy!”
This email contains the first appearance of Teen Girls Squad, an in-universe comic ostensibly drawn by Strong Bad in response to an email request from a fan whose friends are “totally obsessed” with Strong Bad. The resulting comic is the first in a series starring the eponymous group of teenage girls (“Cheerleader,” “So-And-So,” “Whatsherface,” and “The Ugly One”), whose adventures range from mild absurdism to full-on Dadaism. . Team Teen Girls also ends as relentlessly quotable: my wife and I “ARROCHED!” together for almost 14 years.
Email #57, “Japanese cartoon”
January 6, 2003
“Everyone says you’re the man, but I want to be the man too!
2003 was a peak year for Strong Bad and his friends, producing gems like this one. That day’s email asks what Strong Bad would look like if he starred in a “Japanese cartoon,” and Strong Bad quickly describes a version of himself that appears to be made from cheap stock of overseas animation components – big eyes, robot boots, blue hair and a mouth that goes from small when closed to “ridiculously large” when open. The hilarity isn’t so much in the animation style as in the completely nonsensical dialogue that occurs when Homestar Runner shows up anime-style and asks if he’s “the man.”
(Despite the similarities, email #57 doesn’t seem to be responsible for inspiring the name of the insanely difficult underground indie platformer I want to be the man– at least that’s what the creator of the game says. However, it spawned its own Mega man clone.)
Email #58, “Dragon”
January 13, 2003
“To start, draw an ‘s’ for snake. uh, dragon. Whatever.’
There are famous sbemails and then there is ‘Dragon’. This sbemail has it all: a snappy premise, Strong Sad is tormented, a great song and Trogdor, the Burninator. An informal survey of friends and internet acquaintances shows that this sbemail was for many people’s introduction to the Strong Bad universe; it’s definitely the first one I’d show everyone if I’m trying to get them hooked on Strong Bad.
The sbemail works so well because it stands perfectly on its own: it doesn’t take much basic knowledge to understand it. Moreover, it closes with a hurtful song, with the half-man/half-dragon/half-dragon-man Trogdor the Burninator, setting fire to the countryside. It’s perfect.
Email #68, “Caper”
March 31, 2003
“Thanks for stopping by. Thanks for breaking my cooling bulb.”
This one is pretty straightforward at first: Strong Bad and The Cheat break into Homestar’s house to steal his mix of words, chaos ensues. I like this one for two reasons: First, there’s Homestar’s nighttime stubble and jammies combo. Second, the episode ends with Strong Bad bursting into song about how glad he is that The Cheat isn’t dead. The cartoon created so many weird little songs that they released a professionally recorded CD with it in 2003.
Email #78, “Everything”
June 30, 2003
“Once I made a whole set of coasters from some old Sega tapes.”
Strong Bad was the site’s breakout star, but I’ve always had a special place in my heart for homestarrunner.com’s silly, speech-impaired namesake. Homestar takes over from Strong Bad for no particular reason in this episode, and everything about his time behind the keyboard is a welcome change. Even though he writes with chalk on the Compy 386 and then pours Mountain Dew over it, he still kicks 40 more emails.