Nerdy Nostalgia: Highlights of Homestar Runner

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By: Angela Russo (@NerdGirlForever)

Nerds growing up in the 90’s and 2000’s fondly remember the days of weekly Homestar Runner updates. The origin of the site is an inspiring example that proves old forgotten ideas can develop into very significant projects in the future. What started in 1996 as a children’s book that was never published eventually became the inspiration for the Brothers Chaps’ first flash-animated project, and the basis for the iconic website launched in 2000. Most fans know that Homestar Runner was originally intended to be the main character with Strong Bad conceptualized as a villain, but these toons were not very popular. In 2001, the first Strong Bad Email (or Sbemail) was developed, and the website exploded in popularity.

Strong Bad Email

Over the years, watching Strong Bad’s commentary about the development of technology as his computers got more and more sophisticated was fantastically meta considering the site started gaining momentum at the dawn of the Internet and the proliferation of computers as a standard household device. These weekly short toons featuring Strong Bad replying to fan emails were ingeniously hilarious, and wildly popular. The sheer number of games, toons, songs, gags, and spinoffs created simply from making fun of grammar and building a storyline directly off of fan mail is super cool. I can’t imagine the person who sent in the Fhqwhgads email had any idea it would turn into the song “Everybody to the Limit.” In recent years, fans have mashed together the song with Daft Punk tracks, and the Bruno Mars song “Uptown Funk.” The catchy tune was only one of the many things that evolved from Sbemails.

Notable Sbemail Spinoffs

Teen Girl Squad

Origin: Sbemail #53 — “Comic”
This comic was created in response to a fan request that Strong Bad would make a comic about her and her friends. The 15-issue series satirized teen life, following stereotypical teen girls Cheerleader, So and So, Whatsherface, and the Ugly One through a batch of random mini adventures that frequently resulted in the death of the characters.

Trogdor

Origin: Sbemail #58 — “Dragon”
In this legendary Sbemail, Strong Bad demonstrated how to draw a dragon with an S shape and consummate v’s to add scales, teeth, spineties and angry eyebrows. Trogdor quickly gained his own theme song and game where the player, as Trogdor, must avoid getting arrowed or sworded by knights and earn burninating power by squishing peasants.

Dungeon Man

Origin: Sbemail #94 — “Video Games”
As Strong Bad describes it, Dungeon Man is a “text adventure game for intellectual people with better imaginations.” If you grew up in the 80’s or watched Chuck, Dungeon Man is a brief parody of games like Zork. The first and third versions of the game are playable on the main website and the second is available on the Videlectrix page.

Videlectrix

Videlectrix is a fictional production company credited for making the video games, audio tracks, and films featured on the Homestar Runner website. Many games old and new are still available to play from older features like Dancin’ Bubs, Strong-Libs, and Hairstyle Runner, to the newer Videlectrix games like Trogdor, Rhino-Feeder, Secret Collect, and SBZone.

Peasant Quest

This Trogdor spinoff was mashed up with the text adventure style of Dungeon Man to amusing results. The game follows a peasant bent on revenge against Trogdor who has burninated his hut. Much like the rest of the site, there’s a massive quantity of references to nerd culture like Lord of the Rings, Fantastic Four, and Legend of Zelda built into the gameplay narrative.

Animated Features

Aside from the content inspired by Sbemails, there have been plenty of other animated adventures on the site from simple things like Marzipan’s Answering Machine, to shorts like Cheat Commandos. The short “Trogdor Con 97” parodied conventions.

“Geeks and nerds…ladies in skimpy sci-fi costumes…they’ve got axes and swords?! Man, this con just keeps gettin’ better all the time!” – Strong Bad

The most highly anticipated toons were easily the holiday Halloween episodes. Every year, the gang would dress up as figures from pop culture, and later on via Sbemail, Strong Bad would critique fan-submissions of themselves dressed up as the characters. Two of the most memorable Halloween toons were “The House that Gave Sucky Treats,” and “Potion Ma Jig.” These were designed as choose your own adventure games that allowed fans to participate in the fun, and interact with the characters.

The Site that Ran on Snark

The creators never missed an opportunity to poke fun at all sectors of pop culture. From referencing old video games via the Atari-inspired gaming menu, to spoofing 80’s cop shows with Dangeresque, and hair bands via fictional artists Limozeen and Sloshy, Homestar Runner forged a special flavor of deliciously irreverent comedy. The toons and Sbemails are available to view on the Youtube channel now, but it’s weirdly exciting watching a toon, short, or Sbemail on the main website without having a progress bar that tells you exactly how long it’s going to last. As dated as the gaming and graphics are, there’s something pleasantly nostalgic about navigating through the site that has been home to delightfully dry humor, snarky commentary, and sarcastic wit for the past seventeen years. Now that they’re writing for Adult Swim, the Brothers Chaps only update the site once or twice a year, but revisiting the games and toons is always an enjoyable blast from the past.


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