To me, internet animation has always been a unique subject to tackle. There are so many facets to online animation, and so many awesome cartoons out there to list. I’ve tackled the animated web-short “Super Turbo Atomic Ninja Rabbit”, but I thought I’d go back and discuss the epicenter of all online animation: Homestar Runner. While Homestar wasn’t the first piece of online animation, it did popularize it to a great extent.
So, what is Homestar Runner? It was originally a children’s book published by the “Chap Brothers”, but eventually spun off into one of the first truly successful web-series. In my opinion, it’s one of the greatest web cartoons of all time! It revolves around a group of cartoon characters living in “Free Country USA”, a made-up fictionalized state. Homestar is an arm-less athlete, who loves to run and generally isn’t all that smart. He has to deal with the masked menace Strong Bad, who is his rival and occasional arch-enemy.
Strong Bad himself was first introduced as a somewhat bland villain to Homestar, but eventually grew more popular as the site got bigger. This eventually landed him his own web-series on the site called “Strong Bad Emails”, in which the mask-wearing malcontent would reads various emails from around the globe.
This series became the most popular aspect of the site, overtaking most of its content. Strong Bad Emails were the main draw, though The Brother Chaps still put out various other cartoons on occasion. These included shorts, longer cartoons, and the occasional “Teen Girl Squad” episode.
Homestar Runner was a unique website, for it had all these cartoons available FOR FREE! That’s right, you could pretty much watch any show you wanted, whenever you wanted! It was like Newgrounds, but with actual quality control and an interface that didn’t look like trash.
Homestar Runner also offered games, which were usually modeled after old-school games from way back in the day. These were also free, albeit extremely simplistic. The site was so inviting and so fresh, and has surprisingly remained mostly the same after all these years. There has never been a huge attempt to remodel the side, which is much appreciated. After all, why fix what ain’t broke?
So, what made Homestar’s collective content great? A lot of it comes down to its humor, which is deeply rooted in both pop culture and surreal comedy. Homestar was a series that wasn’t afraid to poke fun at other properties, ideas, concepts, cliches, and even its own characters. As a result, the series never took itself too seriously, and generally was entertaining to watch.
The cartoons feature about a dozen memorable characters, such as the animal-like The Cheat, and the ever-depressed Strong Sad. The characters came off as quirky, silly, goofy, and were all very hilarious. To this day, Homestar remains one of my favorite web cartoons. It revolutionized online web animation, and made it popular.
It became so overwhelmingly popular that it’s been referenced by various forms of media, even to this day. Shows like Megas XLR, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and even the game Kingdom of Loathing all reference Homestar. Even when the series went on hiatus, its popularity never truly died down.
I found myself recently re-watching a lot of the old Homestar stuff, and it’s still entertaining after all these years. It is the longest running web-series of all time, even outrunning the long-lasting “Red Vs. Blue” series. The various Easter Eggs, subtle adult jokes, and likable characters keeps me coming back even as an adult. It’s one of those shows that just never loses its luster for me. With Homestar making a resurgence in content these past couple years, I think it’s a great time for newcomers to give the series a try! Surreal humor and wacky characters are the gift that keeps on giving, after all.