McGinnis: Everybody! Everybody!? A classic website prepares to relaunchWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
“Hello, I’m Strong Bad, and I’m from 2002. Ask your parents.” — Introduction at W00tstock, summer 2013
Back in January, I published a list of four things I would love to see in pop culture during calendar year 2014. Of the wishes I made, the longest odds were against the arrival of new content on the website HomestarRunner.com. At the time, it seemed like a pipe dream to hope for updates to the seemingly-abandoned site, which had not seen regular maintenance since 2009. At the time, I put the odds of it happening at 200:1 and called it the “longest of long shots.”
Well, I’m glad no one took me up on that bet, and I’m as happy to be wrong as it is possible to be. Because sometimes, just sometimes, the longest of long shots does come in.
It’s hard to sum up what made the peculiar website so phenomenally popular. A required weekly destination for many fans back in the aughts, the site published flash cartoons featuring the offbeat and hilarious antics of a group of characters living in Free Country, USA. Names and phrases like “Trogdor!” and “Deleted!” became catchphrases. Shirts and posters and video games were made. A large group of loyal fans anticipated the site’s updates every Monday.
Originally conceived as a children’s book (“The Homestar Runner in the Strongest Man in the World Contest”), the cast of characters showcased on the site began to be featured in flash cartoons that were as unique and memorable as any created in modern animation. From supposed villain (and actual lead character) Strong Bad’s regular email show to shorts showcasing supposed hero (and actual moron) Homestar’s exploits, the site’s humor was often silly but just as often genuinely insightful about many aspects of culture. It was that rare form of entertainment that could be just as easily enjoyed by kids as adults (frequent use of the word “crap” notwithstanding).
About five years ago, however, the number of updates began to slow to a trickle, and then ground to a halt. The creators behind the enterprise — brothers Mike and Matt Chapman — moved onto other projects. The site remained on the Web, a monument of all that had come before, but the page labeled “New Stuff” remained unchanged. It looked like Homestar Runner and his flash brethren had gone out not with a bang, but a Strong-Sad-style whimper.
Then, a few signs began to pop up that maybe the future held promise. On his (now defunct) Twitter page, Matt Chapman posted an image of a possible future script for the site, accompanied by the text, “Someday, when you least expect it…” Strong Bad, the site’s most popular character, made an appearance on video at geek music festival W00tstock. It was announced that the Chapman brothers would be collaborating with geek musicians Paul and Storm on a new video. Then, on April Fool’s Day, the first new cartoon in years debuted on the site, a piece poking fun at how long it had been between updates.
“We should do this again soon,” Strong Bad said at the end of the cartoon.
“Three years soon, or five years soon?” Homestar Runner replied.
Well, apparently, it’ll be more like six months soon. During an appearance on Jeff Rubin’s podcast this week, Matt Chapman revealed that the new cartoon in April was not just a one-off joke, but a test — to see if fans would respond to new content on the site after all this time. The answer was a resounding yes.
“When we did that April Fool’s update this year, way more people looked at it than we ever even imagined would have at this point,” Chapman said. He then added words that were music to the ears of any fan: “We’d love to start making things again.”
The indications are that the site will begin posting new cartoons this fall (which means that holy cow, we might actually get a new Halloween short this year, too). But no matter when it happens, fans will be more than happy to wait for any updates to the site that they had long since written off as forgotten.
In its own way, the relaunch of HomestarRunner.com is a small pop culture miracle, like “Family Guy” returning to the air post-cancellation or “Community” being rescued by Yahoo. And fans of Strong Bad and his animated cohorts will take each new installment as a wonderful gift.
Welcome back, Homestar. Thank you, Brothers Chaps.