Serving Arizona State University Online Since 1995  Current Issue: Thursday, August 28, 2003





Homestar site hands out advice and brings laughs

 by Tim Agne
 published on Thursday, August 28, 2003

Brothers Mike [left] and Matt Chapman are the creative juice behind comedic Web site, Homestar Runner./issues/arts/453900
Brothers Mike [left] and Matt Chapman are the creative juice behind comedic Web site, Homestar Runner.


Matt and Mike Chapman spend most of their week hanging out, playing Nintendo, and watching movies like Office Space, The Big Lebowski, and Bottle Rocket.

But on Sundays, the brothers from Atlanta get down to business. Having sorted through tens of thousands of e-mails, they buckle down for a long night of writing, recording and animating. Sometimes they are at it as late as 8 a.m. Monday, putting in up to 15 hours each.

The result is their cartoon character, Strong Bad, answering one e-mail every Monday.

The brothers Chaps, as they call themselves, are the creators of Homestar Runner, one of the Internet's hottest cartoons. As many as 250,000 fans surf to each day to watch the latest antics of the site's kitschy Flash-animated characters.

The site features cartoons starring Homestar, an athletic but sweet simpleton who is usually too nice for his own good. Along with a cast of colorful characters, Homestar embarks on a series of adventures in the town of Free Country, U.S.A.

Although Homestar is the site's namesake, the most popular feature is Strong Bad's e-mail. Every week, Strong Bad, the wrestling mask-clad bad guy, sings a little song while answering e-mails from fans, usually making fun of their names, spelling, and grammar. After that, his response usually involves hilarious antics.

Strong Bad's e-mail antics range from composing an impromptu techno song to turning the site into a Japanese cartoon. He has created a Medieval dragon named Trogdor: the Burninator, created a comic book about teenage girls, and tortured his brother Strong Sad on numerous occasions.

But Matt and Mike have not let that popularity go to their heads. "I was surprised to hear that people know about us in Arizona," Matt says.

The brothers grew up working on creative projects together. "Mike used to beat me up at school, but we've always gotten along when we've been working on something," Matt says. Together, they made stop-motion movies out of G.I. Joes and clay, editing them by connecting two VCRs.

Mike went on to major in photography at the University of Georgia and did graduate work at Louisiana State University. "I was more on the fine arts side," he says. "I never wanted to be a commercial photographer or work for an ad agency."

In graduate school, Mike started focusing on computers, eventually learning HTML and Flash.

Matt got a film degree from Florida State University where he first tried his hand at directing. "I can't push people around enough to direct," he says. "I'm too much of a pushover."

Instead, Matt focused on writing. While hanging out with college buddies, Matt developed a unique sense of humor. "Some of my best research is the friends I made in college," he says.

During the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Mike and a friend got bored with their jobs and created a children's story about a character called the Homestar Runner. "We were just looking for something to do," Matt says.

The Homestar character evolved as Mike and Matt started creating their own small Web products. Finally, in January of 2000, they launched

But they couldn't quit their day jobs. Matt worked for Earthlink and Mike did freelance graphics work. For more than six months, he designed litigation graphics for lawyers to use in court trials. "I was making really boring graphics," Mike says.

By September 2002, however, Homestar Runner was making enough money selling T-shirts and other merchandise that Mike and Matt could live off the profits. Still, the Brothers Chaps are not about to sell out. "We only started selling T-shirts because fans demanded it," Matt says.

"People have told us that with the amount of traffic we get, we could pay for the site for a year running two banner ads for two months. And we could pocket the rest," Matt says. "That's just not worth it. Ads are the worst thing on the Internet."

Mike agrees. "We like the fact that we have total creative control and can do whatever we want," he says.

Still, Matt says thinks that Homestar could possibly attract smaller sponsors that are consistent with the feeling of the site. He mentioned Waffle House and Whiffle Ball as brands he might like to work with. "We would gladly sell out to Pabst Blue Ribbon in a heartbeat," he says.

That day will probably never come, and the Brothers Chaps say they are fine where they are. "We're living our dream," Matt says. "Why rock the boat?"

Mike added that they are working on expanding to other mediums, including a music CD and a DVD of classic Homestar cartoons with some bonus content. "As long as it's a natural progression," he says. "As long as it comes from the same place. That's the key."

Regardless, Mike and Matt will still be hanging out, watching movies, and playing games, and Strong Bad will be answering his e-mails every Monday.

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