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A Homestar Is Born

Most cartoon characters spend their lives falling off cliffs,running into brick walls, and chasing small creatures that arelower on the food chain. The animated antics of the cast seem to be limited to standing around, eatingmarshmallows, and writing emails–and that’s just how theirfans like it.

AnInternet hit since the launch of the site in 2000, Homestar Runner isthe armless, beanie-wearing protagonist of an online cartoon show. Withthe help of his scene-stealing sidekick?a foul-tempered,Mexican-wrestling-masked pal named Strong Bad?and dozens of equallyrandom (and cute) supporting players, the animated shorts have becomerequired viewing for as many as 200,000 users a day.

Producing the site is now a full-time occupation for itscocreators, brothers Matt and Mike Chapman of Atlanta. “It’s alwaysMike and I drinking Miller High Life and Red Bull and staying up tillseven in the morning, ” says Matt, 27. Their low-budget collaborationsmost often depict Homestar consuming his beloved marshmallows or StrongBad responding snidely to viewer questions (“Pretty much everybodywants to know how he can type with boxing gloves on,” says Mike, 30),but they’re always informed by a positive attitude toward geek culture:There are countless nods to vintage videogames (almost the entireColecovision catalog has been spoofed by now), and the cartoons oftenturn into spot-on parodies of Japanese anime, Charlie Brown holidayspecials, and cheesy heavy-metal videos.

“Our older brother Don was on the cutting edge of metal backin the ’80s,” says Mike, “so we were really into bands like Jetboy,Dangerous Toys, and Disneyland After Dark.” The cartoon’s rock’n’rollsensibility has attracted the attention of more contemporary bands,too: AFI, Beck, and Lou Barlow are among the musicians who haveprofessed their affection for Homestar Runner.

Though Homestar Runner has since spawned its owngreatest-hits CD (with a DVD available in December), the Chapmans taketheir Internet semi-celebrity in stride. They still create theiranimation on the same “crappy old Dell computer,” their dad still runsthe merchandise store, and they’re still too busy hunting for newmaterial to get out of the house. “We’ve got a TiVo now,” says Matt,”and it’s programmed to record Saved by the Bell whenever it’s on. And it’s on, like, four times a day.”