HRWiki:Sandbox

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(done now. the rest of the nonsense can stay)
(See whether I can redirect hr to oldhr)
 
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=209 Seconds (Rough Estimate)=
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[[Image:Strong_Bad_Clock.png|thumb|right|220px|The current time is...]]
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''(The entirety of [[160 Seconds]], but with "160" in the intro replaced with "209")''
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'''Strong Bad Clock''' is a clock available in the [[Downloads]] section of the site. It features an LCD [[Strong Bad]], who speaks your computer's time in your choice of one of three tones:
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*Plain
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*Angry
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*Soothing
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[[4 branches]]: '''HOMESTAR:''' Chinese b-
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You can also set up an alarm so Strong Bad can alert you so you don't miss any appointments.
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[[the chair]]: '''STRONG BAD:''' Class!
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The application at this time is compatible only with Windows.
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[[what i want]]: '''MARZIPAN:''' Forgettably precious.
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==Transcript==
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[[looking old]]: '''MARZIPAN:''' Up to your chin right
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===Plain===
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[[strong badathlon]]: '''STRONG BAD:''' To the wrong athletes
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*Say Time: "The current time is ...."
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*Alarm: "Baah! Baah! Baah! Baah! Hey, you told me to tell you when it was ...."
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[[unnatural]]: '''STRONG BAD:''' Kill him? '''STRONG SAD:''' We do-
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===Angry===
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[[the movies]]: '''HOMESTAR:''' -tuce. Throw
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*Say Time: "Current time is ...!"
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*Alarm: "Hey stupid! It's ...!
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[[your funeral]]: '''HOMESTAR:''' Abraham Lincoln
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===Soothing===
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[[from work]]: '''HOMESTAR:''' -veges. It helps
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*Say Time: "Ohh! The current time is ...."
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*Alarm: "Oh, pardon the interruption, but you asked me to tell you when it was ...!"
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[[rough copy]]: '''STRONG SAD:''' -tellectual property.
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== Fun Facts ==
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*The beginning screen reads
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<blockquote>Strong Bad's<br>
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Time Machine<br>
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(Clock)<br>
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<br>
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This fantastic new<br>
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application will have<br>
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Strong Bad telling you<br>
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the time anytime you<br>
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want. And sometimes<br>
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when you don't!! Even<br>
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set an alarm so you<br>
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won't miss any of those<br>
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made up meetings!!</blockquote>
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*Strong Bad automatically says the time on the hour and half-past every hour. Also, the alarm notification does not loop. For these reasons, the clock is not a reliable way to wake up.
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*Strong Bad Clock does not automatically set the time for Daylight Savings, even if your system clock does.
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*In the zip file, the application is called "Strong Bad's Time Machine".
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*If you set the alarm using a leading zero (for example, 09:30), the alarm will not go off.
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*At 12:00 midnight, the voice setting (plain, angry or soothing) will automatically revert to plain.
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[[underlings]]: '''STRONG BAD:''' Get Mrs. Hard-
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== External Links ==
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[[more armies]]: '''HOMESTAR:''' Saaay
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*[[OLDHR:sbclock.html|view "Strong Bad Clock"]]
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*[[OLDHR:clock7x.swf|view the Flash file for "Strong Bad Clock"]]
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[[the paper]]: '''STRONG BAD:''' Doesn't quite
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*[[OLDHR:sbclock.zip|download the zip file]]
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[[mini-golf]]: '''STRONG BAD:''' In this infernal pl-
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[[concert]]: '''STRONG BAD:''' Nope. They're a
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[[hygiene]]: '''STRONG BAD:''' No matter what he does.
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[[original]]: '''BUBS:''' B'zuh!
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[[bike thief]]: '''STRONG BAD:''' Side of this couch
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[[pizza joint]]: '''MAN IN PIZZA COSTUME:''' It burns!
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[[slumber party]]: '''STRONG BAD:''' Can you guys start
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[[web comics]]: '''TAKE DAGGER:''' Hiya
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[[business trip]]: '''THE KING OF TOWN:''' Units? '''STRONG BAD:''' What
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[[yes wrestling]]: '''HOMESTAR:''' The power... of
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[[diorama]]: '''STRONG BAD:''' -lupe Hidalgo
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[[nightlife]]: '''HOMESTAR RUNNER:''' More...more
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[[environment]]: '''STRONG BAD:''' -pliant sticker!
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[[winter pool]]: '''HOMESTAR:''' You're such a good
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[[fan club]]: '''STRONG BAD:''' ''(screams)''
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[[pet show]]: '''HOMESTAR:''' Potion. A taste
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[[licensed]]: (Strong Bad slides) '''STRONG BAD:''' What's
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[[buried]]: '''BUBS:''' Is! '''STRONG SAD:''' Uh
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[[shapeshifter]]: '''COACH Z:''' Coming to your concession
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[[rated]]: '''BUBS:''' Bake sale!
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[[specially marked]]: ''(The [[Deleted]] buzzer, and a message reading "SBEMAIL 194 IS NOT INCLUDED BECAUSE IT DOES NOT HAVE A 194th SECOND")''
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[[love poems]]: '''HOMESTAR:''' Apples!
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[[hiding]]: '''STRONG BAD:''' Coma!
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[[your edge]]: '''STRONG BAD:''' Where'd you check?
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[[magic trick]]: '''STRONG BAD:''' But now, not only does
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[[being mean]]: '''HUNGRY SHARK:''' Makes me wanna
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[[email thunder]]: ''(Strong Bad runs out of Homestar's computer room)''
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[[hremail3184]]: '''COACH Z:''' Bad! I was gonna
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[[imaginary]]: '''LIL' STRONG BAD:''' -ti! I'd like you to meet
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[[independent]]: '''STRONG BAD:''' Solid gold sc-
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[[dictionary]]: '''STRONG BAD:''' To Z
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[[videography]]: '''STRONG BAD:''' ''(chuckles)''
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[[sbemail206]]: '''ANNOUNCER:''' For all your consummate
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[[too cool]]: '''STRONG BAD:''' Mysteriously with no return
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[[The Next April Fools Thing]]: '''STRONG BAD:''' -low lives, and this
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[[parenting]]: '''THE KING OF TOWN:''' I've got this seven-
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=[[alternate universe|Alternate HRWiki]]=
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{{#switch:{{#rand:1|27}}
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|1=
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==[[Bubs]]==
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One of the Chapman Brothers' strongest merits is their meticulous eye for character development. Homestar and the gang, after appearing in many cartoons together, interacting with one another, and forming relationships, have become a cohesive whole, despite the fact that they were created at a disparity of times with different roles and ideals. However, few characters clash with every aspect of their fellows quite so much as Bubs. This is ironic, as Bubs is easily one of the most affable of all the characters.
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Visually, Bubs fringes on the edge of abstraction. His ovoid face is light blue, his eyes are different sizes, and his mouth is simply a tight thatch of large teeth covering the bottom of his face. When Bubs speaks, his mouth does not open; his teeth merely shift slightly. The top of Bubs' body is an orange lump with rudimentary arms, no hands or fingers. A green sash of some sort covers his waist, and his bottom half is uniformly black, including his ridiculously undersized feet. Indeed, his four main components (head, upper body, sash, lower body) do not appear to be part of a uniform whole so much as four unrelated elements assembled together as well as they can fit. So effective is his design that he has gone virtually unchanged since his first appearance.
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Despite this wild incongruity of form, Bubs has a conversely down-to-earth personality. Were he as offbeat as his appearance, he would be almost completely inaccessible. His approachability is aided by the zestful quality of his dialogue, and certainly his voice, which sounds curiously like Louis Armstrong. The dialogue and voice mesh perfectly to create such a believable character that his bizarre appearance is forgotten. Indeed, it is only while one is looking at stills of the character that one realizes how odd he truly looks!
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Like Coach Z, Bubs is one of the few characters that the audience registers as a full-fledged adult. A large part of this is the fact that Bubs has a permanent job. He is the sole proprietor of the concession stand where the characters visit for all of their necessities. The exact location of this stand is unclear, but it never seems far from where the current scene is taking place. Being a private businessman has also made Bubs the character the most likely to pursue the Almighty Dollar. Keeping his business thriving always seems to have priority over most other things, but this hasn't driven a wedge between Bubs and his friends, as they need his services just as much as he desires their money.
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But Bubs is no miser, nor is he a recluse. Like his form, Bubs is larger than life. Everything he does and says carries a true sense of ebullience and the sheer joy of being alive. His love of singing and dancing accentuates this; Bubs may not be the most graceful of creatures, but he puts his heart and soul into every moment. This enthusiasm is contagious; most of the other characters seem generally happier in his presence. Bubs is not immune to anger or disappointment, and is occasionally short with people, but it seldom seems to last, and these moments of negativity only strengthen his character. Were he perpetually jolly, he'd merely be a two-dimensional buffoon. Bubs' dialogue is another facet of his character: he joyfully alters the English language towards his liking, changing and creating words as he sees fit, and creating a dialect all his own.
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Bubs has boasted that he can "fix anything what needs fixin'", and when he is not running the concession stand, he is often using his mechanical skills to aid his friends in some gambit. The quality of his inventions is suspect, but there are seldom any complaints. Bubs seems to define who he is by the services he provides; the only times he is ever at a loss for words is when he is required to talk about himself personally. This is a common trait among gifted individuals.
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Bubs is such a forcefully portrayed character that it is only in retrospect that one realizes that he never impacts the main thrust of a story in all but the most trivial ways. Bubs neither moves nor shakes, simply acting as a loyal companion while simultaneously going through life in his own inimitable way. It is no mystery why Homestar and friends consider him a reliable ally; one could easily imagine meeting Bubs in real life and being drawn to him in the same way. Bubs may have little purpose other than to swell the ranks, but nobody could call him superfluous or flat. Bubs is a true original, in every sense of the word.
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|2=
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==[[The Cheat]]==
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Owing something by design to E. C. Segar's Eugene the Jeep, The Cheat (the creature's name as well as his species) has long been established as the Brothers Strong's partner in crime, appearing alongside Strong Bad in their mutual first appearance. This relationship has remained ever since, and is as old and entrenched as the friendship of Homestar and Pom Pom. And while there are some similarities (like Pom Pom, The Cheat is more intelligent than his friend, but unable to communicate it properly), Strong Bad and The Cheat have a complex relationship all their own.
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The Cheat is a zoological anomaly. His body is not square so much as parallelogram-shaped. There seems to be no distinction between his lower lip and stomach, made odder by the fact that he never opens his mouth (although he is known to smile on occasion to display his prized gold tooth). His feet (or perhaps simply one solitary foot) are actually the bottom of his body spreading and flattening at its base. His arms are simple tapered fins. His snout is an extension of the top of his head, and his eyes appear to be placed on his cheek. Like most of his fellows, The Cheat is seen virtually exclusively from the 3/4 perspective, either front or back, and never directly from the front or in profile. This curious design has changed not one whit from his first appearance. The Cheat's body is covered in golden-yellow fur, and his back is decorated with dark spots, which, as expected, make him resemble a cheetah. His voice is a mishmash of indecipherable gibberish in a child-like tone.
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As can be inferred from his name, The Cheat likes to cheat. This trait is obviously what attracted Strong Bad to his company, but unlike Strong Bad, The Cheat is not especially out for personal gain. Unlike the alleged villainy of Strong Bad, which is based on greed and overachieving, and Strong Mad, which is based on brute stupidity, The Cheat enjoys breaking rules, conning, and other manner of subterfuge out of an innocent sense of mischief. This is why The Cheat's untrustworthy nature is not repulsive; The Cheat acts, above all, in the manner of an innocuous child. We may not approve of The Cheat's actions, but we do not hold them against him, because, in some way, we feel a sort of empathy for his childish misbehaviour; we have all acted similarly heedlessly in our own lives. The Cheat's machinations seldom bring about any positive gain for himself or those he is aiding, so it is hard to begrudge the little troublemaker the temporary happiness he gets from his minor misconduct. Were The Cheat presented as more mercenary and actively malicious, he would be far less loveable.
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The Cheat has been acting as an accomplice far less often since Strong Bad has moved away from being an out-and-out villain. Their partnership, therefore, has been altered, subtly yet meaningfully. Strong Bad fluctuates between enlisting The Cheat to do him a favour or support him on some misadventure or other, and sternly giving The Cheat instructions to carry out for what is perceived to be The Cheat's own good. The Cheat, despite the occasional grumbled protest, acts obediently and tirelessly. While this could be written off as Strong Bad relishing the power that he exerts over a smaller entity (The Cheat is the only character smaller than Strong Bad himself), it seems that the reality is more convoluted. Strong Bad usually seems to be, in his own peculiar way, expressing some sort of loving paternal authority over The Cheat, and is genuinely interested in what he considers to be the best for The Cheat. This is a side of Strong Bad that is seldom, if ever seen outside of The Cheat's presence. While Strong Bad would never admit it, he is totally devoted to The Cheat, and despite the occasional kick or verbal insult, wants The Cheat to turn out well. Granted, Strong Bad's methods are hardly orthodox, but the sincerity of his affections, however misguided, is admirable. The Cheat definitely strengthens Strong Bad as a character in areas that would otherwise go unchecked.
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Despite his reputation for misconduct, The Cheat is well liked among the rest of the gang, and they generally speak highly of him. But nobody is more entirely in The Cheat's thrall than Strong Mad. The big lug, in a manner similar to Of Mice and Men, is The Cheat's closest companion, as well as his fiercest protector; woe be unto anybody who abuses The Cheat, including Strong Bad in his lapses of judgment. It is unknown as to whether The Cheat returns Strong Mad's affections, but he clearly relishes the invulnerability he has in lieu of his massive bodyguard. The Cheat has also shown a proficiency with computers, and considers himself an accomplished animator (the hilariously amateurish animation is reminiscent of the Chapman Brother's earliest works). Strong Bad is on hand to honestly appraise the quality of these creations.
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For all his flaws, The Cheat is certainly an appealing character. However, his true appeal is the oddly sentimental side he brings out of his friends, which is visible only in his company. The Cheat is clearly loved, by both his fellows and his audience.
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|3=
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==[[Coach Z]]==
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The ages of Homestar and his friends are never supplied, nor are they especially needed. While most of the characters are at least physically in some form of adulthood, the interaction between Homestar, Marzipan, Strong Bad and the rest are analogues to the playground hierarchy of irresponsible children. In order to play on this dynamic further, it was therefore necessary for a more grownup character to be around, delineating the contrast between the irony and foibles of adulthood and the fecklessness and selfishness of childhood. This role ultimately went to Coach Z.
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Like most of his companions, Coach Z is an anthropomorphic oddity. His head is a simple white sphere marked only with two vacant eyes. On top of his head is a blue and purple baseball cap, the peak facing backwards. Coach Z's body, which can be accurately described as "beanpole", is green (the issue of whether his skin is green or whether he is wearing a green tracksuit has been addressed, but never satisfactorily concluded). His hands are simple lumps with thumbs, resting on his pipe-stem arms, and his feet are large and long, giving him a clumsy look in addition to his bent knees and squat lower body. He has a large golden medallion on his chest, on which his initial is engraved.
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Coach Z's expressionless face is contrasted with the fact that he is an extremely vocal character. When one sees stills of Coach Z, one is mildly disturbed at how empty and featureless his visage is. All factors of Coach Z's character hinge exactly and precisely on his voice. Fortunately, his voice is strong enough to carry his bland exterior, and there is never the unsettling feeling that image and sound are two separate entities. The voice itself is definitely working class and colloquial, but high and quirky enough so as to not sound rough. Coach Z's voice meshes with his curious diction; he constructs all of his sentences as though they are mere fragments of one continuous sentence, broken only by the necessity of another party speaking. Perhaps the most important (and certainly the most memorable) aspect of Coach Z's voice is his indecipherable accent. Its origin is definitely North American, but it is difficult to pinpoint an exact locality; it seems partly Canadian, partly north-eastern United States, and a muddling of several other dialects. The accent generally hinders Coach Z's attempts to pronounce vowel sounds, although how thick it is depends on how vital it is to the story that he speak clearly or not. Coach Z also claims to be an accomplished rapper (which, in a way, explains his name), and he is a constant source of rap history and trivia to all that do not wish to hear it. Most recently, he has enthusiastically performed some of his "chart-topping" hits from the days gone by, the most notable being the oft-referenced "These Peoples Try to Fade Me". The most charitable thing one could say of these performances is that they do not lack enthusiasm.
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Coach Z is, of course, a coach. The sport he coaches, and the firm that employs himself and the team, are never defined. The sport seems to combine elements of football, basketball and soccer with an incomprehensible scoring system. This occupation is what formed Coach Z as a character: when he was originally conceived, Homestar was still a stalwart if slightly gullible athlete. It was therefore fitting that there would be a de facto father figure to counsel him and aid him during moments of indecision; a coach would be the perfect candidate. As Homestar grew away from this personality, however, Coach Z was forced to either make further attempts to advise the now imbecilic Homestar, or simply abandon all traces of his wisdom, becoming as out-and-out eccentric as the rest of the characters in the process. Ultimately, the latter was chosen. This was a wise decision for two reasons. Firstly, Homestar and friends gradually abandoned structured set-up-and-punchline style of humour in favour of a more edgy and anarchic view of the world, and a level-minded coach would be out of place. Second, and more important, the original incarnation of Coach Z was a very bland character.
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With a fresh slate, Coach Z was free to grow as a character in new ways. The aforementioned accent grew more pronounced. His rambling speech patterns became ridiculously drawn out. His venerable nuggets of advice were replaced with long, pointless stories. In short, Coach Z had become a self-caricature, but a very funny self-caricature. Where he would have given Homestar meaningful advice about relationships, he now babbles idiotically, and even a simpleton like Homestar knows not to rely on him.
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There is some wickedly dark humour lurking beneath Coach Z's benign façade. He seems harmless enough at a cursory glance, but a closer examination reveals some downright disturbing details. Coach Z has been intoxicated more than once, and he seems to react quite forcibly to different substances, including alcoholic mouthwash. Coach Z also has an unhealthy interest in Marzipan, and while their relationship is platonic at best, there are times when Coach Z seems to have more long-lasting intentions. So engaged is Coach Z to his job that he lives in the locker room, sleeping on a bench at night.
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Of course, all of these disturbing habits are wisely kept subtle, leaving Coach Z an ineffectual but likeable character. And while his days of being a surrogate parent to the gang are over, he often is the organizer of several of Free Country's community events. Coach Z appeals to us, not only because he is very funny by design, but because he is an accurate caricature of the way a rebellious child views adulthood: a time where people can excuse their character flaws and vices, even as they make fools of themselves time and again.
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|4=
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==[[Homestar Runner]]==
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"Everybody loves the Homestar Runner. He is a terrific athlete."
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Perusing the above statement, the opening sentence from a modest, low-circulation children's book in the late 1990s, one would never guess that the character described would go on to have a beloved following by a decidedly different audience. And while Homestar Runner has evolved considerably since his genesis in both image and personality, his essential appeal has remained. Over the years, Homestar's role has changed from hero and protagonist to dolt and comedic foil, and as such, Homestar's cartoons in his earlier role are viewed almost as artifacts from a long-forgotten era. But in all of the cartoons, the identity of the character is never in doubt.
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Homestar's appearance is as simple as his character. There is no need for resemblance to reality; Homestar is drawn in a basic, iconic style. His countenance is something human and simultaneously something not. But Homestar's facile demeanour is so non-threatening that his appearance never strikes the audience as odd or alien. Homestar was not designed to resemble anything on a physical level so much as on an emotional level. In this respect, as in the case of many cartoon characters, Homestar's actual mien is irrelevant.
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Homestar's head is skull-white, with inquisitive yet naïve eyes and a rounded scalp. The only physical feature that truly keeps Homestar from looking entirely childish is his lower jaw, which protrudes in a lunkish manner, accentuating the general obtuseness of his form. To contrast this, a ridiculous propeller-beanie perches on his head, which he obviously wears with desire to be jaunty, but it only adds to his general look of childish ignorance. Homestar's body is covered with a red jersey, which resembles a small skirt, as Homestar possesses neither arms nor sleeves. A surprisingly bold-looking star is affixed to his chest. This is presumable part of the origin of his name. Homestar's legs are lengthy and thin, and his feet are large and cumbersome. There are soles at the bottoms of his feet, indicating that he is wearing boots, the tops of which must be hidden underneath his shirt. As one might guess, Homestar's physiology does not bear close examination!
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Above all else, this must be said: Homestar is dumb. He is obtuse and gauche to the extreme, and is entirely oblivious to the frustration his friends show at his continual falsehoods, ignorance, and unwitting insults. However, Homestar is not an idiot because of a lack of effort or willingness to achieve equivalence with his fellows. Instead, Homestar's stupidity comes from the untested mind of a child. It is this juvenility, and indeed, innocence, that lets Homestar affect his audience so well. As well, part of Homestar's gullibility is due to his innate kindness and trust in the honesty in his friends, despite the many times that trust has been betrayed. Were Homestar portrayed as an adult, someone who should know better, the humour would wear thin. Adults who never outgrow their period of childish self-indulgence are often depressing and irritating, but Homestar, despite his physical maturity, still hasn't gained the ability to see how his words and actions affect others, and we forgive him, as we forgive children in similar stages of development. To be certain, Homestar considers himself a grown-up; he has a somewhat glib way of speaking, considers his relationship with Marzipan to be a triumph (in truth, it is a cacophonous farce), and generally thinks that he is on top of everything. The truth, however, can't be denied; he's nothing more than a big kid, with a sincere love for simple things such as marshmallows and "melonade". A great part of this is due to his voice: while it has been torn slightly by the strains of adolescence, there is an unadulterated curiosity and exuberance that only exists within a child's psyche. And of course, Homestar endears us further with his speech impediment, pronouncing his every "r" as "w".
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Homestar's role, as noted, has changed considerably since his creation. Initially, he was an eternal do-gooder, always ready to help out in a crisis, stand up to injustice, and embark on an adventure. His heroic status was somewhat romanticized by his status as a star athlete. In short, he was a prototypical protagonist, one-dimensional and dull to the extreme. While Homestar has always had a sort of passive blandness to his character, in his early years he was literally defined by the blandness. For a brief period, he was also something of a shape-shifter, altering his form, mass and constitution depending on how it fit the scene. This, of course, was before the animators began their standard practice of reusing frames. Homestar, while not an intellectual by any means, at least had some semblance of competence, and often explained his contentions with a chalkboard, whilst wearing a graduate's cap. This aspect of Homestar's early years especially rankles with his modern persona. Above all, there was nothing especially funny about Homestar. He advanced the plot, but there was nothing about his demeanour to make the audience especially care about him. Changes were needed, and while it took a relatively long time before his evolution was complete, the resulting character was well worth the wait.
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Gradually Homestar grew away from his role as a hero. He became passive; not one who does things rather than one who has things done to him. His mental dexterity eroded, and his affability and unquestioning trust in the decency of his fellows became stronger than his common sense. His athleticism, while retained, was pushed aside, likely to avoid the inevitable "dumb jock" jokes. It cannot be stressed enough that Homestar's acquisition of genuine comedy was in tandem with Strong Bad's definition of character; while Strong Bad is capable of being humourous on his own, Homestar absolutely needs another party to act as his foil. Indeed, Homestar and Strong Bad are both at their best when playing off each other, something they never could do when they were nominal arch-rivals. Strong Bad's eventual succession of the best role has meant that Homestar can no longer rely on his own strength of character, but that is hardly a detriment. Homestar is infinitely funnier and thus more affecting when he is idiotically reacting to things, rather than attempting to change them.
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Why are so many fans in the thrall of this bungling half-wit? Everybody has his or her own reason, but the truth of the matter is that he is so delightfully innocent of his own stupidity, so unaware of how little respect he has, that one is attracted to him as one would a small child. Homestar occasionally recognizes a blunder on his part, often with a self-effacing laugh, but he never learns from his mistakes, and continues to bungle his way through life, time and time again, with unrepressed cheerfulness and a genuine wonder about the world around him. All of his flaws on endear him closer to his audience. Truly, everybody loves the Homestar Runner.
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|5=
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==[[Homsar]]==
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A typographical error by an e-mail author, one Vinnie C., became the inspiration for a new character, who has gone on to be one of the website's biggest success stories, even though he was originally conceived as a one-off joke.
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Vinnie C.'s e-mail suggested that Strong Bad end his long-standing rivalry with Homestar by killing him. However, Homestar's name was ridiculously misspelled "Homsar". Following his unerring literalness, Strong Bad went out straight away and killed a character named Homsar. That was as far as Homsar was intended to grow, but he proved so popular that the character was resurrected beyond his seeming death and his career continued. He has since become a member of the main gang, in addition to the long since established eleven, which no other character introduced since has been able to do. This is even more incredible when one bears in mind what kind of character Homsar is.
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Visually, Homsar is conceived as a grotesque caricature of Homestar. His face is similar, but his lunk-jaw is exaggerated and his eyes are empty and devoid of emotion. A disreputable little derby is perched on his head, giving him a clownish vaudevillian look. A shapeless blue jersey, his name engraved on the front, covers the majority of his body. This is a good thing, as it helps disguise his figure. His legs and feet are stubby and ungainly, in contrast to Homestar's. Adding to his discordant appearance is the way he is animated. Compared to the smooth and precise movements of his fellows, Homsar is deliberately animated in a jerky, disjointed fashion. Homsar's voice lilts and wavers as he speaks, matched by the spastic contortions of his face.
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Homsar's demeanour is just as random and unstructured as his appearance. He has no emotion, no personality, and no comprehension of anything. Homsar's sole purpose in life is to show up at inopportune times, completely oblivious to everything, and cry out absurd non-sequiters. When utilized properly, Homsar's abrupt appearances are killingly hilarious, and indeed, his demented exclamations seldom fail to entertain. However, the Chapman brothers have wisely determined that Homsar would become unbearably rebarbative and irritating with excessive exposure. Homsar could hardly carry a cartoon on his own, or even a full scene. Random and spontaneous humour are best when used in a similarly random fashion. Therefore, Homsar has remained elusive, leaving his fans to anticipate his next appearance, rather than becoming a regular performer, which would surely destroy his status as a wild card.
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Homsar's relationship to the rest of the group is tenuous at best. After he makes his appearance, he is quickly ignored or forgotten. The only character who attempts to form an actual friendship with him is Strong Sad, although it is unclear whether this is a product of Strong Sad's desperation for any sort of companionship, or Homsar's latching onto somebody who he can speak to who will not attempt to ignore him. In any event, communication between the two is trite, and it is difficult to tell who is tolerating whom.
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Homsar has a loyal following, and in some respects he matches Homestar and Strong Bad in popularity. But unlike them, Homsar is not personable or sympathetic. To infuse anything deeper into his character would be to burden him and thus kill him. He forever will be nothing more than a clown, albeit a very funny one. And that, bearing in mind how he was designed, is exactly how it should be.
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==[[The King of Town]]==
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As a character and as an individual, the King of Town is a relic from another era. Rather than letting this become a detriment to the character, his obsolescence has been used as a marvellous source of comedy, which is infinitely funnier than the King himself is by design.
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The King's design conjures memories of fairy tales of old (particularly Tenniel's illustrations in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland), as well as the kings from playing cards. He is a facile Santa Claus figure, with a round head and an even rounder body. He has no discernible arms or legs, and his entire body is shrouded in frumpy red robes with white trim. His head is white, and his face is adorned simply with perpetually squinting eyes, a thick white moustache, and a series of scroll-shaped curls forming a beard. An undersized crown is perched on his bald scalp. His voice is that of a precocious child grown old, full of odd ditherings and silly mutterings.
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Food is the King's raison d'être. His entire life seems to consist of finding sustenance, eating it, and ensuring that more food will continue to be available. Such is his privileged upbringing that he eats any edibles he comes across without hesitation, whether or not said edibles are even rightfully his. Perhaps this is his interpretation of the Divine Right of Kings. At the core of everything the King does is an innate selfishness. This excessive self-indulgence, however, is not the cruel, bitter greed of adulthood, but the unquestioning self-service of a child who simply does not know better. Things such as sharing and sacrifice are alien to the King simply because he, in his decadent lifestyle, has never had to consider them. This is precisely why the King's personality, which would be unbearably repellent in person, does not offend the audience. The King clearly enjoys the privileges of royalty far more than the responsibilities; when anything disrupts his peaceful existence, he panics and must rely on others to aid him. Indeed, aside from his dress he hardly makes any effort to act in a manner that could be considered regal. For all his flaws, the King is a rather likeable fellow, and this amicability is only strengthened when it becomes obvious that the King's life is not as altogether pleasant as it appears.
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When the King made his debut, the world in which Homestar and his friends lived was undefined, and it was therefore not an issue that Homestar and Pom Pom could be summoned to a 16th century-era castle to solve a mystery for a King and his retinue of servants. Shortly thereafter, however, it was irrevocably established that Free Country was somewhat suburban and definitely modern. Rather than writing the King and his world off as apocryphal, however, the Chapman brothers decided to transport the King, medieval mindset and all, into this world. The formerly unfunny King has now become a source of great humour as he struggles to maintain his regal dignity in a world that sees him as little more than a gluttonous old man. None of the other characters consider the King to have any semblance of rule over them in any way, aside from the King's previously established servants. The King is routinely belittled, ignored, and disregarded. And while he attempts to remain cheerily oblivious to his impotence, there are moments where the King quietly laments the fact that nobody seems to take him seriously, or even likes him that much. Even the friendlier characters like Homestar seem to have a blind spot when it comes to the King's feelings. This definitely provokes sympathy for a character that would otherwise be reviled, and rightfully so.
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An interesting piece of trivia is that early documents named the King as Marzipan's father, obviously in an effort to forge a link between the King and Homestar's more contemporary companions. This gambit apparently didn't have the impact it was intended to have and was discarded, as Marzipan has never acknowledged the King as her father and vice versa. Without any true friends among the gang, the King's obtrusive impact on the proceedings is only made funnier, and a vintage character has been preserved, rather than claimed by obscurity.
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==[[Marzipan]]==
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A cursory glance at lists of characters from any classic animation series reveals an interesting trend: original cartoon characters are, by and large, a "boys' club", with room for very few female characters. Most female characters either take familiar roles as matrons or siblings, and the most memorable female characters have generally been created to keep the series from excluding females as a whole, with the added bonus of being a love interest. Popular tastes, unfortunately, have changed very little in 80 years, and this trend continues to this day, with the rare exception (most of which, however, go too far in the opposite direction and patronize females in a manner that is even more insulting than ignoring them). It is therefore no surprise to see that among Free Country's citizens, only one of them is female. However, Marzipan is far from a token female in any respect.
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Marzipan's anatomy is a curiosity, to say the least. Her general physique resembles a straw broom, bristles downward, or perhaps a bell (a "Southern belle" reference, perhaps?). The structure of the handle is pink, and serves as her head, and possibly her neck (it is hard to tell). Her face is gently rendered with small but lively eyes, and a smile, which was initially insipid but has gradually evolved into a myriad of expressions, which are impressive considering the simple lines of her face. From the top of her head sprouts a ponytail of blonde hair. The broom's bristles, her lower body, is a half-sphere covered with some sort of purple skirt, decorated with a simple frill segmented with baubles. No arms or feet are visible. It is a triumph of the animators that, despite lacking most of the familiar cues of femininity, Marzipan immediately registers in the mind of the audience as very feminine, and nothing less.
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Marzipan's personality is defined by her various dualities of character. One might write this off as self-deceiving hypocrisy, but in truth it makes Marzipan one of the more deeply layered characters. Such traits are, after all, fairly common in the real world.
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One of her main discrepancies is her temperament. There is a genuine tenderness to a lot that Marzipan does; it is no coincidence that she shares her name with an almost unbearably saccharine confection. The easiest way to illustrate this is her affinity for nature. Marzipan is deeply connected to the plant and animal kingdoms, to the point of being oblivious to everything else at times when this connection is the strongest. Only Marzipan would go to the trouble of holding a "concert for birds", or adopt an anthropomorphic sandwich. This facet of her character definitely grates with most of the other characters, who have little patience for her strict dietary habits and constant reprimands when they fail to accommodate nature in some way. To call Marzipan a bohemian would not be inaccurate, or particularly unkind, especially bearing in mind her penchant for performing syrupy, lightweight songs on Carol, her acoustic guitar. Despite this gentility, however, there is a certain steel deep within Marzipan. She is very opinionated and strong-minded, and does not let any of her assertions be shaped by anybody but herself. She also has no qualms whatsoever about pointing out when her companions say or do something idiotic. She is by far the character who has come the closest to diffusing the imbecility of Free Country at large. Strong Sad has some of this ability, but is too gentle to say anything about it, and Strong Bad, like Marzipan, is just a little too self-absorbed to work through the process, preferring to ignore the greater issue in favour of minor annoyances. Marzipan's blunt frankness can sometimes come across as downright mean, but this duplicity of disposition makes her all the more identifiable.
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The other main disparity of her character is her intellect. As mentioned before, Marzipan is smart enough to see that every endeavour of her fellows is sheer folly. Her dealings with Homestar accentuate this: emotionally and maturity-wise he is definitely her junior, and her tone when addressing him is patronizing and condescending to such an extent that we wonder why she puts up with him, and vice-versa. Why, then, does she never put an end to the foolishness? The simple answer is that Marzipan is not nearly as intelligent as she thinks she is and appears to be. A main factor of this is her stubborn belief in her own infallibility. Everything Marzipan says and does is executed secure in the knowledge that she is absolutely right. So content is she in her self-inflation that when she is finally put in a position where she can no longer deny that she was at fault, she acts with a revealing lack of maturity and self-control. This aspect is helped immensely by Missy Palmer's marvelous characterization of Marzipan's voice, which is crisp and resolute, even as she makes some laughably ignorant statements.
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Serious-minded yet capricious, loving yet candid, highly mentally developed yet childishly arrogant, this seeming dichotomy of character does not diminish Marzipan as a character in our eyes. In fact, it is refreshing to see a cartoon take an honest viewpoint and observe that sometimes females are just as thick and petty as males. That Marzipan is not made faultless solely on the grounds that she is female is an admirable decision. While she is cute in most conventional senses, Marzipan does little to adhere to the stereotypes of other perfunctory female characters. She is nominally Homestar's girlfriend, but we see little in their dealings that indicate any developed form of romance, or even affection. Summarily, they seem to be in a relationship because it is felt that it simply must be that way. This, combined with Marzipan's infinite patience with Homestar's juvenile stupidities and Homestar's bemused reaction to Marzipan's fastidiousness, makes for humour far greater than that of typical sitcom romance shtick.
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Marzipan is lovable by design, but a great amount of her appeal derives not in spite of her flaws but because of them. Were she flawless, she would clash horrendously with the down-to-earth vices of her colleagues, and they would likely have as much reason to resent her as the audience would. Instead, she is revealed to be just as addled as they are, and because we realize that, we forgive her the occasional haughtiness and irrationality. Few people count Marzipan as their favourite character, but even fewer find reason enough to hate her. Not bad for the "only girl"!
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==[[Pom Pom]]==
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Of all the characters, Pom Pom has endured the fewest alterations. In part, this is due to the simplicity of his design: Pom Pom's body is a simple sphere, with rudimentary cones forming stubby limbs, and a simple ellipse for a head. His face is adorned with nothing more than two simplified eyes. This simplicity of form could easily be interpreted as simplicity of character, but nothing could be further from the truth. Pom Pom is an intriguing and complex character, but the constant enigma that surrounds his true nature deliberately keeps him at arm's length from establishing a true emotional bond with his audience.
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Pom Pom, it is established, is a Pom, hailing from the island of the same name. Little is known about Pom Pom's life in his birthplace, however. In the transition between his home and the world of Free Country, Pom Pom has lost his sense of belonging to his own kind and become an alien, living among those who are alien to him. This sense of detachment from his society is supplemented by the language barrier: when Pom Pom speaks, the only sounds he emits are curious bubbling noises. Homestar and the rest respond to what he says, but since the viewer is not given a translation, it is not certain whether or not they accurately understand his words. Constructed schematically as he is, Pom Pom is the least human-looking of the gang, and thus seems an outsider to them, and by extension, to the viewer. One suspects that, were one to encounter Pom Pom in his element, surrounded by his fellow Poms, he would come across as a rather different individual altogether. But Pom Pom, for his own unfathomable reasons, has chosen to walk among those who are different from him, and at times he paradoxically seems something less than what they are, and something more.
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This needn't indicate that Pom Pom has no connection with his fellows. He is Homestar's best friend, as the latter is quick to point out. And while Homestar is genuinely and enthusiastically in Pom Pom's thrall, the Pom, while a true friend, keeps a detached and cool attitude about their relationship. In fact, Pom Pom is just as often seen enjoying the company of Strong Bad as he is with Homestar. Curiously, this rebounding does not seem to constitute disloyalty or betrayal on Pom Pom's part. At times, the Pom seems to be everybody's friend. At others, he is nobody's. While the other characters have frequent contentions with one another, nobody has any reason to resent Pom Pom, and he likewise has no ill feelings towards them.
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The relationship between Pom Pom and Homestar has evolved as Homestar's character has changed. In the beginning, when Homestar was an insipid do-gooder, Pom Pom was always at his side, not in the spirit of a tagalong or, even worse, a sidekick, but providing genuine companionship at times when Homestar would have been very much alone. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine what Homestar would be doing, left to his own devices. As Homestar grew away from his role as protagonist and gradually became less mentally adroit and more child-like, Pom Pom's role in their relationship became more like a parent-guardian; watching over Homestar and keeping him out of serious trouble without necessarily leading him around by the nose. This transition is obvious in the similar plots of "The Strongest Man In The World Competition" and "A Jumping Jack Contest". In the first, Homestar discovers Strong Bad's treachery and forfeits so Pom Pom can win. By the latter, Pom Pom is the one who learns the truth and surrenders his chances of winning. One can hardly imagine the latter-day Homestar being so self-sacrificing.
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There is more to Pom Pom than his bland exterior indicates, and several hints of his true nature are exposed from time to time. Pom Pom, despite his unimpressive physique, is an accomplished athlete, even in the wrestling ring, despite the seeming fragility of his form. His only link to his home is via cell phone, where he is often seen conversing with one of his storied seventeen girlfriends, a trait which Homestar admires but in no way resents. Pom Pom is also reportedly very intelligent, and is possibly the smartest of all of his friends. This intelligence comes in handy when acting as a guardian for Homestar, of course.
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Pom Pom has no memorable dialogue and generally is content to be in the background and let the more strongly portrayed personalities shine, and thus he is often overlooked when viewers recall their favourite characters. But with the use of hindsight, it soon becomes clear that Pom Pom is never far from the goings-on of his friends, always watching. The constant enigma surrounding him makes Pom Pom a character the audience constantly wants to know more about, ensuring his continued appearances in the years to come.
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==[[The Poopsmith]]==
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In his first appearance, the King of Town was given a small collective of servants for Homestar to encounter as he solved the mystery of the missing sheep. The Bugler, the Knight, the Blacksmith and the Chef have since appeared in bit parts at best and disappeared at worst, but only one servant was destined for greater things.
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The Poopsmith is constructed so freakish and idiosyncratic that merely looking at him is often enough to provoke laughter. His chalk-white head is elliptic, but his jaw is slightly slung forward. His eyes are different sizes, shapes and colours, and four scraggly hairs sprout from atop his skull. His most defining facial feature is his protruding lower lip which, combined with his ovoid body, makes him look curiously avian, like some sort of deformed duck. His body, in contrast to his head, is a curious flesh tone. His arms are completely contained in large orange work gloves, and his legs are two gnarled stripes. And in his hand he likely as not is holding a shovel.
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Although all of the characters skirt around the issue, the Poopsmith's unenviable occupation is the handling and management of bodily waste; the origin of this bodily waste is unknown, but perhaps it is better that way. It therefore is a curiosity to note that the Poopsmith is not a repellent personality, as one might expect. Perhaps this is because the nature of the Poopsmith's job is not played up or exploited for cheap shock humour. It is merely portrayed as a job that needs to be done by someone, and nobody could say that the Poopsmith does not do his job well. He is almost always seen at his designated pile, tirelessly shovelling away without complaint or resentment. Nothing is known about his character beyond his job, but one suspects that he is defined solely by his trade. He has no identity, no personality, and no ambition to be anything but a Poopsmith.
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On occasion, the Poopsmith socializes with the rest of the gang, but he seldom contributes much to the proceedings. His powerful stench understandably keeps him at arm's length, and he is also unable to communicate. The Poopsmith is mute; he reportedly has taken a vow of silence, but it is obvious that no voice could ever match his character. The Poopsmith's humour derives purely from visual slapstick, and a voice of any sort would be unnecessary. On rare occasions, the Poopsmith communicates via signboard in the classic cartoon tradition.
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Like the King of Town, the Poopsmith is not especially funny because of what he says and does. His biggest laughs come from the sheer discrepancy of his presence among Homestar and the others. While it is hard for a medieval-era king to fit in among modern-day characters, it is equally difficult for a mute abnormality who shovels excrement for a living. But he tries, and by all accounts it appears that the Poopsmith is here to stay.
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==[[Strong Bad]]==
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Listing Strong Bad's attributes - he is selfish, dishonest, conniving, rude, and motivated entirely by his own interests; one would suspect that the character would be utterly unsympathetic and totally unlovable. In truth, the exact opposite is the case; Strong Bad has become the most personable, likeable and strongly portrayed characters on the website, and his popularity eclipses all of his cast-mates, including Homestar himself. Strong Bad is not the star of the show so much as the supernova; his presence holds together the plots of the cartoons he is in, he galvanizes the rest of the cast one way or another, and he is the most consistently funny character. Even in the event that everything else could be forgotten, Strong Bad places an indelible image on his audience.
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Visually, Strong Bad is no beauty; he is ostensibly a Mexican wrestler, in the tradition of larger than life characters such as Santo. Although Strong Bad lacks a cloak, he is topless and clad in the requisite costume of a mask, pants and boots. Strong Bad's mask is adorned with a jewel in the centre, framed by a forked protrusion. His eyes are a deep green and shine like emeralds (the colour blending technique of his eyes is unique; virtually every other character is given "flat" colours). His mask is predominantly red, with a pair of black crests spiking downward from his forehead to his cheeks. His mouth is simply a rectangular hole in the mask, through which flesh can be seen. Strong Bad's mouth appears to be open even in repose. Mexican wrestlers of the days gone by have often been so intimately intertwined with their wrestling personas that they were never seen in public without their masks. Strong Bad takes this ideal one step further; he never takes his mask off because the mask is his face. Another link to his wrestling roots is his name; only a few would remember the archaic, woefully translated Nintendo game Tag Team Pro Wrestling, in which the benevolent "Ricky Fighters" fought the villainous "Strong Bads".
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The rest of Strong Bad's body is hardly impressive; his torso is nothing more than a potbelly, and his arms and legs are short and stubby. His hands are a pair of boxing gloves (as with his mask, they are a part of his body rather than a costume), although this has not hindered him from performing fine manual skills with surprising dexterity. Another physical blow against him is his lack of height. Strong Bad is short and squat, and is smaller than any of his friends, The Cheat excluded.
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His diminutive form is contrasted by the sheer size of his voice, which is unabashedly loud, coarse, and candid; clearly his bark is much worse than his bite. Strong Bad's voice is a masterpiece of voice acting: in total contrast to the stilted delivery of the rest of the cast (who often speak as though by rote), Strong Bad speaks in an entirely realistic manner, albeit in a humorous tone. Strong Bad's voice is deep, gruff, hoarse, and fluctuates between gruffly muttering and flamboyantly self-aggrandizing. Strong Bad has an accent; while this accent was once unashamedly Spanish, it has altered to a dialect not readily identifiable. However, the accent, as with the voice, is immediately realized as uncouth and disreputable, as is his habit of affixing the word "crap" to sentences. All of Matt Chapman's voices are brilliant creations, but Strong Bad's voice requires the most acting skill to pull off successfully. It is a fine piece of work.
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The smallness of his stature also helps to build up Strong Bad as what theologians deem the "Little Man". Strong Bad is the weakling who charges blindly into battle against giants, the fool who considers himself a genius, the self-absorbed boor who considers himself irresistible to the opposite sex. Strong Bad is infinitely secure that he can handle anything that comes his way, and that anything he does is incontrovertibly right. Strong Bad's philosophy seems to be that if he doesn't do things for himself, nobody else will, and that if he fails to go for the gusto, the best things in life will only end up in somebody else's hands.
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In short, Strong Bad boldly demonstrates every character flaw and selfish behaviour that the rest of the world frantically attempts to keep hidden. There are many times in which everybody would like to act as Strong Bad does, if they thought they could get away with it! Strong Bad, however, has no such fear of retribution; he lives the way he pleases, and if anybody has a contention with that, it's their problem, not his. It is notable that, despite the carefree hedonism of Strong Bad's life, he does not especially have a better existence than the rest of the cast. Many of Strong Bad's gambits fail, and the gains of his few victories are so trivial that his effort is hardly worth it (although Strong Bad would certainly claim it to be a moral victory). Through it all, however, Strong Bad continues undaunted and unchanged.
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There is some stupidity and stubbornness to this determination, of course, but Strong Bad's strength of character and mettle, however misguided, are admirable. In this sense, Strong Bad is an analogue of a Jack of all trades; while no different from the rest of us, an Everyman, a Jack finds the courage to do things that most of us will not or cannot do. While Strong Bad is rather more skewed for comic effect than most Jacks, the dynamic still works; if we are not like Strong Bad we would like to be, and in the act of watching him and experiencing what he endures, we can, for a short time, become him. This is the most important aspect contributing to Strong Bad's endurance of character; audience identification never occurs with such a broad character such as Homestar, for example. But a small piece of Strong Bad exists within the psyche of humanity at large: to call Strong Bad a personification of id would be simplistic, if not inaccurate, but Strong Bad carries with him not only the joy of hedonistic existence but also the folly. Strong Bad is truly a tragicomic character, speaking to something fundamental in the human mind, while still being richly funny. This complexity, however, was a long time in coming.
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Strong Bad's character history is as long as Homestar's, and is just as convoluted as well. He and Homestar both debuted in "The Homestar Runner Enters The Strongest Man In The World Contest", and both made their first full-length animated appearances in "Marshmallow's Last Stand". Physically, Strong Bad is recognizable in both stories, although his proportions are somewhat different. Personality-wise, however, the character is almost irreconcilable with his modern counterpart. In the book, Strong Bad comes off like a prototypical version of himself. He boasts, makes a big show of himself, and tries to win with the aid of The Cheat, and ultimately meets his comeuppance.
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This version of Strong Bad, however, is much more appealing than the version seen in "Marshmallow's Last Stand". In this early cartoon, Strong Bad cruelly harasses Homestar and Pom Pom for no reason, calling them "babies". He constantly promotes himself and Strong Mad as the "greatest tag-team wrestlers in the world", and approaches the pals for a challenge (the early Strong Bad's obsession with challenges and fighting were later parodied by a rather different character). When Homestar refuses, Strong Bad steals Homestar's prized star, and refuses to return it until they are beaten in the ring. In the actual match, Strong Bad proves to be a pitifully incompetent wrestler, unable to lay even a single blow on his opponents. He is forced to rely on Strong Mad's strength, and when his larger brother is incapacitated by Pom Pom, Strong Bad is virtually impotent to avoid a further beating. Thrown out of the ring, Strong Bad resorts to actively malicious subterfuge (on his own: The Cheat is nowhere to be found), with intention of murdering Homestar. This backfires and a large portion of Strong Bad's head is blasted off. Even having lost, Strong Bad spitefully tears up Homestar's star, only to receive a further beating. It is clear that the character had some major overhauling to endure if he were to return; not only was he a villain without a cause, but he wasn't even a threatening villain in any way. Furthermore, there was no joy or humour in any of Strong Bad's actions. He was mean for the sake of being mean.
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After this debacle, Strong Bad was largely absent from later cartoons, appearing only in guest shots. His next major role was in "A Jumping Jack Contest", which, while largely rehashing "The Strongest Man in the World Competition", was a step up. Strong Bad shows a more sophisticated villainy: gone are his sadistic and cruel streaks, replaced with a burning desire to prove himself to be the best. Little things, like Strong Bad resorting to elaborate costumes and psychological warfare to get his competitors to drop out, helped define Strong Bad as a character, and perhaps the most important addition was his improvising of a triumphant song when it appeared as though things were going his way. The journey was far from over, but it appeared as though the character could be salvaged. Strong Bad continued his role in bit parts, bullying and playing pranks, but not really altering the flow of the story, until the most important event of his character and, by extension, the entire website, took place.
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When "Strong Bad E-mail" debuted, it was obviously an experiment: each week, Strong Bad would answer an E-mail from one of his fans (actual E-mails from real people), and each E-mail showcasing his response would be an animated short. Despite a few false starts, the Strong Bad E-mail became a runaway success story and the most popular segment of the website. This not only propelled Strong Bad into the starring role at last, but it also helped him make a connection with his audience. Part of this was Strong Bad's breaking of the fourth wall, and addressing the audience directly, but more importantly, he began reacting to his fans' entreaties in different ways. Frustration, curiosity, amusement, defiance, embarrassment; a gamut of hitherto untapped emotions soon became part of Strong Bad's oeuvre. This rapidly growing personality soon outshone the rest of the gang, and Strong Bad gradually moved to the role of the lynchpin. Now, it is difficult for anything of note to happen in Free Country without Strong Bad's involvement. He is the one that gets things happening, and the other characters truly shine when reacting to him. While this dynamic works well for most characters, Strong Bad and Homestar are truly at their funniest when reacting to one another, letting their divergent personalities and mindsets bounce off one another. The power of this relationship can be seen by comparing Strong Bad and Homestar's conversation at the marshmallow stand in "Interview" with their first conversation in the same locale much earlier, in "Marshmallow's Last Stand". Strong Bad is, above all, a reactor, and the E-mail has given him a near-infinite source of material to react to. There are many characters, songs, running jokes, and plot conventions that would not exist, were it not for the E-mail.
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Strong Bad was once a villain of the darkest stripe, but those days have been left in the dead past. Today's Strong Bad, with his jokes, songs, schemes and creations, is not only a thoroughly three-dimensional character, but also a richly comic and even an affecting one. By being a fully formed personality, complete with highs and lows, loves and hates, desires and fears, Strong Bad is so identifiable that the audience feels as though they have met him personally. We may not want Strong Bad living in our homes, but we love every moment he is on screen.
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==[[Strong Mad]]==
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A monolith of muscle and hostility, Strong Mad is not an especially complex character, but his sheer physical presence leaves an impression on every scene he is in. He provides a welcome contrast within the group of villains. He adds a needed physical threat in addition to Strong Bad and The Cheat, who are hardly fear-inspiring, but he has none of their cunning or wit. Without them, one suspects, he would be lost.
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Strong Mad is vast in both height and width, and his figure is virtually square. However, he is seen almost exclusively directly from the front and the back, and the few views of him from other angles suggest that he is not overtly broad. This subtly adds to the hint of fragility of character behind his strength, almost as though his image of power hides an inner weakness. This is not to say that Strong Mad lacks muscle; the majority of his body mass consists of his chest and arms, which are massive and powerful. Strong Mad has no true head to speak of; his facial features are placed roughly around his collarbone area. His habitual facial expression is a scowl of pure belligerence, made all the more unnerving by the fact that the scowl is usually focusing directly at the audience. His entire physiology reminds one of a gorilla, or perhaps a Neanderthal. This is ironic, in the respect that Strong Mad is the closest visual approximation to a human being out of the entire cast (notably, he is the only character to sport a nose). It is a good visual gag that characters lacking certain limbs and sporting odd tones of skin strike the audience as more "human" than the relatively more humanistic Strong Mad. Like Strong Bad, Strong Mad is dressed as a wrestler, but in a rather more American, if outdated, costume. He dresses in a dark blue leotard with his initial on the front.
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Strong Mad, understandably, has been cast in the role of a heavy. His towering frame, limited brainpower, and short temper make him the perfect backup for when Strong Bad and The Cheat are physically threatened. However, Strong Mad's only true loyalties are towards The Cheat, to whom he is fiercely devoted. Otherwise, Strong Mad's fury is expended in any direction he chooses, and almost every character has suffered somewhat at his hands. This is not a characteristic of evil, but merely an immature lack of self-control. Fortunately, this paucity of emotional restraint works both ways: usually a more verbal character (usually Strong Bad or Coach Z) is capable of temporarily pacifying him. However, Strong Mad can never be totally controlled, and most characters have a healthy fear of getting on his wrong side. It is interesting to note that Strong Bad, who doesn't suffer fools gladly by any means, is surprisingly patient with his hulking brother. He takes the time to calmly correct or reassure Strong Mad, to the point of almost being patronizingly kind. This is, of course, out of respect to the consequences of insulting Strong Mad, but there is also some genuine camaraderie between them.
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Strong Mad's voice, while comparatively simple, has evolved considerably since his earliest appearances. Initially, he was only capable of wordless growls and grumbles. At a later point he developed a speaking voice, which was deep and ponderous. While he only spoke in monosyllabic fragmented sentences, his voice was curiously clear. Note how in "A Jumping Jack Contest" he is successfully able to do a passable imitation of Strong Bad's voice! Gradually, he developed a voice that, while still deep and loud, is considerably more throaty and slurred. This latter-day voice bears something of a resemblance to the speech patterns of the similarly muscular Lou Ferrigno and Andre the Giant.
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Unlike most of the rest of the characters, Strong Mad is less defined by what he says than what he does. And while this does leave the consequence of him being outshone by the more complex and delineated characters, this should not be seen as a weakness. A more forcefully portrayed Strong Mad would have been a distraction and harmed the chemistry between the characters. Strong Mad's role is limited, but he plays it well and to its fullest, rather than becoming the shambling plot device he may have become under less skilled hands.
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==[[Strong Sad]]==
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The history of the Strong family is shrouded in mystery; little is known about Strong Bad and Strong Mad other than the fact that they hail from Parts Unknown and have an affinity for wrestling and evildoing in general. It wasn't long, however, that The Brothers Strong's secret shame made itself public: the disowned third Strong Brother, Strong Sad.
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Strong Sad is so completely dissimilar to his brothers that on physical and behavioural evidence alone one would never believe they were related. Unlike his brothers, Strong Sad is not aggressive or dishonest, nor is he a wrestler, which is a pretty good indication of the reason for his siblings' abandonment. However, Strong Sad is also different in the fact that he is far less human-like in his appearance. Strong Sad's face is deathly pale, and the hollowness of his simplistic eyes and mouth give him something of a ghoulish aspect. The back of his hairless head sports an indeterminate curl, which only adds to his ghostly appearance. The rest of his body, however, is far from ghostly. His body is large and round; to call him chubby would be extremely kind indeed. Strong Sad's arms are large and thick, but they hardly appear threatening straddling his ponderous stomach. But the strangest aspect of Strong Sad's physique is the fact that his body below the waist is that of an elephant, complete with the stump-shaped, three-toed feet. It is notable that Strong Sad draws from his elephantine half all of the bulk but none of the might of his pachyderm counterpart. Indeed, the general paunchiness of his form softens his girth to such extent that we do not find it odd in the slightest that Strong Bad, who is a fraction of his size, is able to abuse and torment him regularly.
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Strong Sad behaves in a way totally antithetical to his brothers. He is shy, guileless, and generally prepared to leave the world at large alone. An indication of his withdrawal from the turmoil of society is his hobby as an artist, as well as his soft, mellow voice, which, while sounding childlike, has a tone of gravity, and some sort of world-weary maturity. Strong Sad regularly writes poetry which, while slightly skewed for humorous effect, nonetheless speaks of despair and a lack of self-worth.
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Of course, this mellow personality has put Strong Sad in the unenviable role of the "goat". His brothers and The Cheat routinely abuse him, of course, but such unthinking cruelty is part of their nature. These attacks are unprovoked, but Strong Sad does not make much of an effort to prevent or avoid them, either. He seems to have accepted his regular harassment as part of his life, and does his best to detach himself emotionally from the pain with a sense of resignation to the inevitable. Unfortunately, Strong Sad gets very little support from the rest of the gang, either. They do not actively mistreat him like his brothers do, but it is the fact that they have a tendency to overlook him and his feelings that truly discourages him. This is, in some ways, even worse - Strong Sad at least feels some sort of satisfaction that being tormented constitutes somebody paying attention to him.
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However, Strong Sad does not hold his plight against the rest of the gang, assuming that it is part of his nature to be ignored, and indeed, sometimes his self-loathing becomes so much that one hardly blames Homestar and the rest for looking past him. But despite his many disappointments, Strong Sad has made an effort to make friends with the rest. He is often willing to associate with Homestar, but the latter's lack of reserve and tact usually results in Strong Sad ending up inadvertently insulted. Strong Sad has also looked to Coach Z for guidance, but seems mildly disgusted with the result. However, Strong Sad has occasionally bonded with Marzipan, the only other character who shares his penchant for artistic expression and comes close to matching his emotional maturity. This is a common dynamic among school-age children. Strong Sad's dealings with Marzipan are on a completely different level than those of the basically childish Homestar and Strong Bad. In fact, Strong Sad seems somewhat fond of her, but has the foresight to not set himself up for a disappointment. As it stands, the only character who offers Strong Sad unconditional friendship is Homsar. Strong Sad is sometimes frustrated by his dull-witted cohort, but he genuinely appreciates the companionship.
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It took Strong Sad a surprisingly long time (relatively) to find his role. Initially, he was portrayed as a pessimistic complainer who whined and moaned at the prospect of doing just about anything. It was unclear as to why anybody would even bother to associate with such a bore. Wisely, the character was completely overhauled when it was decided that there is a vital difference between a character that complains and a character that has a reason to complain. Indeed, it was soon apparent that Strong Sad was funnier when, rather than complaining, he began patiently making profound observations on his plight (although he retained his bitter, whiny voice for some time). In this sense, Strong Sad bears a strong resemblance to the character of Charlie Brown (a relationship made explicit in the opening scene of "The Best Decemberween Ever"), as both characters are touchingly funny in a nonetheless sad way. This makes Strong Sad a difficult character to write, as he must be light enough to keep from being depressing, but serious enough to avoid being idiotic. But when the balance is correct, Strong Sad affects his audience in a way that the more broadly drawn characters never quite do.
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Strong Sad constantly divides his time between our laughs and our pity, and there are always aspects of one response within the other. Strong Sad is reasonable, intelligent, and, despite his many hardships, never truly gives into his despair. Strong Sad, perhaps more than any other character, strikes an emotional chord with the viewer that can only be made by injecting a bit of the hardships of reality. Therefore, Strong Sad is not only the most affecting character, but also the most real.
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==[[The Announcer]]==
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In its earliest days, Free Country was a constant hub of various activities in which terrific athletes and crafty charlatans alike could ply their skills. For the benefit of the audience, these events were narrated and broadcast by a nameless Announcer. The Announcer is a veteran among the characters, tracing his first appearances to reporting The Strongest Man in the World Contest, as well as the climactic wrestling match in "Marshmallow's Last Stand". During the formative years of Homestar Runner, one could almost see the unctuous and high-strung commentator becoming a regular member of the gang, but for one reason or another, this never occurred. Unseasoned fans can only look back at the older cartoons and wonder: just who is this odd fellow?
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The Announcer's design is elementary, if vaguely human. His torso is a cushion-shaped lump, complemented with squat feet, small round hands on pipe-stem arms, and a round little head perched on a precipitous neck. He is nattily clad in a business suit, complemented by a handlebar mustache and center-parted hair, as well as a monocle. This immaculate appearance is matched by his voice, which is rendered in clipped British tones. This voice adds dignity (or at least the illusion of dignity) during the more ponderous moments of the commentary, and rises to a pinched, excitable pitch during more intense periods. He lacked the accent and spoke in a somewhat lower register in his first speaking role, but his more familiar voice quickly surfaced. Currently, his voice is much more identifiable than his physical appearance.
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The gradual shift of the web site's focus was the death knell for the Announcer, as there was simply no real role for him anymore, and his lack of any personality prevented him from trying to adjust to the new character dynamics. As it stands, he has not appeared onscreen in years (except for the performance by his 1936 counterparts), and has only showed up in sporadic bit parts for voiceover work in commercial parodies. The fact that new voices have begun to appear in the faux-commercial cartoons signifies that the Announcer's standing in this final haven is slowly vanishing as well. As it stands, he is but a mere footnote in the web site's history, instead of the stalwart character he could have been.
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==[[The Goblin]]==
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Almost exclusively seen on Halloween, the Goblin is hardly a major character, or even a strongly portrayed minor character, but he (one assumes it is a he) is certainly a long-established figure among the characters, and is the source of more than one running joke.
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The Goblin debuted in “Homestarloween Party”, the first of the venerable Halloween cartoons. Interestingly enough, the Goblin did not properly “exist” at this point; his creation was in the characters’ imaginations as they told parts of a ghost story in turn. After Bubs described the Goblin’s automobile – a Gremlin accessorized with every mechanical upgrade imaginable – the story (and the party) went downhill. Once the story was in Strong Sad’s hands, the Goblin perished, along with everybody else in the story. Despite this, the Goblin not only returned from his apparent death but also somehow managed to intrude on “reality” (along with his apparently inoperative Gremlin), the impossibility of which the other characters studiously ignore.
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Homestar Runner himself created the Goblin, so it comes as no surprise that the Goblin rather resembles his progenitor. The Goblin’s body is simply a cylinder with no arms to speak of, which rests on a pair of stubby legs. The Goblin has a protruding jaw and a constantly vacant expression in his red-pupiled yellow eyes. A pair of mouse-like ears sits on his head, and his entire body is a rich shade of green. The Goblin is not a very mobile creature; his movement is generally restricted to looking back and forth in rapt curiosity or, more often, hopping laconically about to a hilariously joyless organ tune. This musical spurt accompanies the Goblin whenever he appears, much to comic effect.
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The Goblin has little personality to speak of; it would appear that he continues to frequent the gang’s Halloween parties because he genuinely wants to be a part of the festivities. There seems to be an air of mischief about him, but this mischief does not translate into malice; the others do not fear him, and seem singularly unfazed by his appearance. The Goblin also seems to bear otherworldly powers, or at least was somehow able to convincingly disguise himself as Strong Bad on one occasion, and despite the sheer unfeasibility of the act, nobody involved found it anything more than a temporary annoyance.
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Halloween is the Goblin’s hour, and even though he contributes little to the goings-on, he has established himself as a permanent fixture in these holiday cartoons, and nobody would begrudge him that. While the Goblin’s role is limited, the sheer random silliness of his existence was not unnoticed, and much of it was later incorporated into the character of Homsar, who proved a rather more flexible (and popular) character.
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==[[Marshie]]==
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Is there a marshmallow in the world that Homestar Runner wouldn't like? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. And a quick glance at the marshmallow in question leaves one hardly doubting the justification of Homestar's resentment.
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Fluffy Puff Marshmallows are Homestar's favourite snack, and he was considered the perfect commercial spokesman. Unfortunately, his thorough (if hilarious) botching of the commercial spelled the end of his advertising career. Homestar's job was given to Marshie, Fluffy Puff's corporate mascot (who was only previously seen on a bag of marshmallows). While Marshie is indeed more photogenic and professional than Homestar, and obviously is a big hit with the public, there are more than a few facets of his identity that makes one question his legitimacy.
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Visually, Marshie is a simple character - a marshmallow with a face. The lines of his face are thick and broad, his contours are rounded, and his palette is a series of soft pastel hues. This presumably is intended to make his visage appealing to children. Belying this gentle persona, however, are some rather unsettling details. Marshie's face has a constant expression of self-satisfied smugness that never wavers, no matter what happens. This facial expression seems to have been specifically designed to provoke audience irritation. As well, one corner of Marshie's head has been bitten clean off, leaving a jagged hole in its wake and giving Marshie something of a deranged aspect, as though his mind is "not all there". What really make Marshie a repellent individual, however, are his words. Marshie's sniveling, complacent voice perfectly underscores his every self-promoting statement, effectively removing any sort of empathy the viewer could ever possibly forge with him.
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Marshie's commercials are surreal, to say the least. To Marshie, selling Fluffy Puff Marshmallows seems secondary to promoting Marshie himself. Marshie gives lip service to his benefactors, but he seems to have free reign to say virtually anything he wants over the course of the commercial. Marshie delivers every line with the utmost confidence that he is the singular greatest being in the universe, and that the world is benefiting by hearing his proclamations. Marshie is patronizing and arrogant to the extreme, totally oblivious to how gratingly foolish he really comes across. As the commercials lurch through their random, Dadaist components towards their bizarre conclusion, Marshie's ardor becomes more and more frenzied, until he ultimately goes berserk with self-generated enthusiasm, overwhelming his audience with sheer manic energy. Marshie's alleged appeal with children is tenuous, as well; he spends much of his commercial tormenting and abusing two emaciated waifs (who have appeared in other cartoons and met similarly gruesome fates), and generally insulting the intelligence of his audience. One idly wonders if Marshie was inspired in part by William Shatner's infamous Priceline commercials, which are similarly driven by ego, over-the-top delivery, and a spokesman who is missing a certain part of his head.
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Marshie is not likable on any human level, but his commercials are certainly entertaining, even as they delve into bizarre, random and slightly disturbing tangents. His rivalry with Homestar provides fuel for the likelihood of continued appearances, and he allows the animators to poke fun at various aspects of intrusive advertising. As ludicrous as Marshie is, he is not very far from reality.
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==[[Limozeen]]==
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Out of all the phenomena in the Homestar Runner universe, Limozeen are notable in the respect that they are chiefly based in live-action, rather than animation. Indeed, exactly where and what Limozeen are in respect to the gang in Free Country is never entirely clear; they definitely both exist on the same plane of reality, but are never shown interacting with each other proper. This, however, is perhaps the best approach with such characters, as Limozeen are less important as who they actually are than how other characters see and appreciate them. In this sense, the only character who really has any proper relationship with the band is Strong Bad, who is devoted to the band with zealous abandon, and the band likewise has shown their appreciation for his fandom in various ways. The rest of Free Country is largely indifferent towards Limozeen, or do not even seem aware that it exists.
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Limozeen’s origins trace to a Strong Bad E-mail in which Strong Bad declared that the best band names are slight misspellings of common words (although there exists a Dolly Parton album entitled “White Limozeen” that predates this e-mail). A later e-mail revealed that there existed a band named Limozeen, and that they were quite popular in Strong Badia. Only a quick shot of the band and a brief snippet from one of their songs were revealed, but this small exposure was enough to propel the band into a few extremely scattershot appearances in various venues, from minor cameos in Strong Bad E-mails to a bizarre set of online Thanksgiving greetings. Their finest hour, however, and definitely the catalyst that made them a notable – if comparatively minor – part of the site was their participation in the Strong Bad Sings CD. They contributed 2 original songs to this compilation, in marked contrast to the rest of the album, which largely consisted of re-recorded versions of existing songs on the site. (Taranchula, another band whose name debuted in the same e-mail as Limozeen’s, also contributed to the CD, but they slipped to obscurity rather quickly).
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Limozeen’s music can be described as “hair metal”, or “glam rock”, a subculture of heavy metal music most prominent in the early 1980s. Limozeen exhibits many of the common features of hair metal: pounding percussion and bass, distorted guitar riffs, extraneous solos and a very anthemic mood, especially in the choruses. The lyrics walk the fine line between enigmatic, evocative imagery and errant nonsense; trying to dissect a deeper meaning from their songs is not a recommended endeavor. Limozeen also dresses the part of glam rock, sporting outrageous blonde wigs, accessories and costumes that manage at the same time to appear rugged and insurgent and yet oddly effeminate at the same time. All of this is portrayed with tongue in cheek, of course, but the truth of the matter is that Limozeen is not much stranger (and in some cases, even less strange) than the myriad of other hair metal bands from the 1980s.
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The members of Limozeen (all of whom share the last name, at least professionally, of Palaroncini) have been physically played by a confused variety of stand-ins, especially in their earliest appearances. However, Matt Chapman (who has physically played Larry in all but one instance) has always performed the voice work for the band, both speaking and singing. It is perhaps a credit to Matt’s vocal skill that the Limozeen band members, at least in song, are not as “obvious” voices as the majority of the characters on the site (indeed, Limozeen could potentially make a name from themselves quite divorced from the rest of Homestar Runner with very few listeners making the connection).
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Foremost of the band – dominating it by both prominence and sheer volume – is the lead singer, Larry. Larry is lithe and somewhat smaller than the others, but he more than makes up for any physical deficiency with his boundless energy, as well as his voice, which is ear-splittingly loud, high-pitched and almost ludicrously raw-edged, reminiscent of an early Jon Bon Jovi, or AC/DC’s Brian Johnson. It is this voice that gives Limozeen its particular sound. Comically, Larry uses the same volume, tenor and enunciation in his speaking voice as well as his singing voice, making his every line sound like its own performance. Larry has a habit of drawing out the final syllable of a sentence for a ridiculously long time.
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Gary, the lead guitarist, by contrast seems to be a rational, down-to-earth sort of fellow. Not much is revealed of his personality otherwise, but he seems to be the most intelligent of the group, although this is not saying much. He has a habit of chiming in with an appropriate comment in a timely manner, but for the most part he lets his excellent guitar playing speak for him. Occasionally Gary takes over lead vocals from Larry, and the results are less dynamic and explosive but much more soulful and introspective.
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Marry (or “Mary”; spellings differ), the percussionist, makes no effort to reverse the less than flattering reputation most rock drummers have garnered over the decades. He is a rather slovenly character, and is constantly reprimanded by his bandmates for committing some heedless faux pas, most of which involve his considerable appetite. His voice is deep and sonorous, and he appears to be considerably laid-back.
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Perry, the bassist, is the least member of the group, nearly to the point of nonentity. He seldom contributes anything at all to the proceedings (save his musical skill, of course), and his voice sounds curiously like Stinkoman.
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Recently, it has been revealed that Limozeen starred in their own animated television show (presumably in the 1980s), which was unceremoniously cancelled partway through its pilot episode (not surprisingly). The cartoon was entitled Limozeen: But They’re in Space!. As the title implies, the cartoon involved the band, clad in garish spacesuits, travelling through outer space in their rocket-powered tour bus. This is a cunning parody of many cartoons from the 1960s through the 1980s, which starred animated versions of well-known celebrities in situations and settings that were simultaneously fantastic and mundane.
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The cartoon had no real plot; it mostly involved the band doing what they regularly do (perform at concerts, interact with the fans, and so on), only in an outer space venue. Much of the cartoon consisted of interstitial looped footage of the band running from their enthusiastic fans, a la The Beatles, and holding expositional conferences aboard their rocket bus. Strong Bad cannily describes the plot as consisting of the band “running away from and giving backstage passes to the hot babe-liens of the galaxy.” This, of course, is even more amusing with the realization that animated cartoons have been based on even less than this lightweight premise.
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The animation, as one might expect, is extremely generic; other than the voices, the band members are nearly impossible to tell apart. The exception to this is Marry, whose slightly disheveled appearance has been exaggerated notably, making him a rotund (and inexplicably redheaded) buffoon, all the better to deign him the band’s comic relief. The band members as a whole are depicted in the animation as rather more clean-cut and well groomed than their live-action appearances would indicate. In fact, the life of a rock star and all it entails is hardly a premise suitable for creating a children’s cartoon, a contention the animators smoothly gloss over. Of course, many cartoons in the 1980s were based on films and other source material that were definitely not suitable for young audiences; the satire is implicit but very clear.
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The most notable character introduced by the series is Teeg Dougland, who appears to be the band’s manager and general factotum. Clad in a loose, mismatched shirt/slacks ensemble, replete with coke-bottle glasses and a head of impossibly wavy brown hair, Teeg clashes horrendously, both in the outer space motif and among the hard rock image of the band. Teeg also habitually wears a glum little sign around his neck with his name emblazoned on it, for reasons best left unexplored. Despite his sad sack image, Teeg is a surprisingly upbeat character; this personality trait is made all the more hilarious in light of the fact that he never has any positive information for the band at any time. Indeed, he never seems able to make a statement without prefacing it with “I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news, boys”. He is a doomsayer, albeit a cheerful one. A minor note of interest is that Teeg is voiced by Mike Chapman, who reportedly provided source modeling for the character.
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Ranged against the band is a bizarre duo of villains, who apparently have aspirations no higher than ruining Limozeen’s day. It is unknown how, if at all, the band members managed to defeat these foes, but in light of the cartoon’s truncated run this point is irrevocably moot. In the tradition of the old low-budget cartoons, the villains never actually appear onscreen with the heroes, instead opting to make threatening monologues directly to the camera in front of a static background.
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The most dynamic of the villains, at least in strictly visual terms, is the autocratic Mitch Overlord, a cloaked, shadowy cyborg with a bald head, a ridiculous hydraulic-powered metal jaw that whines and clanks as he speaks, and a monogrammed two-pronged claw in the place of his right hand. His voice is deep and gravelly, and has a slight metallic echo. However, the triviality of his villainous deeds are in direct contrast to his ominous presence; the worst way he seems capable of subjugating Limozeen is by exploiting a loophole to deprive them of their precious backstage passes. That such a patently sinister villain would spend his time and energy irritating such an ineffectual group is laughable, and it does not reflect very well on either side that Mitch obviously would have lost the day time and again, had the show continued to air.
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Far less impressive – if decidedly more active – is Bozar, described as a “magical prankster”. A somewhat puckish character, Bozar has the ability to alter reality in minor yet vital ways, such as disrupting a concert by transforming the band’s equipment into pasta. While these abilities would seem to make him a dangerous foe indeed, he seems more interested in annoying his victims than causing them any actual harm. Bozar is an impish old man in a laboratory coat, with a handlebar moustache and a pair of green goat-like horns sprouting from his head (the Puck connection). His head is shaped rather like a lightbulb, and his voice is a gloating, campy tenor. His general physical appearance, combined with his tendency of addressing Limozeen with schoolyard insults, is highly reminiscent of classic Superman villain Mr. Mxyzptlk, who wreaked similar havoc with a similar set of powers.
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In all, where Limozeen “fits” within the Homestar Runner universe is hard to grasp, as the rest of the characters are relegated to viewing their performances second-hand, much as we are. In a sense, Limozeen is just as extrinsic to us as they are to the Free Country cast, and there are some very subtle emotional effects at play by making the viewers and the characters part of the same audience. This layering does not strike most people as odd when the actual videos are running, but the dichotomy is intriguing when analyzed in retrospect. While Limozeen will likely never ascend to a place amongst the “stars” of the website, they have certainly proved themselves worthy entertainers, albeit with more of a “cult” aspect. Limozeen has the potential to expand in many different directions, and it is still unknown as to where they will venture next.
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==[[Visor Robot|The Robot]]==
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One of the larger enigmas on the Homestar Runner website, the Robot’s appearances are few and far between, and nobody is entirely sure whether one or two robots have been seen in Free Country USA.
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The Robot is certainly no newcomer; it made its first appearance as a contestant in the Strongest Man in the World Competition. It was the previous champion and touted as the favourite to win, but it was eliminated when its power cord was unceremoniously unplugged, thanks to The Cheat. Except for one extremely brief cameo appearance in “Marshmallow’s Last Stand”, that seemed to be the end of the Robot’s career (and hardly one worth lamenting, it should be added). However, the Chapman Brothers had other plans.
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In the first Halloween cartoon, the “gimmick” was that the gang was telling a “round robin”-style story, one which became hilariously off-track as each character made his or her contribution. Strong Bad was the one who re-introduced the Robot… or was it? It certainly was a Robot, in any event, but was this the same Robot from the years gone by? Both Robots are very similar in physical terms, with their cone-shaped torsos, forked arms and club-shaped legs. However, there are notable differences in their heads; the original Robot had a square head with a simplistic face and twin antennae attached to the top, while the new incarnation sports a trapezoidal head with a glaring red visor acting as eyes. Although these differences are hard to reconcile, it should be stressed that the rest of the characters in the cartoon had changed dramatically since their origins as well.
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If the relation between the Robots is ambiguous, even more indeterminate is the nature of the Robot itself. While its appearance in the Halloween cartoon was impressive, bear in mind that the story takes place within the characters’ imaginations. While the Goblin (who also debuted in the same story) later was able to manifest himself in the “real” world, the Robot’s few subsequent appearances have only been divorced from the main action; once in a Cheatoon, and once in a Teen Girl Squad issue. Even its most recent (and very surprising) appearance was in a phoney advertisement, coupled with Senor Cardgage (of all people), and was never indicated to take place in the same world of Free Country we are familiar with. In short, the Robot simply appears to be an ambitious concept which simply fell through the cracks (possibly because its limited role no longer fits with the current dynamic between the characters), and is now reduced to an item of minor trivia. Who actually built the Robot, and what it was originally intended to do, will likely never be known.
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It is almost a pity that the latter incarnation of the Robot never truly had a chance to shine, as it was among the better designed characters ever animated. Especially impressive is the indication of mass; bearing in mind the limitations of animation, it is truly fascinating at how well the sheer weight of the machine comes across. Merely looking at the Robot, one can tell that it is heavy indeed. Another interesting note about the Robot is that it never makes an appearance without either destroying something or being destroyed itself. In some ways, the Robot’s appearance can be seen as a precursor to the all-out mayhem which exploded onto the screen when Trogdor the Burninator was created a few years later.
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==Senor Cardgage==
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Free Country USA is home to a variety of characters, some notably stranger than others, but all fitting well within the unique (if skewed) logic of their universe. However, a definite contender for the title of the most eccentric is the curious individual known as Senor Cardgage.
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Senor Cardgage’s origins are murky, at best. Responding to an e-mail from one “Jordan”, Strong Bad argued that he would still be as cool as always, even if he were far less handsome. The visual image he painted was that of a disturbing caricature of himself who utterly perplexed his fellows with his unkempt appearance, bizarre diction and ominous presence. Despite this, Strong Bad considered this abomination the pinnacle of coolness. Shortly thereafter, Strong Sad revealed that Strong Bad’s fantasy was basically a description of Senor Cardgage, a deranged character the Strong Brothers were acquainted with in their youth. There is some confusion as to the distinction between Strong Bad’s fantasy and the “real” Senor Cardgage, but since Strong Bad was later depicted as conversing with Cardgage (who looked and acted just like in the fantasy), the characters can be counted as one and the same.
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Senor Cardgage, as indicated above, is no beauty. His body has roughly the same features as Strong Bad’s, but his proportions are grossly different. Instead of short and squat, he is tall and lanky, rather like Coach Z. His arms are long and droopy, and his torso is greatly elongated, although he retains a potbelly. His face is constructed similarly to Strong Bad’s face, but with additional features. He sports a head of brick-red hair of suspect hygiene, styled in a Donald Trump-esque comb-over. He also has similar hair forming a puffy moustache and goatee, which looks less like hair and more like some sort of malignant growth. Senor Cardgage wears orange-tinted sunglasses, which only add to his dull, apathetic expression. In all, this is not an individual one would willingly share a seat with on the bus.
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Adding to Senor Cardgage’s demented mien are his voice and speech. His words are gruff, slurred, and frustratingly soft, making it hard to make out what he is saying much of the time. He is even more indecipherable when it actually is clear what he is saying. Cardgage’s vocabulary is full bizarre colloquialisms and strange words that he seemingly invents by combining two or more words together: “Excardon me” has become something of a catchphrase. Senor Cardgage mutilates the English language to suit his purposes; even when he does not make up a word he has a tendency to use words inappropriately. Just as strange is his habit of addressing people with random girl’s names, regardless of their real name (and gender).
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Senor Cardgage’s life is just as abnormal as his speech. Seemingly a derelict, he has a disturbing predilection to suddenly appear from behind bushes as people walk by. He is seldom seen without a plastic shopping bag containing half-eaten chocolate bars, possibly his only source of food. Habits like these, combined with his hardly subtle indications of dementia, have the potential to make Senor Cardgage something of a sinister character, and in real life he almost certainly would be an “undesirable” individual, likely as not a dangerous one. But there seems to be no malice behind Cardgage’s actions; he simply appears to be making his way through life in a fashion that only he understands. Disturbing and obtuse he may be, but he seems to wish no harm on anybody. Regardless of his intentions, the other citizens of Free Country clearly despise him, with the exception of Strong Bad, who inexplicably idolizes him.
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Analyzing Senor Cardgage would be incomplete without mentioning his obvious link to Homsar. Like Homsar, Senor Cardgage is a distorted caricature of an existing character who shows up from time to time to say bizarre things and vex anybody in the general area, if unintentionally. However, Homsar enjoys a surprising amount of fame among the fans, while Senor Cardgage (who, ironically, has a much more delineated personality) has never seemed to catch on. While Senor Cardgage seems destined to be a regular minor character on the site, it is unlikely he will be seen in anything but small, concentrated doses.
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==[[Rejected Characters|Unknown Characters]]==
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As noted elsewhere, the major events of Free Country are generally confined to the twelve main characters, with additional minor characters appearing only briefly and infrequently. However, the formative years of Homestar Runner produced, as with most such endeavours, a small group of characters who never "caught on" like the rest and were reduced to items of obscure trivia, subject to much speculation by the fans. This section does not include characters abandoned in Homestar's pre-Flash days (such as the Grape Fairie and her bumblebee escort), characters who never got off the drawing board (such as Digory Doo, The Cheat's doppelganger) or characters who were obviously designed as one-off jokes (such as Strong Bad's alleged rival The Deke). Instead, this section is devoted to characters who were obviously designed to have an impact on the main gang but were unable for one reason or another, and therefore were never formally introduced and developed.
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Without question, the most well-known of these aborted characters is Homeschool Winner, who received his name from a prototypical characters page and made his only "official" appearance in the background of the "Dancin' Bubs" game. Visually, Homeschool is highly reminiscent of Homestar Runner himself, but with a few differences. Most notable is the fact that Homeschool's upper lip protrudes, rather than his lower jaw. Other differences are trivial; he is somewhat skinnier, does not wear a hat, and his shirt is blue with a speech balloon imprinted on it. Other than this, however, Homeschool resembles Homestar in virtually every other way. While we have never seen any indication of Homeschool's personality (and likely never will), his striking similarities to Homestar, as well as his name "Winner", seem to indicate in him a potential rival for Homestar, especially in his "terrific athlete" days. However, this is merely speculation, and moot speculation at that, for Homeschool will in all likelihood never appear again, regardless of his purposes.
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Of minor note is another character seen behind Homeschool in the "Dancin' Bubs" game. She (one assumes it is a she) is a rectangular entity with pigtails, a medallion around her neck, and a facial expression utterly devoid of any coherence at all. Who this character was intended to be remains a mystery.
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The same "cards" page where Homeschool Winner was introduced is also the site of the sole appearance of the Unguraits. These creatures are small, squat and consist mostly of round heads and shapeless bodies with stubby feet, but nonetheless have an element of the sinister about them. Their forms are mostly shrouded by loose green robes, and their faces are wrapped in bandages, leaving only their gleaming red eyes visible. While only four Unguraits are pictured on the cards, it is possible that more of them exist.
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In a short story about Pom Pom (which was later made into a quick animated short), brief glimpses were afforded of Pom Pom's friends on the Isle of Pom, including his parents (who unsurprisingly look exactly like him, albeit with different colour schemes). However, the most interesting aspect of this piece is the revelation that Pom Pom owns a dog named Trivia Time. Trivia Time failed to appear in the short, even during the section mentioning him, because, according to Matt Chapman, a satisfactory character model could not be designed. As it stands, all we see is Pom Pom filling the dog's dish. What makes this character truly interesting, however, is the fact that later cartoons have featured a cookie jar in the background in the shape of a blue dog. Some fans believe that this cookie jar is none other than Trivia Time himself, or at least that it was designed to resemble him. No confirmation has been received either way.
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Finally, this section would not be complete without mentioning Mr. Bland and Señor. These two have definitely logged the most appearances out of all the characters in this section. Their careers range from their debut in "The Homestar Runner Enters the Strongest Man in the World Competition" to a brief cameo in "Marshmallow's Last Stand", and finally something of a renaissance with the flashback sequence of Strong Bad's 100th e-mail and the articles pertaining to it. Despite this, they have never been given personalities or dialogue; their place seems to be in the background. The only time they had substantial roles (but only just) was during their first appearance, in which they participated in the Strongest Man in the World Competition, alongside Homestar, Pom Pom, Strong Bad and the Robot. Both were eliminated quickly, buried under a mountain of grapes when their strength failed; Strong Bad did not even need to sabotage their efforts! Since that, Señor and Mr. Bland have permanently stuck to the sidelines. Character-wise, there is little to distinguish the two, but they at least sport very different physical appearances. Mr. Bland could almost be considered a prototypical Strong Sad; the two are very similar, although Mr. Bland has a broader face and a slimmer body and lacks elephant appendages. Mr. Bland is a glum little fellow, clad in a baggy T-shirt and shorts and always with a perpetual look of indifference on his face. Señor, by contrast, is a dome-shaped blue lump, supplemented with spaghetti-thin arms, squat legs, and a bewildered expression on his simplistic face. The fact that the pair has re-appeared after years of obscurity may instill hopes for a full-scale revival, but this is unlikely. The fact that they only appeared in flashbacks to earlier times make the message clear; they belong in the past, and in the past is where they will stay.
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==[[Cheat Commandos]]==
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The 1980s were a rough time for animation. Long dead were the glory days of theatrical cartoons, and the only option for animators was television. However, budget restrictions necessitated severe cutbacks in writing and animation, resulting in a stable of low-quality, generic-looking cartoons. In order to stretch the industrial dollar further, virtually every popular animated show was tied in with every type of merchandise imaginable, to the point that the commercials were all but indistinguishable from the actual show. For years the phrase “television animation” was a general term for animation that was cheap, hackneyed and creatively bankrupt. It was only with the rise and expansion of satellite television that networks could afford to fund cartoons with creativity, rather than crass consumerism, as the main factor. While 1980s cartoons hold nostalgic value for many, they remain ripe for satirical purposes, and the Chapman Brothers proved this with their brilliant parody of this type of animation, dubbed the Cheat Commandos.
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The Cheat Commandos, as with much on the website, started out inconspicuously before moving to the spotlight. They can trace their origins to a Strong Bad e-mail in which The Cheat was attempting be a spy in the defence of Strong Badia. Despite being decked out in a black duster and matching stocking cap, and answering to the codename “Firebert”, The Cheat didn’t exactly instil confidence in his infiltrator abilities (which Strong Bad was quick to point out). However, the Chapman Brothers seldom forget miscellany for future use, and it wasn’t long until the Firebert persona was used in a very different manner. In a later cartoon, Firebert was established to have been based off of a popular action figure from the 1980s, along with several other The Cheats in various military costumes. Since this was based in the 1980s, it was only logical that the action figures were tied in with a 1980s-style television show, which borrowed heavily from the hit series “GI Joe”. And thus the Cheat Commandos were born.
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The Cheat Commandos are established as not being part of the “real world” as such. The main characters are depicted as watching the television show and playing with the merchandise. This is perhaps for the best, as it helps establish the nature of the characters as being a misconception, at best. These The Cheats are certainly not the The Cheat we are familiar with, and do not even seem like relatives or variations of the species (perhaps this is why they are mostly referred to as “Cheats” instead of “The Cheats”). Indeed, the way they are handled when animated, the Cheat Commandos are little more than human beings in different forms. Nothing that makes The Cheat unique is incorporated into the design. Furthering the generic look of the animation is that all of the Cheat Commandos, good and evil, are based off of the exact same character model, the only variation being wardrobe. This economy of character design was hardly unknown in the 1980s. Another factor that distances the Cheat Commandos from The Cheat is their faces; the Cheat Commandos sport deliberately ugly facial features, with cold, angular eyes and pinched, sneering mouths, which are entirely at odds with The Cheat’s rounded cuteness. The implication seems to be that the animators based the character designs off of the action figures, but had no idea what an actual The Cheat looked like and animated the characters by guesswork.
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The Cheat Commandos represent economy animation at its worst (or best, depending on your viewpoint); the backgrounds are generic and muddy, the character designs grotesque and flat, and the action scenes supplemented by gratuitous stock footage. Also at play is the murky morality that plagued cartoons of the period. It is never explained exactly what makes the heroes good and the villains evil, nor precisely what agendas are at play. The heroes are simply painted as good on principle, and the villains are the over-the-top two-dimensional brand of evil that doesn’t actually exist in the real world. Thus, the alleged heroes almost come across as obnoxious in their self-righteous battles, and subtle themes of jingoism and anti-establishment find their way through. Even the Cheat Commandos’ theme song, which should unequivocally declare their mission, seems unsure as to whether or not freedom and goodness are what the touted heroes are fighting for. However, it is very quick to put in another promotion for the action figures and playsets. It is easy to laugh at the satire, but chilling at the realization that several real cartoons had similar sentiments.
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The Cheat Commandos have very little by way of personality, but some of them have had small indications of character revealed in the cartoon. Foremost of the Commandos is Gunhaver, who seems to be their de facto leader on the field. Sharply clad in a bomber jacket, dark glasses and a cowboy hat, Gunhaver gives off such an air of cool professionalism that it nearly covers up the fact that he does practically nothing useful aside from giving a few generic orders. Gunhaver’s voice sounds like a cross between Strong Bad and John Wayne, and does a good job of sounding like he actually knows what he’s talking about, which he seldom does. Silent Rip (nicknamed “Silent But Deadly”) is the covert operations expert; he wears a black vest and a helmet with a built-in microphone (which he never seems to actually use). Silent Rip gives the indication that he is actually smarter than those he considers his superiors, but never bothers improving on any of the wrongheaded orders he receives. Fightgar, clearly designed to be a fan favourite, is a grizzled loose cannon who is an obvious clone of Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo character, replete with a bandanna, a machine gun, and beard stubble. Fightgar is established as a short-fused tough guy, but of course is never depicted as using lethal force. He has a gravely voice with what sounds like a poor imitation of an Australian accent. Firebert himself is in charge of explosives and demolition; he appears to take his duties seriously, but to date he has not revealed if he is capable of speaking. Crackotage, whose only notable accessories are headphones, is the Commandos’ pilot. He seems to be something of a maverick and inexplicably speaks with a travesty of a Jamaican accent. Ripberger, the ninja, is perhaps the most visually striking of the Commandos, although it is never explained what a ninja is doing among a group of seemingly American militants. Also unexplained is why his apparel is a less than stealthy shade of red (although both of these questions can easily be answered outside of the cartoon’s universe: for more variety in the action figures).
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Several more Cheat Commandos have yet to appear in fully animated form. Reinforcements is clad in camouflage fatigues and carries heavy firepower; he seems to be a reliable if less than mentally stable source of backup. His presence brings a double meaning to the phrase “we need reinforcements”. Flashfight is decorated as a five-star general, and seems to be the leader of the Commandos, although his leadership is strictly hands-off. Who, if anybody, sponsors Flashfight and his cohorts, and to what end, is a mystery. Much cynicism is incorporated into the character of Foxface, the token female Commando. Action figure lines would often include a solitary female character in an otherwise male-exclusive set as a attempt to throw a bone to the pretence of sexual equality, which only added to the already explicit chauvinism of the whole affair. Foxface fits the mould perfectly; she is not a markedly feminine character so much as a generic Commando with a tacky red wig and lipstick slapped on her. Reynold, by contrast, was designed purely for comedic purposes. Not a soldier by any stretch of the imagination, Reynold is a civilian contractor clad in large spectacles, a necktie and a pocket protector. The final member of the Commandos was clearly inspired by “The Fridge”, the GI Joe figure immortalizing football star Refrigerator Perry as a soldier. Taking the concept one step further and making a figure instead out of a corporate mascot, the obvious result is Ser-g-geant Marshie. This character is basically Marshie clad in a World War I-era helmet, although this version of Marshie is noticeably more effeminate, for reasons best left unknown. Naturally, a talking marshmallow clashes horrendously among the Cheat Commandos, but nobody involved seems to care.
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And then we have the villains. The presumed archenemies of the Cheat Commandos are Blue Laser (so named because their weapons fire blue lasers, while the Cheat Commandos use red lasers), apparently some sort of high-tech progressive-anarchist terrorist group. ‘Blue Laser’ seems to be a catchall term that is the name not only of the organization, but also its leader and various henchmen. As noted elsewhere, it is never properly explained exactly what Blue Laser is trying to accomplish; all we are given is the fact that the Cheat Commandos are sworn to protect the world from whatever scheme Blue Laser employs. These schemes range from highly improbable and hilariously counterproductive machinations (attempting to blow up the ocean is a good example) to simply hiding out and not doing much of anything when the Cheat Commandos come to call. As per the economy animation model, none of the Cheat Commandos are ever hurt at all during battles, and a few random Blue Laser henchman are slightly injured. All involved live on to fight another day, despite the sheer amount of ordnance used in the fracas. The leader of Blue Laser is a high-strung psychotic autocrat with an eyepatch (which comically switches eyes when he turns his head) who never bothers to speak when he can instead shriek histrionically whenever something goes wrong – or when something goes right. Blue Laser’s voice suits this personality perfectly: it is high-pitched and extremely raw (and some fans have pinned it as an imitation of GI Joe villain Cobra Commander’s voice, as realized by the late Chris Latta), which only heightens the humour of his overacted exclamations. For all his dissension with the incompetence of his minions, Blue Laser never does anything constructive towards improving their efficiency; he merely screams some more. The various acolytes of Blue Laser are all identical: they wear the same blue costume as their leader, but with dark face-obscuring visors. They speak in low, snivelling tones and seem to have the collective intelligence of a wet sponge. They are also extraordinarily apathetic, doing practically nothing to eliminate or even hinder the Cheat Commandos in any way. It is little wonder why their leader is so irascible.
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The Cheat Commandos are relative newcomers to the Homestar Runner universe, but if fan reaction is any indication, they are more than likely to make future appearances. Not only are they a clever parody of a rather disreputable chapter in animations history, but they are very funny in their own regard as well; an ideal combination.
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==[[Sweet Cuppin' Cakes]]==
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Surrealism is a risky venture in any medium, especially when the desired result is laughter. What strikes some people as funny can leave others cold, and once a level of randomness has been established, maintaining that standard while creating new material can be extremely taxing. The Chapman Brothers' forte is portraying events of everyday life twisted slightly but exactly for comedic effect. However, when Strong Bad was challenged by "Monkeydude" (or "Josh", as Strong Bad preferred to call him) to create a "crazy" cartoon, they were up for the challenge. As the audience was taken on a trip within Strong Bad's imagination, an absurd little curio box of a cartoon named Sweet Cuppin' Cakes (so named because, as Strong Bad points out, crazy cartoons bear titles having nothing to do with the rest of the cartoon) was born.
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Sweet Cuppin' Cakes takes place on a featureless plane that rather resembles a disco floor, consisting of uniform tiles which occasionally light up with psychedelic colours. The sky is divided horizontally by a jagged line, with a starry night sky above and the rosy glow of twilight below. Discordant guitar music underscores the action. Rather like an avant-garde stage play, the camera does not move from its predetermined focus, with the characters entering and exiting as they please. The only expansion of the cartoon's visual scope is a descending pan from the sky at the cartoon's beginning and a similar rise at the end.
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The characters, as one might expect, have no real personalities or even identities. They exist only as bizarre analogues, playing out their pre-ordained roles with all the ordered inflexibility of Japanese kabuki. Exactly what or who the characters are supposed to symbolize is open to interpretation, but overanalyzing these characters only results in pretentious hyperbole, or worse, shrugs. Given Strong Bad's matter-of-fact attitude towards the cartoon, it is more likely that the characters simply are what they are, or perhaps even less.
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The alleged main character of Sweet Cuppin' Cakes is described as "a cross between a cow and a helicopter", earning him the somewhat blasé name of "Cowcopter". Despite his description, Cowcopter really does not resemble either of his nominal counterparts, other than his irregular dark spots and the chopping sound he makes as he hovers. He is an elliptic blue blob etched with black spots and sporting a constipated expression on his wide face. Four stringy yellow tentacles dangle beneath him, serving no apparent function. Cowcopter occasionally speaks, in a mumbling, sepulchral tone that sounds suspiciously like a tape played backward.
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All that ever happens in Cowcopter's life is a ceaseless series of attempts to catch a little worm, presumably for food. The Worm, in contrast to the rest of the cartoon, is rendered in gray tones, and looks more like a pencil sketch than a fully animated entity. Periodically the Worm speaks, blurting out obvious statements in a childish voice, which curiously sports a Hispanic accent. Cowcopter's attempts to catch the worm have no finesse or cunning. His strategy seldom goes farther than throwing himself on top of the Worm, apparently baffled at the Worm's ability to tunnel underground. Occasionally Cowcopter appears to have caught the Worm, only to suddenly find himself ensnared in a booby trap. Whether this is the Worm's doing or simply a common occurrence in Sweet Cuppin' Cakes' bizarre universe is never revealed. According to Strong Bad, this is the main thrust of Sweet Cuppin' Cakes' plots.
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While the supposed drama between Helicow and the Worm are the main focus of the cartoon, the character who steals the show is without a doubt Eh! Steve. Eh! Steve's only role is to show up at random and utter his catchphrase, which is his name, intoned in a bombastic tone with a hint of a Sicilian accent. The catchphrase also seems to be the whole of Eh! Steve's dialogue. Eh! Steve is a marvel of character design; his entire body seems to be carved from stone, and his design is curiously Aztec in origin. The majority of Eh! Steve's body is his trapezoidal head, with small inverted triangles as his eyes, a parabolic mouth, and small sticks as his arms and legs.
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Despite his seeming aura of joviality, Eh! Steve's life is not uncomplicated. For some reason, he is the constant target of a seemingly cantankerous and certainly homicidal Wheelchair who would like nothing more than to see the chiseled crier dead. Oddly, the Wheelchair looks as though he was scribbled hastily rather than constructed schematically, and his mouth appears to consist of his seat forming the upper lip and his footrest forming the lower lip. The Wheelchair is the only character in Sweet Cuppin' Cakes who can speak normally, and he expresses himself in a hoarse Deep South drawl (according to Strong Bad, Bubs provides the voice), usually shouting at the top of his lungs. His dialogue is generally restricted to unanswered threats directed at Eh! Steve, and it is curious as to why he has not succeeded in carrying out his vendetta, since he is depicted as moving much faster than Eh! Steve, as well as the fact that there are no possible places for Eh! Steve to hide. As well, it is never explicated what on earth Eh! Steve did to earn the Wheelchair's enmity. There is the possibility to criticize a supposed correlation on the animator's behalf of disability and malevolence, but the Wheelchair is such an absurd character that any such accusations simply do not wash.
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The fifth member of the cast is Strong Bad himself, with one major difference: his head has been replaced with a 1980s-style electronic keyboard. Keyboard-Head Strong Bad has, in this transformation, lost all ability to express himself, and thus lost the most important facet of his character. In this incarnation, all Strong Bad can do is play a demo song whenever he is angry, and he has a lot to be angry about. Perhaps he is upset that he is completely ignored in favour of Cowcopter's efforts to catch the Worm and the Wheelchair's equally dogged assault on Eh! Steve, but the more likely reason is that he has something to say, as usual, but he is now ineffective, even impotent, to express his opinion. To somebody like Strong Bad, being unable to speak his mind is a fate worse than death. The sight of Strong Bad hopping about in ineffectual rage, with a merry synthesized tune emanating from his head, is both comical and saddening.
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The sixth and to date final character in the series is Ready For Primetime, a bizarre little fellow with a penchant for dancing. The character was brought to life in a later Strong Bad e-mail, in which Strong Bad, designing different eyebrow styles for Strong Mad, stumbled across a design which both agreed resembled a Sweet Cuppin' Cakes character much more than a trendy hairstyle. Ready For Primetime's entire body consists of Strong Mad's face, accoutered with oxford shoes, undeveloped arms, and of course bushy blonde eyebrows.
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Sweet Cuppin' Cakes is certainly inventive, and its cast of characters is unlike anything ever seen, but after its introduction, it has had much less exposure than the likes of Teen Girl Squad and the 1936 and 20X6 series. Why is this the case? The easy answer is that there is literally nothing to this universe beyond Strong Bad's description. There is so little room for innovation that any Sweet Cuppin' Cakes cartoons would quickly become repetitive and stale. Surrealism and an eternally circular plotline worked well in George Herriman's celebrated comic strip, "Krazy Kat", (which bears many similarities to Sweet Cuppin' Cakes) but the true appeal of the strip was the poetically diverse dialogue and narrative and the quirky personalities of the characters. Everything in the strip was fluid and spontaneous except the story. By contrast, Sweet Cuppin' Cakes has no personality and nothing by which one is reminded of the natural beauty or idiosyncrasies of life. Fortunately for the fans, a recent Decemberween episode revitalized the series, and clearly determined that the way to salvage these characters is to make them react to events outside their existence; in this case, holidays. Hopefully Sweet Cuppin' Cakes will continue in this new direction, and these unusual characters will continue to entrance and entertain audiences.
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==[[Teen Girl Squad]]==
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The past decade has seen something of a love affair between the entertainment industry and the complexities of the lives of teenage girls. While this subculture certainly merits interest, too often simplifying and bean-counting consumerism have given life to "Barbie Culture", in which teenage girls are portrayed as high-strung, mentally addled and image-obsessed. While these stereotypes have basis in reality, they are often unhealthily presented as standards of normalcy for young women in transitory stages. Unfortunately, this only means that these conventions will only propagate through the generations. When Strong Bad inevitably encountered this culture, it was inevitable that they would collide head-on.
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An e-mail from one "Britney" asked Strong Bad to draw a comic starring her friends, and Strong Bad, patronizing as always, took up her offer. What resulted was a disjointed, frenetic comic strip, showcasing Strong Bad's half-formed views of teenage female culture. Quickly forgetting the assigned names of the girls, Strong Bad gave them half-formed aliases, and amused himself by killing off the girls as he pleased. Popular response to the e-mail allowed the characters to be resurrected, and Teen Girl Squad comics gradually became a regular feature at the website.
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While the name of the comic may conjure images of superheroes, the members of the Teen Girl Squad are far from superhuman (unless one counts the fact that they always return for the next issue, regardless of how horribly they died the issue previous). Instead, they deal with the events of their world, some realistic, some anything but, as real girls would, or at least how Strong Bad believes real girls would. Those who would decry Strong Bad's works as misogynic are missing the issue; Strong Bad is not expressing hatred for the girls so much as ignorance. He deals with the girls not as an enemy, but as a species he has never had to deal with previously, and has no intention to learn more. The hideously mangled dialogue represents his unfamiliarity with adolescent slang, and the girls' propensity for playing up trivial matters and understating important issues show his skewed view of juvenile values. Of course, by the end, Strong Bad has stopped attempting to please the alleged target audience and fulfills his own masculine desires, usually with random violence and surrealism. There is subtle satire at work here; the most insulting depictions of teen girl culture have been created by men who (mistakenly) think they know what their audience wants. Strong Bad, of course, is perhaps the least qualified of all to write this material, and the Chapman Brothers milk this wild juxtaposition for all it is worth.
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The look of the strip is very simple, the character designs being one step above stick figures. All appear to be sketched in pencil on lined paper. Rather than being fully animated, the comics are displayed panel by panel, giving the strip a very staccato tempo and accentuating the non-sequiters. Strong Bad reads the strip aloud as the cartoon progresses, giving the girls shrill and strident voices and vocalizing the over-the-top sound effects in his own voice. While the earlier comics stuck the girls in a variety of unrelated incidents with no explanation, later issues made the token effort to set the chaos in more realistic settings for the demographic.
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Foremost among the quartet of heroines is the very aptly named Cheerleader. Perky, pigtailed and presumably blonde (it is difficult to imagine her with any other hair colour), Cheerleader entertains few thoughts beyond clothing, hair, and what she perceives as her own expertise with the opposite sex. In short, Cheerleader embodies every archetype that ignorant males (Strong Bad included) associate with adolescent girls. Sadly, people like Cheerleader truly do exist in our world, and the resulting character is totally unsympathetic and more than a little abrasive. Cheerleader, however, sees herself as utter perfection, and the other girls all but worship her, which only increases her arrogance and self-obsession. As the de facto leader of the girls, Cheerleader is the most vocal by far, and often incites the others to repeat and affirm anything she says. In this vein, a literal interpretation of her name entertains some amusing subtexts. Also, Cheerleader clearly sees the other three as disposable, and is quick to discard her friends as soon as she appears to be in control of a situation. Fortunately, however, Strong Bad sees her for the narcissistic imp she is, and it is hard to resist a slight cheer as he lovingly depicts her violent comeuppance.
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Second among the girls is the high-maintenance So-And-So, who somehow takes shallowness and one-dimensionality even farther than Cheerleader does. Although So-And-So obviously takes pride in her immaculate bobbed hair, natty blouse and pleated skirt, she has little interest in anything else whatsoever. Were it not for her sycophantic devotion to Cheerleader, So-And-So would exist entirely behind a veil of obliviousness and a blithe ignorance of anything that would upset her cloistered mental world. Harsher issues of life have the potential to upset her, so she simply elects not to think about them, bubbling merrily along until she inevitable crashes headfirst into cold, hard reality. So-And-So's simpering self-deceit irks the other girls, but fortunately she is too thick to realize how exactly imbecilic she is.
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The only sympathetic member of the Squad, and definitely the most downtrodden, is What's Her Face. Unlike the well-groomed and overtly feminine Cheerleader and So-And-So, What's Her Face is a conservative, almost tomboyish character, her form shrouded with baggy clothing, her hands shoved nonchalantly in her pockets, and her hair hanging loosely in unkempt strands. True to her unassuming look, What's Her Face holds no illusions of her attractiveness, nor is she aggressive or self-asserting in any way. Rather like Strong Sad, she is more than content to leave the hustle and bustle of the world alone. Also like Strong Sad, she constantly sees herself on the receiving end of the wrath of a hostile universe. While all of the girls have been pummeled, mutilated and obliterated in grotesque fashion from time to time, What's Her Face seems to take the most abuse. She does not seem to be embittered by her lot in life, but she does seem to be the only girl intelligent enough to realize the unfairness of her situation. However, she is far too shy and unassuming to protest, and seems satisfied to stand around and silently observe the antics of her prettier and more bombastic colleagues, even as they flagrantly ignore her and her feelings.
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The last and certainly oddest member of the squad is The Ugly One, whose name is a cruelly accurate, if inelegant, summation of her general appearance. Clad in what appears to be an old-fashioned nightgown, horn-rimmed spectacles and her hair in a mess of wiry curls, The Ugly One is a girl grown old before her time. The Ugly One is very much a scraggly spinster, and by all appearances will remain that way for the rest of her life. Amusingly, The Ugly One has all of Cheerleader's single-minded perseverance and predilection towards the opposite sex, but since she is not pretty, she fares even worse. The Ugly One does not make much of an impact on the proceedings, and generally ends up forcibly removed from the story early on, likely because Strong Bad cannot think of anything better for her to do. It is interesting to note that The Ugly One, despite her hideous appearance and overweening personality, is rather more liked among the girls than the much more affable and compliant What's Her Face.
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Of the minor characters the girls encounter in their surrealistic adventures, few are notable and even fewer are recurring. By far the most eminent is the ubiquitous Man. Nothing is known about the Man's identity within the realm of the world of the comic strip; he is middle-aged and seemingly apoplectic, usually dressed in a white-collar shirt and tie, or some other distinguished-looking uniform. Opposed to the simple, facile look of the strip, the Man is depicted in a grotesque pseudo-realistic style, and is surprisingly visually unnerving. His sole purpose is to show up at an inopportune time and perform a destructive action (complete with self-describing sound effect), which usually results in the death or mutilation of one of the girls. Outside of the strip, however, the Man's identity is obvious. As Strong Bad is the creator of this universe, the Man is his vanguard, his avatar. Whenever Strong Bad is strapped for ideas, he exercises deus ex machina, personified by the Man, a masculine presence in an otherwise dominantly feminine domain. The Man provides a good source of random, often surrealistic comedy, and his appearances, however short, often represent some of the funniest moments in the Teen Girl Squad cartoons.
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The rest of the cast of characters mostly consists of various boys who are the unfortunate targets of the girls' libidinous entreaties, and are more or less ciphers, as they have nothing notable about them other than the fact that they are male. The only exception is Thomas, a mute little fellow who just happens to be an alien of the egg-headed "Roswell" persuasion. He usually hangs around acting as bizarre window dressing, although he has been known to impulsively engage in unprovoked acts of violence. The fact that nobody finds his appearance odd in the least is indicative of the surrealism of the world of the strip.
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Teen Girl Squad may not represent the Chapman Brothers' best work, but it certainly has its moments of comic inspiration, and it has accumulated an enthusiastic audience. There is little room for variation within the limited personalities of the girls, but the variety of ways in which they can misinterpret (and be destroyed by) the world around them, coupled with the consistently bizarre humour, ensures the continued survival of the girls in the years to come.
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|23=
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==[[Trogdor|Trogdor the Burninator]]==
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More than anything else in this encyclopedia, Trogdor has found the most fame from people who do not necessarily "know" Homestar Runner, Strong Bad and the rest. Countless references to Trogdor abound throughout the Internet, and the Burninator found international fame with a brief mention on the final episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". Trogdor enjoys almost inexplicably intense fame that is so widespread that the creators have yet to stumble across a new character to match his popularity. For this we have an e-mail author named "Kaiser" to thank.
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It was Kaiser who prompted Strong Bad to draw a dragon to demonstrate his "skills of an artist". Considering that Strong Bad demonstrated these skills with a lead pencil and lined paper, one would have little confidence in Strong Bad's artistic expertise. Although initially unsuccessful (his original dragon proved to be a serpentine being with a triangular face and muscular human-like limbs, which he disdainfully jettisoned, commenting that it was not majestic enough), Strong Bad was undaunted. Eventually he produced a dragon which, while far from well designed, was at least visually striking in a somewhat offbeat way. It was this dragon upon which he bestowed the immortal appellation of Trogdor the Burninator. This name may be inspired in part by Trorg, the Dragon from BBC Radio's "The Hordes of the Things", and Falkor, the Luck Dragon from Michael Ende's "The Neverending Story". So pleased was Strong Bad of his creation that he composed (and performed) a theme song in the dragon's honour, and later designed a video game furthering his exploits.
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Trogdor's appearance would certainly turn the head of the most seasoned herpetologist. His thin body is twisted into an "S" shape from head to tail, his spine is adorned with dinosaur-like spikes, and his face resembles that of a crocodile. His crooked, fanged grin could almost be interpreted as a friendly one, but his empty, savage eyes betray the true nature of the beast. Some mammalian components are also present: an underdeveloped pair of obviously worthless bat-like wings rests on the back of his head, and a muscular human arm grows from the back of his neck (a throwback to the earlier, rejected design, which had a full complement of human limbs). His feet are simple sticks, rather like the Poopsmith's.
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Although Trogdor is a unique design, he rather more resembles an occidental dragon rather than an oriental one. This is a vital indication of Trogdor's disposition; while oriental dragons represent, for the most part, wisdom and nobility, occidental dragons have generally represented destruction, cruelty, and evil. The book of Revelation depicts the Devil himself in the form of a (non-oriental) dragon, so Trogdor finds himself in sinister company indeed. And he lives up to his lineage; his sole purpose of existence seems to be the wanton demolition of hapless medieval peasants and their villages. There is no purpose behind this rampage, nor is there any remorse in regards to the loss of life and livelihood; Trogdor commits his massacres with a mix of animalistic brutality and the immature glee of a reckless child smashing his playthings. It is symbolic that his weapon of choice is "burnination"; like Trogdor, fire is an uncaring elemental force that destroys anything it contacts. The image of villages turned to flaming wreckage is another portent of Trogdor's diabolical lineage; those villagers would certainly agree that Trogdor is a hellish beast of the blackest shade. Even Trogdor's theme song accentuates this: not medieval by any stretch, it is a cacophony of screaming electric guitars (still the "Devil's music" to some), pounding bass and howled vocals by Strong Bad himself.
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Which brings us to the most interesting facet of Trogdor's existence: if, as many believe, the creations of an artist can reveal motives and preferences of the creator, what does Trogdor's countenance say about Strong Bad? Psychologist Carl Jung asserted that a dragon often symbolizes what he calls "The Shadow", which consists of a gamut of dark, hostile and antisocial tendencies which must be repressed if the ego, the "good self" is to be at the forefront of one's personality. If Strong Bad is subject to the whims of his id, his "bad self", Trogdor literally IS id. While Strong Bad cannot commit violent acts on the scale of Trogdor's delirium, some deep, primitive part of him would like to, and it is through Trogdor's escapades that he can live out some of his dark fantasies while at least partially conforming to the world's standards of acceptable behavior. Strong Bad, like us, admires Trogdor because he is something that most of us will, for reasons of conscience, never be. Trogdor unabashedly acts on any feeling he has, and if innocents must pay the price for his freedom of action, even in blood, he feels no regret whatsoever. Conscience is all that keeps anarchy in check, and Trogdor is a textbook example of the results of unrestrained passion and impulse. Strong Bad himself unwittingly recognizes the link between dragons and "The Shadow" with the final line of Trogdor's theme song: "The Trogdor comes in the night."
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Several parallels can be drawn between Strong Bad and Trogdor, to the extent that one almost seems to be drawing traits from the other. Most obvious is Trogdor's "beefy arm", which is undeniably human. Considering Strong Bad's pride in his musculature and strength, it is obvious that Trogdor's arm is Strong Bad's presence within him physically manifesting itself. Note that the arm never serves any function other than decorative, however. Lack of civilized control over a creation, perhaps? Has Strong Bad truly "created a monster"? Strong Bad has no fear about the themes that Trogdor introduces, however, and considers himself the dragon's equal in some respects. After all, both get satisfaction from victimizing innocents who are incapable or unwilling to fight back; just as Strong Bad receives no retribution to his abuse of Strong Sad, there is no chance that unarmed serfs and thatched huts could oppress Trogdor in any way. This relationship is made explicit when, after Strong Bad draws his loving rendition of Trogdor, he discovers that Strong Sad has also drawn a dragon much better rendered than his. His response is to callously destroy Strong Sad's picture with fire, doing some "burninating" of his own. He then celebrates his conquest with a cry of "Trogdor strikes again!", blurring the line between his deeds and the dragon's deeds further. The point is finally driven home when Strong Bad performs Trogdor's theme song, in which he erroneously asserts that "Trogdor was a man". It is not long before he corrects himself, but his momentary confusion is telling.
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Did the Chapman Brothers have all of these themes in mind when designing Trogdor, who is, on the surface, a harmless little drawing? Possibly and possibly not. The Chapman Brothers have certainly proven themselves intelligent and with respect for the sophistication of their audience, but sometimes even the most brilliant creative minds inadvertently add subtexts without being fully aware of them. In any event, Trogdor's rampages not only serve entertainment purposes but also act as an outlet for Strong Bad to exercise - and exorcise - his baser tendencies. And Trogdor's massive popularity within the world at large shows that he is certainly not alone in his darker inclinations. Sometimes the abyss is closer than we think.
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==[[Old-Timey|1936]]==
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While Homestar and his friends have nearly limitless potential for innovation and originality, it is sometimes enjoyable to stretch in a new direction. One can only assume it was on a flight of whimsy that the Chapman Brothers decided to transport the characters to an entirely different time: to 1936, to be precise. Homestar, and Flash animation, didn't exist in 1936, of course, but the 1936 cartoons provide a charming take on what the results may have looked like if they did exist at that time. The cartoons are dreadfully accurate caricatures, parodying both the plain-faced surrealism of 1930s animation, as well as the blandness of the earliest depictions of Homestar and his co-stars.
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The cartoons bear all of the hallmarks of 1930s animation. They are displayed in black and white, and the screen is marked with lines simulating scratches on the film negative. The soundtrack scratches and groans on its ancient sound system. Animation cels shift unsteadily against the background. These features are all cosmetic, however. The true triumph of the 1936 cartoons is their accurate portrayal of the mien of the cartoons of the day.
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The 1936 cartoons take place in that romantic late-Depression era that typifies the 1930s in most modern viewers' minds. It is a world of dirt roads, picket fences, carnival tents and antiquated Industrial Revolution-era factories, stretching as far as the eye can see. The plots seem to go nowhere, and the jokes are not, by design, funny. The characters are designed to be simplistic, but at the same time suffer a slight unnerving vulgarity that is difficult to place, but definitely exists nonetheless. Another nice touch is the deliberately poor editing; it is virtually impossible to tell where two characters are in relation to one another unless they are occupying the same frame. The voices, as with the old days, are either so stiffly delivered or so zestfully over-the-top that they can never reconcile with the bland, featureless characters. It would be interesting for future 1936 cartoons to attempt to emulate the fluid, intensely spatial chaos of the Fleischer Brothers cartoons of the period, but bearing in mind the low frame-rate of Flash animation, it seems unlikely. A final link to the past is the banal but nearly sadistic portrayal of violence and death as everyday occurrences. These depictions are far too simple to be gratuitous, of course, but the underlying morbidity is simultaneously unsettling and farcical.
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The first 1936 cartoons were a series of two-reelers starring a prototypical Homestar. All of these cartoons are virtually identical, save the last few seconds. Each cartoon ends with a gag that, like the real two-reelers, is not funny in the slightest, except in the fact that it depicts something that cannot be done in the real world. The gags are all incoherent, and while some of them are patently the product of modern minds, many of them come hauntingly close to the low-tech abnormalities in the early Laugh-o-Grams. It is difficult to believe that cartoons were once like this, and the parody merely portrays them for what they are, rather than exploiting them, which makes the humour that much richer. After the two-reelers, the 1936 series moved to full-length "talkies" and has continued in that vein ever since.
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The characters, as noted above, are mostly portrayed as throwbacks to their earliest incarnations, with a mix of 1930s sensibilities. The result is a gamut of characters that are recognizable, but only just. The nominal main character is, of course, the Homestar Runner (note that he retains the original "the" preceding his name). His curved lower lip, shapeless body and spindly legs hearken to his earliest designs. Even his star is amateurishly skewed. If the early Homestar was a rather bland and unsympathetic character, his 1936 version is even more so. The Homestar Runner maintains a facial expression so utterly, apathetically vacuous that he barely seems to have any neurological activity whatsoever. His voice is realized with a muted, side-of-the-mouth delivery that lacks any sort of conviction, or even enthusiasm. Whatever he does, the Homestar Runner seems to be merely going through the motions. This, of course, makes it doubly hilarious that the Homestar Runner is the appointed hero of the day, despite the fact that he does absolutely nothing towards any sort of goal. He is the hero for no other reason than the fact that he is written as such.
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If the Homestar Runner lacks personality, the same cannot be said about 1936's version of Strong Bad (who has also been referred to as "The Strong Bad", "Sir Strong Bad" and "Uncle Strong Bad"). While the Homestar Runner is the "good guy" by default, Strong Bad is a deliciously realized character. He constantly schemes and plots to do away with the Homestar Runner for once and for all, even though, of course, he has no real reason to. Like his modern counterpart, Strong Bad is very dialogue-based. However, while the modern Strong Bad is disreputable in an ill-educated manner, his 1936 version is disreputable in a cultured and sophisticated manner. 1936's Strong Bad is a very educated villain, and his old school accent and cadence remind the audience of the "cad" and "scoundrel" types of the Hollywood pictures of the day. Finishing this image, Strong Bad sports a well-groomed (and oiled) head of centre-parted hair and a handlebar moustache to match. There are some remnants of his old design (specifically, his much smaller gloves and simpler mask design), but the 1936 Strong Bad emerges as his own character more than any other. Villains in the old theatrical cartoons were usually more enjoyable than their heroic foils, and this case is no different.
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Both the Homestar Runner and Strong Bad have a set of allies that would have presumably been intended to increase the variety of the cast but in fact do nothing more than swell the ranks. In the Homestar Runner's camp are analogues of Marzipan and Pom Pom. 1936 Marzipan has none of her modern version's characterization; she is merely a vaguely feminine lump who stands around in awe (we presume; these characters do not emote in the slightest) of the Homestar Runner's questionable nobility. Her voice is as light and inconsequential as her personality. Marzipan sports pigtails and a slightly more human form, an echo of early character designs that were long discarded. Her essential sweetness, however, is slightly offset by her protruding upper row of teeth. Pom Pom's apparition is known as Fat Dudley, and looks rather like him, albeit with clothes, shoes, gloves and a hat. While Fat Dudley is nowhere near as intelligent and perceptive as Pom Pom, he at least appears to have a halfway clue regarding the current goings-on, which is much more than anybody could say about the Homestar Runner. It is often after Fat Dudley's prompting that Homestar actually makes the appearance of preparing to do something, anything. Without Fat Dudley, the Homestar Runner would be almost incapable of doing anything. An odd note is that Fat Dudley's voice is not the subtle bubbling sound of Pom Pom's voice, but rather a vocalized "Bub bub bub bub" which sounds curiously like scat.
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The Strong Bad counts two villains, Strong Man and The Sneak, as his allies. Strong Man is of course 1936's answer to Strong Mad. While his design is subtly different from Strong Mad's, Strong Man is more of a caricature of Strong Mad than anything else. While Strong Mad is largely defined by his physical presence, Strong Man is nothing but physical presence. He never does anything towards aiding Strong Bad's schemes beyond lurking in the background and growling inarticulately. Comically, even when the plan involves feats of strength or fighting skills, Strong Man still does absolutely nothing but stand around, while Strong Bad does all of the work himself! The utter worthlessness of the character is richly comic, but it is so subtle that most audiences do not initially notice. True to his name, Strong Man dresses in the style of a circus strongman, with an off-the-shoulder leotard and a perpetual barbell in his hand. The final member of the triumvirate of villains is The Sneak. The Sneak retains all of The Cheat's rodent nature and none of his appeal. Instead, he is a grotesque little creature with a drooping snout, upturned fangs, coarse fur, claws and a rat's tail. A subtle touch is that The Sneak crawls around on all fours rather than walking upright, making him look less anthropomorphic (and thus less personable) and more animalistic. Like the Homestar Runner, The Sneak's reputation is far more impressive than anything he does on the screen is. Tales fly of The Sneak's dastardly deeds, villainy the likes of which not even Strong Bad can compare. However, virtually all The Sneak does when the audience actually sees him is stand around blankly, occasionally rushing off for some off-screen thievery at Strong Bad's behest. Strong Bad seems to appreciate The Sneak's presence, but what sort of asset the little rodent could possibly provide remains to be seen. The comedy of the situation of course is that Strong Bad benefits not one whit from the presence of his companions, but they are forcibly inserted into his scenes by the 1936 animators simply because it is felt that it must be that way.
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The rest of Free Country's citizens have made their appearances in 1936, but are noticeably less recognizable. Perhaps the most notable is Sickly Sam, the 1936 analogue to Strong Sad. While Strong Sad is routinely mistreated by his fellows, Sickly Sam seems to be hated by the entire universe. Rather than retaining Strong Sad's portly form, Sickly Sam is an emaciated skeleton, a potato sack pitifully wrapped around his midsection. All Sickly Sam desires is a modicum of comfort and nourishment, which his fellows casually, and offhandedly, refuse him. Thus repudiated, Sickly Sam then proceeds to "die", disappearing in a cloud of cadaverous dust. However, he somehow returns in every episode, only to once again be refused and die, trapped for eternity in an endless cycle of pain and rejection. Presumably the 1936 animators expected the audience to find this hilarious.
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1936's Bubs has yet to receive a proper name. Bubs' form is recognizably similar, but with a few changed details: his eyes are hidden by dark glasses, his teeth are crooked and rounded, and his hands are contained in gloves with a full number of fingers. However, there are far fewer differences between the two versions of Bubs than between the rest of the characters. Bubs is still a merchant (albeit at a market rather than a concession stand) and still shows all the signs of being generally friendly and helpful. Strengthening the connection, 1936 Bubs even shows proficiency with musical instruments. The main difference is that this version of Bubs sports a wooden leg and is presumably blind, which rather diminishes his ability to be helpful to the endeavours of Homestar and friends. Also, 1936's Bubs forgoes his traditionally loud and rich voice in favour of a hoarse, pitiful whisper. Despite the differences, Bubs plays a part very similar to his regular role, if a rather muted one.
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Extremely minor roles are given to the rest of the characters. 1936's Coach Z is depicted as a 1930s style varsity quarterback. While there are changes to his uniform (and his face sports the old-fashion "Coke bottle" eyes), the character's mien and voice are instantly recognizable. However, the character has yet to be given any sort of role in the proceedings. A rather curious character is The Kaiser of Town, presumably a stock villain held over from cartoons produced during the First World War. Like the King of Town, on whom he is based, the Kaiser is little more than a fat buffoon who is the constant target of pranks and misfortune, although the Kaiser has only appeared infrequently. The Kaiser's features are more delicate and refined than the King, and he wears the traditional pointed helmet in the place of a crown, but the resemblance cannot be denied. Whether or not the Kaiser shares the King's other traits, like a flighty nature and deep love of food is impossible to tell from his few brief appearances. It is presumed that a rather different villain took over the Kaiser's role a few years later. One of the Kaiser's appearances saw him loafing rather nonchalantly in the fires of Hell, which was staffed by a devilish version of The Poopsmith. The Poopsmith/Devil is virtually identical to his predecessor, save the obvious additions of horns, a pointed tail, and a pitchfork replacing the customary shovel. The character has only appeared once, leaving the audience to dwell on the symbolism, intended or unintended, of a handler of waste and refuse being incarnated as a handler of the souls of the damned. As it stands, all of the main characters have made at least brief appearances in 1936, except for Homsar.
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A few minor characters also boast their own versions of 1936 characters. The Announcer has been incarnated as all three members of DaVinci's Notebook, a singing trio with barbershop-like harmonies. So rudimentary is the Announcer's design that there is virtually no difference between himself and the singers, although they are cultured in a very American way, rather than in a British way like the Announcer.
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Marshie's analogue is perhaps the closest there has ever been to an original character in the 1936 oeuvre, for Mr. Shmallow is utterly unlike Marshie in every conceivable way. Unlike Marshie, Mr. Shmallow is a rather dignified marshmallow, and is dressed in a top hat and monocle reminiscent of Mr. Peanut. While Marshie always occupies the manic energy of his commercials and drives himself insane with exuberance, Mr. Shmallow is rather more like the eye of a hurricane, hardly batting an eye at the bizarre and grotesque goings-on in his commercials and speaking in a clipped and refined voice. If Mr. Shmallow indeed has a flaw, it is the unfortunate fact that commercial messages became commonplace in the 1950s, and his huckstering of "Fluffy Puff Air-Puffed Sugar Delights" seem like too much of a distracting anachronism in 1936.
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|25=
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==[[20X6]]==
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While animation in America and Europe have been in constant circulation with each other, Japanese-style animation, or "anime", developed in relative isolation, and as a result, developed its own style quite different from anything seen by the rest of the world. It has only been in recent years that Japanese animation has developed a considerable fan following in the rest of the world, from the more "mainstream" anime to the culturally unique products that could only be spawned in Japan. While Japanese animation comes in styles as numerous and diverse as any other type of animation, the general impression of anime is minimalist motion and degree of expression in favour of highly naturalistic settings and high concept. Anime tends to be less kinetic than its American contemporaries, and much more ponderous; anime often forsakes episodic conflict for long, sweeping storylines of mythic proportions. Given the status that Japanese animation holds in our modern culture, it was somewhat inevitable that Homestar Runner and friends would eventually attempt to parody it in some way.
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Prompted by an E-mail from "James F.", Strong Bad postulated how different he and his world would be if he were in a Japanese cartoon. Despite admitting to limited exposure to the genre, Strong Bad proved proficient in remembering all of the clichés and conventions normally associated with Japanese animation. In his own words:
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"First of all, my head would have to be... a little bean. With real, real big eyes. Get rid of my thumbs, make me all shiny... My boots would be a whole lot cooler. Like, robot boots. And for some reason, I got blue hair. You gotta have blue hair! Then there's my mouth: real tiny when it's closed, ridiculously huge when it's open."
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As Strong Bad speaks, we see a picture of him change and distort to match his description. It is notable that while the only real changes to the character are that of scale and proportion (excluding the blue hair), it doesn't take long for the character to be completely unrecognizable as Strong Bad. True, there are some other reasons, including the loss of colour blending and outlines becoming thicker and more pronounced, but there is also something intangible lost between Strong Bad's regular form and this new creation. Perhaps the very essence of a character can be lost in translation?
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What follows is a whirlwind montage of various scenes that could be considered definitive of generic anime. The parody is simultaneously gently affectionate and brutally honest. What the Chapman Brothers seem to be recognizing here is the fact that what is normal in one culture can be and often is almost unbearably bizarre in another, and that Homestar and friends' regular look may well be similarly unusual in Japan. Differences between cultures can be used for comedic purposes just as much as they are used as excuses for violence and prejudice.
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The universe in which the Japanese Strong Bad and his companions exist is entitled Stinkoman K: 20X6. The "20X6" of the title is an obvious play on the introductions to several poorly-translated video games, in which a chaotic future takes place in the year "199X" (which was meaningful until the year 1999). Interestingly, 20X6 does not take place in the majestic, unblinking world of modern anime, forsaking realistic backgrounds and iconic characters for a more cartoonish approach. In this respect, 20X6 resembles the quaint look of the work of Osamu Tezuka, considered by many to have invented the modern anime genre. (Incidentally, Tezuka based much of his design off of leading American animators of the day; art begets art indeed!) Another factor is the music, its beeping, repetitive refrain (stolen from the Nintendo Entertainment System game Rad Racer) much more reminiscent of anime from the 1970s, as opposed to the more eclectic "J-Pop" of modern days. 20X6 is a place of grassy meadows clashing with an immaculate futuristic cityscape, the vastness of space reduced to a few colourful locales. It is also the host to a bizarre collective of characters.
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The 20X6 Strong Bad, as can be inferred, is named Stinkoman (the name comes from Homestar's affectionate nickname for Strong Bad from a previous e-mail). A good idea of Stinkoman's physiology can be gleaned by reading Strong Bad's monologue reproduced above. In physical terms, Stinkoman's proportions are closer to that of a real person than Strong Bad's (which isn't saying much). His extended arms, legs and torso, combined with the smaller size of his head, give him a rather more adult look, as well as the impression of a more muscular physique. Appropriately, Stinkoman's personality can also be seen as a throwback to Strong Bad's earliest incarnations. Challenges and fighting are what drives Stinkoman; he is never content with his current level of strength and always ready to further his personal growth. The ironic futility of such an existence is subtly shown; the viewer instinctively knows that, as with all monomaniacs, Stinkoman will never be satisfied with himself, but is fortunately too thick-headed to realize it. As with the prototypical Strong Bad, thus is Stinkoman; he is a blustering incarnation of id, sporting all of the threats, boasts and childish self-obsession but none of the wit, charm, and vulnerability that make the current Strong Bad such a figure of fun. There is nothing sympathetic or appealing about Stinkoman, as he is too much of a two-dimensional cipher to provoke anything aside from scornful laughter, at both his unwavering ignorance of anything that does not accord to his myopic lifestyle, as well as his barely-concealed effeminate side. Perhaps this is a play on how characters from Japan tend to be "dumbed-down" when translated for American audiences, with complex motivations reduced to basic cues. Another product of poor transition between cultures is Stinkoman's marvelously realized voice. It shares many traits with Strong Bad's regular voice - it is gruff, hoarse and sports an indeterminate accent, for instance, but Stinkoman's stilted speech patterns, combined with his ludicrous dialogue and the poor synching of his words to his mouth movements, give the voice a hollow, artificial quality. It is almost as though Matt Chapman had to unlearn everything he had put into Strong Bad's voice to give it its down-to-earth and naturalistic quality, but the effort paid off. Stinkoman's voice sounds just as flat and uninspired as his personality.
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A few characters have received the 20X6 treatment beyond Strong Bad, but only Stinkoman has made anything more than a very brief appearance. 20X6's Homestar Runner (who has never been named) is portrayed in an extremely iconic anime style, which fits his physique better than Stinkoman's pseudo-realistic design would. His head is large and proportioned like a child's, and his boots are given a more striking design, in accordance with Stinkoman's "robot boots". Gone are the lunk-jaw and blank stare, replaced with a cherubic visage with a constant expression of rapt excitement. This version of Homestar is portrayed as Stinkoman's loyal admirer, and his enthusiastic toadying is constantly quashed by his ideal's indifference. Homestar, however, continues his unquestioning hero worship. While sounding childlike, it is interesting to note that his voice is not much different from Homestar's regular voice, save the lack of speech impediment.
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Very brief roles have been played by the other characters, seen only at a distance. 20X6's Marzipan, rather daringly, has been portrayed as what seems to be most anime's idea of a "typical young girl". Tall and slender, fully figured and proportioned, complemented with arms and legs, 20X6's Marzipan is so intensely human and blatantly feminine that it is only upon close inspection of her hair (though substantially longer) and dress (though substantially shorter) that one realizes that it is indeed her. Virtually the only thing unchanged about Marzipan is her smile, which looks odd coupled with her china-doll face and wide, innocent eyes. Pom Pom's analogue, Pan Pan, has virtually nothing in common with his predecessor aside from his physique. Pan Pan is not intelligent, romantic or loyal. He is not even a Pom. Instead, he is portrayed as a grotesque, obese panda with a perpetually vacant facial expression. Pan Pan's sole purpose seems to be for crude physical slapstick.
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Stinkoman has proved to be relatively popular, and has occasionally broken out of 20X6's restraints to make brief cameos in "reality". However, he is largely confined to his original world, and it is unknown as to whether 20X6 will produce more adventures and characters. Only time will tell.
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==[[Powered by The Cheat|Cheattoons]]==
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Cartoons within cartoons. Whenever some sort of entertainment media references its own medium, it is usually for purposes of parody. While the parody is usually directed at the creators' peers in the medium, the parody can just as effectively be directed at itself. In the case of Homestar Runner, the low-grade Flash animations bearing the title "Powered By The Cheat" are definitely in the latter category.
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The premise of Cheattoons (as they have come to be called by the fans) is simple. From time to time, The Cheat uses his computer to create Flash animations for his friends to view and, presumably, for his own aesthetic satisfaction. The humour lies in the fact that The Cheat's skills as an artist, animator and writer leave much to be desired. Like the 1936 cartoons, these works are funny because they fail to be what they were intended to be. Strong Bad is brutally honest about The Cheat's competence, but it never seems to discourage The Cheat from creating more works periodically. Artistically, Cheattoons have three benefits. First, they are often employed as a way to poke fun at the poor animation and lackluster scripting of the earliest Homestar Runner cartoons (the self-parody angle). Second, the cartoons could serve as a response to overzealous fans who attempt to create their own Homestar Runner cartoons. Third, and perhaps most attractive to the creators, they allow for easy laughs without the necessity of being "good".
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The Cheat's animation style, as can be inferred, leaves much to be desired. The outlines are thick and uneven, the colours are flat and static, and the characters are animated in a jerky, off-model fashion. Errors in animation, continuity, and audio are simply ignored rather than fixed, as though the entire cartoon was edited in one take. There is seldom any music to speak of, and all sound effects are provided by vocalization. The character voices are hilariously stilted, with no effort towards proper inflection and intonation. To facilitate the poor vocal quality further, all voice work (aside from The Cheat) is provided by Mike Chapman, rather than Matt.
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All of these flaws, however, would be excused if the plots were well written and the characters true to themselves. Needless to say, they are not. The Cheat's storylines are half-formed, lose their focus by the end, and are riddled with dialogue that contains mechanical wit but lacks the proficiency to be effective. The curious issue is that The Cheat seems genuinely trying to emulate the natural flow of language and humour, but does not understand the mental and emotional processes behind them. Therefore, the characters slog their way through situations without any real motivation, and random humour designed to be curious instead comes across as surreal and bizarre. The cartoon truly looks like the product of a mind not only less than developed, but also less than human; that the animator is the childlike, animalistic The Cheat was a wise decision indeed.
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The Cheat is not nearly as creative as Strong Bad; all of his cartoons take place in Free Country and deal with the same characters. While The Cheat is never the main character of his animations, very few of his cartoons end without his appearance. Tellingly, as soon as The Cheat shows up, all of the other characters stop whatever they are doing to praise The Cheat on general principle, and the rest of the plot (such as it is) is entirely forgotten. The Cheat is also drawn and animated in the best style and provides his own voice work. This treatment is not afforded to the rest of his friends. Homestar Runner is drawn in a lopsided fashion with very little room for smooth movement; it is notable that we never see him walking. Homestar's voice is interpreted as nasal, whiny and sickeningly weak. Homestar's role in the cartoon is generally to be pummeled by Strong Bad, although whether this reflects The Cheat's personal feelings or if it is an attempt to appeal to Strong Bad is unknown. Strong Bad himself suffers from an oversized cranium and a disjointed, guttural voice. Strong Bad generally takes the lead in most of the cartoons, and generally does anything without bothering to explain why. In the cartoons, Strong Bad is always the first to recognize the greatness of The Cheat. Coach Z is an oddity in the sense that he is coloured an eye-stinging shade of magenta rather than his traditional green. Presumably this is to keep him from blending in with the monochrome backgrounds. Since Coach Z has a very simplistic design, The Cheat does not make any major mistakes animating him, although his head is known to accidentally separate from his shoulders from time to time. Still, Coach Z's voice sounds even more bizarre than usual matched with the chaotic speech patterns.
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The other characters have only appeared in minor roles. Marzipan looks more or less like she usually does, but suffers from a pronounced overbite and a shrill voice. Her guitar is erroneously named "Carl". Bubs has only been seen (and animated) from the waist up, and makes no motion other than rocking from side to side. His voice, needless to say, has little of its usual strength. Strong Sad has been briefly seen, curiously gifted with the ability of flight. The Poopsmith has popped up briefly, sweeping up after a parade (in The Cheat's honour, of course) in a witty reference to Jay Ward's Rocky and Bullwinkle. The only real flaw in his design is the fact that his upper lip is as large and pronounced as his lower lip. Strong Mad has also briefly appeared, if only as a punching arm, the rest of his body hidden offscreen. It is unknown, although very likely, whether or not the rest of the gang will be seen in The Cheat's unique animation style. Outside of the original characters, Eh! Steve has also made a cameo in a Cheattoon.
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The first Cheattoons were music videos which, while far from phenomenal, at least benefited from prerecorded music and characters providing their own voice work. However, once The Cheat more or less abandoned music videos in favour of cartoon shorts, the quality went downhill quickly. The character designs became cruder, the visual effects became less ambitious, and the work degraded to being a self-addressed valentine to The Cheat. However, these works were designed to be comedic rather than impressive, a respect in which they succeed brilliantly. Although most of the comedy is the hit-or-miss variety, it is very likely that The Cheat will continue his works whenever the animators feel the need to stretch.
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==[[Puppet Stuff|Puppet Thing]]==
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Always looking for innovation, the Chapman Brothers have devised many clever ways to showcase the same characters in different fashions. With all of these variations, it was only a matter of time before the characters broke out of the restraints of animation itself. From that perspective, it became clear that aside from animation, the medium that could depict the characters with the most accuracy was puppetry.
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Puppets come in many styles, but the Homestar Runner puppet owes most of its design to Jim Henson's Muppets; it is hollow, allowing the entire arm of the puppeteer inside to move the head and mouth. Under normal circumstances, the puppeteer's other arm operates a wire to manipulate one of the puppet's arms, but Homestar's physiology makes this feature unnecessary. The full-arm approach allows the puppet to be manipulated with a great degree of subtlety if properly operated, and the puppet version of Homestar is handled appropriately. The movement of the puppet's head shows small nuances over broad movement, and the mouth movement synchs to the dialogue even better than the cartoon version does.
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Of course, this technical expertise is not at the forefront while one watches the puppet sequences. What the audience sees is the exact same character from the animated shorts, only in a slightly different presentation. Homestar's personality, identity and voice carry over into the puppet perfectly. Granted, there are a few differences, such as the fact that Homestar's upper and lower lips now meet (to better facilitate mouth movement) and that he is now only seen from the waist up, but what could be called Homestar's spirit transcends the medium in which he is portrayed.
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It is also charming that Homestar's entire world also survives the transition from cartoon to puppet intact. Various props and locations have been recreated to accommodate the puppet, providing a delightful take on what Free Country would look like in the "real world". Moreover, the difficulties in turning a two-dimensional world into a three-dimensional one are used for comical effect rather than avoided. The best example is probably the fact that Homestar's eyes both appear to be on the side of his head. Rather than limiting the number of viewpoints from which Homestar can be seen, he is calmly depicted as turning around and walking away, regardless of the position of his eyes.
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In addition to Homestar, only The Cheat has also made the transition to the puppet world. This is appropriate, as a character like, say, Strong Bad would be far too difficult to successfully turn into a puppet. The Cheat's puppet requires no articulation, but still benefits from the increased subtlety afforded to the puppets. Even more than Homestar, The Cheat is only recognizable from very few angles, and therefore looks even odder when he casually turns towards an unflattering angle. Aside from The Cheat, Homestar has also costarred with Doregarde, Strong Bad's puppet fashioned from a cantaloupe and a pencil, which is translated faithfully into reality. There is a subtle gag at work, as Doregarde is only brought to life by Strong Bad. Therefore, when Homestar and Doregarde converse, the implication is that Doregarde is controlled by Strong Bad while Homestar is controlled by a puppeteer!
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A final note is the fact that the Homestar puppet's debut short was not powered by Flash, but Macromedia RealPlayer. This meant that several visitors to the site were unable to view the short. Fortunately, all future puppet shorts have been embedded in the Flash, and even the debut short has been modified, so that all audiences may now view them.
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Current revision as of 20:38, 20 May 2022

The current time is...

Strong Bad Clock is a clock available in the Downloads section of the site. It features an LCD Strong Bad, who speaks your computer's time in your choice of one of three tones:

  • Plain
  • Angry
  • Soothing

You can also set up an alarm so Strong Bad can alert you so you don't miss any appointments.

The application at this time is compatible only with Windows.

Contents

[edit] Transcript

[edit] Plain

  • Say Time: "The current time is ...."
  • Alarm: "Baah! Baah! Baah! Baah! Hey, you told me to tell you when it was ...."

[edit] Angry

  • Say Time: "Current time is ...!"
  • Alarm: "Hey stupid! It's ...!

[edit] Soothing

  • Say Time: "Ohh! The current time is ...."
  • Alarm: "Oh, pardon the interruption, but you asked me to tell you when it was ...!"

[edit] Fun Facts

  • The beginning screen reads
Strong Bad's
Time Machine
(Clock)

This fantastic new
application will have
Strong Bad telling you
the time anytime you
want. And sometimes
when you don't!! Even
set an alarm so you
won't miss any of those
made up meetings!!
  • Strong Bad automatically says the time on the hour and half-past every hour. Also, the alarm notification does not loop. For these reasons, the clock is not a reliable way to wake up.
  • Strong Bad Clock does not automatically set the time for Daylight Savings, even if your system clock does.
  • In the zip file, the application is called "Strong Bad's Time Machine".
  • If you set the alarm using a leading zero (for example, 09:30), the alarm will not go off.
  • At 12:00 midnight, the voice setting (plain, angry or soothing) will automatically revert to plain.

[edit] External Links

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