Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Top Ten: Strong Bad Emails #1-199

It's not technically a webcomic, but Homestar Runner often gets mentioned in the same breath, likely owing to its style of humor, the DIY ethic of its creators, and its general presentation. It's also incredibly popular: hundreds of thousands tune in every week for the surreal adventures of a thick-headed, armless athlete...thing, and his equally strange peers. However, the real star of the show is would-be villain Strong Bad, with his more-or-less-weekly feature, Strong Bad Emails, in which he answers real emails from viewers just like you except with worse spelling and grammar.

The two-hundredth SBEmail, "email thunder," was released early this Tuesday, and to commemorate the momentous occasion, This Week in Webcomics will present a Strong Bad Emails retrospective. Two hundred episodes is a lot to sort through, and the casual Homestar Runner viewer will wonder, "Which emails are worth my time?" Thus, we (by which I mean "I") present the following top ten list: comprehensive, definitive, and entirely objective in its selection, and also with absolutely no sarcasm whatsoever. Zero! Seriously.

Before beginning, I would like to credit the Homestar Runner Wiki, a useful knowledge base for all Homestar fans and an invaluable resource in creating this list. And now, rife with spoilers, it's the Ten Best Episodes of Strong Bad Emails #1-200:

10. helium: SBEmail #38
I'll be honest--the main reason this one made the list at all is because I like Strong Bad's song about "the High-Voice Crew." Still, between Strong Mad's funny voice and an inflatable The Cheat, there's enough funny here to round it out.

9. virus: SBEmail #118
Classically, whenever Strong Bad gets a new computer, it's because horrible disaster befell his old one. In this email, Strong Bad finally gets a virus from a questionable email, resulting in bugs all across the Homestar Runner reality. After a surreal descent into madness, Bubs restores order by blasting the computer with a shotgun.

8. flashback: SBEmail #100
There's not really any coherent thread tying together the discrete bits of this email, but they're all so awesome, you won't care. From the wicked sweet email intro song, to the implementation of "widescreen," to the central flashback showing how Strong Bad met Homestar (in animated picture-book format!), there's plenty of humor here. Additionally, viewers patient enough to sit through Strong Bad saying the word "email" a hundred times will be treated to the mother lode of Easter Eggs.

7. personal favorites: SBEmail #69
No run-down of the best Strong Bad emails would be complete without the email in which Strong Bad gives his own run-down of the best Strong Bad emails. However, Strong Bad is notorious for pulling stuff out of his you-know-what, and the emails he lists are no exception. Every single one of Strong Bad's favorites, except for the first two, are actually too awesome to exist; they're just SB makin' stuff up. Add in one of the funniest Easter Eggs ever, and you've got a winner.

6. anything: SBEmail #78
A sure-fire way to keep the Strong Bad Email format fresh: have Homestar Runner host the cartoon. Have him significantly damage Strong Bad's computer in the process. Throw in a Neverending Story reference as an Easter Egg.

5. trevor the vampire: #10
This email is proof that you don't have to create a masterpiece of animation to make a solid cartoon. It's basically just Strong Bad sitting at his computer and responding to Trevor's message, but the writing is tight and the humor cracks me up even on repeat viewings. Also, it's worth noting that this is one of the weirder emails Strong Bad has received.

4. long pants: SBEmail #127
Strong Bad edits an email inquiring about Homestar's lack of pants. Homestar goes insane. Comedic gold.

3. highschool: SBEmail #140
One of my favorite "parody" emails, this one satirizes the conventions of Hanna-Barbera's countless "Scooby-Doo clone" cartoons. It loses a little momentum toward the end, but the way it riffs on "teen mystery" and "all the characters as babies" cartoons is spot-on.

2. dragon: SBEmail #58
It still amazes me that two of the indisputably best Strong Bad emails, "Dragon" and "Japanese Cartoon," came out back-to-back. Each of them spawned countless new material, from the world of 20X6 to Trogdor's theme song and graphic adventure game, and each is a solid cartoon in its own right. I chose to include "Dragon" rather than "Japanese Cartoon" on the list because Trogdor is slightly more iconic than Stinkoman, and also because of Strong Mad carving the word "DAGRON" into a table, but honestly, you can't go wrong with either cartoon.

1. death metal: SBEmail #141
As the Homestar Runner universe's resident Bad Guy, Strong Bad is heavily into metal music. This email tackles it head-on, poking not-so-subtle fun at the stereotypes and conventions of the genre. High points include a Teen Girl Squad cameo, Strong Mad's flat head and invisible mystical orbs of power, a creeping rusty meat video on the Half Hour Death Metal Dungeon Hour, and a scene in which Larry Palaroncini from Limozeen illustrates the difference between hair metal and death metal. It's hard to pick a definitive SBEmail, but if I had to pick, I would choose this one. And I would be right.

Determining the top ten Strong Bad emails was by no means an easy task. We (I) employed a rigorous and scientific process to eliminate all but the best and place them in sequential order; as a result, numerous otherwise good emails had to be excluded by virtue of being merely good. If a SBEmail that you have enjoyed didn't make the list, feel free to mention it in the comments, perhaps even providing a link so that others may enjoy it. You may even dispute this list, if you enjoy being wrong! I am never ever facetious and always completely serious. No, really.


Anonymous said...

Well, I posted this at the HRWiki forum a long time ago. I've looked it over and nothing's changed. Gentlemen, behold! My personal top 10 Homestar Runners of all time.

10.) Best Thing
I understand that this is not generally liked, but that's OK. The thing is, I once thought I had the last remaining copy of a lame 80's cartoon ("Solar Man"). It was horrible, but kept it for the cheese factor. I also once watched a cartoon in my youth called "Gilligan's Planet." I'll let you guess what that one was about. ;)

9.) Monster Truck
Now that I've read the Wiki, I have to face the fact that it's not "Let's do this like Buddhists." Still, that's one of my favorite Homestar quotes from one of my favorite toons. Sunday, Sunday ... someday.

8.) Mile
(Whoa, "8 Mile"? I'm channelling some serious MoTown mojo here.) I love the ridiculous voices in the "Powered by the Cheat" toons, and this one has versions of most of the main characters. Also, one of the few emails not answered by SB (even if it was a fake). The Super Mario fireworks were a nice touch.

7.) Alternate Universe
I know I should wait before launching this on my top ten, but this had to be one of the most enjoyable trips down memory lane. And we end with a great number 1 jam with Da Huuudge hitting the high notes. The best of the milestone toons.

6.) Caper
Many great moments --- the jumbles, the cow lamp, and just the claps --- but the kicker is when Homestar reveals that his "5 o'clock shadow" is really cinnamon.

5.) Dragon
The song makes the toon. My girlfriend once said she could totally imagine me singing the "Trogdor" song while I'm sketching. Other than that, this toon breaks the top 5 by merit of Homsar's easter egg appearance.

4.) Japanese Cartoon
First, I enjoy anime. Second, Stinkoman is evolving into one of the most likable characters on Homestarrunner. Third, I found myself humming the "Fighting and challenge and challenge and fighting" song earlier this week.

3.) Crying
Is this toon a sign that TBC have turned into South Park? That's up to the philosophers to decide. (My answer: no.) But seeing homestar crying like a little kid who scraped his knee over a badly drawn picture: absolute hilarity. That L'il Brudder... he's such a trooper.

2.) Dangeresque 3
It's still alright for tonight. Memorable lines ("Istanbul. Of course!"), funny jabs at cheap special effects, and a catchy song. What can be better? Well...

1.) Stupid Stuff
A weird choice for #1, but I think this is the most accessible of the emails for newbies. I send a link to this one when I try to get people to watch Homestar Runner. Also, Homestar recites what I believe are his top ten best quotes ("Do you notice anything different about me? I'm standing on one foot!", "Hey, I'm looking smart! And I'm standing on one foot." "Plus two... HUNDRED!").

Jackson said...

I certainly enjoyed "Best Thing" and "Mile," but as far as actual favorites go, I think there are emails that do what these do, only better. "Best Thing" kinda riffs on the same theme as "Highschool," but I think Highschool benefits from featuring the main cast (plus ridiculous strip├ęd pants, and playing in a band just to be safe). "Mile" is pretty hilarious, but I prefer the computery-destructive styles of "Anything" for SBEmails where someone else answers the email. Still, "Mile" has got that "and I pretend that it's made of mon-ey" intro song. That's some good stuff. And Teeg Dougland is pretty great.

"Let's do this like Brutus" is probably one of the most quotable lines from Homestar Runner. Lord knows my brother and friends and I have quoted it about a million times. And while I wouldn't feature any single individual Dangeresque email on a top ten list, the whole Dangeresque "franchise" makes for some great action-movie parody. "Welcome to oblivion, Danger-squew!"

Jacob C. McGilicutty said...

I personally think funny shoud be on the list too

Jackson said...

"funny!" Daggone it, I knew I was forgetting something!

Okay, everybody. In your minds, please put "funny" at the top of my previous list, scoot every other item down one, and disregard the current #10. In "funny," Strong Bad truly has replied to that email in the funniest way ever.

Jenny C said...

I have to say that Techno needs to make the list! http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail45.html
Also, as an English teacher, I must recommend English Paper
Also, I can't remember if they come up in an email, but I love Cheat Commandos (buy all our playsets and toys!!!)

I'm so glad you did this. I haven't visited homestarrunner.com in a loooong time. Maybe not since college.

Anonymous said...

Well that's not how I would order them at ALL! I will point out that it was all downhill from 150 with no more than a few exceptions.

1. 118 - virus (epic beyond words)
2. 104 - theme park (I want to ride that roller coaster)
3. 53 - teen girl squad (he created a monster. Or rather, 4 monsters)
4. 57 - japanese cartoon (personally I like stinkoman's thanksgiving special the most - especially since you can bet your bottom yen that thanksgiving is irrelevant in Japan)
5. 65 - unused e-mails (the first sbemail I ever saw. I wonder if that makes me biased for it.)
6. 58 - dragon (trogdor made a mention in Buffy the Vampire Slayer by the way)
7. 64 - Englilsh paper (figure 1: eating a battery. figure 2: eating 5 batteries)
8. 7 - halloweener (I'm a bellllll)
9. 99 - different town (I'm forever your girrlllllll)
10. 150 - alternate universe (the easter eggs, especially the one with the eyeball pear, bump this up a few notches)
11. 10 - Trevor the vampire (trevor, we will miss you)
12. 29 - Strongbadman and Stiny (Stiny, get me a danish! Who spilled coffee..)
13. 174 - Mini Golf (Get Your Minigolf gameface on and don't drink the blue water)
14. 114 - Strong Mad Cartoon/Garbledina/Doug the Dino
15. 120 - radio (the college radio gag was what did it)
16. 46 - SB harming his friends (what's more to say?)
17. 38 - helium (yes, the high voice crew)
18. 124 - recipes (and they say it's the skinny chefs that you should never trust)
19. 91 - caffeine (I wish I had Strong Bad as a science partner in high school)
20. 52 - stuck on a desert island with homestar (aka dumbface)
21. 45 - techno (the system is down, the system is down!)
22. 129 - garage sale (enter Senor Cardgage)
23. 72 - Crazy cartoon (it would be number 6 if not for the crappy cheat cartoon)
24. 109 - crying ('lil brudder. Nuff said)
25. 41 - invisibility (those things really ARE bad for you)
26. 48 - ghosts (the easter egg of strong sad's disturbing solo squeezed this one onto the back end of my list)

after that, most of them are all kind of equivalent.

Anonymous said...

You probably should add a spoiler warning.

Jackson said...

Done and done. Thanks, Anonymous!