Loving/Hating Mondays : The Double-Edged Promises
of The Brothers Chapman

by Andrew Hall

There's two constants when it comes to "regular" content at The Chapman Brothers' www.homestarrunner.com - StrongBad e-mails, and holiday-themed 'toons.

The StrongBad e-mails, aka SBemails, are unofficially a weekly item, with new "episodes" every Monday. The holiday-themed longer cartoons/specials come, well, around whatever holiday they're based on. The major ones are Halloween and "Decemberween" (ie. a politically-correct christmas/chanukah thing), with occasional toons for stuff like April Fool's and Thanksgiving.

As with the SBemails, the holiday toons are unofficial, aka irregular, albeit far more irregular than the SBemails. The SBemails are -on average- a regular Monday thing, but they do end up late, not showing up anywhere from the next Tuesday to...well, three weeks later. With the exception of the always-big-deal Halloween and Decemberween toons, the other holidays either appear or don't appear on any given year.

The 2004 Decemberween special was grand as usual, and even seemed to have taken the Bros.Chaps' flash artform to a higher level, with audio quality much clearer and far less compressed than usual. They haven't used the higher quality audio since then, further emphasizing its noticeability. If they save such glitz & glamour for a single holiday spectacular, what would they go for next year?

The 2005 Halloween toon again took things up a notch, featuring guest-co-programming to make the toon a multi-ending Make Your Own Adventure style extravaganza! With Decemberween '05 only two months away, what could they possibly have in store?

Nearly three weeks later, not a whole lot.

On Monday morning of January 09, 2006, there was a new SBemail. It said so in the little oval sign in the top corner of their main page that announces (in two-or-three word phrases) what's been added recently to the site. "New SBemail!", said the first message. "Nothing else!", gloated the second.

"Gloated" is the word I use, and I use it with a smile.

The Chapman Bros. have, in the past five or so years, successfully created, maintained, and ruled the world with homestarrunner.com, utilizing word-of-mouth cult hype instead of ANY kind of advertising or marketing other than occassional interviews and a merch department (also with no external advertising). This kind of reverse-psychology, "George Costanza Rule of Opposites" approach is coupled with the fact that the Chapmans do not, like most web-based comics/toons, do not make their website a combination of their product and a mini-journal/blog. As such, we are not treated to little blurbs explaining how the creator's weekend went, what they do in their free time. More importantly, we are not graced with explanations as to why SBemails sometimes go missing by a Monday or two, or more recently why there was no 2005 Decemberween toon, let alone a New Year's Eve one.

This isn't entirely true - they have, in the past, alluded to SBemails/toons' impending arrival by saying, in the update box, "toon coming soon", or "new SBemail next week". However, keep in mind that they never explain at length by saying things like, "We were too busy last week". The fact is, they don't apologize for any missing content.

The fans get upset just the same, but truth be told, we should not be surprised at all. We as viewers have taken it upon ourselves to -assume- that there will be new SBemails at least every other Monday, and that there will always be annual Halloween/Decemberween specials, and yet we think nothing of things like Marzipan's Answering Machine, Teen Girl Squad, and Cheat Commandos, sub-toons that we don't consciously think of, but will readily admit to being things that can appear at any given time.

The key to this non-scheduling approach, it would seem, is in fact the SBemails themselves. The Chapmans have said in interviews that they most often create the "weekly" SBemails on Sunday nights, purposely and gleefully working cram writing and animating sessions at the last minute. They feel that, whereas they could spend the entire week working on it, they would put too much thought and effort into it, thus making the content suffer. This is rightly discerned; some SBemails and toons seem glaringly overwrought with content, too ambitious for their own good. They're not denying us more content as much as they're recognizing their own limits.

For whatever reason they do not produce a SBemail every week, the Chapmans have at least inadvertantly created a double-edged reputation. They have simultaneously done two things:

1) They have created the illusion that the SBemails are a guarenteed weekly product (without having ever stated as such, let alone to the contrary)

2) Implanted in the minds of fans, sub-consciously, the reality that is the irregularity of said SBemails

We as viewers, for the most part, don't actually hold a belief that the SBemails are guaranteed-weekly; we just subconsciously -hope- as such. We are merely letting -ourselves- down. The Chapmans may be half to blame for creating the weekly illusion, but, as stated earlier, they never in fact have claimed it to be weekly.

Whether they mean to or not, the Chapmans hold a power both powerful and quiet. We may not like the irregularity of the website's content, but we as such should not be surprised at December's lack of holiday extras. Time and time again, we have gone a week or two without SBemails, let alone any other content. When the website was updated on Jan. 09'06, the update bubble said two things : "new sbemail", and "nothing else".. The latter statement was something that could be interpreted as either saying that there were no other bonus items (sketchbook drawings, audio clips, also quasi-weekly), or it could be the Chapmans telling us, tongue-in-cheek, that there will be no uber-late Decemberween special after all.

In either case, they have displayed power that is merely a mirror upon their fans, telling us that homestarrunner.com may be something -for- the people, but it is first-and-foremost -by- The Brothers Chapman, and not the other way around. By apologizing to your fans and bowing to their every whim, you deny yourself the ability to create your art on your own terms. In creating art, your first -and last- critic should be yourself. Only after -you- are happy with what you've created do you decide to release it to the public, be it three weeks "late"... or not at all.


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