Strong Bad is one of the major characters of the Homestar Runner series of animated Flash web cartoons. He is portrayed by Matt Chapman, the principal voice actor and co-founder of the series. Strong Bad enjoys pranking the the other characters of the series, along with his ever-diligent lackey pet named "The Cheat" and his older brother Strong Mad. The main segment that Strong Bad is a part of is "Strong Bad Email", in which he answers emails sent to him by fans. Strong Bad Email has turned into several DVDs, as well as a podcast, since its first episode in 2001.
Strong Bad is sometimes referred to as the main antagonist of the series due to his pranks that he, Strong Mad, and The Cheat play on the other characters, and his insulting of his brother Strong Sad. He seems to be a character influenced by the American popular culture trends of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, such as classic rock music and the second and third generations of video games and video game consoles. Since he is one of the site's most popular characters, merchandise has also spun off of Strong Bad, which includes t-shirts and sweatshirts sold by the website.
Strong Bad has been one of the series most popular characters, and has been well received. In an article by National Review Online, Strong Bad was described as "a non-stop braggart, liar, manipulator, and egotist", but "one of the coolest characters on the Internet and the real star of Homestarrunner.com, which may be the most popular homegrown animation in the world". Segments have been spun off of his emails, including "Teen Girl Squad" a comic drawn by Strong Bad about four teenage friends.
Along with his physically intimidating but mentally limited big brother Strong Mad and his lackey animal-of-questionable-species The Cheat, Strong Bad represents the self-proclaimed criminal element in the series. Many shorts concern the various practical jokes and scams that they perpetrate. Although these "crimes" are usually only slightly malevolent, Strong Bad still acts as if he is a villainous mastermind, and is highly prone to exaggerating his alluring qualities — especially with regards to women. Strong Bad "rules" an area of the fictional universe called Strong Badia. It consists of a barren field, a fence, a tire, and a stop sign reading "Pop: Tire" (Pop meaning population) leaning against a cinder block. Strong Bad said he bought the property from Bubs in one email, although he originally said he ruled it since "diaper school". It was once "haunted" by the ghost of the Tandy 400, Strong Bad's former computer.
Strong Bad's main role in the cartoon is in the Strong Bad Email segment, in which he answers emails sent to him from viewers. The Strong Bad Emails began as a small segment in 2001, in which Strong Bad would mock the spelling and grammar of those who wrote to him, usually while using an outdated computer. Most of the time a cut-away sequence is used that gets away from typing the e-mail. Once the events of the email finish unfolding, Strong Bad wraps up the email, and then "The Paper" comes down with a link to email Strong Bad. Often, hidden animations (Easter Eggs) are displayed when the user clicks on a word or picture either during the email or after it has concluded. The animations were initially brief, but grew to establish numerous spinoffs and inside jokes on the site. As of September 23, 2008, there are 200 Sbemails. Although the animations were initially brief, they gradually grew to establish numerous catchphrases and running gags, as well as spin-offs like Trogdor the Burninator, Teen Girl Squad, and even characters like Homsar and Senor Cardgage. A typical Strong Bad email will also include numerous Easter eggs and other hidden material. An example of a Strong Bad Email reply is his take on techno, where he creates the techno song "The System Is Down." His most used catchphrase is "Holy Crap!" and other variations on this theme, though he now parodies even this in his responses to emails.
Several "alternate versions" of Strong Bad exist in other cartoons on the website. One of these is "Stinkoman", a futuristic anime-style Strong Bad that seems to be a parody of Japanese animation. Stinkoman has no thumbs, big robot boots, a mouth that is tiny when closed but "ridiculously huge" when open, blue hair, and big green eyes. Strong Bad designed this character in the e-mail "Japanese Cartoon", when someone asked what he would look like as a Japanese cartoon. For the "1936" segments on the website, Strong Bad is sometimes referred to as Sir Strong Bad (or Uncle Strong Bad). He appears in black and white and has hair and a handlebar mustache. His face is less detailed and he has no visible mouth but his mustache moves when he talks.
Strong Bad was based on the "Strong Bads", a Lucha libre-style fighter team from the 1983 arcade video game Tag Team Wrestling, as the cartoon does revolve around pop culture references. When the Chapman brother were asked about this orgin, they responded "Oh yeah, absolutely. The Strong Bads. We were just doing some dumb thing at Kinko's for friends. We weren't planning on all of this happening. Along with most of the main characters of the website, Strong Bad debuted in the Chapman brother's children's book called "The Homestar Runner Enters the Strongest Man in the World Contest", in which Homestar Strong Bad, The Cheat, and Pom Pom, as well as The Robot, Mr. Bland, Señor, and the Grape Fairie, some characters that did later not appear in the series. In the story, the characters enter a strength competition. The concept for this began in 1996 when both Chapman Brothers were looking for children's books. When did not find any to their liking, they created their own as a parody. After creating a few characters and writing a plot, they made copies of the book and attempted to sell it. This hand-drawn book was the only incarnation of Strong Bad for several years. The did not succeed however, so the concept of a website with Homestar Runner and Pom Pom as the protagonists, and Strong Bad and The Cheat as the antagonists became a reality in 2000.
Strong Bad has been received well by both critics and viewers of the website. He is considered one of the most popular characters of the website, and his Strong Bad Email segment is one of the most viewed segments of Homestar Runner. In an audio review of Strong Bad and the rest of the Homestar Runner characters, National Public Radio said "There are lots of nasty characters lurking in the shadowy corners of the World Wide Web. But Strong Bad is just awful. And he's awfully funny, too". Peter Wood of National Review Online commented on Strong Bad's personality and his evil-looking appearance. He stated: "Strong Bad is probably not the guy you want to move in next door. The red and black Wrestlemania mask he wears all the time is a clue. As are the boxing gloves, which he keeps on even when he is typing sarcastic e-mails...He is one of the coolest characters on the Internet and the real star of Homestarrunner.com, which may be the most popular homegrown animation in the world." He added "Strong Bad also dabbles in other media and, like Professor Cornel West, has even recorded his own rap, "Everybody to the Limit," which builds on the delightful typographic implosion, 'fhqwuhgads'", and also said " The humor likewise combines the innocence of slapstick with sharp satire of American popular culture... At one point, tired of being asked how he types with boxing gloves on, Strong Bad attaches fake fingers: a shrimp, a lit birthday candle, and an action-figure toy." Johnny Dee, a reviewer from The Guardian of the United Kingdom, described the humor of strong bad. He wrote: "Like South Park and Modern Toss, Strong Bad isn't exactly beautiful to look at but he's relentlessly funny.", and added "Strong Bad is an animated Mexican wrestler...and the undoubted star of surreal cartoon site Homestar Runner."