School Spirit boys on the monkey barsThis review came around due to an expression of interest on a forum back in 2007. I responded with a yes, and a few weeks later, in May 2007, this review was published on Aarin’s Webcomic Review Index, a small review site that was active until 2008. Coming from a background of more low-brow, lowest denominator humour, the review for School Spirit from this site was still very even handed despite the complete difference in content and intention both sites had.


SCHOOL SPIRIT

Here we go: School Spirit

[Don’t look at the ears]

Daniel and Daniel, the creators of SS, are known to me by one name, Dutch. I’m not sure which Daniel he is, but he’s an intrepid neutral party in TWCL’s shenanigans. When Dutch does speak up, it’s always as a calm, “what’s all the noise about” voice. Whether he’s always been that way, or has been beaten down by years of intraweb battling, I couldn’t say. Seems like a gentle, mature Australian.

[Don’t look at the ears]

SS is about a hundred (four) years old, spanning 400+ strips. It follows the misadventures of Casper, Cody, their schoolyard mates, a tween-ager spook, and the supernatural hijinks that plague most grade-schoolers. They either live at summer camp, camp a lot, or Aussie schools look like Lake Tipawa. I can sum up my experience at SS in two words: culture shock.

Not that it’s much of a shock. I did live as a Kiwi for a while, and with NZ and them being hateful neighbors, we’ll just say my crash course in Aussie society was tainted by the scathing humor Ohioans reserve for Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana, Michigan…

[Ok, It’s safe to look at the ears]

My main obstruction getting into SS wasn’t the character designs, it was the thick, casual dialect I’ve heard spoken but have never read. I did top out in reading comprehension on my senior standards (helps offset my algebrwah? math) so once I said, “Hey, Mark Twain, Huck Finn, different words,” I was good to go. The actual dialogue beneath the language is well-paced and true to character voice, from elementary to subtle and not-so-subtle puns.

And that’s the nature of this project. And for once, I consider the audience. For young adults and kids on the surf-safe side of the intranet, this is quality light-handed entertainment. I actually find it refreshing for its rarity. No cursing, no gory monkey fights, just a slice of life the way I used to live it back then, full of wonder and adventure.

D&D/Dutch, you’ve been around long enough to hear it about the syntax and the Dumbo-eared character designs. As far as visuals go, the lineart is clean, the coloring is natural, and OMG, you’ve added gradient effects to bland backgrounds (a snappy if simple fix). You’ve created an identity and increased expressiveness in your cast via your tweaks. The webdesign is solid and the HISTORY page is an example of how it should be done. I don’t see enough of that. The drop-down archives are divided into chapter, a smart choice with this many strips.

At it’s core, SS is charming, simple, witty, and carried on its characters. Dutch, It’s not within the hemisphere of the debauchery my readers are used to, so don’t expect new returns from my site, but that doesn’t change my perception. A pleasant surprise.

The lesson here is that longevity and perseverance may not lead to major awards or big bux, but it will yield as many achievements as your willing to accept. Why do we do this anyway? It’s the money-makers and full-time wannabes that get frustrated. I’ve already lauded those who just make webcomics for the lulz. Now I should give props to people who soldier on for the love of the story and its characters.

You can see it plain as day in School Spirit.

Cheers.