I was never a fan of webcomics before, and had not even heard of them when this story begins. My only ambition in life at that point was to become Daniel VanderWerff, primary school teacher. This is the story of how that first intention led to a comic about some little Aussie kids and a cemetery next door to their school...
During the year of 2000 I was working through the final year of my Bachelor of Education course and began my internship at a primary school a few towns to the west. I was also completing my Bachelor of Humanities and Social Sciences but it was my BE that was always going to be the beginnings of my working career. During this intern year I found myself teaching as a specialist music teacher for most of the time and worked closely to help produce the school's annual production. It was a good success and the kids had fun, but I thought the story of most primary school musicals were usually pretty ordinary and simple. It was just after this production was finished that some of the older students stumbled upon a small, single scene Harry Potter play that somebody had written for their own school on the internet. They thought it would be a great idea if the school could make their own, and I was told I could give it a go.
Being rather naive at times, I thought they were serious and by the end of the year had half of the story scripted out and several songs written.
With my degree complete though, I found myself teaching for a year at another school in a nearby town and that musical was filed away again, most likely never to see the light of day. By the end of 2001 I was again looking for another school to teach in, as there was no longer room for me where I was. While this was a set back career-wise, hindsight proved it to be the best thing that could have happened. In 2002 I began at another local primary school and was reunited with the teacher with whom I had worked on the last musical. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Son was completed by the middle of that year and performed that Spring, selling out the local Little Theatre five times in a row. The ghosts in that play were considered a success, and I was given two years to write a second. I had already begun toying with a story about kids in a school, and it was suggested that including ghosts again would be a good idea.
School Spirit: the Musical was quickly beginning to take shape.
School Spirit: the Webcomic
During 2003 I was writing the first few scenes of what would soon be named School Spirit, a script focusing on an eleven year old boy named Casper who meets a young ghost by the name of Wendy. An early plot point was Casper's interest in a twelve year old girl which was to be the main thread of the story. The first song, 'Eleven', was a melancholy love song for just this situation.
About this time a friend of mine from several towns to the east this time sent me a message over the internet. It was along the lines of 'I want to make a
webcomic, and because you can draw, you're going to draw it for me'. I sent him a reply back along the lines of 'I'm a teacher, where am I going to get the time to draw a comic?' Perhaps I was just in a perceptive mood at the time, or perhaps it was because I was working on the musical script when the message came through, but within half an hour I had sketched a strip about Casper and sent it to him and School Spirit: the Webcomic had begun.
From that evening, across sixty kilometres of internet line, myself and Daniel Quinney set about slowly developing a webcomic based on the characters of a yet to be completed primary school musical. I can't even remember which of us came up with the name School Spirit in the confusion of all of the conversations we had over a period of about a month, but before long we had taught ourselves enough to put our own little webpage on the net. The two of us worked on stories for the characters and developed the individual strips and both worked to bring the site up to a decent standard. It was October 2003 and School Spirit was on the internet.
On 12th June 2004 the comic moved to its next location, the hosting site known then as Keenspace, which was renamed Comic Genesis a few years ago. It's official online history is reckoned from that date onwards. The previous strips appeared each day until early July of 2004, and for two months updated twice weekly on Sundays and Thursdays. The update schedule was increased from the beginning of September 2004 to three times a week on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and has not missed an update since in it's official history.
During 2006, School Spirit moved hosts again, this time to Comic Dish, a new hosting server that appeared and the offer appeared too good to pass up. Free hosting, helpful people to get the site off the ground, forums if needed, a few other little details, and best of all, no advertising banners unless you put some up yourself. School Spirit has stayed on Comic Dish ever since.
At least, until three fellow webcomic creators approached me and suggested I apply again to join a little collective known as Spider Forest. Thinking that I must be in with a decent chance at an acceptance if three of the members had each approached me separately, by the middle of 2009, School Spirit was accepted into the Spider Forest fold and became one of the collective. The Comic Dish site is still in operation, although from that date forward, all of the recent strips have only been uploaded to the current Spider Forest site. This is now the official home of School Spirit.
By the end of 2004 my co-creator, Daniel Quinney, decided to leave the project to pursue other interests. He played a critical role in the creation and early influence on this comic, as I would never had found myself doing this had it not been for his original message telling me I was about to start a comic. The comic logo, strip templates and design, as well as the various portraits of us both are of his creation and devising. I may be the only one riding this tractor now, but he deserves most of the credit for the very existance of this comic. Now we just continue to pester each other over the internet when we aren't eating each other's food while crashing at each other's houses.
As for School Spirit: The Musical, it was completed in early September 2004, just weeks before opening night in late October. It performed five shows over three days and was a successful event. Personally it was just fantastic to see live action versions of the characters I've now been drawing for some time walking about on stage. The kids brought the characters to life in a way I never thought I'd see them.
I doubt that there are any comics out there, even in the great vastness of the internet, that can boast both a live performance of their characters and general story, as well as a completely original musical soundtrack to completement its world. I'm proud to think that School Spirit has achieved something like this in such a short time, and am indebted to many different people for the various contributions they have made to the world of these characters.
That is the history so far of School Spirit, both the webcomic and it's original form as a primary school musical. While the School Spirit musical was sketched in to be performed again during 2008, it never eventuated. Harry and the Sorcerer's Son was performed once again in 2006, another big success. There were a few tweaks and changes this time around, but it was another great experience. Since then though, School Spirit the Webcomic has grown to span over nearly seven years of existence and over 800 regular strips since that first original strip was sketched up during an internet conversation back in 2003. It's still only a hobby, and at times a good teaching tool in the classroom, but I don't feel the urge to let it run dry any time soon.
Besides... teaching is still a lot of fun, so School Spirit is still only ever likely to be a background hobby that's close to my heart.
Whatever happens in the future in regards to Casper, Cody, Wendy and the rest of the School Spirit characters, I'd just like to think that other people will wander by from time to time and lose themselves every now and then in their little world.
School Spirit may not be the way the world really was, or the way it really is, but maybe it's the way it really should be.