School Spirit - Chastity and Grace in the cemeteryThree reviews for School Spirit within the space of two months back in 2007. It was quite a fast paced little period! Not much came of them in regards to huge jumps in readers, but it was a nice little period of recognition! This particular review, part of the Wednesday Webcomic Weview site that ran for a few years, was the last of this sudden spike in media interest.

School Spirit

I don’t know a damned thing about cricket, and for the first time in my life, I’m actually sorry that I don’t.

Don’t worry, an understanding of the finer points of cricket is hardly a requirement for enjoying School Spirit, though it might help on occasion. For once, this review will not contain any warnings to younger readers. School Spirit is wholesome goodness for all. There is still a content warning, however – this comic contains Aussie speak. Not enough to throw most readers, though, just enough to add personality and charm to some truly endearing characters. Refreshingly, I find that charm to come from an easy balance between artistic style and writing – with neither competing for attention over the other.

Beginning with young Casper’s first day at a new school, the reader is invited to join him and his new friends in nothing less than childhood. A bit on the spirit filled side from what I remember of my childhood, but the feel is familiar regardless. The writing is laid back and unassuming, in both narration and speech, bringing about a feeling of casual enjoyment. More a summer picnic than a roller coaster ride, and rightfully so. While technically story based, a number of the strips read like illustrated children’s jokes and riddles. In other comics I’ve found such a format jarring, but placed in the context of a grammar school and constrained to speech the format works perfectly – adding to the good-natured, child-like feel the creator so eloquently maintains. Regularly placed recapitulations allow new readers to catch up without pouring through three years worth of archives. You’ll also find a few history lessons sprinkled around the plot line, likely to enlighten the yanks more than the Aussies, but worth the read regardless.

The artwork is equally charming, with cleanly stylized characters and consistent backgrounds. Deftly avoiding the pitfalls of overly cute or tiny-but-adult child characters, the creator maintains a cartoonish feel without rounding the bend to wacky. I especially enjoy his use of silhouette and the occasional placement of what appear to be slightly altered photographs or paintings. Most of the strips are done in a three to four panel format, and in full color, though some are double that with the longer comics typically breaking slightly from the story line.

Navigation is simple, clean, and keeps to the theme of the comic quite nicely. The only thing I might add would be navigation at the top of the comic for those times when a quick turn through are called for; though the calendar navigation below the comic in addition to a complete archive does help in that regard. Other features include a a very interesting history page, a cast page, and a forum in which one may even ask the individual characters questions. (The art page, though included in the main menu, doesn’t seem to lead anywhere currently.)

Updating dutifully three times a week – Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday – School Spirit is a playful romp well worth a try… and with hints of ghostly pasts on the horizon, this would be an excellent time to dive in.