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EGS: El Goonish Shive

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EGS: El Goonish Shive
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Cover of the first volume of El Goonish Shive, as published by Keenspot in 2002, featuring the series original principal characters, from left to right:
Tedd Verres, Grace Sciuridae, the Evil Goo, Elliot Dunkel, Sarah Brown, Justin Tolkiberry and Nanase Kitsune.
Author(s)Daniel Elliot "Dan" Shive
WebsiteElGoonishShive.com
EGSComics.com
Current status/scheduleOngoing
Launch dateJanuary 21, 2002
Publisher(s)
  • Keenspot (2003 – 2009)
  • 910CMX (2009 – 2013)
  • Hiveworks (2013 – Current)
Genre(s)Science fantasy comedy/action/horror/drama
Rating(s)13+

Amazon.com Logo.png Search EGS: El Goonish Shive on Amazon.

EGS: El Goonish Shive, or simply El Goonish Shive, is an ongoing contemporary science fantasy webcomic written and illustrated by Dan Shive. The strip, one of the oldest continuously running webcomics, began on January 21, 2002, and is about a group of teenagers in their junior year of high school in the fictional US city of Moperville, whose lives have recently become quite adventurous due to various situations involving magic, aliens, parallel dimensions, superscience, and the appearance of a half-squirrel shapeshifter fleeing from her "family". The comic is broken down into a number of storylines, which are usually part of a long, continuous plot. Most storylines are short and follow only a few characters, but some are multi-part arcs in which the whole lead cast is involved.

The first two volumes of the series have been physically published by Keenspot Entertainment, with later volumes independently published via Patreon and Kickstarter.

Synopsis[edit]

The first major story arc begins with the introduction of Tedd Verres, Elliot Dunkel and his best friend (and later girlfriend) Sarah Brown. The three go to the local school Moperville North, where Tedd accidentally creates a living goo, which they later fight together with Nanase, Elliot's then-girlfriend.

The main plot involves the arrival of Grace Sciuridae, a shapeshifter and escaped test subject who meets Tedd while looking for their father, seeking help from him regarding her shapeshifter brothers and Damien, a crazed demigod who intends to subjugate humanity. With the help of her friends, she finally defeats Damien and is reunited with her brothers, becoming Tedd's girlfriend.

Simultaneously, Tedd presents his years of work on a transformation pistol and accidentally hits Elliot with it, turning him into a girl; despite his new shape, he continues to go to school until they find a solution to the problem. However, in the course of the "solution", Ellen, a magical, female clone of Elliot is created and both "awaken" as separate people, with Ellen later becoming romantically involved with Nanase. The two, as well as Nanase and Susan, wield powerful spells in the course of the plot, which additionally involves a form of martial arts based on anime.

The main plot was originally regularly interrupted by the fourth wall-breaking Doctor German and his assistant Amanda, who appear to answer reader questions. Such excursions were later outsourced to the side-comic The El Goonish Shive NewsPaper (or EGS: NewsPaper); in addition, EGS: Fillers functions as a repository for story-arc-sized filler material. Dan Shive has stated that the comic as a whole can be described with the quote "Because it sounds like one big awkward moment."

Themes[edit]

The main themes of El Goonish Shive involve revolution around various questions regarding human sexuality, specifically the themes of homosexuality and transidentity; these themes being approached from a humorous angle. The comic also addresses the relationships between the individual characters in detail and repeatedly takes up the topic of transformation[disambiguation needed], both in the physical and symbolic sense. As the main plot proceeds, the nature of the strip changes from slice of life to coming of age, as the characters are shown to slowly change in some ways from who they have been before, which mostly happens as growth that enables them to develop fuller personalities and accept their responsibilities. The nature of self-identity and gender identity is examined through most of the main characters..[1]

Characters[edit]

Although there are many enduring characters in El Goonish Shive, the primary focus is on eight teenagers (all introduced as being aged 17), almost all of whom attend the penultimate class at one of the two high schools in Moperville. The comic as a whole comprises a total of approximately 200 different characters.

Main characters[edit]

Elliot

Elliot Daniel Dunkel is a black-belt student of "anime-style" martial arts and the series' main protagonist, who attends Moperville North High School as a Junior. After a childhood in which he attacked every schoolboy quickly, he now tends to be cautious. He is now trying to please everyone and not hurt anyone (not even with words). It is very difficult for him to make his own decisions. A level-headed character, Elliot is often the comic's straight man.

Tedd

Tedd Drew Verres is an androgynous teenager with a knack for trouble and technology, especially with their loose mouth. Due to the ridicule of his classmates and the death of his mother, Tedd had cut himself off from the world as a child. Wearing large electronically enhanced glasses, they are Elliot's best friend alongside Sarah, and is romantically involved with Grace. Formerly shy due to being harassed for their feminine appearance despite being born biologically male, they wear large glasses to hide their feminine face despite not requiring them; subsequently they attained a great deal of confidence after developing alien morphing technologies, in particular their "transformation pistol".[2] which they use in their spare time for his own amusement.

Tedd's relationship with Grace developed quickly during the Relations storyline, with them being mentioned as being attracted to anthropomorphic animalscalongside a number of other fetishes. Although his role is in many ways that of a typical horny teenager with the addition of an obsession with transformation, their core character has forced those who have judged them, particularly Susan, to re-evaluate their perceptions. Tedd initially comes to believe they are transgender, having previously often used their transformation pistol on themselves to give them a female form, something they had repressed due to their former bullying for having feminine features, before realizing they are in actuality genderfluid upon learning the definition of the word.

Ellen

Ellen Danielle Dunkel is the female duplicate of Elliot, who was magically split from him in the Sister storyline; under the circumstances of her creation, Elliot is considered her "mother". She initially strove to be his "evil twin", but has since adjusted better, although she still has not settled on a self-identity of her own. Ellen can additionally shoot a beam from her hand that partially mimics the effect of Tedd's transformation pistol set to Female Variant #5.

At the end of the Painted Black storyline, the sorceress Nioi cast a spell on her which has caused her to dream of a "second life" - she experiences living the life of a female alternate of Elliot in another dimension, apparently intended to give her the life experiences she would have had if she had grown up normally. This has led to some unexpected explorations of her personality, the most obvious of which was bringing to the surface her repressed discomfort with finding men attractive in addition to women (something later also realised by Elliot).

Ellen and Nanase (who was once Elliot's girlfriend, a memory Ellen shares) have shared mutual attraction at least since the Night Out and Sister story arcs. They revealed their feelings to each other at the end of the story arc Grace's Birthday Party. Later, the pair form their own detective agency in their spare time, calling themselves Ellen & Nanase: Meddling Teenagers *ᴺᵒᵗ ᵃᶠᶠⁱˡⁱᵃᵗᵉᵈ ʷⁱᵗʰ ᵃⁿʸ ᵐᵉᵈᵈˡⁱⁿᵍ ᵏⁱᵈˢ ᵒʳ ᵗʰᵉⁱʳ ᵈᵒᵍ.

Sarah

Sarah Brown is Elliot's best friend and later girlfriend. She attends Moperville North, is artistic, and is the only main character with no paranormal abilities or skills. Sarah is presented as usually level-headed and rarely loses her temper, regardless of the number of bizarre experiences she has had. Referred to, but never shown in the comic, was an incident involving Tedd transforming her into a cat. She has since been extremely cautious about transformations involving herself.

Grace

Grace Sciuridae, formerly known as Shade Tail and also known as Squirrel-Girl, is a shapeshifting squirrel-human hybrid imbued with alien DNA. Introduced standing in front of Tedd's door and hoping for technical means to defeat her brothers, she was born in a laboratory and originally made only to be able to switch between her human and squirrel forms, she gained the capability to transform into a variety of forms with the help of Tedd's transformation pistol, including various variants of cat and hedgehog. Having been genetically engineered as an assassin, Grace is extremely powerful, but, as a pacifist, is terrified of abusing her strength, only using her offensive capacity when her friends are in mortal peril. She takes her name from the deceased daughter of a scientist assigned to her, whose DNA was partly used in making her.

Grace is extremely intelligent as a result of experimentation, capable of learning college-level material such as advanced calculus and the Japanese language in a matter of minutes, as well as having an aptitude for video games, specifically the Super Smash Bros. series. She has been Tedd's girlfriend since the storyline Relations. With the help of Tedd, she can additionally shapeshift into the form of a green-haired girl with Asian features that she can assume whenever she needs to go undercover, going by the alias Claire when using it, a name thought up of as a female equivalent to "Clark", in reference to Clark Kent.

Nanase

Nanase Kitsune is Ellen's girlfriend, Elliot's ex-girlfriend and Tedd's cousin. She has red hair and is another black-belt student of "anime-style" martial arts and was initially presented as the best student; there have been no solid conclusions yet whether Elliot is the more competent martial artist. Nanase is a dangerous fighter and magic-user, having learned to levitate and to transfer her consciousness into little fairy forms near her friends for communication using magic. Nanase dresses provocatively when she can get away with it, as her family makes her dress conservatively in eyeshot, but disdains manipulative use of her looks. Nanase has a younger sister, named Akiko, and an unnamed homophobic mother.

Nanase's new friendship with Ellen has led to some uncomfortable self-discovery, facilitated by a misunderstanding of Female Variant #5, and after some speculation from Justin, Nanase revealed herself as a lesbian to Elliot and Susan. In various ways, all main cast members find out shortly after she does (in Susan's case, before), but Nanase remained unaware of that for some time, believing her orientation a secret to all but Susan and Elliot. Nanase realizes herself to be attracted to Ellen during the storyline Night Out; Nanase finally comes out to Ellen at Grace's 18th birthday party, and the two share a kiss. Later, the pair form their own detective agency in their spare time, calling themselves Ellen & Nanase: Meddling Teenagers *ᴺᵒᵗ ᵃᶠᶠⁱˡⁱᵃᵗᵉᵈ ʷⁱᵗʰ ᵃⁿʸ ᵐᵉᵈᵈˡⁱⁿᵍ ᵏⁱᵈˢ ᵒʳ ᵗʰᵉⁱʳ ᵈᵒᵍ.

Justin

Justin Tolkiberry learns martial arts with Elliot and Nanase, though is of a lower skill level. He attends school with Nanase, and is her closest friend. Justin initially identifies as gay, and feels that he is in love with Elliot after the latter rescues him from a fight sometime after he was outed by his then-girlfriend Melissa two years before the events of the series. He considers everything good that ever happened to him after his secret was revealed to be a result of meeting Elliot. During Grace's Birthday Party, he and Susan kissed, although both were the opposite gender at the time due to Tedd's transformation ray.

Justin's last name is a reference to J. R. R. Tolkien and Gene Roddenberry. He has an interest in The Lord of the Rings and Star Trek, and works in a comic book store.

Susan

Tiffany "Susan" Pompoms was the last major character to be introduced in El Goonish Shive. Introduced initially as a friend of Sarah and an extreme misogynistic feminist, Susan has developed friendships with all other major characters and a crush on her gay best friend Justin. As a reaction to seeing her father's affair with a blonde woman and her parents' subsequent divorce at an early age, events shown partially in the Sleepy Time and Grace's Birthday Party storylines, she colors her hair dark blue and prefers and enforces the use of her middle name to avoid the various cultural assumptions associated with the blonde stereotype and women named Tiffany, developing an intense dislike towards boys and men, an attitude with changes over the course of the narrative and becomes more moderate and later nonexistent; Susan later comes to realize that while she does express romantic interest towards other people and fantasises about them doing "things", she herself has no desire to do "things" with them herself; addressing the strip, Shive stated "I don't know if Susan is asexual, aka. ace. She could be, but her sexuality is somewhat autobiographical. I feel defining hers would be like defining my own, which makes putting a label on it awkward for me." Susan lives with her mother in a mansion and works in a video store, and is a direct descendant of Adrian Raven, whose daughter Diane is physically identical to her.

Susan has taught Sarah to use Hammerspace[3] and met Nanase on the optional Moperville joint class trip to France, where both Nanase and Susan gained access to magic. Relations between Nanase and Susan were portrayed as mutually unkind in Sister, but improved to friendship when Susan let Nanase pick Ellen's clothes for Grace's Birthday Party.

Recurring characters[edit]

  • Mr. Edward Verres – Tedd's single father, who works as an agent of the United States government and has access to a good number of files implicating extraterrestrials and supernatural phenomena.
  • Greg – The sensei and founder of Elliot's and Nanase's martial arts school and creator of his own anime-based discipline, after having acquired his powers in watching Japanese animation movies and series for 168 hours straight, who wishes to embody all of the tropes of a mentor, something he initially views his asexuality as making impossible due to the lack of perversion as associated with the stereotype.
  • Director Crazy – constantly trying to keep today's youth on the right path; his efforts usually result in murals such as "LIES or the owl eats you!"
  • Lord Tedd – The Supreme Leader of the "Alpha Dimension" and the most masculine Tedd in the multiverse, who seeks to exterminate all other Tedds to increase their own masculinity.
  • Nioi – A resident from the "Alpha Dimension" who serves Lord Tedd.
  • Damien – A laboratory-grown man-made demigod who seeks to conquer the world with the help of Grace's shapeshifter brothers; he intends to capture Grace in order to have her breed an army.
  • Hedge – One of Grace's brothers: he can transform into a human-hedgehog hybrid.
  • Guineas – One of Grace's brothers: he can transform into a human-guinea pig hybrid.
  • Vladia (née Vlad) – Grace's sister (formerly brother); the only one of her siblings to whom she is related biologically. Originally conceived as a male vampire, they had a unique appearance mixing features of several animal species leaving them unable to transform himself into a human, as the process caused them great pain; Vlad eventually attains a human form after encountering Ellen, changing her name to Vladia.
  • Ashley – Elliot's third girlfriend, known for her slanted ponytail and Asian facial features.
  • Doctor Germahn – a mad scientist with the appearance of Albert Einstein, who is responsible for giving "scientific" explanations to anything that may appear to be not in accordance with the physics taught at school. For example, he explains how in the universe of El Goonish Shive, girls are capable of materializing giant hammers to punish boys who disrespect them.
  • Amanda – The personal assistant to Dr Germahn, who often serves as a guinea pig for his inventions, in addition to participating in various "question and answer" insertions.
  • Principal Verrückt – The mural-obsessed principal of Moperville High School; despite being German, he is oblivious to the fact his mustache and wig cause him to resemble Adolf Hitler until Ellen brings it to his attention; after this fact, he stops wearing his wig and grows out his mustache, ultimately giving him the appearance of Mario.
  • Jeremy – Tedd's "cat". Jeremy has hedgehog spines on his back but otherwise behaves like a 'normal' cat.
  • Tony – The bully of Moperville High School, who often mocks Tedd for his androgynous features.
  • The Evil Goo – A sentient mass of goo brought to life by Tedd. Principal Verrückt later seeks to have Tedd repurpose his goo to serve as hall monitors, while Lord Tedd, an alternate version of Tedd from a parallel dimension, uses their own goo to invade other realities.
  • The Uryuoms – Extraterrestrial beings who have established themselves on earth and work in secret with the United States government. They have access to technology considerably more advanced than that of the human race, including an improved version of Tedd's transformation technology (to whom they provide the technology to improve even further), and have their own language, Uryuomoco, which Tedd and Grace speak.
  • The Demonic Duck – A red duck with horns, which appears when a character needs to make a diversion to get out of an embarrassing situation, by saying "Hey, it isn't that kind of demonic duck that you see over there?", the duck will normally come into view at the point to which they were referring.
  • The Immortals – A pair of immortal beings suffering from short-term memory loss due to their immortality, posing as French exchange students to follow Elliott for reasons they can no longer remember.

Reception[edit]

EGS has been reviewed at the "Webcomic Book Club" in Summer 2004, where four reviewers came to very different conclusions about the strip's quality. Criticisms included the contemporary tendency for cast members to look alike, poor initial characterization, and overly verbose writing.[4] Robert A. Howard of Tangents described the strip as "[having] very good inking, character chemistry and character development [with] average backgrounds and story continuity". In April 2007, Sequential Tart praised the strip's various gags and jokes, giving it a 7/10 rating.[5]

El Goonish Shive is cited under cited under "Arbitrary Gender" with a pictorial reference in T. Campbell's The History of Webcomics.[6] The comic featured in the September 2006 issue of Edutopia magazine,[7] where its use of chimerae was an opening on cross-species hybrids. In the 2005 edition of The Reflection, El Goonish Shive is described as "the best written and best drawn of the online [transgender] content comics today", as well as being praised for its "[p]art science-fiction, part Archie Comics" tone.[8] In 2007, El Goonish Shive held position in the top twenty of several lists of webcomics by popularity.[9][10] The depiction of bisexuality in EGS, in particular with regards the character of Ellen Dunkel, was praised in the February 2007 edition of Bisexuality Research Today.[11] In August 2008, The WCBN discussed El Goonish Shive in context of other "webcomics that have transgendering or morphologies", including PvP, The Order of the Stick, Penny Arcade, Sluggy Freelance, and Girl Genius.[12]

In August 2017, Digital Strips: The Webcomics Podcast praised the characterization of former series' antagonist Pandora (Chaos) Raven, stating that "[w]hilst there is a certain purity to keeping your villains as villains in a long-form story, some [of] the most interesting and satisfying storytelling can come from bridging the gap between them and the heroes."[13] El Goonish Shive is the focus of the second episode of the ninth season of Channel Awesome web series Needs More Gay, formerly hosted on the websites Chez Apocalypse, AfterEllen and TheBacklot, in which the series is reviewed in context of LGBT culture and its representation in the media and various subcultures, with its events compared to Ranma ½ and the Family Matters character of Stefan Urquelle, and its host Rantasmo praising how "as the artwork gradually improves over the years, the writing also becomes a bit more emotionally mature and the story manages to explore its transformation themes in a deeper, more complex way".[14] In October 2018, PubWatch editor Emily Lauer and Annie Blitzen of Eisner Award-nominated online journal WWAC – Women Write About Comics praised El Goonish Shive for "featur[ing] strong, positive trans themes since well before the creator really understood what that meant" and as being "a great source of comfort and satisfaction" for transgender readers, with Lauer concluding with further praise with regards the "different ways to interact with the world of EGS [and how] webcomics creators can select different forms to best meet the needs of the story they want to tell."[15]

In February 2018, Terence "The Average Joe" McManus of Digital Strips praised "EGS's unflinching determination to bring the whole spectrum of gender and sexuality into the spotlight via its main characters, [which] earns it a place on the forefront of promoting tolerance and acceptance for all individuals, through the Webcomics medium.", in particular, "Shive's characterisation of Tedd [Verres] as gender-fluid", which they cite alongside Queer Eye as an example of the normalisation and exploration of gender and sexuality in media.[16] Sam Barber of The Avocado praised the eight core characters of El Goonish Shive as "impressively well-rounded, likable, and compelling", in particular the character of Grace Sciuridae and their "Kimmy-Schmidt-like sunny outlook [with regards] finding where she fits into the world".[17] Aaron Greenbaum of Geek Reply referred to EGS: El Goonish Shive as "a modern classic, thanks to fantastic character arcs, well-written dialogue, excellent comedy, and an occasional helping of creepy/disturbing events", praising the coming of age nature of the narrative and "how the characters discover aspects about themselves [and others] throughout the comic", as well as its "mature and extremely clever" themes.[1]

Collected editions[edit]

  • El Goonish Shive, Volume 1: Read, or the Owl Will Eat You ISBN 1-932775-10-2 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png.
  • El Goonish Shive, Volume 2: The Piece That Does Not Fit ISBN 1-932775-40-4 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png.

Both volumes are published by Keenspot and are consistently in greyscale, except for the cover.

The first volume contains strips from the comic's launch up until the end of the fifth part of the Sister, with the scond volume containing strips from the sixth part of Sister up until Q&A #2.[18]

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Greenbaum, Aaron (26 July 2017). "Five Ongoing Webcomics You Probably Should Read". Geek Reply. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  2. Shive, Dan. "EGS Story for Tuesday, September 23, 2003". El Goonish Shive. Keenspot.
  3. Shive, Dan. "EGS Story for Wednesday, May 29, 2002". El Goonish Shive. Keenspot.
  4. "Full Reviews of El Goonish Shive". Webcomic Book Club. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-03-12.
  5. Burke, J. (2007-04-01). "El Goonish Shive". Sequential Tart. Retrieved 2007-04-03.
  6. Campbell, The History of Webcomics, Atlantic Press. ISBN 978-0976804-39-0 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png.
  7. Scott, Christopher Thomas (2006). "Tions and Ligers and Geeps -- Oh, My!". Edutopia. Retrieved 2007-02-25.
  8. EGS Review: February 2005. The Reflection. Page 4. Tri-Ess
  9. "TopWebComics.com - Showing Comics Ranked 1 to 100". Topwebcomics.com. Retrieved 2007-02-25.
  10. "The Webcomic List - Comic Profiles". Thewebcomiclist.com. Retrieved 2007-02-25.
  11. "Ellen of El Goonish Shive: February 2007. Bisexuality Research Today Vol. 4. Issue 2". Bisexuality Research Today. Archived from the original on 2008-10-12. Retrieved 2007-02-02.
  12. WCBN, The (22 August 2008). "Webcomic Beacon #38: Genderswap or Trans/Morph Webcomics w/ Dan Shive". The WCBN. Retrieved 22 August 2008.
  13. Joe" McManus, Terence "The Average (7 August 2017). "Pandora-monium! Character change in El Goonish Shive". Digital Strips: The Webcomics Podcast. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  14. "Needs More Gay... El Goonish Shive". Channel Awesome, Hosted on YouTube.com. Retrieved 19 April, 2018
  15. Lauer, Emily (26 October 2018). "Webcomics Roundup: Some Spooky, Some Heartfelt, Some Both!". WWAC – Women Write About Comics. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  16. Joe" McManus, Terence "The Average (28 February 2018). "Queer Eye for the Comics Guy". Digital Strips: The Webcomics Podcast. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
  17. Barber, Sam (2 January 2019). "Day Thread of El Goonish Shive". The Avocado. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  18. "Keenspot articles". Retrieved 2007-03-10.

External links[edit]


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