El Goonish Shive

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El Goonish Shive
Author(s) Dan Shive
Update schedule mon/tue/fri
Genre Fantasy/Sci-fi/Slice of life story

El Goonish Shive (EGS) is a contemporary fantasy webcomic, depicting the lives of a fictional group of teenagers in their junior year of high school. It is written and drawn by Dan Shive, and debuted on 21 January 2002. Hosted on Keenspot from mid-2003, it moved to 910CMX on 27 January 2009.[1] The comic is typically updated three times each week, with additional updates to subsections of the site.

El Goonish Shive is humorous with a healthy dose of drama; it is largely story-driven and centers around a small group of main characters of extraordinary qualities. Much of the comedy is tongue-in-cheek absurdity used to lighten the dramatic storyline, which features mild romances, self-discoveries, government and corporate intrigue, conflict and violence. Shive rates EGS as being "13+"; it never strays into obscenity or graphic violence, but some of the content involves issues like homosexuality, gender-switching (magical, not surgical) and murder.

The cast are subject to the trials of daily teenage life, such as disapproving parents, nasty rumours and arbitrary school decisions, as well as more outlandish problems involving magic, aliens, parallel dimensions, and "superscience". The comic is broken into a number of storylines, each typically 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. In five years of production, the internal chronology of the strip has advanced by only about a month.

While not explicitly furry, the cast does include characters who transform and animal/human hybrids with distinct anthropomorphic traits and may be of interest to furry readers for these reasons. Most characters are human, and animal/human anthropomorphic hybridization is involved in only one of several interwoven storylines - albeit the largest.

Keenspot has published two volumes of collected editions. As of March 2007, the first volume was the third best selling Keenspot article.[2]


The author of El Goonish Shive is Daniel Elliot Shive (born 18 February 1983). Shive regularly participated in discussions with his fans on the EGS Keenspot forum, and sometimes released information about the storyline and world in which it is set, as well as discussed storyline decisions and alternate paths he might have taken with the comic. Since the move to the 910CMX forums, his interaction with the fans has become more limited there, although he instead interacts a great deal on Twitter.

Shive occasionally draws himself in the comic outside of continuity, using an anthropomorphic squirrel, designed as a mix of the cast’s characteristics, as author surrogate. This avatar often plays the funny man in fillers, as opposed to the character Elliot Daniel Dunkel, who appears as the straight man within EGS. The Dan avatar has also been shown within the continuity of the EGS comic as a creation of the artistic Sarah.[3]

Shive has been a panelist in the annual Comic-Con International since 2003.


After "Introductions", the plot begins with the "Goo" storyline, in which Tedd creates goo in class which becomes a danger and Elliot apparently destroys it using martial arts and a lighter. In the following storylines including "Sister", the other lead characters are introduced: Sarah as Elliot's friend, Grace as hybrid shapeshifter who fled from the cruel Damien, Nanase and Justin as Elliot's fellow martial art students, and Susan as Sarah's feminist friend. Tedd's father Mr. Verres is revealed to be a member of a secret agency. In the "Sister" arc, Tedd accidentally transforms Elliot into a girl, who is later split into two people. A male Elliot and a female, dubbed Ellen. Ellen mistakenly believes that she will be short-lived and wants to destroy Elliot's life as revenge and heads for school, where her plans mostly fail. Ellen is then attacked by the goo, which is actually computerized and claims to have been sent by "Lord Tedd". At the end of the arc, Ellen destroys the goo with the help of the others, and is accepted as their friend, and by Elliot and his family as a sister.

The next storylines expand the characters: Ellen befriends Grace, Sarah and Elliot deepen their relationship formed in "Sister", and both Tedd's parents, and Susan's, are revealed to be divorced, the latter because her father committed adultery. In the "Night Out" arc, Tedd and Grace, both transformed into the opposite form, go to the cinema with Sarah and Elliot. Grace's shapeshifter "brother" Hedge, recognizes Elliot, whom he saw transformed, as an anthro-feline, during "Sister". The second part of "Night Out" shows Ellen, Justin and Nanase following Susan's invitation to watch videos at her house. Susan develops a crush on Justin [1], before finding out he is gay, and Nanase discovers that she is a lesbian, and is attracted to Ellen. She is desperate to keep it a secret, fearing her mother will find out.

The storyline "Tam eh Tedd" introduces the alien Uryuoms and their reproductive method, where any DNA can be inserted into an Uryuom egg, and still produce viable offspring [2]. The Uryuoms are revealed to be the origin of Tedd's transformation gun. [3] The "Painted Black" arc begins with Hedge abducting Elliot, while he and Sarah are together in the park. Elliot painfully transforms into an anthro-feline and passes out. Hedge pushes Sarah away easily, but tells her he will take Elliot to the "Nest". Ellen and Nanase accompany Grace to the Nest, her birthplace. Grace enters the Nest, but is caught and bound by Damien, and placed next to Dr.Sciuridae, who had treated her like a daughter. Sciuridae reports how he replaced the human DNA for the Uryuom egg in the "Shade Tail" project designed to kill Damien with his dead daughter, Grace's [4]. Elliot, Ellen and Nanase defeat Grace's brothers, Hedge, Guineas and Vlad, and Damien wants to fight the intruders himself. Instinctively, Grace transforms into a very powerful form, fighting and wounding Damien severely until he flees. Damien prefers his death to captivity, and unable to kill Grace otherwise, he blows himself up next to her. Nioi, an anthropomorph from the same alternate universe as "Lord Tedd" who was secretly watching, rescues Grace and brings her back to her friends. Nioi then presses Ellen's nose, promising it will help her, and vanishes. The arc closes when troops from Mr.Verres' agency bring Hedge, Guineas and a now human, female, "Vladia" to the agency to prepare them for living normal lives. Elliot, Grace, Nanase and Ellen return home.

The storylines from "Sleepy Time" to "Family Reunion" tell several stories in parallel that happen during the following week in story time. Grace feels guilty about having been violent, and remains in human form. She invites her friends to a gender-switching birthday party. While most dislike the idea, all agree to come. For the next few days after Nioi's "nosebeep", Ellen's dreams are of the memories of an alternate Ellen, from birth to high school graduation, who grew up in a world where hybrids such as Grace were common and where Tedd and Nioi's alternates and a hybrid named Archie were her friends. Tedd teasing a distraught Susan about her Star Trek shirt leads to his school's Principal introducing a strict dress code for Moperville North HS. At Moperville South HS, a group of girls tries in vain to recruit Nanase to get more male attention, observed by Justin's former friend Melissa and the distant Noah. On Grace's birthday, her siblings contact her, and they convince Grace that she shouldn't feel guilty about what she did to Damien. At the beginning of the "Grace's Birthday Party" arc, the ghostly "Mastermind" tries to subconsciously make Ellen transform Elliot, apparently hoping the ray will transport him into Elliot's body, June 2005 he fails and is chased away by two "immortals". Afterwards, the party progresses with gift-giving, gender-switching and a Karaoke competition, won by Ellen who explains about her dream alternate, who was a singer in a band. Then, people go their own ways, ending up in groups of two. Elliot and Sarah make out despite being gender-switched. Tedd and Grace work out misconceptions about each other. Male Susan and female Justin go from remembering sad moments of their past, to Susan consoling Justin, to both making out, only not going further when a lamp burns out. Ellen tells Nanase that she is a lesbian, after alternate Ellen's seduction of Archie ended badly, but Nanase is silent, only telling Ellen of her own homosexuality, and kissing her in the final strip of the arc.

The storyline "Hidden Genesis" reveals the Mastermind to be a man named Magus from another dimension, transported into the astral plane of this one two years prior to "Sister". The storyline, "The After Party", follows the characters on the day after the party, introducing Nanase's family, and emphasising Nanase's fear of her relationship with Ellen becoming known by them. At the beginning of the present arc, "Sister II", Ellen and Grace are settling in at Moperville South. Nanase, who has realized she has gained more spells through the numerous uses of magic lately (usually a spell that lets her use a small fairy avatar while her body is asleep), has been trying not to use spells related to sneaking around or lying, which sort-of backfires, giving her spells to find out how many people are glancing at her, clothes-swapping spells, and the ability to create a semi-sentient magical doppelganger she calls 'Fox'. During Grace's first history class, taught by the no-nonsense Professor Raven, she learns about World War II. Grace promptly runs out of the classroom, with Ellen chasing after her (who had been worrying about this happening earlier). Grace and Ellen are taken to the principal by Raven, who is sympathetic at first, but then becomes enraged when he believes Grace is making this up when she flawlessly quotes a paragraph on the subject from the book because of her strong short-term memory.

Meanwhile at Moperville North HS, Susan comes to school in a male uniform to challenge the dress code. At first, the other students are supportive, until they realize she merely wants to change the dress code, not abolish it. The other students then turn on her, with the exceptions of Catalina, a girl in Susan's feminist club, and Matt Cohen, the student body president. Susan, who is hurt by the student's fleeting praise, becomes saddened even more when 4 girls in her Feminist Club quit, leaving just her, Sarah, and Catalina. Cheered up by Catalina's enthusiasm, Susan believes they can search for new members the next day. Catalina, a lesbian, asks a surprised Susan out until she realizes Susan is straight. Catalina then runs out of the school, embarrassed, and saddening Susan once more. The next day, Susan, still in a male uniform, is depressed about the day before until Tedd arrives in a vest, which is part of the female uniform, appearing uncharacteristically confidant. Tedd stands up for Susan and removes his glasses in public whilst speaking to Tony and Dick (whom the author named as a joke for his horrible personality). Tedd walks away after being thanked by Susan, and is immediately 'glomped' by Catlina.

At lunch, Susan and Sarah do a drive for Feminist Club members and are joined by 2 new members, including one who left the previous day. Tedd and Elliot are playing a card game, Sumo (created by Dan in high school), when Elliot feels a pain in his stomach and rushes to the restroom. Elliot feels like his has to transform, and becomes an Ellen/Grace hybrid after pondering how Grace stops herself. He is found by two boys who enter to find a girl in a male uniform, and Elliot flees and is spotted by Susan who believes him to be another feminist. Elliot escapes Susan by hiding in the auditorium. He is attacked by a Bloodgrem, a green, demonic monkey who he assumes was sent by Lord Tedd, but was in fact created by a character called 'the Reaper', who escaped from a statue in England when Elliot, as a girl, touched the Dewitchery Diamond during "Sister". During the fight, Elliot changed back and defeated the Bloodgrem and went back to his waiting friends. Susan had figured out exactly what happened and contacted Nanase and Tedd's father.

Mr. Verres explains to Elliot and Ellen that night that they have 'Awakened' magically, and that means their powers (for Ellen, zapping, and Elliot, transforming) are being 'built up'. Ellen only has to fire her beam 3 times a day, while Elliot must be transform in the every 6 hours while awake, before and after school, and must spend time as a girl each week and while asleep. On the bright side, due to the fight with the Bloodgrem, news crews have ascended upon the school and Susan has been talked to about the incident, but used the time to her advantage and talked to them about the dress code.

The following day, Moperville South High School is invaded by the "reaper" responsible for summoning the bloodgrem. When confronted by Mr. Raven, he identifies himself as the wizard Abraham, who originally created the dewitchery diamond and has sworn to kill the "abominations" it creates - including Ellen. After incapacitating Raven, Abraham knocks out Ellen and takes her through a portal to a nearby forest, where he plans to kill her. Nanase follows him in her fairy doll form, trying a dozen times to stop him, being cut in half each time. Her resolve to save Ellen's life grants her a new spell, transforming her into an angel form. She captures Abraham and makes him see that he is acting against his oath. He swears to Ellen's safety, and she releases him into the custody of Mr. Verres's agents. She then collapses after returning to human form, having burned out her magic.


Shive used backgrounds rarely in early strips, but increased their frequency over time. Shading was rare before January 2005 when it became a regular part of the strip. While shading and backgrounds have been added, color has become rare over time. EGS had been started as grayscale comic with colored Sunday strips, then switched to full color for a while and back to full grayscale in December 2002. In December 2007 the comic went to all color strips. The comic's strip size had begun with newspaper format, but Shive switched to double the height during "Relations, Part II" and rarely strayed from this until the introduction of a Portrait style. The comics eventually came to be of comparable size to a physical comic, in full color, with simple shading. Dan has recently said that he is making efforts to have the characters look less alike.

The improvement of details in the comic had an effect on the update schedule.[citation needed] EGS started with daily strips. With the introduction of the EGS:NP section, updates were still meant to be daily[citation needed], but split into three updates of the main section, three in the EGS:NP section which used newspaper strip format, and one filler on Sunday. EGS eventually settled with a schedule involving three main section updates per week. In March 2007, Shive temporarily opted to release two main section strips and one filler per week, due to time constraints. As of April 2008, updates are theoretically three times a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, although actually meeting schedule is not common in the long term. In January 2009 the comic went back to grayscale, ostensibly to keep up with the schedule.


EGS was 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] A short April 2007 review in the comic zine Sequential Tart gave EGS a 7/10 rating. The review focused on the gags and jokes of the strip.[5]

El Goonish Shive is cited 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.

Collected editions[edit]

El Goonish Shive, Volume 1: Read or the Owl Will Eat You

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

Volume 1 contains strips from the comic's launch up to the end of "Sister Part V", Volume 2 those from "Sister Part VI" up to the end of "Q&A #2".


  1. "El Goonish Shive - News Archive". Retrieved on July 20, 2009.
  2. "Keenspot articles". Retrieved on March 10, 2007.
  3. April 2003 "EGS Comic for Thursday, Apr 17, 2003". Retrieved on July 20, 2009.
  4. "Full Reviews of El Goonish Shive". Webcomic Book Club. Retrieved on March 12, 2007.
  5. Burke, J.. "El Goonish Shive". 1 April 2007. Sequential Tart. Retrieved on April 3, 2007.
  6. Campbell, The History of Webcomics, ISBN 1-0976804-39-5
  7. Scott, Christopher Thomas. "Tions and Ligers and Geeps -- Oh, My!". Retrieved on February 25, 2007.

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