Saturday, January 21, 2012

Webcomic Recap: El Goonish Shive

I've been reading Webcomics for a Loooong time.  I first discovered the medium around 2003, during a time when Television access was limited.  While many have died out or gone on extended hiatus's...Or happen to be created by sprites, the longest lasting I've followed just turned Ten Today.  Yeah, It's the Tenth anniversary of the creation of El Goonish Shive.

First of all, ignore the name.  It's for the most part Nonsense.
Created by Dan Shive, EGS is something along the lines of a slice-of-life series when the life involves magic, Advanced technology, Immortals, Outer Gods, Aliens, Transformative energies, and Genetic anomalous beings.
...There really isn't a good way to synopses the series beyond that, which is one of the draws.  But it follows a small group of characters, which I can summarize.
The strips initially started with Two Characters;  Tedd and Elliot.  Tedd is a Mad scientist specializing in Alien Transformative technology, which his Dad inadvertently gave him access to initially.  Likely as a result of his highly androgynous appearance, he was bullied as a kid until he met Elliot, and in tandem with the tech ended up exploring the other side, in a non-sexual manner.  Due to Tedd's Connections and knowledge of SCIENCE, he tends to be an expository agent.
Then There's Elliot.  A practitioner of Anime-styled Martial arts (the inventor had a back-to-back Fighting anime binge for several days on end), he has had to deal with some of the greatest changes in the series.  Early on he was stuck in the body of a girl (Courtesy of Tedd), leading to an adventure involving a Curse-removing Diamond that incidentally created his Daughter/sister Ellen (It makes sense in context), but then caused him to forcibly learn magic later on...which causes him to change into a girl.  In the same intial arc he also gained a cat-person form, but that hasn't appeared in a while.
This is a good time to Talk about Ellen.  While initially a Gender-swapped magic clone of Elliot, she grew into her own person after experiencing dreams of an alternate universe version of herself which 'ages her soul'.  While Elliot tends to be serious, Ellen is more lax and fun-loving.  She also tends to scheme given the opportunity.  And as a result of her creation via the Dewitchery Diamond, she has magic based around changing guys into girls, and girls into enhanced versions of themselves.
Grace is next on the list.  Grace is a Human Hybrid with an alien species (the ones which originated Tedd's Transformation tech), and a Squirrel.  The scientist ordered with her creation substituted her recently deceased Daughter's DNA into her creation, making the two genetic Granddaughter/Grandfather.  Most of her life she was raised in a lab, or under the hand of an abusive madman called Damien, before managing to escape and come across Tedd on the early-side of the series.  She's a natural shape-shifter, initially only able to change between Human and Squirrel, but after Exposure to Tedd's TF-Gun, became a free-changer.  Due to the influence of her alien ancestry, she doesn't experience sexuality and attraction in the way humans do, thus latched onto Tedd, and the two are dating.  As one would expect of living a sheltered life, she tends to be naive of the horrors of man.  Which is why being introduced to it via the Holocaust left a lasting impression.  Still, despite all she's gone through, she retains a bubbly disposition to the world, making her one of the strongest people in the series at her core.
Then we get to the secondary main characters.  We'll start with Sarah First.  Elliot's current Girlfriend, she's the conscripted normal of the group.  She's had bad experiences with Tedd's Tech, spending some time as a Catgirl which traumatized her before the events of the strips.  As the normal of the group, she has to put up with the weirdness of the world she has dragged herself into, and serves as a ground for the others, along with Justin.
Justin Works for the local Card/hobby/Nerdom shop, and has a crush on Elliot he's attempting to get over.  Outed as a Homosexual by his first girlfriend accidentally, it's been a source of harassment he has had to deal with for some time.  Another practitioner of Anime-styled Martial arts, Justin shaped the training into a minor ability with illusions.  Though, nothing strong enough than to be a support role in a fight.
Nanase is Tedd's Cousin.  From an overbearing household (mainly her mother), she tends to hide a lot of herself to avoid ridicule, in opposition to Justin, though that has begun to change.  Initially Dating Elliot after a long chain of short-lived boyfriends, they broke off early on after seeing how Sarah felt about Elliot, and not wanting to stand in the way of it.  After several arcs in the comics, she came to a self realization that she was in fact attracted to girls, and after several other arcs started dating Ellen.  The Third practitioner of Anime-styled Martial arts and a magic user, she specialized in Deception magics due to her prior life of hiding her true self from nearly everyone.  But after a recent battle with a Man trying to kill Ellen (long story), exhausted all of her magic with a single offensive spell.
Lastly is Tiffany Susan Pompoms, arguably the most complex character of the initial cast.  Her father screwed around with Women sharing her first name and natural hair color (blonde, she dyes it black now), resulting in her having a long-lasting distaste of the opposite gender and overly-feminine things.  Though after spending an extended time with the rest of the group, a result of her friendship with Sarah, has begun to change her view on men.  However, when the school half the group attends instated a dress code, she was at the forefront of a movement to get it removed/changed.  Another magic user, in a flashback arc it was shown that she was responsible for killing a Vampire-esque Immortal, with help from Nanase.  She's also a Star Trek Fan, only shown visibly when she's in a notoriously bad mood and is passively looking for targets.
I know that a few of these bios seemed to involve things of a rather sexual nature, but surprisingly the entire comic remains pretty close to a PG rating.  It's something I have to commend Dan for.  For the most part the comic is more about the group discovering who they are in the greater world while dealing with Supernatural situations.  There's a lot of comedy involved in a great deal of the intermittent strips, which helps keep people's interest through the filler or buildup to major events.  Despite decreasing the number of strips produced from 2006-2009, Dan Picked up production again to a regular 3+ a week update schedule from 2010 to today.  Another thing to note is Dan's evolution in comic-making quality from 2002 to today.  Trust me, it's such a major overhaul that it's surprising that the early strips and today's are in fact made by the same person.
So Yeah, that's most of what I've got for this, but I do Recommend taking a look at it.  It's not a bad strip.

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