Wednesday, April 19, 2023

I fail to do justice to El Goonish Shive

I’ve occasionally written about web comics but I recently realized I’ve never written about my favorite web comic, El Goonish Shive by Dan Shive. (The name is a nonsensical reference to the creater’s name and has nothing to do with the strip, by the way)

The series has been around for over twenty years and has kind of followed the evolution of web comic trends. It started off as a fourth-wall breaking snarky strip with loads of pop culture references. Since then, It has evolved into an urban fantasy with a strong focus on emotional problems and gender issues. And much, much better artwork.

El Goonish Shive is about a group of quirky teenagers, all who have varying degrees of experience with the supernatural, with a particularly strong focus on transformation. The tone ranges from silly light to dark heavy and storylines range from slice of life to high fantasy adventure. The tone can range from pure comedy to tragedy, sometimes in the same arc.

While the cast started out with three characters, the number of main characters is now something like ten with gobs of supporting characters, which is more than I want to go into. However, a testament to the quality of character development is Ted. Ted started as a snarky pervert teen mad scientist and has become a sensitive, insightful, gender fluid teen mad scientist.

And somehow, amidst this sea of different tones, Dan Shive keeps his web comic feel consistent.  Honestly, by the second year, his writing started to really click and has pretty much kept improving from there. El Goonish Shive has been relentlessly thoughtful and sweet.

While I can’t recommend starting from the beginning (the birthday party arc is where I feel the writing truly gels), I think El Goonish Shive is worth anyone’s time reading.

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