El Goonish Shive (EGS) is a contemporary fantasy webcomic, written and drawn by Dan Shive. It debuted on 21 January 2002 and was hosted on Keenspot from mid-2003 to early-2009, when it changed hosting to 910CMX (and it is now hosted on Hiveworks). Shive rates EGS as being "13+".
The comic depicts the lives of a fictional group of teenagers in their junior and senior years of high school. They are subject to the trials of daily teenage life, such as disapproving parents, nasty rumors and arbitrary school decisions, as well as more outlandish problems involving magic, aliens, parallel dimensions, and "superscience".
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. Throughout the first nine years of production, the internal chronology of the strip advanced by only about 11 weeks. (The subsequent insertion of a 6-month chronology timeskip advanced this somewhat.)
Keenspot has published two volumes of collected editions. As of March 2007, the first volume was the third best selling Keenspot article.
El Goonish Shive features tolerance-related issues, including sexual orientations such as homosexuality and bisexuality, non-traditional gender roles and lifestyle choices. Perhaps because of this, shapeshifting (and gender bending, for what that matters) is quite common in El Goonish Shive and is often used as a gag or main plot (or both).
As the main plot proceeds, the characters are shown coming of age; however, not all changes have been pleasant to the characters. For instance, Nanase, who was introduced as strong and confident, was shaken to the core when she discovered her homosexuality (something her mother apparently despises), and is only slowly recovering.
Manipulation is shown in different forms, from the humorous to the dangerous. Government agent Mr. Verres hides the widespread presence of friendly aliens, Uryuoms, by giving them T-shirts with the word "Human" printed on them, which works within the comic's reality (indeed, Elliot once noted how ironic it is that Mr. Verres works to cover up the goverment's secrets, in spite of how pathetic or illogic his excuses tend to be). More dangerous to the characters is the direct mental manipulation by the invisible "Mastermind".
Shive occasionally shows earlier ideas for El Goonish Shive within the strip, in no particular order.
The strip as it was initially drawn does not include the more fantastic elements of the setting. They show Elliot, Tedd and Sarah meeting for a role-playing evening. Even at this point, though, several aspects of the comic, such as Tedd's weak sexual identity, were clear. In "Painted Black Special Features" Shive reports that he made several changes to his previous ideas when he decided to make a webcomic. Elliot, Tedd and Sarah remained main characters, while elements of a fourth character were used for Grace and Susan. EGS gained powerful villains with Damien and Grace's brothers, and was destined to lead to a major battle against them in what would become the "Painted Black" arc. Shive later provided them, and Ellen and Lord Tedd who were also introduced as villains, with a more detailed character and reasons for their actions.
The early strips established the danger Damien presents and prepared the way for Ellen's creation and struggle in the "Sister" arc, with occasional humor mainly in the form of gags and references to pop culture. After "Sister", the next storylines focused on humor. From then on, Shive slowly changed EGS by letting new friendships form and examining the characters' more realistic problems, while humor was still present and the more fantastic elements of the setting still played a major role. The "Painted Black" arc with its battle still happened, but it became a violent disruption of the characters' usual lives, affecting some characters deeply, instead of the focus of the entire story as it had originally been planned.
As of April 2008, the main cast of El Goonish Shive still consists of the same eight teenagers present at the end of "Sister", although several supporting characters have been introduced. While the core personalities of the main cast have been established, characters develop in response to the situations they face, and for many characters most details of their lives are still unexplored, such as their family and school situations.
- See also: Daniel Elliot Shive
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 was started as a greyscale comic with colored Sunday strips, and then switched to full color for a while and back to full greyscale in December 2002. In December 2007 the comic again went to all color strips. The comic's strip size began 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 greyscale, 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. EGS started with daily strips. With the introduction of the EGS:NP section, updates were still meant to be daily, 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 into 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, story updates were theoretically three times a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with filler on Tuesdays and Thursdays, although actually meeting schedule was not common in the long term. In January 2009 the comic went back to greyscale, ostensibly to keep up with the schedule. In 2010 the comic was relatively regular and starting April 18, 2011 the comic went to having story updates every weekday with filler on Saturdays. The Saturday fillers were dropped after June 18 and are now used for filling gaps in the story updates.
El Goonish Shive has been part of a number of different comic networks. It was originally self-hosted by the author, then joined Keenspot. On January 27, 2009, Shive announced that EGS would leave Keenspot and become independent, instead moving to 910CMX. Between August 2 and August 5, 2013, the comic left 910CMX to join Hiveworks, of which it is still a part.
The site has gone through several visual revisions and seen the addition of the NewsPaper and Sketchbook sections. Several sections have been removed and are no longer accessible. Some can be found through the Wayback Machine.
The current site, www.egscomics.com, is part of Hiveworks. It features New Readers, Sketchbook, EGS:NP, Archives, Frequently Asked Questions, Store, Extras, and Contact Sections. At present, the site is inaccessable from some public networks due to IP bans. The extent of this is unknown, but Kent State University was previously blocked and the University of Ottawa is currently blocked.
Early in the morning of 04-04-2018, a PHP update revealed a security hole that allowed remote editing of the site without any credentials. The vulnerability was publicised on Twitter, Reddit, and Discord, with unknown intentions. This was exploitable for between 6 and 12 hours, until a password was added to the remote control console. The console was later changed to return a 403: forbidden error. A statement ("What's with the vandalism?) was added to the site's FAQ explaining the breach, but the author confirmed in a elgoonishshive twitter status ID 981565055945895937 that he had not written the FAQ entry.
In this time period, several changes were made:
- The word "test" in red text was added to the bottom of the New Readers page. This appears to have been the first change. It was originally in red, it was changed later.
- The control console's "New Comic" function was used to add a new front page with an unidentified image and a caption identifying it as from "hackers".
- A link to register as an organ donor in the U.S.A. was added to the bottom of the FAQ page, the Extras page, and the Contact page
- The aforementioned FAQ entry
- The commentary on this sketchbook page was turned red
- A broken link on this comic was fixed to point to the correct page. The link had been broken for years. (This change was done by Lauren Smith)
- A "GNU Terry Pratchett" message was added to the hover text of this comic and embedded in the HTML of the extras section.
All of these changes were reverted within two hours of the control console being locked down. Some of the effected pages may have been taken offline briefly before being fixed, but that has not been confirmed. This is based on discussion in the Discord Fanserver. The hacked versions of some of the pages can be seen on the Wayback Machine's April 4 2018 archived copy of the site.