El Goonish Shive

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Exposition or Mind Screw? You decide!


"Easily the most perverted squeaky clean comic on the net."
Tangents Reviews
"I grew up in Moperville. Weird stuff happens here..."
Carol Brown the reporter

El Goonish Shive is an Action Series Adventure Series Dramedy Web Comic, written, drawn, inked and colored by Dan Shive. He has stated that all of the comic can be summed up in one of the main characters' quotes: "Because it sounds like one big awkward moment." Oh, and pay no attention to the art quality of the early strips. It gets better, drastically better.

It's about a cast of characters and their relationships while in the middle of spellcasting, Shapeshifting (Voluntary Shapeshifting and otherwise), gender-bending, and blatantly disregarding the laws of physics. Or, alternately, it's about a cast of characters who occasionally take time off from obsessing over their relationships to cast spells, change shape, and break the laws of physics. The gender-bending is pretty constant, though.

The series has a heavy focus on interpersonal relationships; it's easy to get so wrapped up in the characters' lives that you forget that an inter-dimensional Evil Overlord has possibly been attempting to attack them since his last appearance (seen in a picture) when he sent monsters to kill his dimensional counterparts in one of the first story arcs.

It has its own wiki, Shiveapedia, which contains the definitive timeline of the comic (which is considered Canon by Word of God) plus practically exhaustive arc summaries and character bios.

Tropes used in El Goonish Shive include:


  • Aborted Arc:
    • Hints dropped at Ellen taking up drinking were later explained away because the creator didn't like the direction it would take. Thus, the hints are stuffed back in the refrigerator... behind the Red Herring.
    • The "Lord Tedd" arc will presumably pick up again some day, but it's more or less indefinitely on hold because the author realized he introduced it too early.
    • Susan's crusade against the school uniform policy dropped out of focus and then ended abruptly not because nobody in the school wanted to wear the uniforms (Even if only Susan was willing to openly act on the matter), but because the parents of the students complained about the increased laundry costs.
      • Averted somewhat in that Dan had always intended to end the arc in a lame way, but admitted he didn't intend for it to be so abrupt.
  • Abusive Parents: Damien ended up making himself a sort of twisted father figure to Grace and her brothers, but there is nothing "fatherly" about him at all. He is an abuser pure and simple, able to control his "children" through fear and constantly hitting them whenever they displease him. And like any parent whose children are young enough, he's too powerful for them to do anything about it. And the reason he wanted Grace back? He wanted to breed with her so that he could raise an army. Whether she wanted to or not. (She didn't, by the way.)
  • Academy of Adventure: Two of them: Moperville North and South. Raven mentions offhandedly that South is some sort of haven for supernatural and paranormal children--and he's in charge of protecting them.
    • Not so. Raven states that there are several children of an arcane nature - that could mean 20 in a school of over a thousand. What's more, he never states other schools aren't like this - we might just not have met Raven's Moperville North equivalent.
  • Accidental Truth:
  • Action Girl: All the girls (and some of the guys) except for Sarah.
  • Actually Not a Vampire:
    • A variation. Susan flashbacks to an earlier encounter with an 'Aberration' -- a person who has used magic in order to become immortal through parasitically leeching off the life-force of others. She starts to describe to her friends about how it had some vampire-like characteristics, realizes her description sounds like it is of a vampire, and decides to say it was one. When her friends ask if it really was one she said 'No, not really, but it was a monster that used to be human, hypnotized young women and sucked blood out of their necks. It doesn't matter what I say. You two are going to hear "vampire."' The accompanying comments say no, it's not a 'real' vampire.
    • Despite what some people might think, Raven assures you that he is not, in fact, a vampire. He also wants you to know that sandwiches are delicious.
  • Aerith and Bob: Jerry the Immortal thinks you should be glad he's a Jerry, because most immortals go for elitist names from ancient mythology.

"Let me tell you, there is nothing more hilarious than the legendary hissy-fits that result from two or more immortals named Zeus running into each other."

Dan: I suppose it's POSSIBLE Sarah won't get transformed at any point while assisting Tedd. Possible, but not bloody likely.

    • Also, judging from this rant, Susan (and Diane's) "concern for hygiene" is another example.
  • Author Avatar: Dan's squirrel avatar, though only out of continuity.
  • Author Filibuster: The Legends of Celida arc so far seems to exist for the sole purpose of allowing Dan to rant about the true nature of Sheik from Ocarina of Time and whether Zelda is simply casting an illusion or out and out transforms into a male.
  • Author Guest Spot: Dan has appeared as himself as he appears in real life as the "super smart" guy in panel six of this strip but as he only revealed that it was him in the commentary and calls it a cameo it is more like a Creator Cameo.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Pandora Chaos Raven. She chose it herself, and claims that it matches her personality.
  • Badass Boast: "No one will care if I kill you."
  • Badass Family: The Verres family, including cousin Nanase and resident Grace.
    • And Raven's family as well, with Raven being one of the series biggest badasses, his adopted son/lodger Noah being able to defeat a dragon singlehandedly and has hints of being the child left behind from the experiments that created Damien and Grace. His mother, Pandora, is shaping up to be series Big Bad.
  • Badass Longcoat: Hedge, Abraham, and, of all people, Tedd's dad.
  • Badass Teacher: Endangering students of Mr. Raven is the sort of things insurance companies make a specific exclusion for. Even for wizards.
  • Beat Panel: Frequently, and once turned into gag in its own right.
    • Used to great effect when Nanase encounters one of the guys she dated before she came out.

Gary: I don't mean to be rude, it's just I used to think you didn't want to go on a date with me because I was too geeky.
BEAT
Nanase: Yes. It was entirely because I am a lesbian.

Tedd: Grace, can your antennae function as Brain Bleach?

Tedd: He sounds like a venus fly trap that catches bullies. That's awesome.

Grace: I didn't scare you, did I?
Tedd: (visibly spaced out) so... hot...

Elliot and Sarah: (a synchronized Face Palm) Aw crap!
Susan: What? Did I say something wrong?
Tedd: They've heard the rant to follow before.

  • Chekhov's Gun: A lot of 'em. It got to the point that Shive redesigned a character who would have had certain "suspicious" traits (such as an eyepatch) specifically so that nobody would sit around waiting for those to be explained.
    • Possibly Lampshaded in the commentary for this strip: "On the plus side, should the fact that there's a photo of Grace on the wall of a pancake place where a TV show episode was filmed ever come up again, the high-res version is already drawn." Definitely lampshaded in this page's commentary.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Hedge, among others. Noah was even worse—he showed up, gothic font and all, and then... completely vanished. For years.
  • Chekhov's Skill: It took nearly eight years to explain how Susan made a sword appear back during the Sister arc.
  • The Chessmaster: Pandora. Dan even says in one commentary that she's not someone you want to play at chess. Her desire to manipulate events rather than getting directly involved actually makes sense for two reasons: the other immortals get cheesed off if one of them does anything more than assist people on the physical plane, and she prefers things to be as unpredictable as possible (Chaos is literally her middle name). Doing everything herself would either earn her severe retribution or just make things too boring.
  • Children Forced to Kill: Susan and Nanase when, during a class-trip to France, they wind up being targeted by an aberration. He's not technically human, but he LOOKS human - mostly - and while Nanase does most of the fighting, it's Susan who ends up having to kill him - with an ax, even. Unsurprisingly, she was somewhat traumatized, and the storyline that featured the flashback culminated in an Immortal decrying the irresponsibility of the two French Immortals who originally equipped the girls for the battle, while giving them no apparent alternative save dying at the hands of the aberration. Apparently, they could have simply informed the French Government's anti-supernatural-creature-squad instead, but elected to drag two pre-teens into a battle in order to 'recruit them for the fight against evil'. Omniscient Morality License, anyone?
  • Child Soldier: After a monster attacked Susan in Paris, two Immortals empowered her and Nanase, and instructed how to kill it, though it implied–and in the Hammerchlorians arc, confirmed–that they could have gone to an experienced local magic-user instead. Susan... didn't take it well.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Word of God states he is attempting to avert this. The author did finally properly introduced Noah, a character who was first mentioned (and then ignored) 6 years beforehand.
    • The best example in this series was likely Sensei Greg. Despite having played a fairly decent role in early arcs, he was reduced to a brief cameo in Painted Black, and only got a short, non-plot critical scene in the party arc before it got into full swing. However, this has been averted as of 8/18/2010, which marks Sensei Greg's re-introduction to the storyline.
  • Clark Kenting:
    • Tedd can fool Will and Gill without even meaning it—they call him an impostor when they see him without his glasses. On the other hand, those are really big glasses, they have never seen him without them and they seem not to know what glasses are (instead assuming they are his eyes) which would make sense if, as shapeshifters, they never need glasses since they can shapeshift to correct or modify their vision.
    • Exaggerated Trope with an incredibly lame (but apparently successful) government campaign to hide the presence of aliens on earth by such methods as having them wear T-shirts that say "Homo Sapiens."
    • In the New And Old Flames storyline Elliot got a superheroine form spell. Later, it was revealed it comes with its own alter ego form which seems to allow this trope. However, it is subverted in that in the form Elliot actually requires glasses and his speech patterns are made mild mannered. This means he doesn't really need engage in Clark Kenting consciously; the form does it for him.
  • Cloning Blues: Played depressingly straight at first. When Ellen was accidentally created, she freaked out, with good reason. She had all of Elliot's memories, but suffered Loss of Identity since she could never get back his old life, and all of his friends were now essentially strangers she only knew about secondhand. She was permanently stuck in female form, something the original Elliot was so desperate to escape that he resorted to using a dangerous magical artifact he clearly didn't understand rather than risk spending (at most) a few more weeks in that form. Ellen also had reason to believe she might have less than a month to live, and feared she'd spend that time locked up in a research facility as a test subject. She went a little crazy, and as a coping mechanism, tried being an Evil Twin for a while, which only made her more miserable. However, this trope was heavily subverted in the long run. Ellen learned her fears of an imminent demise or being locked up for study had no basis in reality. Elliot's friends welcomed her warmly and treated her like a normal individual, rather than just an accidental female copy of someone they knew. Elliot became fiercely protective of her, treating her as a cross between a little sister and a daughter, rather than the Evil Twin she had tried to be. Even Elliot's parents accepted her surprisingly easily, given the circumstances. Ellen eventually developed her own personality and became a major character in her own right, as well as an unprecedented solution to an earlier Love Triangle.
  • Cobweb of Disuse: There's a dojo that's disused but lacking cobwebs... then the sketchbook explains why.
  • Code Name: Grace originally didn't have a real name, but went by the code name 'Shade Tail'. 'Grace' was the name her Dr Sciuridae gave her, after the dead daughter who had been her gene-parent.
    • Both for Grace and general Tail variants, Tail as the last name is not arbitrary, it's family name, since their Uryuom parent's name translates to Tail from Uryuomoco.
  • Color-Coded Multiplayer: When Nanase creates one shadow copy of herself, the copy is colored with one of the primary additive colors (red, green, or blue), while Nanase is colored with the corresponding primary subtractive color (cyan, magenta, or yellow, respectively). This actually makes sense from a scientific standpoint: The real Nanase is absorbing the color the fake one is producing.
  • Color Failure: Nanase has one at the party when Ellen goes to get her change of clothes.
  • Coming Out Story: Justin's, related to Susan during Grace's party, though it had previously been shown without explanation. Nanase, on the other hand, comes out during the party, though by then everyone there that night except Tedd already knew. For a while she was only out to the people who were at the party, though.
  • Confused Bystander Interview: There's one of these, complete with sound effects, Buffy-Speak, and general hyperactiveness. Subverted in that she's actually not a bystander. She's the superhero that she allegedly saw. And she's not even a "she".
  • Congruent Memory: Tedd is supposedly better at cooking while female. He seems fully aware of the absurdity of this, however, admitting that it's probably all in his head. Doesn't stop him from doing it.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: Averted. The "fire monster" summons in the New and Old Flames arc aren't really made of fire because they would incinerate themselves. They just look like they're on fire and takes on fire-related vulnerabilities. It's a beginner's mistake when summoning certain monsters to just go with what looks cool instead of what actually works.
  • Covert Pervert:
  • Crazy Prepared: Mr. Verres' party chaperon presentation.
  • Creating Life: Played for Laughs -- "Our goo kinda came to life...," but later revealed to be a monster sent on purpose from an Alternate Universe. Also, in a filler strip soap bubbles came to life as Pac-Man-like critters... and promptly attacked Tedd.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Mr. Verres and Agent Wolf. In early comics, the two characters were pretty goofy and usually played for laughs. That changes a bit later on:
    • We've gotten hints for some time that Mr. Verres is a very prominent figure in the paranormal area (possibly even enough to qualify him as the Big Good of the EGS world), and his Crowning Moment of Awesome near the end of the Abraham encounter demonstrates that he has enough skill with magic that you really don't want to mess with him or anyone he cares about.
    • The encounter with Abraham has also shown that, when he's not obsessed with aliens, Agent Wolf is very professional, and Raven has identified him as one of the most powerful wizards in the Midwestern United States.
  • Curse Cut Short:
    • Agent Wolf is such a--
    • An earlier example from the Goo: {{{1}}}
    • Elliot explaining Justins coming-out.
  • Damsel in Distress: During the "Painted Black" arc, Grace becomes one when she's captured while infiltrating Damien's base... at least until Damien makes her really, really mad.
    • Elliot, due to his self gender-bending abilities, temporarily becomes a damsel in distress as well, if only to escape.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Magic apparently drain users at various rates. Spells too powerful to handle may overtax even well-trained magic users, possibly even removing their magic for months at at a time.
  • Dawson Casting: Tedd invokes this in an EGS:NP strip by claiming to be twenty-one outside of continuity due to Comic Book Time. Grace counters the gap might be up to a year, making Tedd eighteen. She then goes on to say that it doesn't matter anyways since none of them are likely to look any different before they turn 30.[1]
  • The Dark Side:

The Principal: So you're saying you can't make me an army of goo-based hall monitors?
Tedd: Even if I could, I would not give into the dark side so easily.

Tedd: Careful, she might use tactics that wouldn't even cross our mind.
(cut to Ellen asking a gas pump attendant for directions)

NO! BAD Sarah! Stop thinking of yourself as a sex object!!

"Regardless of which gender he is at the time, I use the female [plastic] artist model for Tedd. And Noah, now that I think about it."[1]

Of course, if this was CSI, some dude would magically multiply the resolution of the image, clean it up, and get the license plate of a nearby car from a reflection in Elliot's pupil.

Noah: Is it jealousy? I have been told I could make straight men see rainbows.

Raven: You are a homicidal wizard invading a public school. No one will care if I kill you.

  • Extra Parent Conception: Uryoms reproduce this way, with a variable number of parents.
  • Face Palm: What the hell have you two been doing?
  • Fan Service: This filler is the most over the top example of it.
  • Faux Paw: Done by Ellen to Nanase's ponytail several times, starting here.
  • Fictional Counterpart: SWEDEKEA! And how.
  • Finishing Stomp: Performed by Ellen on Goo Cell #0012. Squishtality!
  • Fireball Eyeballs: Ellen here and here, Susan here.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Susan and Nanase, of all people, are Fire Forged Vitriolic Best Buds. Now that Susan's secret is out, she's even opening up to her.
  • First Girl Wins: Elliot and Sarah, Tedd and Grace (that we know of anyway), Ellen and Nanase, if you count Ellen's "birth" as taking Sarah out of the picture.
  • Fish Out of Temporal Water: Abraham averts this by having spells that give him modern knowledge and clothes, given how magic works in this series it makes sense that he would have them in conjunction with his statue spell.
  • Flat Joy: When Elliot discovered that his inconvenient "girly powers only" time ended and he began to acquire cool magic. Of course, he's not only in a female form, but in the middle of a random encounter, but still.
  • Flat What: Performed here, and again by Susan. And then by Justin here and here.
  • Flight: Many characters are capable of this. Nanase, in three different ways: wings in her fairy form, magical levitation in normal form, and wings in her "angel" form. Grace—levitation, though only in Omega form. Nioi—magic. Vlad—wings plus levitation. Immortals (so far, all) -- either magic or it's an inherent quality. Elliot -- while in his superhero form.
  • Follow the Chaos: Need to know if Tedd is upstairs or downstairs in his lab? Listen for an explosion.
  • The Force Is Strong with This One: Adrian Raven admitted having ability to measure magical power without devices, which all but confirms a common wild guess on who his "random favourites" are.
  • Forced Meme: Shive attempted to turn "sexy awesome" into a Catch Phrase, but never caught on outside the fan base, and even the characters have all but stopped using it.
  • Foreshadowing: Tends to get Lampshaded a lot. What is left is usually cryptic or already blatantly obvious.
    • What's seen here translated with this. "Death. It Is Time For The End Of Man. This Master of Fire Shall Inherit The Earth. My Very Presence Eats Away At Your Flesh" Other than the two bizarre words in the end, it's pretty creepy.
    • Susan's sword (5th December, 2002) and "tattoo" Venus (5th October, 2005) were good hints that she isn't as simple as she looks, but were proven to be plot points and not throwaway gags only in much later flashback (26th May, 2010).
  • Fourth Wall Mail Slot: The Q&A strips.
  • Freak Lab Accident: What the Goo originally was before a Cerebus Retcon turned it into an attempt by Lord Tedd to kill this universe's Tedd.
  • Freak-Out: Susan wasn't amused to discover what the hammers were made for—and what they in fact do. Of course, that being in the presence of an Immortal, she just caught an Instant Sedation spell in the face and got spaced out for her efforts.
  • Freudian Excuse: Most of the cast have really screwy home lives. Specifically, Susan's hatred of men is very nearly outright said to be her making an excuse for her father cheating. Her mother's hate-filled "because he's a man" when lil' Susan asked her why probably helped this along a little.
  • Functional Magic: Nioi is a powerful sorceress, as is Nanase. Nanase in particular uses it very often and quite openly at times.
    • Magic A Is Magic A: A significant portion of the "Sister II" arc is devoted to explaining exactly how magic works in EGS.
    • Squishy Wizard: Specifically averted. Two of the three wizards seen so far are also swordsmen (Abe also used shield and axe), for third it's unknown, but as a FBI operative he's likely to have at least basic handgun training. The rest of magic users in the comic practice Supernatural Martial Arts, and one that doesn't is at least pretty Badass and is competent enough with melee weapons.
    • Wizard Duel: Magus vs. Terra's duel appears to be either sparring or a non-lethal quarrel. Abraham vs. Raven, with spells and weapons both.
  • Fun with Subtitles: "[See? I can speak the alien language of the Uryuoms.]" (subtitles: Translated from TAKE A WILD GUESS.)
  • Gas Leak Coverup:
  • Gender Bender: The entire main cast, at least once. They even did this as a theme for a birthday party. Ellen is a special case, since she's an Opposite Gender Clone of another main character with all the memories of the original, and she has the innate ability to turn men into women. Pretty much anything in the EGS universe will get your gender bent, including fixing a toaster.
    • Attractive Bent Gender: Pretty much whenever anyone is transformed, goes in both directions. It helps that the person behind the gender-bending technology is an unrepentant pervert who custom-designed transformation variants to appeal to certain fetishes.
    • First Law of Gender Bending: EGS, while not as casual or frequent about it as The Wotch, certainly pays the Law its dues. According to the rules governing the comic's main sex-changing phlebotinum, only male-to-female sex changes can be made permanent (pregnancy); female-to-male sex changes, even of someone trapped by pregnancy (for whom it's only even possible afterwards), cannot exceed a 30 day time limit. The second time a boy - the main character - is turned into a girl the device breaks, leaving "her" stuck for the full thirty days; the attempt to circumvent this creates an Opposite Gender Clone and the permanent ability to change sex at will, something the rules of magic eventually force him to do on a regular basis.
      • Also, much later, a "seyunolu" (chimera) member of the Quirky Miniboss Squad, Vlad, is hit with a Transformation Ray and is turned female, but more importantly to him/her, human. "She" has no desire to change back, and since Bizarre Alien Biology overrides the time limit (and, implicitly, gender identity), Vladia, as she is now called, is treated as a woman from then on.
      • Moving on from Elliot being a double victim of this, we get to Tedd. Who probably wouldn't know this was a law: the "circumstances" usually equate to "Dad's out of town" and "As a girl, I'm hot."
    • Second Law of Gender Bending: Largely averted, despite all of the constant Gender Bending: Elliot has no interest in remaining female for long and considers his gender-bending Power Incontinence distasteful, Justin specifically rejects the idea even though it would make him sexually compatible with the object of his unrequited affection, Ellen accepts it without expressing any preference (though there are hints that the Loss of Identity associated with Opposite Sex Cloning Blues was a sore point until she got a new set of memories).
      • It's touching in Vlad/Vladia's case. There's nothing kinky about her accepting the change—for the first time in her whole life normal people aren't terrified by the sight of her, so she's willing to accept any form provided it's human, which her old, male form decidedly was not. And given that her one attempt to use her supposed shapeshifting powers was a painful, near-death experience she's not about to experiment even given the chance.
      • The curent theory is that Elliot will acquire new female forms again and again until he really likes one of them—then again, it was Tedd's idea. Between flying around as a superheroine and ogling Perky Goth form in a mirror, he may have found this already.
      • Tedd is the only straight example. He likes this form of shapeshifting because his androgynous face becomes an advantage while close enough to Tedd's own form and he likes to feel attractive. Once this problem became moot it was revealed that Body Swap is #37 on his fetish list.
    • Third Law of Gender Bending: Grace's Birthday Party arc, part-masquerade where the various characters deliberately chose stereotypical outfits for each other in keeping with the 'walk a mile in my shoes' theme of the occasion.
      • Susan starts acting macho and aggressive to Nanase very soon after becoming male. Sarah points out that Susan is simply a highly competitive person; now that she's male, and feeling stronger, it takes the form of an arm wrestling match.
        • Tedd does note that the first time gender bending their new genders thoughts are exaggerated, which played a part in everyone's storyline during the event, but the only one whose gender bending mental state was a major plot point was Susan, as it helped her recognize her hangups with men.
      • Later, when Elliot develops the power to morph his clothes and appearance along with his gender his female forms tend to end up wearing girly outfits because he apparently just can't help visualizing them that way.
      • A better example is Tedd; in fact, Grace has less dresses and skirts in her wardrobe than he does despite most of her first clothes being selected by Ordinary High School Student Sarah. He even prides himself on how sexy he looks transformed. And cooks better while female, just out of habit.
    • Opposite Gender Clone: Ellen.
  • Genki Girl:
    • Grace is usually defined as "bubbly." Although, Jerry the Immortal implies that she lost her innocence a long time ago, and she's simply overcompensating.
    • A more literal example is Susan's curiosity, seen here.
    • Elliot's superhero spell comes with a "party girl" form whose default state is hyper and apparently slightly drunk.
  • Genre Busting: It crosses a few. It starts out like a comedic slice-of-life comic, quickly adds sci-fi and drama, then fantasy (later explaining the sci-fi as magic)(except it's not the same magic). Currently it's kind of a mix of the lot. And weird.
  • Gentle Giant:
    • Justin, from Rhoda's point of view. She's normally scared of people bigger than her (and his 6' to her 5' is quite a difference), but also knows that he's friends with Nanase, and that Nanase wouldn't be friends with anyone bad.
    • Sensei Greg is an imposing 6'10 (208 cm) but is a perfectly decent guy.
      • So decent, that he is bothered by not being a "traditional" perverted anime sensei.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Raven is a strict disciplinarian, quite caustic and doesn't suffer fools gladly. He's also a ruthless fighter, and won't hesitate to risk his life to protect his students.
  • Gilligan Cut: "Please don't be on World War II...Dammit!"
  • Girl-On-Girl Is Hot: Played with every imaginable way.

Kid 1: You know how we all dreamt of dating Nanase someday?
Kid 2: Yeah?
Kid 1: That dream is dead, but something magical has taken its place.

Mrs. Dunkel: Why are there two Brownies?
Ellen: I'm Ellen, Mom. I turned into a cat.
Mrs. Dunkel: Oh dear. Can you change back?
Ellen: Sure, anytime I want.
Mrs. Dunkel: That's good.

    • It's implied that Tedd has been doing some WEIRD stuff to and involving Elliot for years, meaning they might just be used to beloved family members becoming small furry animals (or something equally bizarre) on a regular basis. After all, if no permanent harm has come to them so far, why would they assume it would start happening now?
  • Hard Head: Lampshaded here. Upon learning that he was knocked out by a blow to the head, Elliot starts worrying about brain damage, but Tedd tells him he's overreacting.
  • Heel Face Turn: Ellen, though the whole Evil Twin thing was mostly caused by her thinking she was going to disappear in a month. She was never very good at it, anyhow.
    • Also, once Damien was no longer around to control them, Grace's brothers surrendered peacefully and now live comfortably in a new government facility.
  • Hero with an F In Good: As well as F in enchantment. And the same in strategy. Abraham. He thought he was the good guy there, but...
  • Herr Doctor: Doctor Germahn.
  • Hidden Depths: It's easier to name aversions.
  • High on Catnip: The mini-arc "Catnip"; also, the plant itself reappeared later.
  • High School: Two of them of the cross-town rivalry variety, complete with uniforms, bizarre teachers, odd mascots, and most of the other associated tropes. Half the cast attends Moperville North and the other half goes to Moperville South.
  • Homage: The demonic duck looks very similar to a major character in Goats, the comic strip by Jonathan Rosenberg.
  • Hot Amazon: Elliot has no problem dating Nanase, a black belt who's the only student at their dojo who's a better fighter than him.
  • Hug and Comment: "You're better than a Neanderthal."
  • Hybrid Monster: The result of Uryuoms' eggs through Mix-and-Match Critters, thus Here There Be Chimerae.
  • Hyper Awareness: Information gathering is Hedge's strong side. Maybe he's no Sherlock Holmes, but he grasps any clue present, like occasional slips of Elliot knowing Grace or Grace being in a relationship.
    • Diane also displayed this ability when determining that Ellen and Grace were new to Moperville South. She was even wearing a Sherlock Holmes outfit for one panel.
  • Hyperspace Mallet: As with everything else in the series, rules for when, where, and why it can and can't appear eventually were provided.
    • At least Susan and Abe did summon actual weapons out of thin air.
    • Now it got even better, but hammers are off-line.
    • Dan Lampshaded his reasoning behind changing the hammer origin in the later story arc. The old guy who looks vaguely like Santa explains his initial reasoning for using the hammer gag to humorous effect... that is, the same as out of the 'verse.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Making fun of hacks and unnecessary expositions (aside of the last panel, see the chapter's name).
  • Identical Stranger: Susan seems to be some sort of fundamental archetype within the EGS universe. Diane at MSHS is a very close match, barring dress sense (note: Susan is naturally blonde). Even stranger, she is also a dead ringer for a hypothetical niece of elf (i.e. half-immortal) Raven.
  • I Gave My Word: Abraham really does not want to kill Ellen Dunkel, but his oath was too inclusive, so... and he's quite happy to be pushed into what sounds like a legitimate loophole.
  • Ignored Enemy: Sort of, at least.
  • I Have No Sister: Mrs. Kitsune has no sister, and it's clearly unsafe to argue about the accuracy of this statement.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Sarah has a bit of this, mostly because she couldn't spend so much time surrounded by shapeshifters, magical martial artists, and mad scientists without getting jealous or at least curious.
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: the TFG
  • Immortality: The Immortals are basically spiritual beings who never die, but the way they go about it is almost a deconstruction of the concept. They continue to get older, smarter, stronger, more bored and less sane until the point comes where they basically become Persons Of Mass Destruction. To prevent this, they voluntarily undergo a kind of ritualistic death/rebirth cycle every couple centuries to lose most of their power and memories so they can start over and keep things interesting. Which is a good thing, as Pandora Chaos Raven (name chosen by self) shows to full extent with her crazy, and Eldritch Abomination / Creepy Child forms...
    • Ironically, half-immortals (elves) largely have the advantage over true immortals. Since their power is not constantly increasing like their parents', they don't have to worry about resetting, but get ageless immortality and powerful magic. The only downside is that they are bound by similar rules as the immortals, meaning that they can only interfere directly when a situation involves magic, or to defend themselves and others.

Raven: You are a homicidal wizard attacking a school. No one will care if I kill you.

    • There are also various "aberrations" that immortals ruthlessly destroy, who obtain a pseudo-immortality through either body stealing or parasitism.
  • Impossible Insurance: George in El Goonish Shive has car insurance that covers monster-related damage (obviously just to advertise "completeness"). The result: surprise, they have to pay for repairs of a car damaged in a fire monster's attack (and on camera at that).
  • Incompatible Orientation: A whole chain of them: Catalina ->Susan ->Justin ->Elliot ->Nanase (not all at the same time, mind)
    • Alllows rather funny Sketchbook entries, though.
    • The Elliot/Nanase dilemma, at least, is neatly resolved with Ellen.
    • The gender-bending complicates this, with bisexual male Susan and straight female Justin making out at Grace's birthday party. Also, at least one of Elliot's female forms has a crush on Justin.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Technically, Magus apparently was behind the v-five Elliot incident and tries to manipulate Ellen within some plot that sounds quite dubious. And is not very good at this. But he's in desperate straits, which isn't even his own fault (unlike Abe's case). And he's still reluctant to kill a guy who stands in his way even when pushed hard to do this.
  • I Never Told You My Name: Painted Black arc. After Elliot is captured he refers to Guineas by name. Guineas then tells Hedge that Elliot knew his name even though he hadn't been told it. This causes Hedge to realize that Elliot must know Grace, who's the only one who could have told him. Hedge then turns this around on Elliot by only referring to Grace as "my sister", so when Elliot refers to her by name, it proves Elliot's spoken with Grace since Elliot and Hedge first met.
  • Info Dump: Shive is really thorough when it comes to describing the capabilities of Tedd's technology, the mechanics of alien and hybrid genetics, and more recently, magic. Anything left for the readers to guess about is practically guaranteed to be a Chekhov's Gun.
    • The so called Trapped in the Basement portion of New and Old Flames (so-called due to the just under two months real time spent infodumping in the Verres' basement) and the entire Hammerchlorians arc (essentially an entire arc devoted to nothing but infodumps and backstory exposition for Susan and her summoning abilities) are probably the most notorious example of Dan's tendency to slip into infodump territory.
  • Informed Ability: Susan's magical powers, which are seen exactly once and then aren't visible for many arcs. Then Susan explains that Nanase's powers are of a different order than hers ("Awakened" vs. "Dreaming") without going into detail.
    • Until much later Susan explained her magical abilities with a big Flash Back. and she is properly "Awakened".
  • Innocent Innuendo: "The duck! He's magic you can do!"
    • Grace wouldn't be Grace without this. "Legally, it does (make me an adult)! You can do all sorts of things with me!"
  • Insane Troll Logic: Used here, though YMMV on whether it makes sense or not.
    • Also 95% of what comes out of the Principal's mouth.
  • Instant Sedation: Jerry got a useful spell.
  • Insulted Awake: Ellen did this to Susan once. At the second try.
  • Internet Backdraft: In-universe - Anticipated.

Tedd: ...Oh, right... Hotness is subjective...

George: Fans willingly suspended their disbelief for years, and out of nowhere Lucas figures he has to explain it. Any writer who takes something no one was questioning and tries to explain it is a hack. (Cut to Susan on the phone expositing the hell out of the Hammers.)

Commentary: Tedd has the blood of kings inside of him and he will rock you because he is the champion!

Pandora-Chaos: Also? He hurt my son.

Diane: (after Rhoda was accosted by a boar) It should burn. I'm having pork for lunch.

    • According to Nanase's mother when she's trying to get her a babysitting job, Nanase.

"No, seriously. She will defend your children with the ferocity of a mama bear protecting her cubs."

  • Man, I Feel Like a Woman: It's implied that Tedd does this on occasion just for fun, but so far no other character has.
    • Later on it's pretty much verified.
    • Note that this means Elliot is a double victim of this law. It's like the whole universe is out to get him.
  • Man Shaped Hole: Damien and Adrian Raven both made big holes part in the window and part in the wall by being blasted through. Both survived this and flying one story down to the ground after, both being tougher than normal humans.
  • The Masquerade: At least two—with magic and Uryuoms, and people aren't always allowed into both at once.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Assistant Director Liefeld is rather overmuscled.
    • Justin is very much into geek media. His last name, Tolkiberry, is a portmanteau of Tolkien and Roddenberry.
    • Nanase's last name is Kitsune and she ends up calling her magical clone Fox.
    • Also, Grace's last name, Sciuridae, is the scientific name for various species of squirrel. In addition, her codename is "Shade Tail," a rough translation of "Sciuridae."
    • A few minor characters, such as Susan's geeky boss Mr. Tensaided (ten-sided) and Ellen/Grace's math teacher Mr. Alephnull.
    • Tedd's last name, "Verres," is French for "glasses" and translates into Uryuom as "Bulloc" which is appropriate to his father's cover-up jobs.
  • The Men in Black: Until the end of the "Sister II" arc, Mr. Verres was the head of the Paranormal division of the FBI. Now he is the "Director of Paranormal Diplomacy" a position that was created just for him when Kicked Upstairs because his extensive paranormal connections prevented him from being fired.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: About halfway. Gender Benders face the consequences of the new hormonal status and reactions on pheromones, whether they are comfortable with this or not. But Shapeshifting does not turn the subject mentally in a cat, guinea or squirrel. On the other hand, both innate and artificial Shapeshifting have some safeguards.
    • This trope is explored more seriously in the "Grace's Birthday Party" arc, when Susan allows herself to be gender-bent specifically to find out whether being male really does make people act like Jerkasses. (Answer: nope. Evidently her dad had no excuse for his jerkiness.)
  • Mind Screw: Lots of it. When done intentionally, usually involves attempts to project the normal family tree onto Ellen's case in several equally disturbing ways.
  • Minored in Asskicking: Mr. Raven, though this is more of a Crouching Creeper Hidden Badass
  • Missing Mom: Where exactly Tedd's mom is, why she's not around, and what the nature of their relationship is continues to be one of the strip's biggest mysteries.
  • Mister Descriptor: "All of you animal people have horrible names."
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Uryuoms' eggs work this way producing Hybrid Monsters, thus Here There Be Chimerae. And then, part-lespuko chimerae.
    • And let's not forget Jeremy, Tedd's housecat with hedgehog spines.
  • Mood Whiplash: Oh dear god. What started out as an arc based on Grace and Tedd going on a double date with Ellen and Nanase to keep Tedd's mind off of science ended up by showing that Tedd has a version of Lord Tedd's mechanical arm.

Tedd: Then the next time someone has the balls to mess with us, we will stand together... and we will make them regret it.

Mr. Verres: The clincher, however, was that crazed look you got on your face when I first suggested the party.
Ellen: That crazed look could have meant any number of things.
Mr. Verres: That doesn't help your case.

  • Not That There's Anything Wrong with That: One of Justin's fangirls is sad that he's gay. But only because she can't ask him out. Even though she already has a boyfriend.
  • No Yay: Several in-universe examples.
    • This is Tedd's reaction to the thought of Nanase, his cousin, involved with anyone.
    • In the 'Hammerchlorians' arc, it looks like Sarah may need to settle occasional feelings in this area regarding Elliot's less manly times, too.
    • Justin is less than thrilled with Elliot's less manly times as well.
    • Elliot and Tedd at Grace's saying she wouldn't mind Elliot turning into her if he wants to experiment with making his 'turn into a girl' magic sexy.
  • Oblivious to Love: Done twice, played with and played straight, with the same character. In an early storyline, Elliot pretended to be unaware that Sarah was in love with him, in a complicated (and failed) attempt to spare her feelings when she found out he had a girlfriend. They work it out. He also seems to be genuinely unaware that Justin has feelings for him.
  • Odd Friendship: Susan and Tedd. One is the result of a Straw Feminist upbringing. The other is an enormous pervert who openly objectifies women. To say they got off to a rocky start would be an understatement, but once they found common ground (Parental Abandonment and Star Trek), they actually get along okay.
  • Of Corset Hurts: Never demonstrated, but conversed.

Greg: For alas it is my greatest of shames as an anime martial arts master that I am not an old man or a pervert!!!

  • One-Gender Race: While some Uryuoms living on Earth adopt gender roles, they really are ambisexual; any two Uryuoms can form an egg together, which can then be 'fertilized' with any available DNA sources.
  • One-Sided Arm Wrestling: Nanase vs Man-Susan
  • Only Six Faces: Maybe not six, but it's here and is only aggravated by the "shapeshifting into some similar form" theme. However, he got better.
  • Opaque Lenses: Tedd's glasses.
  • Open-Minded Parent: The Dunkels, whose idea of punishing Elliot involves deciding he can only have one brownie with dinner, then forgetting that decision when the time comes and letting him have as many as he wants. There's also a Running Gag where something utterly bizarre happens (like Elliot turning into a girl for the first time) and they respond with indifference, amusement, or immediate acceptance, usually after everyone else has made a much bigger deal of it.
  • Our Elves Are Better: Elves are what you get when you breed humans and immortals (read: small-g gods) together, with all the power that implies. Raven happens to be one, which explains how he's been teaching since Nanase's mother was in high school.
    • Subverted though, since elves are bound to similar rules as immortals, being disallowed from directly interfering with mortals when magic is not involved.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The creature that attacked Susan and Nanase in France. It's strongly emphasized by Susan that it wasn't really a vampire, but it was vampire-like enough that they may as well call it one.
  • Over Nine Thousand: The newest story arc is called 9001%.
  • Owl Be Damned: "READ or the owl will eat you." Later reused with a real big owl in Goonmanji. Also, a Running Gag with Hedge.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Parodied; aliens avoid detection by wearing T-shirts with phrases like "Homo sapiens."

Mr. Verres: Elliot, your concerns are based on incomplete and false information. We have been addressing the Lord Tedd situation, and I can assure you, it wouldn't make sense for him to be behind it.
Elliot: You have?!
Mr. Verres: Of course I have! Did you honestly think my strategy after hearing that someone from another universe was allegedly out to kill my son was to ignore it and hope for the best?!
Elliot: That... seemed like what we were doing...
Mr. Verres: Well, it wasn't. But that's not important right now. This is all complicated enough as it is with-out dragging Lord Tedd into it.

Mr Tensaided: (wearing dark glasses) Hello, Mr. Anderson. Welcome to the video store.
Elliot: Hello! It's, uh, Dunkel, actually. Elliot Dunkel.

Elliot and Sarah: (a synchronized Face Palm) Aw crap!
Susan: What? Did I say something wrong?
Tedd: They've heard the rant to follow before.

Sarah: Grace finally snapped and destroyed half of Moperville.
Tedd: TO THE UNDO BUTTON!

Tedd: Who ever gave you that idea?
Grace: Everyone I have ever known ever.

  • Right Behind Me: That's awkward.
  • Right-Hand-Cat: For an Evil Lady. Also, Susan and Jeremy.
  • Romance-Inducing Smudge: Subverted when Ellen goes to wipe a smudge off Nanase's face and she freaks out because she was having trouble admitting her attraction to Ellen, and moments like that only made it more awkward.
  • Rousseau Was Right: After Tedd calls out half the school for making fun of Susan when she's the only one trying to change the uniforms, most of them are quick to apologize, with one saying that "we aren't a Borg Hive Mind." Earlier, when Grace runs out of class (due to not having heard of WWII) and is very embarrassed upon coming back, the other students are quick to offer their condolences over her leading such a sheltered life, and are angry at the people who subjected her to that rather than her. In fact, this comic demonstrates in many places that, with a few exceptions, high school students aren't the bastards that most media would have us believe. They're just normal people, with basically good natures.
  • Rule of Cute: The only problem with Art Evolution is that Dan is almost incapable of designing a female character without making her dangerously adorable one way or another.
    • Cute Little Fangs:
      • In the person of Catalina Bobcat.
      • Grace in her squirrel-girl form (a squirrel obviously should have big incisors instead, but she also got lespuko traits).
      • Mr. Raven also clearly has fangs, while hardly cute—though Amanda could argue about the latter.
      • Vladia also has little fangs, though it's harder to tell.
    • Cuteness Proximity: Jeremy tried this on Susan, but failed. See also Sarah's reaction to Grace's full squirrel form
    • Cuddle Bug: Grace and Ellen occasionally fall into this—they hug someone all the time, while The Glomp was performed not by one of them only twice: by Nanase (to Ellen) and Catalina (to Tedd). In the Second Life it was said to be fairly typical for a greater chimera. As to Ellen, at least Justin thinks it's pretty normal for girls. Or she's just that uninhibited.
    • Meganekko: Chika, the newly introduced colleague and sane partner of Amanda. Or at least looks like one most of the time.
      • Much to his chagrin, Tedd gets this at times when he's wearing his glasses.
      • Dan commented that he's been doing this more and more lately with random female background characters.
  • Rule of Drama: It's been stated explicitly that magic is "overly dramatic," such as when all dark blue dye from Susan's hair ran out of her hair and into her clothes, followed by the magic making dark blue her natural hair color. Just because.

Grace: But why did her hair grow?
Jerry: See "over the top emphasis."

  • Rule of Fun: The author's stated reason for just why transforming is ridiculously, absurdly safe.

Amanda: (Evil glare) It's more fun that way. [KRAK-A-THOOM!]

Grace: You can call me Shade Tail.
(whump)
Greg: Are you okay?
CLB: I'm fine! I tripped!
Grace: But you were sitting.
CLB: Yes I was. Sorry, mistress. Ma'am. Shade Tail.

Word of Dan: I'm not saying a more "gritty" approach is wrong in general; I speak only of what is appropriate for this comic. The world is full of cynical, gritty and dark comics full of brooding, angst and doom, and while I'm sure many of those comics are good, one of my specific intentions for EGS is for it to not be one of those comics.

  • Side-Story Bonus Art: The Sketchbook and Newspaper, with parts occasionally squirreled into the canon.
  • Singing in the Shower: Played for Laughs here.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: While admitting that she does like other people, Grace is pretty much a Teddsexual. This was even pointed out in universe. With huge clues to the reasons before it's fully revealed.
  • Sinister Silhouettes: About half the cast was introduced this way.
  • Sliding Scale of Fourth Wall Hardness: The early strips had No Fourth Wall. As the years progressed, any mention of the author or even fourth wall breaks in general were dropped and are now relegated to the newspaper and filler strips, which are out of canon.
  • Smelly Skunk: Averted with two seyunolu girls who are part-skunk. Apart from names translating to "scent" and "fragrance", there is no mention of how they smell one way or another.
  • Some Kind of Force Field: Greg can do it. Also, "Standard lockdown procedure." For schools that have a wizard teacher, that is.
  • Species Surname: 'Sciuridae' is the formal name for the family which includes squirrels.
  • Speech Bubble Censoring: Nanase, then Lisa.
  • Spit Take: So close. Mr. Raven held the tea inside his mouth only with a heroical effort. As The Rant points out, Grace sometimes have such effect on people.
  • Spock Speak: Noah, though Dan has said he is trying to limit this trope.
  • Spontaneous Weapon Creation: For a long time, women who were offended by sexist men could conjure hammers from out of nowhere and use them to pummel the offender. This lasted until the person who originally created this ability passed away.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Nanase and Ellen have kicked pretty much the rest of the cast out of the spotlight. They even had the most screentime in Painted Black, Grace's backstory arc.
    • Tedd even lampshaded it.
    • This seems to have decreased somewhat lately, as Ellen and Nanase only appeared 12 times (together or alone—Nanase appeared 6 times alone, Ellen appeared 2 times alone, and they appeared together 4 times) in the latest mini-arc (which has lasted for 43 strips). Today's spotlight stealer might instead be Justin, though Elliot beat him by 2 strips (31-29). Susan was becoming this during Hammerchlorians, but has had 4 appearances since then.
      • Now in One Way Road the plot, while seemingly focused on Tedd, keeps derailing for Ellen.
  • Stat Grinding: Nanase takes this approach to trying to learn more spells once she realizes she can.
  • Stealth Pun: Many, especially in minor characters' names (see Meaningful Name above).
    • Mr. Raven's Murder Shroud spell creates a cloud that exploding crows come out of. A flock of crows can also be called a murder.
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: The Latin word 'Sciuridae' translates as 'Shade Tail', which was also Grace's Code Name, though it was not in reference to Dr. Sciuridae.
  • The Stinger: It looks like Dan acquired the taste for it by the latter arcs (which somewhat improves Rotating Arcs side in itself). After all was said and done in "New And Old Flames", the last page has a good hook. "One Way Road" got an even better "postscriptum" in the last panels.
  • Invisible to Gaydar: Justin, and also Nanase. There are no flamboyant stereotypes to be found in this comic.
    • Well, except for Justin really likes to play with hair. Though Dan tried to explain that it wasn't because he was gay it's just he happens to have a strong emotional link to hair...and it just happens to be a gay stereotype.
      • He mostly plays with Nanase's hair, though.
    • Inverted with Ambiguously Gay Ambiguous Gender Noah (who is Friends with Benefits with Melissa).
  • Straw Feminist: Susan's mother, who instilled it into her daughter. Susan is a Deconstruction of this, as her stereotypical views on men were influenced by an event where she walked in on her father having an affair. It turns out she doesn't actually hate her father for this, but was trying to excuse his actions by believing that he couldn't help it because he was male (a notion that her mother helped to reinforce). Eventually she realizes that people just make stupid mistakes, no matter what their gender.
  • Stupid Sexy Flanders: Any straight Gender Bender becomes bisexual for the duration. A certain male-to-female setting - which can also be used on women - will, for 48 hours, make you extremely attractive, even to people who normally don't like girls. Not to mention the Stupid Sexy Flanders overtones of Gender Benders in the first place. Even without gender-bending, Tedd is constantly getting this; Justin once joked that he shouldn't worry about gay men being attracted to him. Also, while removing his glases was enough to make V5-ed Elliot blush:

Sarah: In Elliot's defense, your face isn't really the best barometer of whether he was really into guys...

  • this is a ringtone song... ringing all the--*

Justin: This is messed up on so many levels. I'm guessing you don't visit your cousin and uncle that much?
Nanase: It's common sense not to.

Jerry: Angst-induced Awakenings are usually triggered by things like murdered loved ones or a village burning down, not disappointment over origin stories.

Word of God: I have frequently seen Susan described as having a "bored" look on her face. For a long time now, I have seen it as something else.

Tedd: They're... um... rehearsing a play...
Pizza boy: A play?
Tedd: Yes. A play.
Pizza boy: About two guys fighting over skirts?
Tedd: Yes..No! They're staying true to the play's Shakespearean roots by having men play female roles!

Laterz... What? Z's are cool.

Magus: I can totally hook you up with straw turned to gold.
Aberration: I'm already worth millions, and you'd just be devaluing gold in general if you made more.

Notes

  1. Though the revelation that he may be under the drinking age causes Tedd to excuse himself so that he can dispose of a keg in the fridge before his dad finds it.
  2. "Skwur-uh-dey"
  3. "Duhn-kel"