I am reading them but I can’t keep track of all the names &c so I have very little idea what’s happening
thanks for letting me know! I think it would be a good time for a character summary/plot-recap anyway.
character recap on page 430 of El Goonish Shive
The protagonists of the comic are a friendship group consisting of eight young people who either attend two schools in a town called Moperville, or are friends with people who do.
The students of Moperville North are called Elliot, Tedd, Sarah and Susan.
The students of Moperville South are Nanase, Justin, and Ellen (not yet attending school).
The eigth character is Grace, who isn’t currently in school on account of being an experimental creation of evil scientists who was raised in a lab.
Elliot is a guy who fancies himself a hero, and is skilled in the discipline of “anime martial arts”. He’s honestly pretty boring. An accident with the transformation gun caused him to take on a normatively-female embodiment, during which time he attended school while pretending to be his cousin Ellen. Using a magic crystal, he was able to split into two people: one the body he was originally familiar with, and the other the body he had while under the effects of the gun, who has since taken on the name Ellen. He was dating Nanase, but broke up with her amicably in order to date Sarah.
Tedd is, at first glance, a misogynist nerd who often makes creepy comments to women around them*. They’re* a genius inventor, who has created among other things a special pair of glasses with a variety of vision modes, the transformation gun (which we‘ll say a lot about later), a belt that turns the wearer into a cat-person, and a device that allows communication with parallel universes. It is hinted to the point of outright statement that Tedd is transfeminine, and uses the transformation gun to experiment with normatively-female embodiment, but hides it out of fear of judgment, such as from their* father. However, the other characters are increasingly aware of this and, to varying degrees, supportive.
Tedd’s dad is a government agent, whose job is to hide and suppress information about aliens and weird technology. Through their dad, Tedd has access to secure government buildings. Tedd’s dad is not aggressive, but seems to fairly often make blithely disparaging comments about Tedd’s transness. Through their father, Tedd was introduced to the alien Uryuoms, and after interrupted a meeting to offer to help they, they were allowed to use the Uryuoms’ forbidden technology to create the transformation gun.
Tedd has duplicates from other dimensions; Beta Tedd is one, who talks to the familiar Tedd with a screen; there is also an Alpha Tedd who is a supervillain, and controls the goo monster.
*at this point in the comic, Tedd goes by ‘he’ pronouns, but I am uncomfortable applying ‘he’ pronouns to a trans character.
Sarah is the first cis female character introduced in the comic. At the start she’s friends with Elliot and Susan, and has a strong crush on Elliot, only to learn that he was dating Nanase already in the worst possible way at martial arts class. However, when Elliot realises he would rather be with her and breaks up with Nanase, she starts dating him.
Sadly a lot of her characterisation in the early comic amounts to ‘the female one’, and her story so far mostly concerns her relationship with Elliot. That said, she does have some interactions with the other characters and a few other points of characterisation.
Though she’s friends with Susan, she’s critical of her shallow straw-feminism and defensive of Elliot and Tedd. In an early comic when going to see a movie with Elliot and Tedd, she immediately says she doesn’t want to watch ‘chick flicks’. She has occasionally-mentioned aspirations to be an artist, and on this basis Elliot persuaded her to help Grace buy clothes of her own. When travelling home with Grace, she’s careless about the risks travelling through alleyways, and they get mugged (is hanging around in alleys at night even like a practical mugging strategy?) She’s accepting when Grace first transforms, and helps take the unconscious Grace home - apparently she’s used to transformations from hanging around with Tedd.
Sarah appears to have some suspicion about Grace that is leading her to search obituaries.
Grace, also known as Shade Tail, is a creation of the ‘Lycanthrope Project’, an illegal bioengineering project carried out by a ‘group of scientists’ in order to create a super-soldier or something. Unlike other creations of the Lycanthrope Project, she did not receive indoctrination and combat training thanks to Tedd’s dad. When the Lycanthrope Project was taken over by a mysterious figure called Damien, she escaped, but she is now hunted by her various brothers.
She has the ability to transform between different bodies painlessly and at will. The Lycanthrope Project gave her a squirrel form and an intermediate squirrel-person form, but when transformed into a particular body by the transformation gun, she is afterwards able to transform into and out of it at will, and later learns to combine forms.
Having been raised in a lab, she is deeply unfamiliar with most social norms, including the nudity taboo. She approaches Tedd on hearing about their creation of the goo monster at school, and moves in with Tedd and their father. She and Tedd form a romantic relationship, and are very affection with each other. She enjoys Tedd’s computer games, such as Black and White.
The two odd locks of hair hanging in front of her face actually conceal antennae, through which she can use psychic powers. It is not yet explained why she has antennae.
When travelling in public, she adopts a disguise form with darker skin and green hair, referred to as the Claire form, in order to evade detection by her brothers.
Depending on her form, Grace’s ‘power level’ may be extremely high, which seems to indicate she’s powerful in a fight. This can be sensed by Greg the anime-style martial arts instructor and Elliot.
Susan is introduced as a tedious ~misandrist~ straw-feminist character, but she quickly grew on the author Dan Shive. She has rich parents and an enormous house, and holds a very negative view of men, expressed in quite shallow terms. Her mother is, if anything, even more ~misandrist~, and pressures Susan to be a lesbian (yeah :/ there’s some shit in this comic).
Despite her initial hostility, she slowly becomes friends with Elliot and Tedd when introduced by Sarah. She also knows Nanase after meeting her on a trip to Paris, where they apparently both learned magic powers.
Later on, she encounters Ellen, Nanase and Justin in the movie rental store where she works, and invites them to stay over at her house.
She briefly has a crush on Justin, which lasts just long enough to realise he’s gay (and inadvertently out him to her mum).
Susan asks Ellen to use the transformation ray on her in order to experience attraction to women in the ‘venus form’. She admires her own reflection in the mirror. But on learning it will also make her more attracted to men, she changes back. Since she is blonde but dies her hair black, the two transformations cause her to lose her hair dye.
Later that evening, Nanase approaches her in private with her own fears about her sexuality. Susan reveals info about the transformation gun that causes Nanase to realise that she’s a lesbian. While Nanase escapes into astral projection, Susan outs her as a lesbian to Justin and Ellen.
Nanase is introduced as a fellow student of Anime-Style Martial Arts, and the only one to rival Elliot’s skill. She has conservative Christian parents, who are very controlling and expect her to wear a long skirt and big sweater, but when outside their observation she dresses much more casually.
Initially, she is dating Elliot. However, she breaks up with Elliot because to her, their relationship is quite casual, and she can tell he really wants to date Sarah.
She is an acquaintance of Susan, though they don’t seem to like each other very much. In Paris, she and Susan apparently learned to do magic. She has the ability to split away a primary-coloured duplicate of herself with a limited personality, which she uses as a distraction, and a further ability to project herself into a tiny ‘fairy doll’, which leaves behind a physical doll when she finishes that she can later return to. She can also create illusions of different clothes and hairstyles.
Nanase is able to give some support to Ellen after Ellen ocmes into existence, and fiercely protective of Ellen.
She struggles with her sexuality, and early on is very hostile to any suggestion that she might be attracted to women. She is troubled by the lack of physical attraction she felt in her relationship with Elliot, especially when she finds herself attracted to Ellen a lot more during their sleepover at Susan’s, which she attributes to the ‘pheromones’ created by the transformation gun. When Susan tells her that the pheromones are no longer extant and that, by implication, there is no ‘external’ explanation for the attraction she feels for Ellen, she panics and projects herself into Elliot’s room, where she talks to him about what she learned. Though she was outed by Susan, her friends are currently pretending that they don’t know she’s gay, so she can come out in her own time.
Justin is another student of Anime-Style Martial Arts, though not as skilled as Nanase or Elliot. He is semi-openly gay, and works at a comic book store. He’s good friends with Nanase.
He enjoys movies, and though Susan is insulting to him when she first meets him, they bond over their enthusiasm for film. One of the few plotlines focussing on him dealt with his experiences of casual homophobia. He went out once with a minor character called Melissa, and she stalks him, refers to him as her boyfriend, and acts like his sexuality is a phase.
Ellen split off from Elliot when he used a magic crystal to preemptively remove the effects of the transformation gun.
They [the other characters use ‘she’, but Ellen has so far made no clear statement about gender] initially believe they have only a month to live, in accordance with the duration of the transformation gun’s power. They become reckless, first attempting to damage Elliot’s reputation by pretending to be him, and then attempting a suicidal battle with the slime monster. However, they calmed down after learning the expiry date is false.
Ellen can produce the transformation-gun beam from their hands.
They move in with Elliot, and share his room. They are also more willing than Elliot to express attraction to Tedd.
Ellen struggles with being forced to articulate an identity separate from the ‘real’ Elliot. They attend the sleepover at Susan’s house, and help Susan experiment with the ‘Venus’ form. They have also been training Grace in self-defence and playing games with her and her toys, and racing Elliot. Ellen still likes to be seen as ‘one of the guys’.
Other less major characters include William and Gillian the two American-born Uryuoms, and Greg the Anime-Style Martial Arts instructor.