Neha Patil (Editor)

Girl Genius

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Author  Phil Foglio
Girl Genius wwwgirlgeniusonlinecomimagespagewelcomewel
Current status / schedule  Updates on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays.
Launch date  January 2001 (Secret Blueprints, Vol. I preview issue) / 21 February 2005 (web publication)
Genre(s)  Fantasy, Humor, Science Fiction, Steampunk, Gaslamp Fantasy
Similar  Gunnerkrigg Court, The Adventures of Dr Mc, The Order of the Stick, Questionable Content, Schlock Mercenary

Reviews vs girl genius

Girl Genius is an ongoing comic book series turned webcomic, written and drawn by Phil and Kaja Foglio and published by their company Studio Foglio LLC under the imprint Airship Entertainment. The comic has won five WCCA awards including 2008 Outstanding Comic, and been nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist, an Eagle Award and twice for an Eisner Award; in 2009, 2010, and 2011 it won the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story.


Girl Genius has the tagline of "Adventure, Romance, MAD SCIENCE!". It features a female lead character in an alternate-history Victorian-style "steampunk" setting, although elements veer from what is usually thought of as steampunk. Kaja Foglio, one of the co-creators, describes it as "gaslamp fantasy" instead to suggest its more fantastic style.

The Foglios have also written three Girl Genius novels, Agatha H. and the Airship City. Agatha H. and the Clockwork Princess and Agatha H and the Voice of the Castle, all published by Night Shade Books

Publication history

The specific idea for the style of Girl Genius came about when Kaja Foglio went through some of Phil's loose drawings: "I was going through all of Phil's old files and I was filing all of the old sketches, and I was coming across weird airships and cats in tophats with walking canes, and all of this... wonderful... Victoriana sci-fi stuff... it was like 'Oh, this is everything I love!'" CBR News quoted Phil Foglio as saying, "We wanted to do something with a strong female lead character. We both like the tropes associated with mad science, and I really enjoy drawing fiddley Victorian-style gizmos". After some intensive long-term plotting starting in 1993, the Foglios announced the publication of Girl Genius in 2000.

Girl Genius: The Secret Blueprints Vol. I was printed in January 2001, followed closely by the monochrome Issue 1 in February. Color was introduced in Issue 4 and subsequently, with occasional dips into sepiatone for flashbacks. In the collected editions, Volume One (comic Issues 1–3) was inked by Brian Snoddy and was reissued in 2010 colored by Cheyenne Wright. Volumes Two and Three (comic issues 4–10) were colored by Mark McNabb. Volume Four (comic Issues 11-unpublished 14) was colored by Laurie E. Smith. Cheyenne Wright is the current colorist; his work begins with Volume Five (what would have been Issue 15 onward).

On 18 April 2005, Girl Genius became a webcomic, and quarterly print publication of the comic ceased. The Foglios have since organized the new web-only story into plot-coherent volumes of 100–200 pages each, printed as limited-edition hardback and trade paperback books. The site had two streams, "101 Class" (for pages which had seen print publication) and "Advanced Class" (for new, web-only material) until the older section of the story caught up to the new material, and made the entire comic available to read at a sitting.

In an interview recorded in January 2008, shortly before they began releasing pages of volume 8 of Girl Genius on their web site, the Foglios stated that they expected the climax of Volume 8 to be the rough equivalent of "the end of the first season," and that it would provide a logical break in case of author catastrophe and a fresh jumping-on point for new readers. However, this was an underestimate of the length of the remaining "first season": the end of Volume 13 turned out to be approximately halfway through the planned overall story arc. The start of "second season" of the series began March 3, 2014, with "Act 2, Volume 1," after a two-month hiatus of the main story.

Gaslamp Fantasy

Kaja Foglio coined the term "Gaslamp Fantasy" to describe her work, as an alternative to steampunk. In her 24 April 2006 LiveJournal entry, Kaja Foglio explained how the term came to be coined:

I called it Gaslamp Fantasy because, around the time we were bringing Girl Genius out, there was a comic called Steampunk on the shelves and I didn't want any confusion. Plus, I've never liked the term steampunk much for our work, it's derived from cyberpunk (a term which I think actually fits its genre well) but we have no punk, and we have more than just steam, and using a different name seemed appropriate. I mis-remembered a term that I had come across in the foreword to an H. Rider Haggard book, where the author was talking about Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Rider Haggard and that sort of pre-pulp adventure material, and came up with "Gaslamp Fantasy." I felt a bit foolish when I discovered that I had made up my own term, but it works and I like it.

Girl Genius also differs from classic steampunk in that technology is not just limited to machines but also encompasses biology. Thus alongside the clanks (impossibly advanced steampunk robots), dirigibles and walking gunboats of the world there are constructs – biological creations which range from Frankenstein-style creatures to talking cats and mouse-sized mammoths.


In an alternate-history "Europa", mad scientists called Sparks turned the Industrial Revolution into a full-scale war that ravaged the continent, until Baron Wulfenbach clamped down with an iron fist... Enter Agatha Clay, an "adorkable" student who can't do anything right - until she learns of her "Spark" heritage. She's the long-lost daughter of storied hero Bill Heterodyne and villainess-turned-good Lucrezia Mongfish. For the first time in a century, hope springs in the hearts of common people as our heroine, now Agatha Heterodyne, learns to mix scientific genius and kindly compassion to regain her heritage and free Europa from mad sparks and tyrannical dictators.

Agatha Clay/Heterodyne

Agatha Heterodyne, also known as Agatha Clay: the Girl Genius of the title. Agatha is a powerful Spark, especially talented at creating and repairing electrical and mechanical devices. Among her creations is an ever-present, highly versatile coaster-sized clank named Dingbot Prime, capable of performing complex tasks without supervision; it can even build similar small clanks to assist it, (making it a self-replicating machine,) though each generation of these clanks is slightly less well-made than its predecessor (ensuring that they do not replicate endlessly), together they are capable of truly amazing feats of engineering – such as secretly converting Master Payne's Circus of Adventure into a Battle Circus capable of repelling an entire division of Wulfenbach's troops. Tarvek and Gil have recently discovered that first-generation Dingbots apparently possess the Spark, and therefore are the first mechanical creations with a manufactured Spark.

Agatha Heterodyne has an impressive heritage as she's believed to be the daughter of the heroic Bill Heterodyne and Lucrezia Mongfish, who is the Villain's Beautiful Daughter and evil Spark herself, but who was believed to have turned a new leaf and given up her wicked ways upon marrying Bill. Agatha has inherited both the legendary Heterodyne charismatic genius and the distinctive Mongfish voice. Due to this, she is pursued by many other Sparks. As a Spark of a major House currently without an empire of her own to protect her, she is a potential asset or enemy. Baron Klaus Wulfenbach wishes to imprison her or kill her if necessary, knowing her to be a source of potential discord. Othar Tryggvassen at first wished to kill her as part of his crusade against the Spark, but once he realized that she was the Heterodyne heir, he decides he would prefer to ally with her.

When Agatha was five years old, her uncle Barry Heterodyne gave her a locket containing pictures of her parents, instructing her to never remove it. The locket secretly contained a mechanism that prevented her from realizing she was a Spark by neutralizing her early attempts to hyperfocus with excruciatingly painful migraines. Punch and Judy — constructs presumably made by her father and uncle (named for the famed medieval puppets) who took care of her under the names Adam and Lilith Clay – watchfully ensured she always wore it. Punch and Judy settled with Agatha in Beetlesburg, where Agatha attended Transylvania Polygnostic University (T.P.U.) under the direct supervision of the Spark Professor Beetle, who had been briefed on her by her Uncle, but who had his own ulterior motives. Less than a day after the locket was stolen (by von Zinzer), and in the aftermath of Professor Beetle's accidental death at the hands of Gilgamesh Wulfenbach, Agatha seemingly "broke through" by building her first clank while sleepwalking ("sleep-Sparking"), a quirk she continued to display for some time. Unlike most Spark break throughs, Agatha's was relatively benign in nature (Baron Wulfenbach's assistant Boris labelled her clank "entertaining, but harmless"). However, through an odd turn of events (the Baron at first believed the clank to be the work of soldier and locket-thief von Zinzer), Agatha still ends up on the Baron's massive fortress airship, Castle Wulfenbach.

Agatha escapes both Castle Wulfenbach and Othar Tryggvassen with her new liege, Krosp I, a talking cat construct, and eventually crash-lands in the Wastelands. After she rescues a traveling circus from a rogue clank, they take her in gratitude. Master Payne's Circus of Adventure gains a new fortune-teller as Agatha learns more about this new wider world outside of the quiet walls of Beetleburg and T.P.U. She becomes "zumil" (daughter-like student) to the Circus's resident swordswoman, Zeetha, Daughter of Chump – the Amazonian lost princess of a civilization about which Agatha's Uncle Barry had told her stories. In appreciation for Agatha's confirmation that her family actually exists and were not fever-dream constructions, Zeetha swears a vow of training and protection to the young Spark, and becomes her best friend. Agatha gains her first sworn servitors: a trio of Jägerkin, who had been searching for the Heterodyne heir and are surprised to find she's a girl instead of a boy as expected. She also proves herself adept at playing the role of Lucrezia Mongfish in the popular Heterodyne plays performed by Master Payne's Circus, an irony which is not lost on her or Krosp, though she keeps her real identity secret from the other members of the Circus.

On the way to her ancestral home of Mechanicsburg with Master Payne's Circus, Agatha's route leads through Prince Aaronev VI's province of Sturmhalten. While she is on stage, the Prince and his son, Tarvek, recognize her voice as a match for their "Mistress". Agatha is ordered to the castle by the prince, forced into a mysterious machine and imprinted with the mind of her mother, Lucrezia Mongfish, resurrecting Europa's deadliest enemy – the Other. However, Lucrezia's plan failed to take into account Agatha's own fury at being violated and her willpower. Through the use of her family trait of "heterodyning", she was able to suppress Lucrezia's consciousness for limited periods of time, during which she did all she could to foil her mother's plans. Eventually, with the help of her locket, which had been retrieved broken from von Zinzer and repaired by Baron Wulfenbach, Agatha had the strength to push Lucrezia down deep in her mind and block any further takeovers. Unfortunately, this came only after the Baron found himself facing the Lucrezia persona, and he is not yet aware that Agatha is in control of herself.

Agatha hates the locket, a symbol of how bad her life was before she discovered her Spark – the agonizing headaches every time she attempted to use her Spark, self-hatred because of the inventions that never worked, the humiliation of her peers – but she must wear it to keep the Other from possessing her again. Zeetha convinces her that it has become instead a symbol of her strength, and Agatha agrees: It's a symbol of everything she has and will overcome.

Finally, Agatha reaches Mechanicsburg and meets her greatest challenge yet: Convincing the mechanically sentient and mentally fragmented Castle Heterodyne, given human-like response by her ancestor Faustus, that she is a real Heterodyne. What's worse is that she has to do it while a pretender is trying to kill both her and the Castle. As of the end of Volume XI (4 November 2011), Agatha had been acknowledged by Castle Heterodyne as the true heir, has begun to learn both her mother's and the Castle's secrets, and is preparing to defend Mechanicsburg from various factions seeking to assume control of Europa. The defense is - surprisingly - so successful, that (as of 1 October 2013) Baron Wulfenbach has apparently put the town into a time stasis, which Agatha escapes only by having been kidnapped by one of Tarvek Sturmvoraus's cousins. This state of affairs has persisted 2½ years in storyline time, during most of which Agatha was herself frozen or lost in time.

Both Gilgamesh Wulfenbach and Tarvek Sturmvoraus are potential love interests for Agatha, though earlier stories clearly suggested that Agatha would ultimately select Gilgamesh. The significance of her choice cannot be overstated; both her father and uncle's heroism, atypical of the Heterodynes, and the legend of the "Storm King" who last unified Europa by taking a Heterodyne bride (and who is allegedly an ancestor of Tarvek) suggest that the future of Europa might be in her capable but inexperienced hands.

Agatha was ranked 51st in Comics Buyer's Guide's "100 Sexiest Women in Comics" list.

Gilgamesh Wulfenbach

'Gilgamesh Wulfenbach' ("Gil" to his friends) is the only son and heir of Baron Klaus Wulfenbach. He is a rather likable fellow, more interested in building aircraft and constructs than designing weapons or defending his father's empire. Despite Gil's general lack of ambition and tendency to put his foot in his mouth when discussing non-technical subjects, his own father believes Gil has potential to be an even greater Spark than he; he bases his hopes for lasting peace on his son's generally pacific nature, and his friendships built with heirs of other countries in and outside of direct Wulfenbach influence.

His Spark is particularly powerful; he built his breakthrough creation (a knee-high insectoid construct named Zoing) at the age of eight. He has become increasingly infatuated with Agatha since discovering she was a fellow Spark, as he realized that she was the first woman he had ever met who could understand his love of science at the same level. She seemed somewhat taken with him as well, at least until she witnessed him brutally subduing Othar Tryggvassen (though when the self-proclaimed hero tried to kill her after she helped him escape, she decided she owed Gil an apology).

After being led to believe that Agatha died defending a traveling Heterodyne show from a rogue clank, he spent his time resuscitating Agatha's surrogate parents Adam and Lilith Clay (otherwise known as Punch and Judy, assistants to the Heterodyne Brothers), and taking out his frustrations upon captured rogue clanks, with a side effect of honing his already impressive sword-skills and reflexes. However, upon learning that Agatha's demise had been greatly exaggerated, he became energized to her defense. He sent his butler and friend Ardsley Wooster (under threat of revealing him for a British spy and devastating his homeland) to find Agatha and take her to London for protection. He pointedly demanded that she be kept free there as well as safe – or he would focus all his abilities upon destroying England.

The identity of Gil's mother has not been revealed. As the Baron has seen fit to warn his son that he may be targeted for assassination by the Skifandrian warrior Zeetha because "I kept you alive", and as Gil and Zeetha both utilize a secret mental technique to keep working / fighting without sleep for several days, a good guess is that Klaus lived, studied and finally married in Skifander, although he must have left the city on less amiable terms. Many fans believe that Gil and Zeetha are twins because a pre-order book-plate of "Chump" looks like Klaus and the Foglios specially mentioned that the Skifandrians "don't like twins."

Recently, with his father severely injured and unable to actively rule, Gil has found himself having to impress upon others that he is not merely his father's shadow. From fending off assassins to singlehandedly facing down and defeating a military attack on Mechanicsburg, others are beginning to take decided notice of his actions. Baron Wulfenbach, witnessing his son's amazing one-man victory, is as proud a father as any in history. In the process, Gil himself has begun to see what obstacles his father has had to deal with in constructing and maintaining the empire.

Gil has assisted Agatha in the defense of Mechanicsburg. As of 1 October 2013, Gil is acting as Baron Wulfenbach, overseeing the Empire during the (time) freeze of Mechanicsburg, but based on the last time she saw him, Agatha is concerned for his sanity. It was revealed at the end of Act 1 that Gil's mind is apparently subject to some sort of overriding control by his father.

Baron Klaus Wulfenbach

'Baron Klaus Wulfenbach' is one of the greatest Sparks of his generation with a particular interest in the workings, origins and nature of the Spark. When the Heterodynes began their heroic crusades, he was among the first to ally with them, moved by their idealism and hoping to bring an end to the constant battles between Europa's Sparks. He eventually became close friends with Bill Heterodyne in particular.

Thus he first met the figure that would haunt him for the rest of his life: Lucrezia Mongfish. After she was turned from conquest by the Heterodynes' ideals, a romantic triangle formed between Klaus, Lucrezia, and Bill. Lucrezia, being used to doing as she pleased, moved from one to the other as her whim suited her, until finally settling on Bill (though not before spending one last night with Klaus and drugging him to prevent any disturbances during the rest of her life).

He then disappeared. Three years later, The Other appeared, waging a war to annihilate Europa's Sparks that only ended with the disappearance of the Heterodynes. When Klaus finally returned with his son, Gilgamesh, the Boys had already been gone for several years – and what was left of Europa was in chaos. Without the Heterodynes' charismatic presence to keep the peace, rampaging conflicts between rival Sparks had reduced society to ruins. Disgusted with what he saw, and less suited to diplomacy than the more charismatic Heterodynes, he adopted a simpler plan.

He drew a circle on a map, claimed it as his territory and imposed one simple rule: no more fighting. He was not taken seriously at first; but as each outbreak of violence was met with the swift destruction of the aggressors, and those who followed the rule were left to govern their lands as they saw fit, more and more began to grudgingly accept the "Baron's Peace". The circle grows with each passing year, and he is currently the uncontested ruler of much of Europa.

The Baron's numerous employees come from a wide array of backgrounds, as most were once the staff (or captives) of conquered Sparks. There are a number of minor Sparks who perform minor research for him, but his organization also consists of various types of "constructs" (artificial or augmented people), and "clanks" (steampunk-styled robots). He abandoned his destroyed ancestral home in favor of a headquarters with far more security, privacy and mobility: the city-sized airship, the Castle Wulfenbach.

While he is publicly considered a ruthless tyrant, his motives are more complex. Unlike the more maniacal Sparks, he is not obsessed with power for its own sake. He states frankly that he despises politics, considering his job (which consists solely of enforcing a single rule) to be more like babysitting than anything else. He fondly remembers his days when he adventured with the Heterodynes, and had time to pursue his own research. However, he is completely convinced that, without someone to enforce the peace, Europa (or even the world) would once more descend into chaos – and though he has high hopes in his son, Gilgamesh, he can find no one more capable than himself to fill the role until his son is ready to take the metaphorical reins. Thus, he will brook no chance he or his heir will lose that position.

The common folk do not note the discrepancy between their perception of him and his actual actions – among other things, he does not do anything to prevent portrayals of him as cowardly comic relief in popular entertainment. In private, he is actually quite even-tempered (his obsession with brain surgery on particularly troublesome rival Sparks notwithstanding), and has a dry, sardonic sense of humor. Enemy soldiers who are defeated are offered compensation or a chance to join his army at excellent salary – though their leaders are likely to have a far less benign fate. Klaus states frankly that he can be a ruthless tyrant – but he tries to be fair and rational. Needless to say this doesn't always work, and being in a difficult situation, to protect the large empire under his rule, he will resort to military force when needed – overwhelming force, carefully applied to minimize casualties and destruction.

Originally, The Baron pursued Agatha after her escape because of the legendary charisma the Heterodyne name carries with it; even a false Heterodyne attracts devotion, until they are proven false. To keep the peace, he has to be ruthless, but is nonetheless sympathetic to her plight as well as his son's feelings for Agatha. However, he is now obsessed with the pursuit of Agatha, because he believes she is Lucrezia and therefore The Other, having recognized her mannerisms and speech patterns while she possessed her daughter. Because of this obsession, and after several vigorous conflicts with Dr. Sun, the physician in charge of the Mechanicsburg hospital, he has been subdued and isolated for further treatment of his wounds at Sturmhalten.

Lucrezia (in Agatha's body) successfully infected Klaus with a unique Slaver Wasp at Sturmhalten, specially modified to allow the control of a Spark. But whatever control she might have possessed, was broken as Lucrezia's personality was subdued by Agatha's locket. While Agatha has demonstrated some control over her mother's minions and creatures, it remains to be seen if she is willing or capable of controlling the Baron.

As of the end of Volume XI, Wulfenbach is missing and presumed dead in the destruction of the Great Hospital. However, he showed up, apparently unharmed (how Wulfenbach survived the hospital's destruction has yet to be revealed). He is presently (as of 1 October 2013) caught up in the (time) freeze of Mechanicsburg, having initiated the process.

Original Journey

  • Volume 1: Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank (96 pp) (reprints #1–3)
  • Paperback: ISBN 1-890856-19-3, full color Paperback: ISBN 1-890856-50-9
  • Hardcover: ISBN 1-890856-20-7
  • Volume 2: Agatha Heterodyne and the Airship City (112 pp) (reprints #4–6)
  • Paperback: ISBN 1-890856-30-4
  • Hardcover: ISBN 1-890856-31-2
  • Volume 3: Agatha Heterodyne and the Monster Engine (128 pp) (reprints #7–9)
  • Paperback: ISBN 1-890856-32-0
  • Hardcover: ISBN 1-890856-33-9
  • Volume 4: Agatha Heterodyne and the Circus Of Dreams (128 pp) (reprints #10–13 + April–June 2005 webcomic)
  • Paperback: ISBN 1-890856-36-3
  • Hardcover: ISBN 1-890856-37-1
  • Volume 5: Agatha Heterodyne and the Clockwork Princess (112 pp) (reprints webcomic)
  • Paperback: ISBN 1-890856-39-8
  • Hardcover: ISBN 1-890856-38-X
  • Volume 6: Agatha Heterodyne and the Golden Trilobite (150 pp) (reprints webcomic)
  • Paperback: ISBN 1-890856-42-8
  • Hardcover: ISBN 1-890856-41-X
  • Volume 7: Agatha Heterodyne and the Voice of the Castle (128 pp) (reprints webcomic)
  • Paperback: ISBN 978-1-890856-45-8
  • Hardcover: ISBN 978-1-890856-46-5
  • Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones (144 pp) (reprints webcomic) Winner of the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story
  • Paperback: ISBN 978-1-890856-47-2
  • Hardcover: ISBN 978-1-890856-48-9
  • Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm (144 pg) (reprints webcomic) Winner of the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story
  • Paperback: ISBN 978-1-890856-52-6
  • Hardcover: ISBN 978-1-890856-51-9
  • Volume 10: Agatha Heterodyne and the Guardian Muse (152 pg) (reprints webcomic) Winner of the 2011 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story
  • Paperback: ISBN 978-1-890856-53-3
  • Hardcover: ISBN 978-1-890856-54-0
  • Volume 11: Agatha Heterodyne and the Hammerless Bell (168 pg) (reprints webcomic)
  • Paperback: ISBN 978-1-890856-55-7
  • Hardcover: ISBN 978-1-890856-56-4
  • Volume 12: Agatha Heterodyne and the Siege of Mechanicsburg (192 pg) (reprints webcomic)
  • Paperback: ISBN 978-1-890856-57-1
  • Hardcover: ISBN 978-1-890856-58-8
  • Volume 13: Agatha Heterodyne and the Sleeping City (160 pg) (reprints webcomic)
  • Paperback: ISBN 978-1-890856-59-5
  • Hardcover: ISBN 978-1-890856-60-1
  • Girl Genius Omnibus Edition Vol 1 (2006) (reprints v.1–3 in smaller, black & white edition)
  • Paperback: ISBN 978-1-890856-40-3
  • Girl Genius Omnibus Vol 1: Agatha Awakens (2012) (reprints v.1–3 in color edition)
  • Hardcover: ISBN 978-0-7653-3132-8
  • Volume 5 as well as all future collections reprint the website content from where the comic series was discontinued.

    The Second Journey of Agatha Heterodyne

  • Volume 1: The Beast of the Rails (128 pg) (reprints webcomic)
  • Paperback: ISBN 978-1-890856-61-8
  • Hardcover: ISBN 978-1-890856-62-5
  • Novelizations

    The Foglios have also written three Girl Genius prose novels, Agatha H. and the Airship City, which contains the story of the first three collections of the webcomic, Agatha H. and the Clockwork Princess, covering the same story arc as the next three collections, and Agatha H and the Voice of the Castle, covering the next three. The prose novels are published by Night Shade Books.

    Connections to other works

  • Agatha is visible throughout the GURPS Illuminati University sourcebook, which was illustrated by the Foglios, and she is even identified by name on page 11. A GURPS Girl Genius Sourcebook is also in development.
  • The comic has made references to other webcomics, such as Girls With Slingshots, Wapsi Square, Gunnerkrigg Court, Arcane Times, Something Positive, Dominic Deegan: Oracle For Hire, Basic Instructions, Home on the Strange, The Devil's Panties, Schlock Mercenary and Studio Foglio's own Buck Godot. and What's New
  • Girl Genius has also referenced more classical comics. At one point a prisoner in a dungeon recognizes some Jägermonsters who have broken in and says "Nov Shmoz Ka Pop?" This is the nonsense catchphrase from Gene Ahern's classic surrealist newspaper strip The Squirrel Cage, which ran from 1936 to 1953.
  • References

    Girl Genius Wikipedia