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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 four Girl Genius novels, Agatha H. and the Airship City. Agatha H. and the Clockwork Princess, Agatha H. and the Voice of the Castle, and Agatha H. and the Siege of Mechanisburg, 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 Volume Four (comic Issues 11-unpublished 14) was colored by Laurie E. Smith.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 April 18, 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 "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 April 24, 2006 LiveJournal entry, Kaja Foglio explained how the term came to be coined: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.

Overview

In an alternate-universe "Europa", mad scientists called Sparks turned the Age of Enlightenment into a full-scale war that ravaged the continent, until Baron Wulfenbach clamped down with an iron fist. Enter Agatha Clay, a hapless student who cannot do anything right – until she breaks free of an attempt to keep her simple and claims her "Spark" heritage. The long-lost daughter of descendant-of-barbarian-hordes-storied-hero Bill Heterodyne and villainess-turned-good Lucrezia Mongfish, Agatha Heterodyne learns to mix scientific genius, a streak of true heroism and an obsessive possessiveness for what she consider her own in order to claim her monstrous heritage and birthright, even as the eyes of all Europa watch her carefully in case she turns out to be one of the monsters herself.

Awards

Published collections

Original Journey

  • Volume 1: Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank (96 pp) (reprints #1–3)
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  • Volume 2: Agatha Heterodyne and the Airship City (112 pp) (reprints #4–6)
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  • Volume 3: Agatha Heterodyne and the Monster Engine (128 pp) (reprints #7–9)
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  • Volume 4: Agatha Heterodyne and the Circus Of Dreams (128 pp) (reprints #10–13 + April–June 2005 webcomic)
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  • Volume 5: Agatha Heterodyne and the Clockwork Princess (112 pp) (reprints webcomic)
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  • Volume 6: Agatha Heterodyne and the Golden Trilobite (150 pp) (reprints webcomic)
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  • Volume 7: Agatha Heterodyne and the Voice of the Castle (128 pp) (reprints webcomic)
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  • Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones (144 pp) (reprints webcomic) Winner of the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story
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  • Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm (144 pg) (reprints webcomic) Winner of the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story
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  • Volume 10: Agatha Heterodyne and the Guardian Muse (152 pg) (reprints webcomic) Winner of the 2011 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story
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  • Volume 11: Agatha Heterodyne and the Hammerless Bell (168 pg) (reprints webcomic)
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  • Volume 12: Agatha Heterodyne and the Siege of Mechanicsburg (192 pg) (reprints webcomic)
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  • Volume 13: Agatha Heterodyne and the Sleeping City (160 pg) (reprints webcomic)
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  • Girl Genius Omnibus Edition Vol 1 (2006) (reprints v.1–3 in smaller, black & white edition)
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  • Girl Genius Omnibus Vol 1: Agatha Awakens (2012) (reprints v.1–3 in color edition)
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    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)
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  • Volume 2: City of Lightning (128 pg) (reprints webcomic)
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  • Volume 3: The Incorruptible Library (122 pg) (reprints webcomic)
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  • Volume 4: Kings and Wizards (120 pg) (reprints webcomic)
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  • Volume 5: Pirates and Queens (128 pg) (reprints webcomic)
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    Novelizations

    The Foglios have also written four Girl Genius prose novels, Agatha H. and the Airship City, which contains the volumes 1-3 of the webcomic, Agatha H. and the Clockwork Princess, covering volumes 4-6, Agatha H and the Voice of the Castle, covering volumes 7-9, and Agatha H. and the siege of Mechanisburg covering volumes 10-13 of the webcomic. 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, Freefall, 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.