I spent some time when I began this column trying to set a limit when a webcomic would become “too big” to recommend. Too many daily hits? Too many spin off projects? A massive video game convention held in its name? I quickly realized that if I thought that anyone’s life would somehow be less without knowing that the comic exists, no matter how many people already know about it, then I should recommend it on the off chance that they have not. Mostly I want to go on and on about one of my favorite comics ever to come to the web, Girl Genius!
Girl Genius is what the authors, Phil and Kaja Foglio, have dubbed a “Gaslight Fantasy.” I would describe it as part Victorian science fiction, part romantic fantasy, and 100% MAD SCIENCE. On another and nearly unrecognizable Earth, some humans are endowed with a gift and a curse called the Spark. The Spark gives a person incredible genius, vision, and charisma, but also frequently causes uncontrollable rages and an inevitable descent into madness. The world of Girl Genius has been ruled by mad science for thousands of years, and it has done a horrible job. Our heroine, Agatha, begins as a hapless student of Transylvania Polygnostic University when one scary run-in with some wandering soldiers in an alleyway sets in motion a chain of events that not only shakes the foundations of Europa but leads Agatha to discover the secrets of an ancient and feared Spark dynasty long thought dead. What follows is a tumultuous and fast-paced journey as she wins true-hearted allies, outwits foes, enamors handsome geniuses, and defeats giant monsters in a pulse-pounding pulp adventure spanning ELEVEN volumes and counting!
Girl Genius was originally printed in paper form in 2001, but made the transition online in 2005 and has been updated with astonishing regularity since then. The setting of the comic has an incredibly well-planned history and culture which has barely been hinted at. The anatomy is well-studied and the facial expressions are dynamic. The rich intricate illustrations and embellishment of the machinery and clothing lead to an incredible amount of hidden details in the artwork. A few short stories are interspersed with the action at chapter breaks in the comic. The comic is also available in book form as well , with eleven of the volumes in print. Three of the print volumes have won the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story, as well as numerous other awards. The first two story arcs have also been adapted into two Girl Genius novels! Girl Genius really sets the bar high for epic webcomics.
The Authors and Their Other Works:
Girl Genius is the work of the married team of Phil and Kaja Foglio. Phil is the primary illustrator and Kaja is the primary writer and web designer and the world building is very much equal between them. Both of them are written into the comic as bystanders and chroniclers of the saga. They each had long separate careers prior to starting Girl Genius, which has been their main project since 2000 and has led to the novels, riotously funny podcasted radio dramas, and a devoted and massive fanbase. A major contributor is their colorist since Volume 5, Cheyenne Wright, who has many other fascinating projects, many of which are of the steampunk persuasion.
As an aside, I am loathe to end this recommendation without mentioning my favorite characters: the charismatic, adorable and brutal Jägerkin. They will pillage your heart and conquer your mind, all while singing a jaunty tune.
- You might not believe it now, but they really are irresistible to women.
Tags: adventure, Comics, foglio, gaslight fantasy, girl genius, mad science, romance, webcomic, wednesday