Posted by: kshayes513 | November 15, 2008

Reading: Girl Genius

Girl Genius by Phil & Kaja Foglio

I can’t believe this comic has been around for nearly a decade, and I didn’t know about it until just a month ago! Actually, that may be a good thing, because instead of having to wait for each new page to be posted at Girl Genius Online (at a rate of about 3 pages a week), I’ve read the entire series to this point, in just a few weeks.

Girl Genius is promoted as a “gaslight fantasy:” the setting is steampunkish, late 19th century Europe with zeppelin-like airships, robots large and small, steam-driven machinery, and an assortment of Frankenstein type creations. But never mind the technology, this comic is about the story and the characters. You never know what’s going to happen next to genius engineer Agatha and her friends, who include a lost warrior princess, a troupe of traveling players, the king of the cats (according to him!), a band of werwolfish Jagermonsters (my favorites!) and the son and heir of the world’s most powerful Baron.

Visual storytelling (comic, movie, videogame, whatever) has one solid advantage over prose: you don’t have to explain nearly as much! The Foglios can put up their giant clanks and airships and outrageous energy weapons, without needing to go into how they work. They walk, fly, blow up, and we say, Oooohhhh! (Real engineers will just have to shut off their logical brains and suspend their professional disbelief, that’s all!)

I imagine that an important part of worldbuilding here was creating the look: clothing, uniforms, towns and villages have a late 19th century Austrian empire style, so we easily accept a steampunk/folklore version of continental Europe as our location. Then the Foglios let the characters and events reveal how this world differs from our own: what’s a “spark”, and who are the Heterodynes, and where do slaver hives come from? And like all good storytellers, they excel at dropping bits of information into the story long before they will become important to the plot. The Prologue and Book One are worth rereading, just to see how much foreshadowing is snuck under our noses!

In fact, never mind the studying, any and all of Girl Genius is worth rereading, just because it’s so packed with tasty, funny, satisfying story. I have no idea how far along we are in this particular storyline, and I don’t care, as long as Girl Genius goes on for a long, long time!



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