Girl Genius

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For the general term, see child prodigy.
Girl Genius
Agatha, main character of Girl Genius
Agatha, main character of Girl Genius
Author(s) Phil & Kaja Foglio
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

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[edit]

Kaja and Phil Foglio in 2007.

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!'"[1] 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".[2] After some intensive long-term plotting starting in 1993,[3] 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[4] and was reissued in 2010 colored by Cheyenne Wright.[5] Volumes Two and Three (comic issues 4–10) were colored by Mark McNabb.[6] Volume Four (comic Issues 11-unpublished 14) was colored by Laurie E. Smith.[7] 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,[8] the Foglios stated[9] 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 a gross 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.[10] The start of "second season" of the series began March 3, 2014, with "Act 2, Volume 1,"[11] after a two-month hiatus of the main story.

Gaslamp Fantasy[edit]

Kaja Foglio coined the term "Gaslamp Fantasy" (an alternative to steampunk) to describe the work. 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.[12]

It 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 "mimmoths," or 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.


Girl Genius presents an alternate history "where the Industrial Revolution has escalated into an all-out war"[‡ 1] due to the battles between "Sparks" – highly charismatic mad scientists with supernormal abilities in one or more sciences. The setting is "Europa," which is geographically similar if not identical to Europe.

The protagonist, Agatha Heterodyne, at first seems to be nothing more than a struggling student at Transylvania Polygnostic University. When Baron Klaus Wulfenbach and his son come to investigate irregularities at the university, a seemingly coincidental sequence of events leads to a surprising revelation: Agatha discovers that she is one of the last living members of the Heterodyne family, a line of powerful (and often murderously insane) Sparks. The Heterodynes once wielded considerable power and influence across the continent. The last Heterodyne, Agatha's father, disappeared around the time of her birth (although her uncle Barry was around into her childhood).

The Baron realizes Agatha's true identity, and he fears that his empire will descend into chaos when people learn of the existence of a Heterodyne heir. He is also concerned that she may share the evil inclinations of her late mother Lucrezia, who once unleashed mind-control devices on Europa that were terrifying even by the elevated standards of a population used to regular incursions of horror-movie monsters. He attempts to capture Agatha. She escapes and embarks on a journey across war-wasted Europa, making for Castle Heterodyne, her family's ancestral home. Along the way, she makes friends among a troupe of circus performers and earns the loyalty of three jägermonsters, mad-science-enhanced humans who serve the House of Heterodyne. Agatha becomes entangled in a plot to bring Lucrezia back to life. The conspirators install a copy of Lucrezia's personality in Agatha's mind. Throughout the rest of the story, Agatha struggles to stay in control of her body, and Lucrezia occasionally takes over and threatens to cause havoc.

Agatha arrives in the Heterodynes' home, Mechanicsburg, where the town is abuzz with the rumor of a Heterodyne heir. Townspeople help Agatha enter ruined Castle Heterodyne, but only after an imposter has already gotten in. Once inside, Agatha must navigate the many deadly booby traps, find the fake, and defeat her. She has assistance from the castle itself. Rumored to be haunted, it actually houses an Artificial Intelligence. Once Agatha proves her heritage to the castle, she earns its allegiance. She then undertakes a series of repairs that will restore its neglected systems to full working order, allowing it to defend the town from attackers. Indeed, the town is almost immediately besieged by multiple armies, from opportunistic nobles to the Baron himself. As of Volume 13, the castle is in full working order and all attackers have been repelled. In consequence, the Baron has placed Mechanicsburg (and himself) in a time freeze, which Agatha and various of her associates escaped only by accident. As Act II begins, Agatha is apparently starting a quest to restore the town.

Throughout the story, Agatha is in a complex love triangle with two suitors. One is Gilgamesh Wulfenbach, the Baron's son, who wants to protect her from his father long enough to convince him that she isn't a threat. The other is Tarvek Sturmvoraus, scion of a family deeply implicated in Lucrezia's schemes and thick with imperial ambitions of its own. His affection seems genuine, but he ultimately wants to rule Europa with Agatha. Gil and Tarvek help Agatha repair the castle while she struggles with her feelings for both of them — and with her uncertainty about their loyalties.


About twenty-two years before the beginning of the current story, a fragile peace has been framed through the actions of brothers Bill and Barry Heterodyne and their allies, including their closest friend, Baron Klaus Wulfenbach. The peace is apparently cemented when Lucrezia Mongfish, daughter of one of the more villainous Sparks, consented to marry Bill Heterodyne; the concurrent disappearance of her other suitor, Klaus Wulfenbach, appears to have passed without comment.

A bit over four years after Wulfenbach's disappearance, the peace is shattered by an attack on the mechanically sentient Castle Heterodyne; Bill and Barry return to find Lucrezia apparently kidnapped—and, though the details are kept secret from all but their closest associates, Bill and Lucrezia's son Klaus Barry had been killed. The Heterodynes' frantic search for Lucrezia was punctuated beginning about six months later with a series of attacks against the other major Spark houses of Europa. These attacks, instigated by a mysterious person called only The Other, involved bio-engineered constructs known as slaver wasps. Victims of slaver wasps became shambling zombies called "revenants," and anyone infected with a slaver wasp could be controlled by the Other through means not understood at the time. The Heterodynes turned their attention to the defense of Europa—while still searching for Lucrezia.

At some point, the attacks ceased. However, neither the Heterodynes nor Lucrezia Mongfish were to be found. Wulfenbach, traveling with a new son but without his new wife, returns to find Europa full of revenants; fifty noble houses of Sparks had all but been destroyed, and the remainder were in a mad scramble for power. Wulfenbach uses his own not inconsiderable charisma and skill to establish a "peace of the biggest guns." He polices Europa's sparks while trying to put together the fragmented pieces of the puzzle. The area under the Baron's control encompases most of Central Europa north of the Alps, from the Alsace to the Black Sea, with Romanian and German as the principal languages.

Meanwhile, the absent "Heterodyne Boys" have become increasingly popular folk heroes, with many of their known exploits (and not a few wholly imaginary ones) captured in a series of popular novels and plays. Traveling shows often present the Heterodyne plays to audiences in towns of all sizes. From time to time, someone claims to be the Heterodyne heir, but none survive long.

The story opens about twelve years into "The Baron's Peace."

The Spark[edit]

The Spark is the center of the fictional Girl Genius universe. It is what makes the mad scientists of the story what they are; people say someone is a Spark if he or she has the Spark.[‡ 2] It is a rare, often hereditary, trait found mostly within a small number of families – most of the common population that "break through" are either relatively weak or lack the education to make full use of their talents.[‡ 3]

Most of the time, those who carry the Spark seem no different from anyone else, but they are capable of entering a state of hyperfocus (sometimes called "the madness place",[‡ 4] or a "Spark-Induced Fugue State"[‡ 5]) that greatly enhances their charisma, comprehension and intuition – all too often at the cost of all their rationality or common sense.[‡ 6] In short, they can become fanatically obsessive savants at the drop of a hat (though stimulants can easily induce it[‡ 7]) – and it is not at all uncommon for some to act as such almost constantly.

The first time a Spark enters hyperfocus is often traumatic. Most are almost immediately killed by their breakthrough creations or by rioting townsfolk. A fair number become incurably insane. Though the average Spark is smart enough to make the impossible possible, their tunnel vision rarely permits understanding the consequences of their actions. It's noted on at least one occasion that many Sparks meet their doom because "they're smart enough to build death-rays and dumb enough to turn them on armies all by themselves."[‡ 8] Many dub them "madboys" or "madgirls" (but never when one is within earshot).

There are some "minor" sparks, who are not as dangerous or as destructive as the stereotypical spark, but they are usually amongst those who are slain by mobs (for various reasons) or forced into servitude to other sparks.

Most of those who survive quickly gain minions through sheer charisma, and eventually gather tremendous support unless killed by rival Sparks. Those that survive this process of attrition become the power players of their fictional world, and if they successfully reproduce they begin lineages that are nothing less than royalty – right down to personal heraldic sigils: the Heterodyne Trilobite,[‡ 9] the Sturmvoraus Sword-and-Gear,[‡ 10] and the Wulfenbach Winged Rook,[‡ 11] for example. Major Sparks spend much of their time in power struggles, which makes the world of Girl Genius one of continual conflict and cataclysm.


Main characters[edit]

Agatha Clay/Heterodyne[edit]

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,[‡ 12] 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[‡ 13] 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[‡ 14] of Wulfenbach's troops. Tarvek and Gil have recently discovered that first-generation Dingbots apparently possess the Spark, 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.[‡ 15] 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.[‡ 16] 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,[‡ 17] 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"[‡ 18]). 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,[‡ 19] 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.[‡ 20]

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,[‡ 21] 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.[13]

Gilgamesh Wulfenbach[edit]

'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 Bertie 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.[‡ 22]

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",[‡ 23] 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[14] and the Foglios specially mentioned that the Skifandrians "don't like twins." [15]

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[‡ 24] to singlehandedly facing down and defeating a military attack on Mechanicsburg,[‡ 25] others are beginning to take decided notice of his actions.[‡ 26] Baron Wulfenbach, witnessing his son's amazing one-man victory, is as proud a father as any in history.[‡ 27] In the process, Gil himself has begun to see what obstacles his father has had to deal with in constructing and maintaining the empire.[‡ 28]

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[‡ 29] that Gil's mind is apparently subject to some sort of overriding control by his father.

Baron Klaus Wulfenbach[edit]

'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).[‡ 30]

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.[16]

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.[‡ 31] 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.[‡ 32] 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.[‡ 33] 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.

Significant secondary characters[edit]

Bangladesh Dupree[edit]

This friendly and cheerful commander of Wulfenbach's airship fleet also happens to be a bloodthirsty and sociopathic air-pirate queen.[‡ 34] After her pirate fleet was mysteriously slaughtered in her absence (this may have been Zeetha as she had once destroyed an entire pirate air fleet and then destroyed their headquarters), Dupree joined Wulfenbach as his "left hand" woman in exchange for any information his vastly superior intelligence operations might find about her peoples' killer.

Dupree functions as a quick and relentless weapon for the Wulfenbachs, and a threat hanging over Agatha.[‡ 35] She has been apparently restored to health after a bad reaction to a potion that Tarvek gave Gil the recipe for, supposed to make her immune to enslavement by slaver wasps, and is assisting Gil in the control of the Empire while the Baron is caught in the Mechanicsburg Time Freeze.

The Heterodyne Boys[edit]

Bill and Barry Heterodyne are Agatha's father and uncle, respectively, seen only in flashbacks. Their established continental peace, carved out of decades of conflict, set the stage for the shocking devastation of "The Other," for Baron Wulfenbach's empire, and for Agatha's quest to find out the truth about herself.

They have become the stuff of legend in the manner of King Arthur, inspiring a series of books and stage plays of dubious accuracy chronicling their adventures.

After The Other's initial attack on Castle Heterodyne, Bill and Barry left Mechanicsburg, and spent the next several years searching for The Other. However, when The Other's attacks ceased, so did sightings of the Heterodyne Boys.

It is known that Barry went into hiding with the infant Agatha, but disappeared when she was about 11. He believed, based on unknown evidence, that Wulfenbach was the Other, and was apparently investigating evidence of this theory when he disappeared. Bill's fate has not been revealed.


This army of humanoid monsters, created and expanded over the centuries by the Heterodynes, is known for fanatic loyalty to House Heterodyne. With the disappearance of Bill and Barry Heterodyne, the bulk of the Jägermonster army has allied with Baron Wulfenbach, while the remaining few, at general's orders, went into exile as 'wild' Jägers, searching for any possible remaining Heterodyne heir.[‡ 36] This let them ally with Wulfenbach without abandoning the 'Jägertroth' to House Heterodyne.

Their heavy Romanian-Germanic accents, violent natures and indestructibility allow them to serve both as ties to the Heterodyne history and broad comic relief. Augmented senses allow them to provide foreshadowing,[‡ 37] running jokes,[‡ 38] character revelations,[‡ 39] and useful details[‡ 40] otherwise undetectable to the main characters. For example, every Jäger that has met Agatha in person has commented on how good she smells (or more accurately, how 'goot she shmells'), as if they can detect the family line of their creators by scent.

Apparently one becomes a Jäger by choice, with the future Jägers considering the chance to drink the 'Jägerdraught' as a gift.[‡ 41] This and the respect that the Heterodynes have historically shown the Jägers account for their fierce loyalty. It is unclear whether or not new Jägers can still be created or if the formula for Jägersdraught has been lost.

A trio of Jägers, Maxim, Dimo & Oggie,[‡ 42] some of the 'wild' Jägers sent out in search of a Heterodyne heir, recognized Agatha shortly after she escaped Castle Wulfenbach and have been openly aiding her in her quest to reach Mechanicsburg, and Gil in his efforts to protect the city. Conversely, in Mechanicsburg, she is confronted by Vole, a rogue Jäger who is actively trying to kill her and subvert Gil; the extent to which Vole is working with the Baron, instead of following his own anti-Heterodyne agenda, has not yet been fully revealed. Gil has also encountered Mamma Gkika, the apparent leader of a large group of Jägers living (carousing might be a better description) in the tunnels underneath Mechanicsburg awaiting the return of a Heterodyne heir—many of them waiting for the Heterodyne heir to repair them from various violent mishaps.

Krosp I[edit]

The emperor of all cats. He is a construct, a bipedal and highly intelligent polydactyl cat designed to lead the felines of the world as an ever-present army of spies, messengers and saboteurs.[‡ 43] The plan was partially successful, as Krosp is both extremely intelligent and capable of communicating with both cats and humans with equal proficiency. Unfortunately, the plan failed, as all other cats are not intelligent and are incapable of following complex orders.[‡ 44]

Krosp is currently Agatha's most loyal associate, although he regards her as his vassal and himself as her liege – making him not all that different from a normal cat.


A green-haired swordsmistress armed with a pair of Katar, who is a lost princess of the lost city of Skifander. She left the city as an envoy to the outer world. However, a complex chain of events left her stranded in Europa with no idea how to get home. Zeetha has declared she and Agatha are "kolee-dok-zumil"; a complex Skifandran term that might be compared to an apprenticeship. In practice however, it is more like "grindstone and knife": she regularly trains, drills and bludgeons Agatha to exhaustion for her own protection.[‡ 45]

Zeetha was shocked to find out Agatha and her missing uncle are not the only two who know about Skifander when Baron Wulfenbach addressed her in her native tongue; Lucrezia during her possession of Agatha also recognized her as a Skifandrian. Zeetha has yet to find out how much either knows, and has unsuccessfully queried Gilgamesh on that regard. A drawing by the Foglios of Zeetha's father "Chump" (a term of respect in Skifandrian), circulated on the Internet, bears a strong resemblance to Baron Klaus Wulfenbach.

Zeetha was among the party who attempted to rescue Agatha from Sturmhalten, and accompanied her to Mechanicsburg. She was separated from Agatha for a while, but later joined with Gil and has entered the castle with him, where they have had several adventures with Agatha during her second possession by Lucrezia, with Zola, and with the Castle itself. She was last seen apparently leaving Mechanicsburg in the company of Airman Higgs; both were apparently able to avoid being caught the (time) freeze of Mechanicsburg.

Tarvek Sturmvoraus[edit]

Tarvek is the Prince of Sturmhalten and the only surviving member of his immediate family, who have all died as a result of internal dissent related to their allegiance to "the Other." He's shown interest in Agatha, both political and romantic, and the fact that he survived his family (in both senses of the phrase) means that he has a deft touch when it comes to the machinations of the elite. He's one of the few who know that Agatha is possessed by Lucrezia, but while he remains wary of Lucrezia, his reaction to learning that was apparently to play both sides and see who won in the end.

Tarvek also claims descent from the legendary Storm King, who features in a prophecy that Europa will not know peace until the Storm King or his heir marries a Heterodyne girl, which may explain much of Tarvek's romantic interest in Agatha. A current plot to assume control of Mechanicsburg and Castle Heterodyne appears to involve a fake, female Heterodyne heir whom Tarvek was to marry. It is not completely clear whether Tarvek has genuine feelings for Agatha, or whether he intends to see his plot through with Agatha—or if those states are mutually exclusive. Agatha is as yet unaware of this possible ambivalence, but is aware that he was party to her manipulation in Sturmhalten and thus hesitant to fully trust him.

During the current storyline Tarvek, Gilgamesh, and Agatha are working together within Castle Heterodyne, where it is revealed that Tarvek and Gilgamesh were students together aboard Castle Wulfenbach and in Paris, Gilgamesh under an assumed name. Despite their long-time rivalry and the conflict implicit in the feelings both have for Agatha, Tarvek has clearly told Gil that he places Agatha's safety and well-being above his own.

At the end of Act 1, Tarvek was mortally injured by his cousin Martellus, who was kidnaping Agatha, and was left languishing in Mechanicsburg during the Time Freeze.

His bodyguard was Violetta, one of the "Smoke Knights" serving the Sturmvoraus family and their allies, who is also one of his shirttail cousins. However, he has released her into Agatha's service, a much more feminine role which she relishes. Violetta escaped the Time Freeze by following Martellus with Agatha.

Lucrezia Mongfish[edit]

Lucrezia Mongfish is the daughter of Lucifer Mongfish, an old foe of the Heterodyne Boys. After several clashes with the Heterodynes, she eventually married Bill Heterodyne, and had a son named Klaus Barry Heterodyne (notably, 2 years and 3 months after Baron Wulfenbach had vanished).[‡ 46] She was present at Castle Heterodyne for the first attack by the Other,[‡ 47] and her subsequent disappearance led most to assume that she had been kidnapped.

In reality, Lucrezia Mongfish is the Other, and proceeded to wage war across Europa for years before finally vanishing. Recently, through the work of a conspiracy of Sparks and the Geisterdamen, a race of pale amazons who worship Lucrezia as a goddess, she has managed to imprint her mind onto that of her daughter Agatha Heterodyne, as well as stealing the clank body of Anevka Sturmvoraus. Agatha has suppressed the Lucrezia imprint by use of her Heterodyne sigil locket, and Anevka/Lucrezia was last seen in the Great Hospital in Mechanicsburg attempting to take control of the Baron prior to the destruction of the hospital. A Lucrezia persona has sufficiently integrated with Zola to convince Anevka/Lucrezia that she is in control.

The Unstoppable Airman Higgs[edit]

Airman Higgs (aka "Bosun Higgs," a pun on "Higgs Boson"), a mysterious and extremely tenacious Wulfenbach soldier who first appeared rescuing the Baron from an airship accident (breaking almost every limb in his body in a series of more and more hilarious accidents, mishaps and enemy attacks whilst doing so).

After encountering Gilgamesh and Zeetha as they passed through Mamma Gkika's into Mechanicsburg, Higgs entered Castle Heterodyne with them, where he has demonstrated both an unusual prowess and resourcefulness. His true nature and identity appears to have been recognized by at least one of the Castle's fragments (and also by Tarvek), and his actions suggest an insider's knowledge of the history of the Heterodyne family and of the workings of Castle Heterodyne. He is also a suspiciously strong fighter, with an almost supernatural ability to survive and quickly recover from very serious wounds, making it even more obvious that he is far from a normal soldier.

He and Zeetha have developed a mutual attraction, though Zeetha somewhat resents having to recognize that someone is a stronger fighter than she is, and has vowed to learn until she is able to beat Higgs, a challenge that Higgs has happily accepted. As of the end of Act 1, he was a double agent working for Gil as the Baron while reporting to the surviving Jägers and Mechanicsburg leaders.

Zola la Sirène Dorée[edit]

Zola (a.k.a. Pinkie) is the pretender to the Heterodyne family name currently attempting to take over Castle Heterodyne. She knew Tarvek and Gil (under his assumed name) during their student days in Paris, where she appeared to be an ineffectual minion to others whom they frequently had to rescue. However, while she has suffered several mishaps within the Castle, requiring rescue, since she encountered Gil there, she has also demonstrated an absolute ruthlessness despite the unraveling of their plan to take the castle. Upon her reemergence in the castle, it is revealed that she is of the Mongfish lineage, specifically the daughter of Lucrezia's sister. Her subsequent extraordinary success as an opponent in recent confrontations, and the revelation that she is a well-prepared Mongfish agent, strongly suggest that her mishaps and subsequent rescues were deliberate, likely to cover her much deeper involvement in the plans from which she was routinely 'rescued' and to manipulate Gil.

Zola was last seen convalescing from injuries received in escaping Castle Heterodyne, possibly under the control of the Lucrezia persona she "audited" in the Castle. Her whereabouts following the apparent destruction of the Great Hospital are unknown.

Von Pinn[edit]

A construct first encountered by Agatha in the Nursery / School on Castle Wulfenbach, Von Pinn is revealed as the construct manufactured by the Heterodynes to care for their children, and was thought to have gone insane after "The Other" attacked Castle Heterodyne and killed the son of Bill and Lucrezia, Klaus Barry Heterodyne. She dismembered Punch and Judy while Agatha was escaping from Castle Wulfenbach. She returned to Castle Heterodyne after Agatha entered the Castle, with the aid of Castle systems, where it was revealed that her consciousness was taken from Otilia, one of the nine Muses of the Storm King. She, as Otilia, was later inside the body of an "improved" "Devil Dog".

Castle Heterodyne[edit]

Castle Heterodyne is the ancient ancestral home of the Heterodyne family. Originally simply a large fortress, the Castle was brought to life by Faustus Heterodyne who imbued it with an artificial intelligence. The castle's obedience to an individual is seen as proof of that individual's claim to being the Heterodyne heir, which it can verify by a blood test and other means.

Following a devastating attack by the Other, the castle was nearly destroyed and its artificial intelligence was fractured into multiple pieces that cannot communicate with each other. Many of these fragments are vicious, cruel, and whimsical. It has negotiated for its repair with Baron Wulfenbach, and is used as an ultimate punishment detail.

As of the end of Volume XI, Agatha has been publicly acknowledged by the Castle as the Heir and has completed extensive repairs to the Castle subsystems. The castle has been repaired, restored and recharged; and could protect Mechanicsburg with brutal effectiveness.


The Foglios' acceptance speech at the Hugo Awards ceremony 2010.
Year Organization Award Recipient Outcome
2014 Hugo Awards Best Graphic Story Girl Genius, Volume 13: Agatha Heterodyne and the Sleeping City.[17] Nominated
2011 Hugo Awards Best Graphic Story Girl Genius, Volume 10: Agatha Heterodyne and the Guardian Muse.[18] Won
2010 Hugo Award Best Graphic Story Girl Genius, Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm.[19] Won
2009 Hugo Awards Best Graphic Story Girl Genius, Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones.[20] Won
2008 Hugo Awards Best Professional Artist[21] Phil Foglio Nominated
Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards Outstanding Comic Won
Outstanding Writer Won
Outstanding Environment Design Won
Outstanding Artist Nominated
Outstanding Character Writing Nominated
Outstanding Long Form Comic Nominated
Outstanding Use of Color Nominated
2007 Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards Outstanding Science Fiction Comic Won
Outstanding Comic Nominated
Outstanding Long Form Comic Nominated
Eisner Awards Best Digital Comic [22] Nominated
2006 Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards Outstanding Story Concept Won
Outstanding Comic Nominated
Outstanding Science Fiction Comic Nominated
2005 Eisner Awards Best Writer/Artist—Humor Phil Foglio [23] Nominated

Published collections[edit]

Volume 5 as well as all future collections reprint the website content from where the comic series was discontinued.


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[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Interview with Phil and Kaja Foglio, Part 2 of 2, 7m:15s" (MP3). The Biblio File. TalkShoe. 27 January 2008. Retrieved 3 December 2008. 
  2. ^ Jordan, Justin (12 February 2007). "Getting Smarter: Phil Foglio Talks "Girl Genius"". CBR News. Retrieved 3 December 2008. 
  3. ^ Scheff, Meredith (9 March 2008). "Meredith Scheff Interviews Phil Foglio". The Steampunk Workshop. Retrieved 3 December 2008. 
  4. ^ Brian Snoddy Art
  5. ^ Cheyenne Wright at Arcane Times
  6. ^ Mark McNabb Studios
  7. ^ Laurie E. Smith at Prism Comics
  8. ^ The first page of volume 8 is dated Monday, February 4, 2008."Girl Genius web comic volume 8, page 001". Girl Genius. Airship Entertainment. 4 February 2008. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  9. ^ "Interview with Phil and Kaja Foglio, Part 1 of 2, 33m:45s" (MP3). The Biblio File. TalkShoe. 27 January 2008. Retrieved 3 December 2008. 
  10. ^ "We are Kaja and Phil Foglio creators of Girl Genius". AMA. Reddit. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  11. ^ accessed 10 March 2014.
  12. ^ Foglio, Kaja (26 April 2006). "Dirt, Collection Vol. 5, Furniture and Gaslamp Fantasy". Retrieved 3 December 2008. 
  13. ^ Frankenhoff, Brent (2011). Comics Buyer's Guide Presents: 100 Sexiest Women in Comics. Krause Publications. p. 37. ISBN 1-4402-2988-0. 
  14. ^ [1] 7 October 2010
  15. ^ [2] 30 May 2013
  16. ^ Corgi, Hound of the Internet. "Quoting the Secret Blueprints, Vol. I". Retrieved 3 December 2008. 
  17. ^ 2014 Hugo Award Winners
  18. ^ 2011 Hugo Award Winners
  19. ^ a b Cavna, Michael (5 September 2010). "'GIRL GENIUS' wins Hugo Award for best graphic story". Comic Riffs (Washington Post). Retrieved 9 September 2010. 
  20. ^ "2009 Hugo Award Winners". 9 August 2009. Retrieved 21 January 2010. 
  21. ^ "2008 Hugo Award Nominees". World Science Fiction Society. 21 March 2008. Retrieved 6 August 2008. 
  22. ^ "The 2007 Eisner Awards: 2007 Master Nominations List". Comic-Con. Retrieved 3 December 2008. 
  23. ^ "The 2005 Eisner Awards: Nominees". Comic-Con. Retrieved 3 December 2008. 
  24. ^ "Girl Genius Sourcebook and Roleplaying Game". Retrieved 3 December 2008. 
  25. ^ Girl Genius Online 19 March 2007
  26. ^ "GIRL GENIUS, Monday, September 08, 2008". 
  27. ^ Phil and Kaja Foglio, Girl Genius Volume 6: Agatha Heterodyne and the Golden Trilobite, page 62

Primary sources[edit]

In the text, these references are preceded by a double dagger: ‡

  1. ^ Foglio, Phil & Kaja. "The Girl Genius Story So Far". Retrieved 3 December 2008. 
  2. ^ Foglio, Phil & Kaja. "The Hopefully Un-necessary Glossary". Retrieved 3 December 2008. 
  3. ^ Girl Genius Online 22 April 2005
  4. ^ Girl Genius Online 5 October 2005
  5. ^ Girl Genius Online 20 July 2012
  6. ^ Girl Genius Online 25 June 2003
  7. ^ Girl Genius Online 25 May 2007
  8. ^ Girl Genius Online 19 Feb 2007
  9. ^ Girl Genius Online 21 March 2007
  10. ^ Girl Genius Online 31 October 2005
  11. ^ Girl Genius Online 9 December 2002
  12. ^ Foglio, Phil & Kaja. "Girl Genius Complete List of Absolutely Everybody!". Retrieved 3 December 2008. 
  13. ^ Girl Genius Online 5 April 2004
  14. ^ Girl Genius Online 25 December 2006
  15. ^ Girl Genius Online 19 November 2003
  16. ^ Girl Genius Online 22 November 2002
  17. ^ Girl Genius Online 11 December 2002
  18. ^ Girl Genius Online March 12, 2003
  19. ^ Girl Genius Online 6 December 2006
  20. ^ Girl Genius Online 23 February 2007
  21. ^ Girl Genius Online 21 November 2008
  22. ^ Girl Genius Online 6 March 2006
  23. ^ Girl Genius Online 16 July 2007
  24. ^ Girl Genius Online 11 June 2007
  25. ^ Girl Genius Online 16 November 2007
  26. ^ Girl Genius Online 23 June 2008
  27. ^ Girl Genius Online 3 December 2007
  28. ^ Girl Genius Online 5 March 2008
  29. ^, accessed 10 March 2014
  30. ^ Girl Genius Online 10 December 2004
  31. ^ Girl Genius Online 4 June 2007
  32. ^ Girl Genius Online 29 November 2006
  33. ^ Girl Genius Online 6 December 2006
  34. ^ Girl Genius Online 1 September 2004
  35. ^ Girl Genius Online 18 July 2007
  36. ^ Girl Genius Online 10 Oct 2005
  37. ^ Girl Genius Online 21 April 2003
  38. ^ Girl Genius Online 9 November 2007
  39. ^ Girl Genius Online 9 February 2007
  40. ^ Girl Genius Online 24 June 2005
  41. ^ Girl Genius Online 16 March 2011
  42. ^ [3]
  43. ^ Girl Genius Online 15 March 2004
  44. ^ Girl Genius Online 17 March 2004
  45. ^ Girl Genius Online 18 February 2005
  46. ^ Girl Genius Online 10 August 2007
  47. ^ Girl Genius Online 15 August 2007

External links[edit]