For the past decade, Phil & Kaja Foglio have been spinning the mad science/gaslamp fantasy adventures of Agatha Heterodyne in the award-winning comic book-turned-webcomic Girl Genius. Now they’ve stepped into a new medium, adapting the first story into a prose novel: Agatha H. and the Airship City.
The Industrial Revolution has escalated into all-out warfare. It has been sixteen years since the Heterodyne Boys, benevolent adventurers and inventors, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Today, Europe is ruled by the Sparks, dynasties of mad scientists ruling over – and terrorizing – the hapless population with their bizarre inventions and unchecked power, while the downtrodden dream of the Heterodynes’ return. At Transylvania Polygnostic University, a pretty, young student named Agatha Clay seems to have nothing but bad luck. Incapable of building anything that actually works, but dedicated to her studies, Agatha seems destined for a lackluster career as a minor lab assistant. But when the University is overthrown by the ruthless tyrant Baron Klaus Wulfenbach, Agatha finds herself a prisoner aboard his massive airship Castle Wulfenbach – and it begins to look like she might carry a spark of Mad Science after all.
The comics are great fun, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they’ve filled in the details in the novel version!
I’m a ways into it, and I’m struck by two things: (a) a lot more info about the world, and (b) a lot less humor than the comics. That may change over time, but my impression is that a lot of the story simply relies for humor on Phil’s artwork (both the primary artwork and the background and subtle side elements). The story itself is, upon reflection and per the book, fairly grim.
Huh. I remember an interview where they talked about it being sort of the opposite of adapting a novel: instead of removing all the background detail, they were deliberately adding it. The more serious tone…yeah, now that you mention it, events *are* pretty grim a lot of the time.