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!

Sergio Aragon├ęs signs SoloWednesday morning before we left for San Diego, I made a last-minute addition to my small stack of stuff to get signed: Sergio Aragon├ęs’ issue of Solo. During my first half-hour at Comic-Con on Thursday, I found myself at the Groo booth, face to face with the artist. When I asked him to sign it, he asked me whether I’d had a chance to read it yet. (I guess with the Groo 25th anniversary and drawing the cover of the con schedule, people were tracking down his stuff?) I told him I’d read it when it first came out. (I posted about the story “Heroes” on St. Patrick’s Day.)

Girl Genius Web ComicsI dropped by the Studio Foglio booth a couple of times, with the intent to get my latest Girl Genius trade signed. (It arrived in the mail earlier that week. How could I pass it up?) After collecting the individual issues to start with, I ended up buying the first two or three books direct from the source at Comic-Con a few years ago, and Phil Foglio was kind enough to sign the whole set as he sold them to me. So as the newer books have come out, I’ve brought them to cons to get them signed.

This year I managed to find Phil Foglio on Friday. He was talking with someone about site issues (which I assumed were about last month’s downtime), and apparently it’s banned in China as being “too racy.” His assistant encouraged me to just interrupt, and I got him to sign volume 6. I made sure I linked to them in that night’s con report, without realizing that the site had gone down that morning due to bandwidth issues. *sigh* Of course I took the book out of my backpack that night… but on Sunday, I wandered by the booth again, and this time Kaja Foglio was there. If I’d still had it, I could have had both of their signatures. Again, *sigh*. We talked for a bit about the switch from pamphlet-to-book to web-to-book, and about some of the T-shirt designs, and about how far ahead they had story material (years).

All-Flash #1 (2007) CoverI also kept looking for Joshua Middleton, since I wanted to get his All-Flash cover signed and show him the wallpaper I made for my cell phone, but I never saw him any of the times I went into Artists’ Alley. His table was there, but he wasn’t, and all I could think of was walking past his table at Wizard World LA back in March. Not that I had anything to get signed at the time, but still…

Of course there are always tons of booths run by small press trying to promote their works. The only one that stands out in my memory is Alcatraz High by Bobby Rubio. I talked with him, he showed me a preview issue which was funny, and I bought the first issue of the comic (figuring I’d get the next two if I liked that one), which he signed with a sketch. Unfortunately, this being several days into the con, my brain had turned to mush and I didn’t think to ask whether the story I had read was actually in #1.

Studio Foglio has been posting the last few pages of Issue #13 (which ended on a rather intriguing clifhanger) over the past few weeks, and on Monday, they posted the first brand-new page at GirlGeniusOnline.com, just three weeks after they announced that the comic would move to the web.

Girl Genius follows the steampunk adventures of “spark” Agatha Clay through a 19th-century Europe littered with the remains of a mad scientist war, dominated by Baron Wulfenbach, who rules his domain from an airship. It’s an adventure/comedy, and if you like Phil Foglio’s style, you’ve probably already read the story so far.

Speaking of the story so far, there are two ways you can catch up. (Well, three if you count hunting through back-issue bins and eBay.) Studio Foglio is selling the first three collected editions (both hardcover and TPB) on their website, and they’ve also begun Girl Genius 101—reposting the original comics online, one page at a time. And of course there’s cast info, a FAQ, summaries—everything you need to get up to speed.

Let me just say again, I can’t recommend this enough. It’s good, it’s funny, and now you can try it out for free! (And if you really like it, they plan to continue releasing the TPBs, so in a year or so you can get it on genuine flattened plant matter!)

Girl Genius Online

Here’s some surprising news: Phil and Kaja Foglio’s excellent comic book Girl Genius is moving from print to the web: Girl Genius Online. They plan to have new pages up three times a week, and release graphic novels once a year.

I’m of mixed feelings here. On one hand, I like being able to hold the comics in my hand, and this was a series I’ve been collecting as individual issues. Hardcovers and TPBs are often harder to find. On the other hand, the series was only nominally quarterly, often managing only three issues a year (or fewer). If they actually manage 3 a week, that’s the equivalent of six 30-page issues over the course of the next year. And it will be easier to introduce new people to the series. I can just point them to the website instead of lending an issue or telling them to hunt through their local comic stores.

(via the Studio Foglio newsletter)

Yes, you!

Girl Genius, by Phil and Kaja Foglio: “A gaslamp fantasy with adventure, romance, and mad science.” It’s a continuing steampunk adventure/comedy set in an alternate 19th century where warring mad scientists (or “sparks” as they’re called to their faces) have devastated Europe. Graduate student Agatha Clay belatedly discovers her own “spark” as she is whisked into the world of Klaus von Wulfenbach, the “spark” who has conquered most of Europe. A fun read every time – it’s a real pity that it only comes out four times a year. (Published quarterly by Studio Foglio/Airship Comics.) Edit: The comic is now available online at girlgeniusonline.com!

Fables, by Bill Willingham and various artists. Imagine if all the fairy tales really did happen. But Snow White, the big bad wolf, and the rest have been forced out of their world and into ours, where they live in an expatriate community in modern New York City. Here, they face everything from murder mysteries and personal intrigue to political infighting and all-out revolution. It is R-rated, so you probably wouldn’t want to hand it to an 8-year old, but if you liked Sandman you should check this out. It’s a mix of multi-part story-lines and single-issue stories. DC has been collecting each storyline in graphic novel form. (Published monthly by DC Comics/Vertigo.)

Halo and Sprocket, by Kerry Callen. In the words of the comic’s own website, “Halo is an angel assigned to assist Sprocket in learning about the human condition from Katie. [Ed. note: no, not that Katie!] But Sprocket’s logic, Halo’s metaphysics, and Katie’s real-life antics don’t always mesh.” Each issue features several stand-alone short stories that find the comedy in even the most ordinary situations, as well as the contradictions and foibles of humanity. Wayne brought the first three issues over one time, and everyone was laughing hysterically! A collection of the first four issues should be out by December. (Published several times a year by Amaze Ink/SLG Publishing)

And while you’re at it, check out the graphic novel Midnight Nation, by J. Michael Straczynski and Gary Frank. The collected edition is a bit pricey, but it’s worth it!