When one thinks of steampunk comics one of the first ones that comes to mind is the long running Girl Genius. The first comic on their website dates back to November 2002 so it’s been around a long time.
Girl Genius is an ongoing “gaslamp fantasy” story by Phil and Kaja Foglio. It started out in 2000 as a periodical comic book, which is collected into thirteen (and counting) larger volumes, and has now won three Hugo awards for Best Graphic Story. Girl Genius follows the career of Agatha Heterodyne–a hapless student at Transylvania Polygnostic University who discovers that she has more going for her than she thought.
This comic has so much going for it. Reading through the archives you can see massive improvement in the artwork as the story progresses and the artwork actually started out really nicely. It is fully colored and comes out Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. Yeah, you read that right. It comes out three times a week! It is also printed in 13 (and counting) graphic novels!
It’s story is gripping and wide ranging with a unique world that they have really made their own. Here is a brief synopsis of the plot without giving too much away.
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.
In other words… IT IS AMAZING. It has enough victorian flair to be steampunk, but it just blurs the line between science and magic. But not enough that the whole thing becomes campy. It leaves you asking the question, Is it science? Is it magic? Who knows, but it’s fantastic. Some of the two page spreads are absolutely stunning. The writing can be a bit slow in places, but the dialogue is witty and engaging. With the main protagonist being an adorably geeky woman who is drawn with a fairly normal body type and is damn intelligent to boot, I was immediately drawn in. The romance storyline is handled well. She doesn’t lose all her brain cells when her focus of affection enters the room, in fact, the reason she’s so attracted to him (them…) is because they click on an intellectual level. I find intelligence SO attractive so this really hits home for me.
The creators balance action, adventure, romance and humor well enough they have kept me hooked for a few years now. Hard to do with such a long lasting serial.
I highly recommend this comic to anyone who enjoys steampunk comics of all sorts.