Books of 2015, #8: Girl Genius by Phil and Kaja Foglio

I’ve been amused by Phil Foglio’s work for more than thirty years—back to the strip “What’s New with Phil and Dixie” that appeared in the back pages of Dragon magazine in its heyday of the early ’80s.

I’ve known about Girl Genius for several years at this point; I think I ran across it while looking for a way to acquire the remainder of the Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire series from the early ’90s, because I never got to find out what happened to The Winslow.


I read the first several pages, but, honestly, the idea of plowing through hundreds of pages of webcomic was too much—and the story felt a little involved to be able to just pick up in the middle…and at the time, I don’t think they had a bookmark capability.

A couple of years ago I noticed that there were actual print editions, so I would acquire them now and again, but never really got around to reading them; the truth is, at this point, I don’t read a whole lot of stuff that’s actually printed on paper.

Cut to the wrong end of my snow-filled February. I had finished off Trigger Warning and read the entirety of The Martian in between bouts of snow shovelling, but now my tablet was in dire need of recharging—and although I do actually keep a travel battery around, it was going to take some time. I didn’t want to commit to anything too serious, so I started on my stack of Girl Genius collections.

Having subjected you to all that preface, my actual review is, “It’s fun.”

I find it hard to describe it any other way. A perhaps inadequate analogy might be the Thin Man movies—yeah, there’s some plot in there, but most of it’s either improbable as hell, or unrepentantly ridiculous, but it absolutely doesn’t matter because you get to watch William Powell and Myrna Loy engage in amusing banter.

Seriously, if you haven’t watched them, you should—there is something about the sound in movies of that era that I find very grating and uncomfortable to listen to, such that I just don’t watch many of them, but I will happily sit through anything with the two of them.

I mean, I could talk about Agatha Heterodyne, the titular Girl Genius, and the love triangle she finds herself embroiled in, as well as her improbable heritage, her claim to power, her period of posession by her mother, so on and so forth, but really the only thing of consequence I want to point out is the hilarity of creating a whole class of characters who are collectively referred to as Jaegermonsters and speak with cliche’d Eastern Europeaen accents.

Go to, read a few pages. It starts out a little slow, but picks up speed pretty quickly. If anything about it appeals, continue. Or, if you enjoy it enough, and have a tablet that’s a good size for reading such things, you can pick up the (DRM-free!) PDF editions. Or get the print versions at Amazon.

I guess it’s worth mentioning…at the same time Phil was producing the aforementioned Buck Godot, he was also writing XXXenophile, which I suspect is the only ever sex-positive trans-species erotic comic. Girl Genius is not that, but there’s probably some stuff you’d have to explain to kids. Fair warning.

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Michael Alan Dorman

Yogi, brigand, programmer, thief, musician, Republican, cook. I leave it to you figure out which ones are accurate.