FORGOTTEN BOOK: AGATHA H AND THE AIRSHIP CITY by Phil and Kaja Foglio, 2011
This is the 108th in my series of Forgotten Books.
I have been a follower of Phil Foglio’s art for a very long time, from his early work in various science fiction fanzines (which won him 2 Hugos for Fan Artist) through some of his early comics work from D’ARC TANGENT, PLASTIC MAN, MYTH ADVENTURES, WHAT’S NEW WITH PHIL AND DIXIE, ANGEL AND THE APE and more. But in 2000, it was GIRL GENIUS which really caught my attention.
GIRL GENIUS was one of the first comic strips to attach itself to Steampunk, an odd mixture of weird science and alternate history which I tend to like in some moderation. Today Steampunk seems to be perceived as a wild Victorian clockwork construct, which it can include, but that is not the strict limitation of the genre. Cosplayers are conventions arrive with their corsets, cogs, top hats, parasols and more. Some of the get-ups I really like, others not so much. But, to the novel in question which was written by Phil and his wife Kaja, who has been involved with the strip from the beginning.
In some undefined European alternate history, mad engineer/inventors created odd looking machinery that did odd things. Think Henry Kuttner’s Gallagher stories with a medieval looking setting that is hardly medieval. These mad scientists were called Sparks, because they could breathe life into their odd creations, some of which were benevolent, others not quite.
The ruler of this conglomeration is Baron Wulfenbach was a master Spark. So much so that he enslaved all the other Sparks to work with him or, if unwilling, to depart this mortal plane. He did this with his own creations and the Jagermonsters, which are odd mixtures of man and beast, with a patois of their own and very odd sensibilities.
Over at Transylvania Polygnostic University, Agatha Clay is a klutzy young student/lab assistant. One day on her way to the University, two Jagermonsters attempt to mug her and steal her trilobite locket which causes many people to suddenly turn pale. The locket, unknown to Agatha, was designed to suppress her abilities as a Spark.
She finds herself involved in odd adventures aboard the Baron’s floating city where she is taken as the assistance to Moloch, because Sparks are almost never women. And Agatha now sleep walks and works on machinery, other in her underclothes which gets her a more interesting reputation.
The book covers the first several story arcs from the comic. The story is wild and fun. The novel is compelling reading. And there is a second one out.
The comic continues three days a week on line with an archive that can take you back to the beginning. Phil and Kaja manage to keep this interesting and inventive. They have won the first three Hugo Awards in the Best Graphic Story category. They would probably have won this year, but they announced that they would not complete in order to allow other worthy strips to compete.
You should check it out.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.