A Spark is a mad scientist. The term comes from The Spark, short for "the spark of genius", the mental attribute which is the sine qua non of a mad scientist.

General characteristics Edit

To quote the Professors Foglio, the Spark is "whatever it is that makes Mad Scientists what they are. A poorly understood concept that identifies and incorporates a batch of personality traits shared by those who have it." They are "people who seem to have the ability to tinker with the laws of physics as we know them. They are brilliant, focused, and often impatient with those whose thoughts don't run with the speed or in the direction of their own. Because of this, some of those thoughts have veered off in truly alarming directions. This makes them dangerous and shortsighted..."[1].

Sparks tend to inspire loyalty (or at least obedient fear ) in lesser mortals and thus acquire a coterie of minions. This intuitive ability and associated charisma come at a price, however: Sparks are mad scientists who often lose awareness of practical and even ethical concerns in their pursuit of technical apotheosis. In fact, down-to-earth solutions mostly strike them as extremely boring .

There can be competent, even brilliant, engineers and researchers who are nevertheless not Sparks; and therefore will never make the intuitive leaps necessary to "truly warp the laws of nature" and arrive at such creations as Dr. Jekyll's formula, Dr. Frankenstein's monster, a Strong AI implemented in clockwork, or even the absolutely perfect cup of coffee. (However, some apparently sparky creations — such as nuclear submarines equivalent to Captain Nemo's Nautilus, heavier-than-air flying machines, Google AdSense, and mortgage-backed securities — actually do exist in our world.)

Breaking through Edit

The first trip into the madness place is the definitive point at which one may be called a Spark. Prior to breaking through, the individual may have not shown any particular signs; afterwards, there's no turning back. This is usually traumatic for the Spark and dangerous for bystanders, since breakthrough devices are notoriously destructive (with few exceptions). Most Sparks break through in their teens or later.

Young Sparks usually won't survive without powerful protection . If the breakthrough device does not kill its creator and everyone in the general vicinity, and the new Spark also survives the retribution of other survivors, he or she becomes part of the incessant power politics of the Gifted, usually as the pawn of an existing power who noticed the chaos, but sometimes (especially with appropriate protection and mentoring) they become players in their own right.

Agatha is a unique case as she did not really break through, the pendant she wore at the time easing and suppressing many of the Spark urges in such a way that she was more 'eased through' rather than break through.

The Crazy Edit


Spark Characteristics

Main article: The madness place

Even if they're not actually driven insane by the breakthrough, Sparks often lose rationality while they're working. This state tends to be marked by megalomania , increased aggression (especially if interrupted ), and a serious loss of perspective .

Sparks and PoliticsEdit

Sparks quickly gain minions through sheer charisma[2], and eventually gather tremendous support unless killed by rival Sparks.

Those that survive this process of attrition become the power players of their fictional world. If they successfully reproduce they begin lineages that are nothing less than royalty – right down to personal heraldic sigils: the Heterodyne Trilobite, the Sturmvoraus Sword-and-Gear, and the Wulfenbach Winged Tower, for example.

However, this does little to satisfy their obsessions, and they spend most of their time dueling rivals when not engaging in dangerous experiments — which is what makes the world of Girl Genius one of unending conflict and cataclysm.

They are thus almost always generally despised, and are colloquially called "madboys" and "madgirls". But calling one this to his or her face is generally considered hazardous to one's health .

Each Spark's characteristic style Edit

One of the features of the Spark is that each mad scientist has a unique style. At the grossest level this refers to the spark's preferred medium — which is often fairly easy to describe: Agatha Heterodyne works mainly with clanks and small-to-medium sized weaponry, for example; while Dr. Dimitri Vapnoople appears to have worked primarily with uplifting animals.

See also: List of sparky styles

There's more to it than that, however. A Spark's style seems to remain consistent and recognizable (at least to those who know what they're looking for) across projects, types of project, and technology levels.

It has been compared to the distinctive style of a painter, except that artistic styles are generally not inherited. Sparky styles can run in families .

There are two major classifications of Sparks: Sparks who go into science, and Sparks who go into the arts.[3] So far, Arts Sparks have not been distinguishable within the context of the histories. Possibilities exist such as Gospodin Rassmussin, a dance master and a member of a sparky circus could be an example as could Van Rijn but in this case their contributions could be no less destructive.

Distribution of the Spark Edit

Apparently, only a small minority of the European population have the Spark, as it is a rare hereditary trait rarely found outside a small number of families. With the right background and education a spark can become extremely powerful and influential. However, most of the common population that survive their "breakthrough" are either relatively weak or lack the education to make full use of their abilities.

Degrees and limitations Edit


Less Competent Spark

The common perception of the Spark is personified by most of the main characters of Girl Genius (Agatha, Tarvek, Gil, the Baron) - mad geniuses whose genius and madness have shaped the world. This is not always the case.[4]

Just as in real life, many talented individuals are born in poor areas, cut off from the education that would enable them to put their talents to real use. Also, there are varying degrees of talent; just because one has the ill-defined ability to "warp the laws of nature" does not mean one can do it in an effective manner. Many with the Spark have just enough talent and/or knowledge to draw unwanted attention but not enough to protect themselves.

Master Payne's Circus of Adventure is filled with such Sparks; by disguising their talents as performance art they are able to hide their talents while applying them towards earning livelihoods. In addition, Dr. Dimitri Vapnoople was apparently incapacitated by the Baron's brain coring.

Null sex correlation Edit

It is (or has become) generally understood that, despite the "girl genius" of the title, there is no (measurable) inherent difference in probability of males and females breaking through.

There are many more male than female Sparks in Agatha Heterodyne's Europa, but this is apparently due to external forces[5]. There is some[6] evidence[7] that this may be due to the efforts of Prince Aaronev VI to revive the Other, using, at least in part, female Sparks captured by the Geisterdamen[8] during their search[9] for the Holy Child.

Associated traits Edit

Physical hardiness Edit

Sparks are known for generally having a stronger constitution than ordinary human beings.[10] For example, Othar Tryggvassen, Gentleman Adventurer, has repeatedly survived falling off airships. Sparks are also capable of rejecting or resisting ordinary slaver wasps. [11] Some sparks have also displayed the ability to achieve feats of superhuman strength and reflexes -- for example, the ability to lift and throw a ten-foot tall clank . (That might just be Gil, however.) These may be examples of phenomena where the body simply ignores its limits

Musical ability Edit

The fact that many of the musical characters are also Sparky suggests that the Spark may be associated with musical ability. At the very least, the mathematical construction of music may "click" with the Sparky ability to warp physics, even a little.

See also Edit



  1. Secret Blueprints, Volume One, page 2
  2. Mr. Rovainen: "Ah, it is part of the power of the Gifted. Those around them wish to aid them. To serve them. Even when we know them to be monsters."
  3. Reddit Ask-Me-Anything, 30 May 2013: 'Phil: First of all there are two major classifications... Sparks who go into science and Sparks who go into the arts. (We haven't seen the Art Sparks in the graphic novels, and have only been a footnote). As for the Science Sparks, it depends on the interest of the Spark.'
  4. Master Payne: "Except it doesn't always work like that."
  5. Judy: "Girls with the Spark — they usually just — disappear."
  6. Anevka: "Tarvek, do you know how many girls he's destroyed in that machine?"
  7. Anevka: "My father collected girls with the spark whenever he could."
  8. Eotain or Shurdlu: "I... I think we have killed another one."
  9. Lady Vrin: "...she sent us here to the shadow world— where we were to seek the missing child."
  10. Zeetha: "Ha! I've heard Sparks were tough! "
  11. Anevka: " surely know that your Lady's filthy wasps— don't work on Sparks."