Girl Genius

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The Foglios have named several creators and their many works of literature, animation, graphical storytelling and art as influences on both their personal creativity and Girl Genius in particular. Here is a partial list of those influences, how to find some of them, and further recommendations from fellow readers and fans:

Foglio Inspirations Edit


  • Jane Austen wrote witty and satiric novels mocking the popular subjects of Georgian Britain. Her comedies of manners have only increased in popularity and regard in the roughly two centuries since they were first written. The novel Castle of Wolfenbach, mentioned in Austen's Northanger Abbey, is the source of the family name of Baron Klaus Wulfenbach and his son.
  • John Barnes
  • Greg Bear
  • James Branch Cabell
  • Raymond Chandler
  • Lord Dunsany
  • George MacDonald Frasier
  • Robert van Gulik created the well-respected but now somewhat obscure "Judge Dee" series of mysteries. He translated the 18th century detective novel Dee Goong An into English under the title Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee. The main character of this book, Judge Dee, was based on the real statesman and detective Di Renjie who lived in the seventh century during the Tang Dynasty (A. D. 600-900), though in the novel itself elements of Ming Dynasty China (A. D. 1300-1600) were mixed in[1]. Later stories were based on other historical Chinese case histories, kept the Ming anachronisms and formed a consistent chronology of the judge's career. His careful attention to cultural details not only presented Chinese history in an attractive way, but as his stories have been adapted by Chinese television, avoided offense to the host culture.
  • H. Rider Haggard's writing, especially She and King Solomon's Mines, is mentioned as "incredibly influential" on the structure and style of Girl Genius. Written in the late 1800s, Haggard's hero Allan Quatermain, in a series of "blood and thunder and adventure and dashing around various parts of the Empire"[2] novels, encountered immortal queens, native chieftains, bloodthirsty cults and fabulous lost treasures.
  • Dashiell Hammett
  • William Marshall
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster is a children's adventure novel and a modern fairy tale, illustrated by Jules Feiffer. The names of characters and places are rife with puns and wordplay. Critics have always acknowledged that the book is advanced for most children, who would not understand all the wordplay or the framing metaphor (it gives them something to grow into). It has "something wonderful for anybody old enough to relish the allegorical wisdom of Alice in Wonderland and the pointed whimsy of The Wizard of Oz"[3]. It is now generally acknowledged to be a classic of children’s literature.
  • Terry Pratchett (or PTerry) is also known as The Amazing Pratchett in a Girl Genius shout-out (the trunks in the first panel). He got custom Luggage due to his great body of humorous fantasy literature, most notably the "Discworld" series and Good Omens, his collaboration with Neil Gaiman, which inspired some fan art from the Foglios in the form of a one-comic-page adaptation of an early scene in that book. Pratchett now focuses almost entirely on fantasy, explaining "it is easier to bend the universe around the story". He shares several influential and significant authors with the Foglios (which should be rather unsurprising).
  • Kenneth Robeson was actually the house name for a collection of authors who produced the "Doc Savage" stories for Street and Smith Publications; the most frequent "Kenneth Robeson" was Lester Dent. Doc Savage has been mentioned as a parallel to Klaus Wulfenbach (which had been noticed, sans interview, by more than one fan)[4].
  • J.K. Rowling
  • "Tom Swift" is a fictional young inventor in a series of juvenile science fiction and adventure novels; the character first appeared in 1910 and has appeared in new titles as recently as 2007. Each of the various series focuses on Tom’s inventions, a number of which pre-date actual inventions - several, including the taser, have been directly inspired by Tom’s fictional work. The character has evolved over the years, but in general the books portray science and technology as wholly beneficial in its effects. A number of prominent figures, including Steve Wozniak and Isaac Asimov, have cited Tom Swift as an inspiration. "The series firmly established the edisonade as a basic cultural myth."[5]
  • Jules Verne wrote about space, air, and underwater travel before navigable aircraft and practical submarines were invented, and before any means of space travel had been devised. Captain Nemo is an archetype of the anti-hero. His Voyages Extraordinaires are numerous and his Paris au XXe siècle is unnervingly prophetic.
  • H.G. Wells was a socialist, futurist and feminist, writing "scientific romances" with both fantastical elements (literally: cavorite) and attempted extrapolations (The Shape of Things to Come depicted a world war waged with aerially-delivered bombs destroying cities). His The War of the Worlds, describing hostile Martian forces subjugating Britain, is a seminal depiction of an alien invasion of Earth, and has been famously adapted to performed media.


  • Pete Abrams is the artist and writer of Sluggy Freelance, now on its 12th fairly-consistent year of web publication. Sluggy is usually published on weekdays, with sketches or guest art on weekends.
  • Sergio Aragones
  • Vaugn Bodé was an American artist who helped create the definitive look of the late '60s and early '70s. He is perhaps best-known for his comic strip character Cheech Wizard and artwork depicting voluptuous women. His works are noted for their psychedelic look and feel, and were major inspirations for the film Wizards (and possibly Buck Godot's Pogs).
  • Frank Kelly Freas produced five decades worth of iconic SF and fantasy images, characterized most often by luminous, saturated color and sensuous curves - not just on people, but even on stellar clouds. He worked for everyone from the SF magazines to rock bands to NASA to the Franciscan Order, worked hidden words into his paintings, won 10 Hugos and was a spectacular example of artist-as-businessman while still remaining fan-friendly.
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Charles Dana Gibson
  • J.C. Leyndecker
  • Alphonse Mucha
  • Wendy & Richard Pini created Elfquest, one of Kaja's first exposures to independent comics and independent comics publishing. The couple founded WaRP Graphics in 1977 to publish Wendy's long-form work, which became and still is, a standout example of independent comics success. The Pinis and the Foglios share many of the same artistic inspirations as well, and may have been inspiring each others' businesses in the same way that American and Japanese animation keep re-inspiring each other.
  • Roxanna & the Quest for the Time Bird by Letendre and Loisel
  • Stan Sakai - creator of Usagi Yojimbo
  • Charles Schulz, whose nickname was literally "Sparky", created "Peanuts" in 1950; its deceptively simple style and distinct characterization made it hugely popular and almost universally recognizable, as well as "arguably the longest story ever told by one human being"[6]. Independent cartoonist Gilbert Hernandez wrote "Peanuts was and still is for me a revelation. It's mostly from Peanuts where I was inspired to create the village of Palomar in Love and Rockets. Schulz's characters, the humor, the insight..."[7]. It helped to cement the four-panel gag strip as the standard in the United States[8] and created a licensing phenomenon probably only equalled by Disney. Artistically, Schulz counted George Herriman (Krazy Kat), Roy Crane (Wash Tubbs), Elzie C. Segar (Thimble Theater) and Percy Crosby (Skippy) among his influences[9].
  • Aaron Williams is the creator of superhero comic PS 238. Aaron and Phil have traded cameos in each other's work (Prince Aaronev VI and Doctor Philippe Von Fogg, both villains). Not unlike Girl Genius, PS 238 has a long-form story unfolding behind more humorous "daily" events.


  • Tex Avery encouraged animators to stretch the boundaries of the medium to do things in a cartoon that could not be done in the world of live-action film. He created or contributed substantially to the creation of many classic cartoon characters, including Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. His sexy female characters made strong impressions on more than one generation of young male animators; his exaggerated style was homaged in live action and 3D rendering in The Mask.
  • Chuck Jones started animating under Tex Avery, but became responsible for some of the most memorable cartoons from the 1950s, especially those featuring the Roadrunner, Michigan J. Frog and the exceptional Bugs Bunny cartoon, What's Opera, Doc?. His contributions to animation spanned six decades. Jones's artistic style was characterized most notably by oversized, winsome character eyes.
  • Studio Ghibli - Hayao Miyazaki's studio has created many highly-regarded animated films, most of which have strong female characters and emphases on pacifism and environmentalism.
  • Osamu Tezuka is often credited as the "Father of Anime", and is often considered the Japanese equivalent to Walt Disney. He created two series which, once imported to the U.S., influenced a whole generation of comic and animation artists: Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion. Due to childhood exposure, Tezuka was inspired by Takarazuka Review costume designs, and stage techniques for highlighting the eyes on stage to draw his female characters' eyes sparkling and large[10][11]. He also drew stylistic inspiration from cartoons of the time such as Betty Boop and Walt Disney's Bambi and Mickey Mouse[12].


  • Opera, unspecified works

Further Reading Edit


  • Edgar Rice Burroughs is cited by such SF giants as Robert Heinlein as an influence. Similar to H. Rider Haggard in his exploration of lost cities and the (sometimes patronizing) culture clash of urban Europeans and equitorial natives, he also sent his readers off to a fantastic alternative Mars, called Barsoom in the local language; the verdant planet Amtor (Venus) and deep into the hollow earth, to Pellucidar.
  • Phelps, Ethel Johnston, Ed. Tatterhood and other tales The Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1978. Twenty-seven short traditional "Stories of Magic and Adventure" "from Norway, England, China and many other countries" of women geniuses of all ages at work making discoveries, rescuing princes, and so forth.
  • Tim Powers, one the three original "steampunks" along with his buddies James Blaylock and K. W. Jeter, is likely of interest. In particular, the award-winning 1983 novel The Anubis Gates deals with time gates and constructs, but unlike Girl Genius is set firmly on our Earth and in mostly early 19th century real history.
  • Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, must, of course, be cited as an obvious inspiration for large elements of the setting and atmosphere chosen, in addition to a major category of constructs such as we see in "Agatha Heterodyne and the Electric Coffin". For all the "Fathers of Science Fiction" claimed, she is the only acclaimed "Mother of Science Fiction".
  • E. E. "Doc" Smith, although further away in style from the steampunk/gaslamp æsthetic, wrote of such fantastic elements as interstellar and interdimensional travel, completely alien aliens and warfare spanning not just planets but galaxies — most published before the first substantial rocket was successfully launched into the upper atmosphere. His futurism and epic scale are not only Vernian, but have had a permanent influence on the genre and all its offshoots.



  • Firefly - although this is set in a far future where Earth has been rendered uninhabitable for the most part, the juxtaposition of frontier culture and space-enabled technology resonates with the steampunk/gaslamp æsthetic. Episodes are available on The WB website and in a DVD boxed set.
  • George Pál - his production of The Time Machine in 1960 provided a steampunk visual template for subsequent generations.
  • Georges Méliès - the Father of Science Fiction Film, and, due to the fact that his works date from the early 20th century, fairly steampunk in their execution and gaslamp in their storytelling.
  • Legend - When writer Ernest Pratt finds that his dime-novel hero Nicodemus Legend has been being impersonated by Hungarian scientist (and former research partner of Thomas Edison) Janos Bartok, he finds himself talked into using his fame, Legend's reputation as a non-violent, scientific problem-solver and Bartok's inventions to help the people of the American West. The series is as much an homage to the period as a tip of the hat to its stylistic predecessor, The Wild Wild West.
  • The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne - "What if all those stories Jules Verne wrote were based on his actual experiences?" An impoverished French law student with a fantastic imagination and visions of the future is swept up into the efforts of British Crown agents battling an immortal construct's plans for world domination.
  • The Wild Wild West - this series was mentioned by Kaja in one interview, but would be recommended even without the Foglios' hearty appreciation. Created in the mid-1960s as a James Bond pastiche set in a Western context, it can now be retroactively identified as the first real and original American steampunk/gaslamp fantasy television series (as opposed to, say, a Verne or Wells adaptation for the small screen).
  • Baccano is a Japanese light novel series written by Ryohgo Narita and illustrated by Katsumi Enami. The novels were adapted into a sixteen episode anime series directed by Takahiro Omori and produced by Brain's Base and Aniplex. It is best to see all sixteen at once as the story is interwoven among all the episodes. While the era is different than Kaja's gaslamp fantasies the themes or romance, adventure, and mad alchemists will reverberate. There are mortals and immortals good guys and bad guys and nize hats.


Popular music Edit
Opera Edit
  • Die Fledermaus is a farcical story which, despite the name, really has nothing to do with the Batman. Instead, it presents an act of revenge for a practical joke, and involves disguises at a ball, mistaken identities and a bit of drunkenness. It has become a chronic favorite of opera audiences.
  • Gilbert & Sullivan - their operettas are not only musically challenging and eternally popular, but feature some of the "comedy of manners" situations peculiar to the Georgians and Victorians, with witty (if sometimes convoluted) resolutions; the characters reside in 'fanciful "topsy-turvy" worlds ... where each absurdity is taken to its logical conclusion'[17]. Two of the most frequently-performed works are The Mikado and Pirates of Penzance.
  • The Magic Flute - another perpetual favorite, Mozart's Masonic-inspired opera follows a misplaced prince as he attempts to rescue the daughter of the Queen of the Night, with whom he has fallen in love merely from a portrait shown him. Wielding the magic flute of the title, Tamino travels to the stronghold of the initially-fearsome Sarastro and is put through an ordeal to win Pamina's hand, which he does after multiple trials and various misunderstandings. The Queen and Sarastro are personifications of Obscurantism and Enlightened Rule — there are possible parallels in Lucrezia and Klaus, especially with Agatha as the Queen's daughter and Gil performing as Sarastro's implied heir.
  • The Marriage of Figaro (Le nozze di Figaro, ossia la folle giornata translated as The Marriage of Figaro or the Day of Madness) is regarded as a cornerstone of the standard operatic repertoire. It is a sequel to The Barber of Seville in which the heroine of the previous, Rosina, is battling her husband's designs on a young servant bride. Again, multiple mistaken identities, tangled relationships, hiding places and scheming plans climax in a happy ending for all.
  • The Threepenny Opera (Die Dreigroschenoper) was made popularly famous, at least in part, by the swing adaptation of "The Ballad of Mackie Messer" to "Mack the Knife", especially as recorded by Bobby Darin. However, writer Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill's musical story of crime and desperation reflects the "punk" in steampunk. It was adapted from an 18th-century English ballad opera, John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, in the late 1920s, and offers a Marxist critique of the capitalist world. This has also been recorded with Max Raabe as Macheath.
  • Il Trovatore - inspirational notably for the Anvil Chorus's relation to Hammerhead Chorus . The plot of the opera also shares with Girl Genius a few similar themes, albeit in a darker shade: revenge, betrayal, misunderstandings and twists of fate keeping lovers apart. Expect the themes in this opera to be subverted in the comic.
  • Wagner's Ring saga (Der Ring des Nibelungen) uses Nordic/Teutonic mythology as the basis for one of, if not the greatest work of opera in the artform's history in terms of scope. The entire cycle takes four days to perform (15 hours on the stage), and the town of Bayreuth has made preservation of the opera and the Wagner family its cottage industry (rather like Mechanicsburg with the Heterodynes, come to think of it).


  1. "Judge Dee: Van Gulik's stories" at Wikipedia
  2. TGT Webcomics Podcast, Interview: Phil Foglio @ 17:04
  3. McGovern, Ann. “Journey to Wisdom.” The New York Times, November 12, 1961, p. BRA35
  4. "Imagine Doc Savage as kindergarten teacher."
  5. Science Fiction After 1900: From the Steam Man to the Stars, p. 48; Brooks Landon, (2002); New York: Routledge, ISBN 0415938880. ]
  6. "According to Professor Robert Thompson of Syracuse University"
  7. "'Dear Sparky...' Comic Artists From Across the Medium on the Legendary Cartoonist and Creator of Peanuts", The Comics Journal, December 1997
  8. The Comics: Since 1945, Brian Walker, 2002, Harry N. Abrams, Inc (New York)
  9. "Charles M. Schulz: Influences" at Wikipedia
  10. "Osamu Tezuka: Early Life" at Wikipedia
  11. Gravett, Paul (2004). Manga: 60 Years of Japanese Comics. Harper Design. p. 77. ISBN 1-85669-391-0
  12. "Osamu Tezuka: Works" at Wikipedia
  13. "Dark cabaret" at Wikipedia
  14. Vermillion Lies: Press
  15. "Vermillion Lies at Edwardian Ball weekend", Christina Troup, Jan 24, 2008 12:24 PM
  16. "Dark Wave" at Wikipedia
  17. "Gilbert & Sullivan" at Wikipedia

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