New Girl Genius Kickstarter – Pledge Now

New Girl Genius Kickstarter – Pledge Now

City of LightningIt’s that time of year again, when Professor and Professora Foglio take to Kickstarter to fund the next volume (no 15) of Girl Genius.

This is the second volume of Act 2 of this epic and highly funny story, The City of Lightning. Seeking to free her city of Mechanicsburg from the time-stasis it has been trapped in for nearly three years, Agatha Heterodyne and her band of trusted colleagues arrive in Paris, seeking permission to examine its extensive and rare underground libraries. Meanwhile, Gilgamesh Wulfenbach, Baron of the by-now crumbling Wulfenbach Empire, is still, slowly, painfully, extracting individual figures from the city, but still unable to get close enough to his father, Klaus, who has created the time-field as a means of keeping himself free from the influence of The Other…

This is the link, go and treat yourself. There’s twenty days left and the funding goal is already $12,000 behind and counting, but get in ahead of time.

I Backed


Girl Genius: The Cold Equation


Back in April, I flagged up the Kickstarter for the latest Girl Genius collection from Phil and Kaya Foglio, and this has duly arrived today. Entitled The Beast of the Rails, this is the fourteenth volume of the series, and the first of Act 2. I’ve been enjoying starting to read this in collected form, as opposed to last year when I read it three days a week on the Girl Genius web-site, which can be found here.

Until that moment when I suddenly flashed what has to be termed The Cold Equation, after a very famous pre-World War 2 SF short-story.

Act 2, or, The Second Voyage of Agatha Heterodyne, is intended to be the middle act of the entire Girl Genius story. Though the Foglios have not committed to anything definitive, the impression has always been given that each of the three Acts will be of roughly similar lengths. Utilising the skills in basic arithmetic that once scored me a Grade 2 at O-level, round about the same time The Who were in the Top 10 with ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ (a classic, a true legend), I calculate that three Acts of 13 volumes adds up to 39 all told. Meaning that there are further 25 to follow.

The Foglios collect a volume every year. That makes it pretty easy to work out that the Girl Genius story will not be complete, i.e., won’t reach the ending, for another 25 years.

Phil Foglio, it transpires, is almost exactly six months younger than myself. Fortunately, there is a tradition among American comic book artists of living well into your late eighties and even your nineties, which is all very well since Mr Foglio will need to do so if he ever hopes to complete Girl Genius. But what about me?

As things stand, in order to read the end of this story, which I have already been following since its debut in 2001, I am going to have to live until the age of at least eighty-four. Now I’m not going to start going into details but I have strong reasons to suspect that I probably won’t get there. It’s not like I’m looking at any preset limits, and my paternal grandfather did live to the age of 88, but take it from me, the odds are tilted in the wrong direction.

I am therefore reading and collecting a story that, in all probability, I won’t get to finish. I’ve only just realised that tonight. Heh heh.

So, if the Professororae Foglio happen to be reading this, I hate to put pressure on you, but if there’s any chance you could speed up a little, sort of, double, maybe? I think I can hang on for that. If you don’t mind. I am really enjoying this…


Kickstarter: Girl Genius Book 2, Volume 1

It’s the annual Girl Genius Kickstarter plug, this time for the first volume of Book 2.

Agatha Heterodyne has successfully completed her transition from hapless, headache-prone student to establishing herself as The Heterodyne, Mistress of the family town of Mechanicsburg. But Baron Wulfenbach has frozen the town (and himself) in time in an attempt to nullify the menace he sees from Agatha. Everything has changed across Europa. The Wulfenbach Empire has lost control. Gilgamesh is under a strange form of control from his missing father. And Agatha has set out for Paris, to seek aid in freeing Mechanicsburg. Others have different plans for her…

There’s sixteen days to go and already the project is 98% funded (the last one was 398% funded, so you know it’s going to happen. This is the link, so get out there and treat yourselves. This is the funniest, most wide-ranging series going, a Gaslamp Fantasy offering Adventure, Romance and Mad Scientists!

Read and love.

Uncompleted Stories: d’Arc Tangent


Talk about an uncompleted story! d’Arc Tangent appeared in 1982, a black and white magazine in the format used by the very popular Elfquest. It was co-created by Phil Foglio (already a well-known cartoonist in SF circles) and Freff, a working name for Connor Freff Cochran, a writer-artist with no previous and no subsequent credits. The duo also had the benefit of an editorial consultancy by Chris Claremont, then riding high as writer of the X-Men.
I was recommended to the title by a friend who couldn’t speak highly enough of it, and when I read it I agreed with his opinion. The story combined expansive space opera with slapstick humour, and set up the engaging situation of a robot imprinted by an alien being’s thoughts, feelings and memories, and faced with becoming his stand-in in an intense symbiotic relationship with the dead man’s mate.
It was planned as a sixteen-part series, though I wasn’t then aware of the limited number. It promised much in so many ways, and completely failed to deliver: there was never a number 2.
The explanation for this was simple: there was a rift between Foglio and Freff, and I heard that Foglio had threatened to go to law if Freff attempted to do d’Arc Tangent without him. Until recently, when researching this piece, that was all I know, but in recent years Freff – who states that the story will be completed, in some format or another – has gone online to deliver a vicious attack on Foglio, laying the blame 100% at his door and accusing him of all manner of arrogance and laziness.
I have not found any comment from Foglio on either this piece or indeed about d’Arc Tangent in general, except the most oblique yet public of statements that appeared in issue 1 itself! Each issue was intended to include a space for one or other of the co-creators to do their own thing: Foglio chose to draw a cartoon of himself demanding to know of Freff when he’s going to finish his part of the work, whilst Freff lies on his back on the top of scaffolding, painting pages onto the ceiling, Michaelangelo-style, whilst languidly pronouncing “It will be ready when it is ready…”
Oh dear.
So what was it that made d’Arc Tangent so good?. The single issue ran for 46 pages. It’s the only piece of Freff’s work that I’ve ever seen, whilst I’m familiar enough with Foglio’s work over a sufficiently long period of time to find the majority of the issue in keeping with his interest. It’s not difficult to tell which parts are most influenced by young Claremont either.
The creators use the first ten pages to draw up five prologues, the last two of which will be of direct relevancy to the ensuing story whilst the preceding three plant clues and forebodings as to what is intended to come later. An alien warlord flees a rebellion, leaving death and destruction behind him, swearing return and revenge, an ambassador approaches an unbelievable and unbelievably immense structure in space known as the wall and an undetected derelict spaceship drifts somewhere in the Solar System, occupied only by a cartoon caricature of Phil Foglio that identifies that visitors are coming.
There is the seeming irrelevance of two Breton idiots arguing their interminable rivalry in front of Jean-Jacques d’Arvieux, Duke de Villayer, in 1671 and the slow building to the beginning of the story in the growing professional and personal relationship between Stuma M and Pavilar T, Krithians and Agents of Starsift. The pair bond as Avari M and Avari T, a much more intense version of marriage involving soul deep empathy and telepathy, before leaving on a routine, innocuous, three year mission designed to be an excuse for a prolonged honeymoon, allowing the Bond to devlop to its furthest extent.
Until Avari M and two of the three Arc series robots, Sine and Cosine, descend to update his prior report on a quiet, isolated planet of harmless class-three lifeforms. Except that the planetary inhabitants are now volatile, dangerous and lethal. They attack without provocation, killing Avari M and destroying the robots, and delivering what will be a fatal blow to the in-orbit Avari T, unless she can abort her mission and receive medical aid.
Which is highly unlikely.
Apart from the personal aspect, the disaster is highly unusual. With one exception, the Universe favours empathy and reason ahead of random violence. That anomaly has an irreplacable agent installed. It is, of course, the nearest planet, three months away, to which Avari T must trvel to make her report. Is anyone surprised to find that this is Earth, specifically Brittany, in 1671.
The journey sees the ongoing deterioration of Avari T, though the creators are clever in not letting us into her head, but instead to watch it both in body language and in the discussions between Arc Tangent and the main mobile Psi-Dwelve shipboard computer. On achieving orbit, she insists on travelling to rendezvous with the robot agent, Imrak, who poses as the wise hermit, Folgoet, despite the increasing evidence that she is cracking, descending towards madness and death.
Her descending lander, crossing the sky like a flame, is seen by the two squabbling French idiots, Alphonse and Raphael (pure Foglio, these two), who follow it to Folgoet’s cottage, where they see his robotic face, and worse, Avari T without the mask that covers her over-large eyes.

The report this to d’Arvieux who, between the Church’s insistence that Demons be burnt, and his own German mercenaries’ fears of devils, is forced to act. Any hope that the calm, and experienced Folgoet can defuse the situation, and talk the crowd down, is dashed when Avari T snaps, her anger and pain driving her towards wanting to kill. Both are exposed as what they are and d’Arvieux, despite his own fondness for Folgoet, does the only possible thing and orders their burning.
From orbit, Arc Tangent observes. It is his task to rescue the mission and, to improve his chances by giving him local knowledge, the Psi-Dwelve implants d’Arvieux’s personality profile onto his memory circuits. This has to be done at express speed, and a computer that has seen several disasters affect its mission, and had to carry an additional burden after losing two-thirds of its robotic assistants, makes a tiny error in billions of computations.
And d’Arvieux’s personality is permanenty imprinted onto Arc Tangent, transforming him into a Seventeenth Century swordsmaster with great swordplay skills (you can so tell Claremont here, can’t you?). He swashbuckles in, rescues the girl and Imrak, and returns them to the spacecraft without harming anyone, least of all d’Arvieux.
There, Imrak finds that the Psi-Dwelve has burnt itself out. Moreover, the distortions that affect d’Arc Tangent and the Psi-Dwelve match entirely the distortions inherent in the two anomaly planets. The breakdown is not due to Avari T’s advancing telepathic madness, but something else, something vital to his mission, that sends him back to Earth.
But that is not all. Against all expectation, Starsift has responded, lifting Avari T’s duty to the mission and calling her to a redezvous with a medical ship. The flight should last five weeks, making the timing to her utter breakdown very tight but there is one last sting in the tail: the Bond is there once more. Weak, feeble, but still sustaining: that essential oneness of mind is restored… with d’Arc Tangent. Even as it saves her life, for now, Avari T responds with disgust…
So, there it was. Come back in three months for issue 2, except that thirty-two years later there is still no issue 2 and never will be.
That single issue of d’Arc Tangent is both immensely fascinating and immensely frustrating.  Whilst certainly not flawless, the opening issue set up a situation full of potentil whilst hinting at deep background that would, in time, come to be explored in depth. And Foglio and Freff had created the intriguing prospect of a swashbuckling robot with and empathetic bond with an organic being: where would you go with that?
One of the perennial issues that makes comics different from any other form of publishing is that it’s largely a collaborative medium. Writers and artists make different contributions that go to make up the whole of a work. Most writers can’t draw, a large proportion of artists can’t write well enough. From the outset, for commercial reasons, publishers split the creative task, both to speed along the physical creation of work, but also to compartmentalise the artistic aspect, diminishing the importance of any single creative person, and impressing upon them their interchangeability.
Disputes between creators, antipathies between writer and artist were unimportant. Both were subject to editors who told both what to do. Most of the time they never met.
But from the Eighties forward, with work made for hire no longer the only game in town, with creators retaining ownership of their own work, or even publishing it themselves, the inherent weakness of being dependant upon two, potentially diverging, creative minds became apparent.
I don’t know what caused the Foglio/Freff partnership to disintegrate but it put paid to any more d’Arc Tangent. Foglio’s cartoon, berating his partner for blowing many deadlines, indicates a substantial difference between the pair about the speed of their respective work. Freff’s recent slam at Foglio confirms this: he claims that Foglio was careless, hasty and lazy, bringing in half-hearted pages of semi-scribbles that he then expected everybody else to do the work on to render them publishable.
Freff also painted himself as the true creative force behind the story, minimising Foglio’s part to such extent that you begin to wonder why he involved Foglio at all. The rumour in the mid-Eighties was that Foglio had threatened a lawsuit to prevent d’Arc Tangent continuing without him: Freff claims that Foglio did start a lawsuit, claiming ownership of virtually everything to do with the series, but being thrown out with nothing.
Freff also says that d’Arc Tangent will be completed, in some format or other. On the other hand, having defeated Foglio utterly, destroyed his claims to any ownership of the project, how come it’s thirty-two years later and there has never been the least part of d’Arc Tangent in any way, shape or form from Mr Conor Freff Cochran?
d’Arc Tangent 1 was copyrighted to ffantasy ffactory, who published it. ffantasy ffactory was publisher Melissa Ann Singer, and never published another comic. Melissa Ann Singer is a Senior Editor with the long-standing SF publishers, Tor Books. I suspect that the rights to d’Arc Tangent  are still divided between Conor Freff Ferguson and Phil Foglio.
Long ago, that noted writer/artist of highly individual opinions, Dave Sim, proposed an in-passing solution. Sim thinks at right angles to most of the rest of us, and he has a refreshing approach to copyright, in that he believes that it should be enforced basically by public opinion.
In short, let everyone in. Let anyone who thinks they can do a Cerebus story try it: Sim was rightly confident that no-one could do a better Cerebus than him and that would settle the hash of copyists. So Foglio and Freff can’t work together anymore: let both of then put out a d’Arc Tangent 2, and see where each of them goes with it.
I admit it: I love Foglio’s work, and have followed him for the last twenty-five years. The only work of Freff’s I’ve ever seen is, as I said above, d’Arc Tangent 1. I know which one I’d buy first. But then again, the whole point of collaboration is the synergy of minds, the creation of something that the individual minds would not, individually, be able to produce.
It’s all moot now, and has been for a long time. d’Arc Tangent is not so much an Uncompleted Story as a Barely Started Story: in either form it’s a glimpse into what might have been and never was: except maybe on Earth-2, when Foglio and Freff stayed friends all the way to issue 16 and the end of a story not to be read.

Kickstarter: Girl Genius Volume 13

It’s Kickstarter time again, and this time it’s for the latest Girl Genius collection, Volume 13 to be exact, Agatha Heterodyne and the Sleeping City.  Use the link to go to the Project and pledge!

Now, as cultured people with a broad appreciation of the finest arts and narratives, you undoubtedly know all that needs to be about Girl Genius, including the fact that it appears thrice weekly at the Studio Foglio site. This link takes you to page 1: just keep pressing next. For those who may be hazy upon the odd detail here or there, let me remind you that Girl Genius is the work of veteran sf artist Phil Foglio (pronounced ‘folio’) on art, Phil and wife Kaja Foglio on writing and Cheyenne Wright as colourist. It is an epic, sprawling, complex, hilarious story involved a cast of several dozen (including a talking cat), which is tecnically a historical document, issued by two Professors of Trans-Polygnostic University, concerning the life of the titular character, Agatha Heterodyne, Girl Genius.

The Foglios present their work as a Gaslamp Fantasy, placing it pretty near to the SF genre of Steampunk, but tons more dramatic and funny.

Volume 13 contains approx 180 pages of full-colour art, of ‘Adventure, Romance and Mad Science’. It completes Act 1 (of three) of the Girl Genius story, and believes me people, it ends on one helluva cliff-hanger!

Get in on this, because it’s good, and treat yourself.

Target is $55,000.00 by 2.00am (British Summer Time) on Saturday 3 May, and at the split second of writing this, £28,607.00 has been pledgedby 420 backers, myself included (there have been five new backers whilst I have been writing this sentence). You can pledge as much or as little as you decide, and there is a list of rewards given for each successive level. For a copy of the book itself with a signed bookplate and computer wallpaper, you need to pledge at least $30, plus additional p&p for backers outside the United States. And if the target isn’t met by the end-date, you pay nothing, though there’s not a lot of chance this will fail.

Be good people, back this venture. The book is reward in itself, without the little inner glow of being one of the Good People.

Agatha Heterodyne and The Seige of Mechanicsburg

Volume 12 page 12

Yes, it’s time for another Kickstarter plug!

I’ve been meaning to write about Girl Genius for a long while. It’s been around since the turn of the Twenty-first century, if you can remembe that far back, and co-writer/artist Phil Foglio’s been around for at least twenty years before then. Girl Genius started as a bi-monthly comic but, after eleven issues, went web-only, with new pages appearing every Monday Wednesday and Friday. The whole lot is available on-line at Airship Entertainment, the site run by Phil and wife/co-writer Kaja Foglio. Here’s the link to page 1:  Just keep pressing next.

The Foglios describe Girl Genius as Gaslamp Fantasy, and it is indeed a steampunk world, an alternate Victorian Europa of Mad Scientists hair-raising adventures, Intrigue and Romance! There’s an ever-expanding cast and multiple stories, back-stories, mysteries and misunderstandings going on all over the place.

So far, the Foglios have collected the series in eleven full-colour, slightly over-sized volumes, each containing between 128 and 192 pages of the story, over 2,000 pages of adventure, excitement and continual jokes. Now it’s time to publish Volume 12, and the Foglios have turned to Kickstarter, to fnd not only the publication of the book, but also the reprinting of other volumes that are in danger of vanising out of print.

This one’s not as urgent as the recent Rick Geary book, as the Foglios have passed their target by a goodly margin already, and with 16 days to spare.

But I still urge you to get in there, support the cause, and treat yourself to a mammoth and mammothly entertaining epic, in which volume 12 is really just the end of Act One. This is  one that’s worth catching up to – those 2,000+ pages are worth the read.

Here’s the link to the Kickstarter page:  As usual, there’s different levels of reward for contributing and I’m sure there’ll be one for you.

Roll on September, and the published book: there are 63 completed pages of Volume 13 as of today, you need to catch up.