Bust out your tophats and goggles, folks, because today is a very special birthday celebration. For comic and steampunk fans the world over, we are gathered to offer the fondest of wishes to none other than Kaja Foglio, co-writer and illustrator for the legendary webcomic Girl Genius. While it’s true, she has gone on record as saying she sees the comic as less steampunk and more “gaslamp fantasy,” there is little question that the steampunk fandom has embraced the comic for its beautiful artwork and depictions of style and imagery that are staples of the steampunk aesthetic.
What some may not realize, however, is that Foglio’s work is legendary in much different circles as well: namely, those of tabletop gaming. Curious? Let’s learn more as we shine the spotlight on a prolific artist and a brilliant creative mind.
Born on January 12, 1970, Kaja Foglio was born Kaja Murphy before she married her partner in life, crime, and art, Phil Foglio in the 90’s. A native of Washington state, she was born in Bellevue and raised in Kirkland, attending Juanita High School and later the University of Washington. During her college years, Foglio was heavily involved with the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). Seeing as the SCA is an organization that has some very heavy ties to fandom as a whole, it’s no wonder that Foglio soon found herself drawn deeper into the culture and its artforms.
After marrying husband, Phil, both of the Foglios went on to do artwork that, today, is worth a great deal of money – not as conventional paintings, but as art featured on some highly sought after cards in Magic: The Gathering, the prolific card collecting tabletop game. Forming the now famous Studio Foglio as partners, under this banner they both produced art for many of the earlest Magic: The Gathering cards. Today, many such cards, including those featuring art by the Foglios, can fetch prices of hundreds, or even thousands of dollars on the secondary market.
As well all know, card game art was not all that lie in Kaja’s future. After discovering some pieces done by husband, Phil, featuring a decidedly steampunk aesthetic, she was enamored. Teaming up with Phil, the duo developed a strong female character, and utilizing the pseudo-Victorian aesthetic, Agatha Heterodyne and Girl Genius was born. What started as a comic periodical has now become a free webcomic, and an unquestionable hit among its fanbase and the Foglios peers with multiple Hugo Awards and nominations to its name, as well as both prose novels and a roleplaying, card, as well as mobile game.
The series might be called Girl Genius, but the woman behind it is, unquestionably, as dazzlingly gifted as her wonderfully mad protagonist. On this, her special day, we raise a teacup to honor Kaja Foglio for all she’s given to the steampunk genre, fantasy at large, the art world, and the culture that is fandom. Madam, may your good fortune, future successes, and health be as numerous as the volumes of Girl Genius, and as rich as the sugary goodness of the fondant brass cogs on your birthday cake.
Cheers to you, Kaja—and many happy returns!
Talk Like a Jägermonster Day
Paradoxically, and by the most remarkable coincidence, today is also Talk Like a Jaegermonster Day. Since the origins of the holiday are lost in the annals of Heterodyne history, the full chronicles of which are only available in the Heterodyne Library in Mechanicsberg, we have little to offer you here.
We can, however, help you identify some of the most prominent traits of the Heterodyne monster army, and we present them here.
What is a Jägermonster?
Girl Genius is a story of “adventure, romance, and mad science.” It has also been described as “steampunk” and “gaslamp fantasy.” The star is Agatha Heterodyne, unknowing inheritor of her father and uncle’s heroic legacy. She lives in a Europe with roughly Victorian technology. The world is ruled by mad scientists called sparks. Agatha happens to be a spark as well, although she’s only recently discovered this. The whole thing started as a comic book, but can now be read online as a webcomic with new pages posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
A Jägermonster is one part fierce, nearly immortal monster soldier and one part comedy relief in Phil and Kaja Foglio’s onlime comic book masterpiece entitled Girl Genius. They speak with a funny accent that might be East European. You could also blame it on their mouths being full of sharp teeth, a typical byproduct enjoyed by the survivors of drinking the Heterodyne’s famed Jägerdraught.
It is customary on this holiday to wear your best hat, the more outrageous the better. Jägermonsters value hats highly, as a sign of conquest, accomplishment and social ranking. Other than that, it all comes down to the equally outrageous Mechanicsberg accent and a good deal of confident swagger.
The actual sound of Jägerspeak is best accomplished by transliteration of standard English. There are rules to follow, but these are best accomplished via the shortcut of an online translator to get you to the right pronunciation framework.
Fortunately we have one such translator here, originally written by Lee K. Seitz in 2005. Using it, you can get a pretty good approximation of the phraseology and speech patterns used by the authentic, real live Jägermonsters in service of Agatha Heterodyne herself.
Liz Carlie (she/her/he/him) is a regular book, TV, and film reviewer for SCIFI.radio and has previously been a guest on ‘The Event Horizon’. In addition to being an active member of the traditional fandom community, she’s also an active participant in online fan culture, pro wrestling journalism, and spreading the gospel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She resides in Southern California with her aspiring superhero dog, Junior, enjoying life one hyperfixation at a time.