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Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank (Girl Genius #1)

4.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,415 Ratings  ·  227 Reviews
In a time when the Industrial Revolution has become an all-out war, Mad Science rules the World...with mixed success. At Transylvania Polygnostic University, Agatha Clay is a student with trouble concentrating and rotten luck. Dedicated to her studies but unable to build anything that actually works, she seems destined for a lackluster career as a minor lab assistant. But ...more
Paperback, 87 pages
Published August 12th 2002 by Studio Foglio (first published 2002)
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Soulless by Gail CarrigerLeviathan by Scott WesterfeldBoneshaker by Cherie PriestPerdido Street Station by China MiévilleThe Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Best Steampunk Books
20th out of 846 books — 3,952 voters
xkcd by Randall MunroeWorm by WildbowHark! A Vagrant by Kate BeatonGunnerkrigg Court, Vol. 1 by Thomas SiddellAgatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank by Phil Foglio
Best of the Web
5th out of 217 books — 267 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jan 26, 2015 Miriam rated it liked it
Shelves: adventure, graphic
I was both eager and reluctant to read this. Eager because girl genius steampunk adventure? With great reviews? Awesome! Reluctant because, um, well you see the same cover I'm seeing, right? But hey, sometimes the cover art on graphic novels isn't the same as-- Oh. No. It is the same. Cartoony and exaggerated, with the added distraction of lots of details that were interesting but left me with the choice of either ignoring half of them or reading much slower than the story calls for. Most of all ...more
Sep 17, 2010 Patrick rated it it was amazing
I've been reading this series for years, and I really can't say enough good things about it. You can read the whole thing online if you like, but I really recommend buying copies from their website. Selling books is how these folks make their living. It's important to support things like that.
Jan 31, 2016 Skip rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-novels
A graphic steampunk novel sounded great, but it wasn't. The story was confusing and puerile. The main character Agatha was inconsistent, sometimes pathetic, but sometimes brash and outspoken. Baron Wolfenbach was heartless, but his son, Gilgamesh, has some promise to become more than his father. Not sure if I will continue the series or not.
1.5 to 2.0 stars. I am not sure how this one didn't work for me. I love steampunk as a genre, I enjoy gaslamp stories and I am a fan of the graphic novel format. The story just didn't interest me enough. I thought it was okay, but I was expecting to like it a lot more.
Literary Ames {Against GR Censorship}
So I looked this one up online (and read it there for free) as I was struggling with the 13th volume which is a 2014 Hugo finalist for Best Graphic Novel, and while this is from only one point of view - Agatha's - it's still a little disjointed and hard to follow. Almost every sentence of dialogue feels like it should end with a exclamation mark. It's high drama, or melodrama. But perhaps that's a mark of the mad science genre - I wouldn't know, I'm new to it.

Agatha is a strong female role mode
Jan 03, 2013 Raina rated it liked it
Ok, people. Phil Foglio was doing steampunk comics WAY before the teenagers caught on. This was published in 2001. 2001. (Yes, it needed to be said again.)

ANYWAY... So yeah, this is pretty groundbreaking. The library edition I read is printed all in brown&white, except for an excerpt of the next volume at the end. And I know this shouldn't be my firstish comment about the book, but OMG, this is SO MUCH BETTER in color. Which, I know, is a total DUH. The Foglios (which always throws me off b
Mar 27, 2007 Brandon rated it it was amazing
This series is *excellent*.

Its a graphic novel from Phil and Kadjia (I prob. misspelled that) Foglio.

Their art is great and the work is *really* interesting.

Essentially, its an alternative earth where Mad Science is very real. Mad Scientists are said to posses the 'Spark' and are able to build amazing things . . . unfortunately there is a reason that they are called 'Mad'. Essentially, it manifests as a complete inability to determine if they *should* build just because they can. For this reaso
I wanted to like this more than I did. The drawings are entertaining. The plot was a bit weak, though I think it will make more sense in the 2nd book. What bothered me the most was the way the MC, Agatha, a teenager is drawn. As a previous reviewer asked, why is she drawn like a 40-year old barmaid with a boob-job? In some ways, I think the artists were trying to imitate Manga, with the extreme exaggerations, but they somewhat missed the mark.
Re-reading the physical volumes to refresh my memory, since the online version has now (after an epically long time) referenced the event that started Agatha's adventures off.

The art has become cleaner and crisper since these early days, but otherwise is not too different - and a very pleasant world it is, full of a very broad range of people. We meet Agatha, who is the workshop failure, never able to successfully invent anything. She is having a very bad day, and that's even before she draws th
Harold Smithson (Suicide punishable by Death)
A note to all aspiring fantasy authors: Don't start writing your book until you've firmly established how the unique mechanics of your fictional universe affect the characters. Otherwise you end up with Girl Genius, where alternate history steampunk Transylvania is populated by people who wouldn't seem out of place in the modern-day United States (At least theoretically. Most people aren't this melodramatic).

Don't feel up to the task of writing convincing alternate history? Just don't go that ro
Mar 15, 2016 Alexa rated it it was amazing
I've been following this webcomic for 5 or 6 years, and sometimes I binge read the whole thing again (it's starting to get to long to do this, but who cares? It's fun!) My last re-read was last month (May 2014!) and I decided it's probably a good time to review it.

Girl Genius is set in a steampunk society where some people are "sparks" or talking plainly: geniuses. The thing is, most of the time when people "get the spark" or become a spark, they also go insane. The kind of insane that builds m
Oct 25, 2010 Teghan rated it it was ok
Well drawn and some panels were actually quite beautiful, but I just couldn't get into it. The main character was annoying...I tire of constantly coming across heroines who are clumsy and stupid, even though she's supposed to be a student in this series. Its not adorable, its patronizing.

I did however enjoy how they drew her as she wasn't super thin and busty, so that was nice.

The story was also a little choppy as if there was a panel or four missing between pages.

The steampunk visuals were r
Jan 19, 2012 Brenda rated it it was ok
This graphic novel follows the story of a family of Sparks - people gifted with the ability to manipulate the laws of physics. It's told as history and placed in a world with a steampunk ethos. The story and illustration are only moderately involving. Nothing very interesting or innovative occurs and I found myself extremely disappointed as I really enjoy the trappings of the steampunk movement. I unfortunately bought volume 2 of this series and will probably read it just to be sure, but I can't ...more
Apr 08, 2011 Meg rated it it was amazing
I was introduced to Girl Genius in its online version, It caught my attention from the get go. A very different Europa is under the rule of the ruthless Baron Klaus Wulfenbach. The story concerns Agatha Clay, a girl dedicated to science and invention who just can't seem to make anything work.

Full of monsters, madboys and girls, Jagermonsters (very attached to their hats), and legends of the Heterodyne boys, the visually stunning art and the excellent writing will sweep
Jul 27, 2014 Cait rated it it was ok
In theory, I love this book, but in practice, I've picked it up three or four times, and never gotten past page 40.
Jackie B. Forman
Where to begin.

I picked this series up on the recommendation of a co-worker who has a side job at a comic book store. He thought I'd like it. We don't know each other well, but we do discuss pop-culture-nerddom occasionally. I had no reason to doubt him…

Until I saw the cover.

Now, don't get me wrong. I appreciate the attention to detail involved in this comic. But it's just a bit too cartoony for me to take seriously. It feels overly exaggerated and sloppy. But if that's the aesthetic they are go
Brenda Clough
Oct 24, 2011 Brenda Clough rated it it was amazing
The kickoff for a truly delightful and famously enjoyable graphic series, which is up to eleven volumes as I write this. All of them are available at the Girl Genius web site, so you don't have to buy the paper books until you're hooked. Plan to have several free hours before you start in, because they're very addictive! And, just to enable you, after you suck through all the comics on line, there is a wiki, a yahoo group and several livejournal groups.
Because it's PG, this is a great webcomic t
Pretty good storyline and characters. Lots of time establishing the characters, world, and storyline in this first volume, but the pace picks up The artwork doesn't appeal to me completely and it's the drawing of Agatha in particular and some of the other women that really annoy me. Agatha is the hero of the story and it's great to see a smart, determined female character, but she is depicted as a big breasted, tiny waisted, big butt blond. Other women are similarly drawn. Ugh. I did like the ja ...more
3.5 stars

Agatha Clay (although I'm going to assume that this is an assumed name, since she has another one in the TITLE of the book) is one of those diligent students, who no matter how much she wants to suceed just can't seem to. She's almost constantly late, she can't really seem to make her inventions work and she's a laughing stock at the Transylvania Polygnostic University. To make matters work, during a weird electrical incident in town, she's robbed and her precious locket, with the only
Ian Wood
Jul 03, 2015 Ian Wood rated it did not like it
This is the complete review as it appears at my blog dedicated to reading, writing (no 'rithmatic!), movies, & TV. Blog reviews often contain links which are not reproduced here, nor will updates or modifications to the blog review be replicated here. Graphic and children's reviews on the blog typically feature two or three images from the book's interior, which are not reproduced here.

Note that I don't really do stars. To me a book is either worth reading or it isn't. I can't rate it three-
Ryne Steinacker
Mar 26, 2015 Ryne Steinacker rated it really liked it
"Sparks" (basically mad scientists), mecha and steampunk everywhere, and lots of jokes, ahoy!

I think I heard somewhere that the webcomic creators admitted they don't always follow a set plot and kind of do what they feel like. Sometimes it shows, plot-wise, because there are always so many loose threads that some things never get tied up and you almost start to feel as manic as some of the characters. It's surprising to see how far they planned ahead, though--I went back to some of the earlier
Jun 25, 2009 Becky rated it it was ok
Neat setting and a couple interesting characters, but mostly just setup so far - nothing to pull me into the story. I also expected a lot more humor. I'll read more at some point, though, because everyone seems to rave about it.

Also, it's in black and white and as a result some of the action sequences are visually confusing. The rest of the comic is in color, I think (the extra promo comic at the end is, at least) and I think that will make the art much better.
Phil Foglio has been an inspiration of mine since a teenager. He draws in such a great cartoony-yet-realistic style, even if his young characters tend to look alike. If you have not read Girl Genius, check it out online at - where you can read the entire series up to the most recent update (M-W-F). Humorous fantasy in the great tradition of, um, Pratchett? Monty Python? It's very silly, but very smart stuff.
Mar 10, 2012 Lori rated it really liked it
Originally published online as a Web comic (where it can be found at, this series follows the exploits of a young woman, Agatha, who discovers she is the lost heir to a long-feared dynasty. Instead of a terribly serious version of this tale, the author/artist stick to humor over horrors. Still friends and enemies die, leaving their mark on Agatha as she grows to understand who she is and what she can do.
For many years I have followed Girl Genius Webcomic as one of my daily rituals. I have been following the Foglio's quirky humour and idiosyncratic drawings.

What I really like of the series is the depth of scope and worldbuilding, with many details becoming obvious much later than when they appear. As such the recently appeared novels are the perfect complement, as you can finally be inside the head of Agatha, overcoming one of the limitations of comic: wordcount. So instead of being sparse with
Terry Price
Mar 13, 2014 Terry Price rated it it was amazing
Appropriate for kids starting as early as 2nd or 3rd grade in my estimation, although they may not fully grasp the details of the images until they are a little older.

Girl Genius. I love this story. This book begins a long and complex tale even still being expanded on the triweekly-released web comic. The Foglios are notable artists who have done illustrations professionally for a long time, and it shows. I would read and re-read their work as often as it took to make sure I didn't miss anything
Oct 05, 2015 Douglas rated it it was amazing
I don't know how deep the rabbit hole goes on this one, as I haven't read all the way to the end, but I'll put a flag in here. This series is magnificent. For adults and teens alike.

Girl Genius was steampunk before it was cool, which means WAY before it became passé. The plots, the ideas, the relationships, the insane scenarios, the madcap action and, damn it, the humor-- why don't more authors take a stab at humor? Sure, it's hard, but when you hit it, you've accomplished alchemy!-- it all wor
Oct 02, 2015 Vicky rated it liked it
~Potential spoilers~

Well, let me see here.... where to begin.

If I were to retitle and reclassify this book, it would be found in the "Romance" section and it would be titled *clears throat*: "Little Miss Agatha and her Strange, Sexual Adventures with Robots and Man alike".

I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat waiting for my explanation, so here is a brief synopsis of the book the way I saw it: Sweet little Agatha is kidnapped in her underclothing (very important, this detail) with a man whom
Aug 10, 2010 Ridley rated it really liked it
I just spent 20 straight unshowered hours reading this comic online from start to the present day.

Beautiful art style, non-stop action, romance, science and a kick-ass heroine who's a little bit dangerous. I'm hooked.
Katja Weinert
Mar 31, 2013 Katja Weinert rated it it was amazing
Lots of fun! I don't usually read graphic novels, but I'm now converted. Plus, I've been inspired to buy the novelisation, as I kept thinking that it would do brilliantly as a novel.

Steampunk at its best, IMHO.
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A popular science fiction fan artist in the 1970s, Phil Foglio began writing and drawing cartoons and comics professionally in the 1980s. His work includes "Magic: The Gathering," "Buck Godot," and the popular series of comics and novels, "Girl Genius," co-written with his wife, Kaja Foglio.

Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist (1977 and 1978)
Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story (2009, 2010, 2011)
More about Phil Foglio...

Other Books in the Series

Girl Genius (1 - 10 of 15 books)
  • Agatha Heterodyne and the Airship City (Girl Genius, #2)
  • Agatha Heterodyne and the Monster Engine (Girl Genius, #3)
  • Agatha Heterodyne and the Circus of Dreams (Girl Genius, #4)
  • Agatha Heterodyne and the Clockwork Princess (Girl Genius, #5)
  • Agatha Heterodyne and the Golden Trilobite (Girl Genius, #6)
  • Agatha Heterodyne and the Voice of the Castle (Girl Genius, #7)
  • Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones (Girl Genius, #8)
  • Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm (Girl Genius, #9)
  • Agatha Heterodyne and the Guardian Muse (Girl Genius, #10)
  • Agatha Heterodyne and the Hammerless Bell (Girl Genius, #11)

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