Girl Genius
Girl Genius

The madness place or spark hyperfocus, is a term for that state of mind achieved when an individual is actively Sparking. It is characterized by an intense focus on the problem at hand, to the exclusion of minor details like common sense - a Frankensteinian exaggeration of the real-life phenomena of hyperfocus. The term was first used by Dimo to describe Agatha here. The first (or at least an early) reference to the madness place as a "Spark-induced fugue state" was made by Boris Dolokhov. It is described as a state in which said Spark is "blind and deaf to almost any outside influence that would interfere with what they are doing at the moment."[1]


As represented in the comic, sparks in their fugue state experience three emotional states that are indicated by changes in both their facial expression and their voice, as may be seen through changes in the spark's word balloons.

An example of this progression happens early in the story, when Gil examines a seriously flawed test device.[2] Sparks' peculiar charisma also appears to be linked to this madness. Gilgamesh appears to consciously shift into Phase 3 to crush Ardsley Wooster's will,[3] and use of Lucrezia Mongfish's command voice involves speaking in at least Phase 2 .

Phase 1 is indicated by a "Sparky" font in otherwise normal word balloons.

Sparks in Phase 1 are capable of conducting research and engaging in deep concentration,[4] but are not yet manic.

That said, the majority of instances of Phase 1 in the comic are very short and usually just an indication that the Spark in question is ramping up to more extreme states, such as when Agatha witnesses a close friend's death.

Mode 1

Agatha entering Phase 1

Phase 2 is the most common, recognizable state, involving obviously enhanced creativity and cackling madness. The majority of Sparks in phase 2 demonstrate extremely poor emotional control and are generally manic, either enthusiastically happy or ballistically angry .

In phase 2, the font is "sparky font" and the word balloons have a highly irregular outline; characters in Phase 2 are also usually rendered with more extreme, very toothy, facial expressions.

This state may be the most common one for sparks to work in, but it can still be a very frightening thing to witness (Gil's breakdown, the first one observed in the comic, is particularly violent).

Sparks in Phase 2 tend to view everything and everyone around them as tools. They also seem to forget any danger they may be in and show no concern for their physical wellbeing or that of their surroundings.

Mode 2

Agatha entering Phase 2

Phase 3 is rarely seen and appears to occur only when the spark is extremely angry; it has generally tended to manifest as an active homicidal battle-rage aimed at specific targets[5][6][7]

The majority of sparks shown in phase 3 in the comic have exited it violently— the notable exception is Gilgamesh, but he may have been faking it.

It looks and sounds like phase 2, only moreso--speech bubbles may now include fragmented edges and large bold Spark-font, and the expression of fury is even more exaggerated.

Mode 23 web

Gil shifting from Phase 2 to 3

Sparky speech bubbles are not sufficient evidence that an individual is in the madness place or a spark, as characters without the spark have displayed distorted comic balloons, when they are really angry or under extreme emotional stress . Certain constructs, like the Jägers, sport warped bubbles all de time .


Phase 2, which equates to a stereotypical cackling mad scientist, appears to be the standard mode of operation for sparks. Hyperfocus tends to be triggered either by emotional upset or by concentration, and sparks quickly move into Phase 2 after a short ramp-up in Phase 1. Sparks tend to drop out of Phase 2 to sanity (or what passes for it) once the stimulus is removed or if they are sufficiently distracted, but Sparks in Phase 3 usually need to be knocked out of it; Agatha is brought down through the influence of carefully formulated baked goods, Baron Wulfenbach through the power of the falling sky.

Exceptional Sparks seem to have finer control over the state, and consequently can move in or out of the deeper phases as necessary. This level of skill is not common enough to prevent horrible outbreaks of War. Alternatively, Sparks may play up the well-known signs of madness in order to intimidate minions into doing what they need. Also, whenever they do this they risk working themselves up into a genuine fury.

The Madness Place may be influenced by methods of mind control, as the "measures" that Baron Wulfenbach inflicted on his son Gil to prevent manipulation by The Other initially seemed to have locked him in a continuous madness place. However, once Gil arrived in England (and was therefore not continually managing the Wulfenbach empire directly), he began spending more time in a normal state. It is possible that this is due to a "retreat" of his father's overlay, since most of his actions at this time don't influence the health of the empire so directly.


  1. Agatha H. and the Siege of Mechanicsburg, Chapter 10 (footnote #130).
  2. That it was an intentional hoax apparently made no difference.
  3. Widely considered one of his crowning moments of awesomeness .
  4. Prince Aaronev VI receives reports while working.
  5. Agatha prepares to send Klaus to the realm of never, ever again .
  6. Gil smacks Vole around.
  7. Gil, several seconds after being shot point blank, tosses an at-least-several-hundred-pound, piloted battle clank