Air Force Blues


Air Force Blues

Air Force Blues (abbreviated as AFBlues) is a comic strip available on the internet, created by Staff Sergeant Austin “Farva” May, a cartoonist on active duty in the United States Air Force. The events in the strip take place mainly at the fictional Elmendork Air Force Base in Alaska, which is based on the author’s own real-life experiences at Elmendorf Air Force Base. The strip mainly follows the life of fighter pilot First Lieutenant Kenneth “Barbie” Dahl, and several of those with whom he serves. Dahl is a pilot with the fictional 809th Fighter Squadron. The strip is the only one of its kind, dealing specifically with the Active Duty Air Force, and currently receives over 7,000 hits daily.

The strip is hosted on a website of the same name, managed by Senior Airman Justin "Marco" Coffman, a computer programmer, also on active duty. The site also features a forum intended to allow Air Force personnel, as well as friends and family, to share experiences and humorous events from their career fields and stations of service, as well as general conversation.

History and evolution

AWACker.com

May's first experimentation with Air Force-related comics was with a website started in 2003 called AWACker, named for the term given to anyone involved in the operations of the E-3 Sentry aircraft. May was an airborne surveillance technician on the E-3 for about four years, and it was during this time he and a fellow AWACker founded the site. His cofounder was known only by the name "Hef," or "Kenai Hef" originally. Hef had drawn and published online several comics based on AWACS operations, and May was directed to the site by a major who had come across his cartoons by accident. May approached Hef with the idea of forming a single site where they could both post comics, and AWACker.com was born.

Neither Hef nor May, who at this point was gaining popularity by his own callsign, Farva, gave a particular name to their comic strips. They simply posted comics on a random basis, and the site slowly gained popularity among the AWACS community, and in a few circles throughout the Air Force. The site had two webmasters, who went by the callsigns Sleepy and Tex. Towards the summer of 2005, with Farva preparing to cross-train and Hef busy with his own matters, new comics on the site began to become scarce, although the forums were still very active. Farva had been posting comics with recognizable characters, although none of them were given names.

In August 2005, AWACker.com was hacked, and the ability to add new material was lost to both the contributing cartoonists. The site entered a sort of "death spiral," and over time degraded until it was completely lost in early 2007. Currently, there are no plans to re-launch.

AWACker, the comic

With the ability to post new material gone, Farva sought out other means by which to get his comics to readers. He had already submitted photographs to the Air Force humor site, [http://www.chairforce.com CHairforce.com] , and had become friends with the site's owner, Mark. Farva approached his friend about hosting AWACker comics on CHairforce, and Mark agreed. AWACker comics began appearing under their own header at random intervals for almost two years before Air Force Blues was opened. The comics tended to abandon Farva's earlier approach at mostly AWACS-themed humor and instead took on many aspects of Air Force life, although he displayed a particular disdain, however lighthearted, for fighter pilots.

Air Force Blues early launch

Farva purchased the domain name www.airforceblues.com in January 2007 with the intent of launching a webcomic, but little idea as to what he would parody. Several comics, mostly unrelated, were loaded onto the site as a sort of test. Farva showed the site to very few people, and it was generally ill-received.

Having had the site up for less than two weeks, Farva removed all content from the site and began fresh. He decided his goal was to make fun of fighter pilots as a whole by combining several negative stereotypes into one obnoxious character. First lieutenant Kenneth "Barbie" Dahl was born.

AFBlues

The first few comics involving the new Lt. Dahl showcased a storyline which saw Dahl, having ejected from his aircraft, bobbing in a life raft at sea and talking to a sock puppet. The comics, while funny to most people who saw them, made little sense as the character had not been formally introduced. Farva kept the strips, but never posted them to the website. Instead, he began the strip with a [http://www.afblues.com/uploads/images/0001.jpgcomic] setting up the stereotype of the arrogant, self-important and very self-aware fighter pilot.

After only nine comics, the site's popularity had grown so much that it came dangerously close to exceeding the allotted site bandwidth, and Farva almost shut it down. A comic explaining the situation was posted, and within an hour the funds needed to transfer the site to a better host had been raised, and the site was moved to the new, and current, domain of www.AFBlues.com. Farva kept the old domain name as a redirect site, and still uses it in some forms of advertising. The site still accepts donations, and proceeds have helped in the minting of coins, purchasing art supplies and various other site-related needs.

The comic

The character has been joined by several, seemingly random, Air Force members, some of whom are based on real Airmen who have donated significantly to the site. Most recurring characters are first introduced by their names, but some, such as Lt. Dahl's E-3 pilot friend, have yet to have their names revealed in the strip.

Elmendork AFB, Alaska

The comic takes place at the fictional Elmendork Air Force Base, a spoof of the real Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska. Farva was stationed there from May 2002 to May 2005, and claims he based his comic there because it was the only base he knew of which had an AWACS squadron, and airlift squadron and several fighter squadrons. Farva's wife, Kaitlyn, is from Anchorage, but this was not a factor in his basing the strip there. Not much has been revealed about the base in the strip itself, including its name or location. Farva uses the name openly in forums, but the opportunity to use it in the comic has yet to present itself.

The 809th Fighter Squadron

Moderately extensive research went into naming Lt. Dahl's squadron to ensure it didn't already exist. It has yet to be revealed what aircraft the 809th actually flies, but it has been assumed they fly the F-15 Eagle. Other assumptions include the F-117 Nighthawk because of a black triangle-shaped object on the squadron's patch, but this is only speculation and is likely untrue. Elmendorf AFB has one active F-15 squadron, and although it is also the home of the F-22 Raptor, it is reasonable to assume Lt. Dahl does not fly the Raptor based on the site's Valentine-themed [http://www.afblues.com/uploads/images/0013.jpgcomic] .

The squadron's emblem is a red circle with an angry-looking woodpecker in the center, and a small black triangle, which is commonly used to represent an aircraft in flight in Air Force heraldry, circling the outer edge. The woodpecker has a lightning bolt on it, which Farva included in the design because it is a common theme among Air Force squadron patches. It has no significance. The squadron is characterized as the "Raging Peckers," a suggestion from a fan of the comic.

Contrary to popular belief, "Barbie" actually flies the F-15. It requires little effort, and actually reading the comic to realize this. There have been several strips with "Barbie" in flight, and all feature the F-15.

Characters

AFBlues mostly follows the day-to-day life of 1st Lt. Kenneth “Barbie” Dahl, but also includes a few other recurring characters, mostly based on real people. Farva maintains that anyone who donates $100 or more to the site will become a character in the strip.

1st Lt. Kenneth “Barbie” Dahl

The strip’s main protagonist, Lt. Dahl is the physical embodiment of almost every disparaging fighter pilot stereotype. He is egotistical, self-absorbed and incredibly vain. He feels fighter pilots are among the highest class of people, and that his status as one trumps any rank above his own. [http://www.afblues.com/uploads/images/0003.jpg]

He is a First Lieutenant and flies an F-15.

Dahl is currently single, but those who have spoken with Farva about the future of the strip know he will eventually marry, introducing comics about pilots' wives.

Little is known about Dahl’s past at this point. It has been revealed that he received his commission from the United States Air Force Academy.

It was recently revealed that Lt. Dahl's father is a Senior Master Sergeant, apparently stationed in a tropical area based on the view through a window in the comic strip. [http://www.afblues.com/uploads/images/Strips/0051.jpg]

Lt. Dahl was recently deployed to Kamul Air Base, Asskrakistan and served for six months. Upon his arrival, he found that the F-15 fleet had been grounded, and he never got to fly any sorties, working instead in public affairs, junior to enlisted personnel. Also, during this time, several of his peers played a practical joke on him, filling his shampoo bottle with hair removal cream. He lost all his hair, and feared that he'd become seriously ill. He even told his mother that he was dying, until his peers revealed the trick.

After his tour at Kamul, he returned to Elmendork, where he found that the fleet hadn't been grounded, and he missed out on all the action. To make matters worse, he'd been transferred to Creech AFB in Nevada, home station of the USAF's MQ-9 Reaper UAVs.

Dahl feared that he was to be relegated to flying unmanned 'toys' at Creech, but upon arrival, he learned that he was to join a Reaper team as a flight instructor - with the caveat that he'd never actually meet them face to face. This 'Operation Radio Flyer.' This story arc introduced 'RC,' the Reaper pilot, and 'Swivel,' the Sensor Officer of Dahl's team. [http://www.afblues.com/?p=380] It also introduces a (presumably) senior briefing officer who remains unnamed.

At Creech, everything was classified 'above' Top Secret. Personnel were required to mask their rank and names.

Most recently, "Barbie" and "Bert," a fellow Eagle driver assigned to teach the Reaper pilots maneuvers at Creech, were reassigned for a Top Secret mission in the Nevada desert working for "Badger Ops" at Frost AFB(fictional). This Top Secret group is in charge of selecting and training a rare few Eagle drivers to intercept a fictional Russian UAV capable of slipping inside of US airspace undetected and releasing a nuclear payload. The squadron they have now been assigned to temporarily is the 69th Preemptive Nuclear Intercept Squadron (fictional). (In a sign that some of Dahl's idiosyncracies are his own and not representative of fighter pilots in the story's USAF, Bert was not in the least oblivious as to the joke.) Dahl ended up interpreting a comment from their handler that their target (a USAF analogue of said UAV) was a F-4 Phantom, but it has since been revealed that it was actually a F-117 Nighthawk, which secretly remains in service despite official retirement.

enior Airman Justin Coffman

A recurring character in the strip, SrA Coffman is something of an antithesis (and, frequently, a nemesis) to Lt. Dahl. He is sarcastic and caustic, and expresses a hatred of anyone wearing a flight suit.

His debut shows him employed at the Network Control Center in the Communications Squadron on Elmendork Air Force Base. His first run-in with Lt. Dahl prompted him to delete the Lieutenant's network account, and cemented his hatred of flight-suit wearing personnel, as well as officers in general. Since then, he has availed himself of every possible opportunity to aggravate Lt. Dahl, something that has earned him the nickname of "Airman Agitator."

He is (not so) loosely based on the site's webmaster.

Official Website

[http://www.afblues.com Air Force Blues]

Official Website Sponsor

[http://www.coinforce.com CoinForce.com is the proud sponsor of Air Force Blues]

Other Media

[http://www.airspeed.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=220422 Podcast Interview with Farva (Blog post)]

[http://media.libsyn.com/media/airspeed/AirspeedAFBlues.mp3 Podcast Interview with Farva (Audio file)]

[http://capblog.typepad.com/capblog/2007/02/air_force_blues.html Link to AFB at CAPblog (Blog post)]

References


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