23 September 2015

Comics Seeks to Capture Tale of 'Tiger on the Storm'

Perhaps facing similar funding odds as the beloved A-10 itself, a group of comics creators is developing a graphic novel about the U.S. Air Force's 23rd Fighter Group during Operation Desert Storm. The unit continues the lineage of the famed "Flying Tigers" of World War II.

Based on her work on previous war-themed projects, including "Untold Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan" and "Korean War, Vol. 2", comics writer Valerie Finnigan was approached by the daughter of U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. David Sawyer at the 2014 Salt Lake Comic Con regarding the project. The general was a former commander of the 23rd Fighter Group, which flies the A-10 aircraft.

The A-10–formally named the "Thunderbolt II," but more commonly called some variant of "Warthog"–is specifically designed to provide troops on the ground with Close Air Support ("CAS"). The aircraft, which went into production in 1977, the low- and slow-flying aircraft notably features a titanium bathtub for pilot survivability, and a gatling cannon that delivers up to 3,900 rounds of 30mm ordnance per minute.

In defense-policy circles and on the Internet, there are on-going debates whether the U.S. Air Force can continue to support ground troops using expensive, high-flying, multipurpose aircraft such as the F-35 "Lightning II." Critics argue the Air Force is actively squashing stories of the A-10's continued successes in Afghanistan and other theaters, for political reasons.

Finnigan quickly got to work on the project, now titled "Tiger on the Storm," researching the unit and the aircraft:

"The aircraft themselves also proved a bit of a challenge," she writes on her blog. "Appearance counts for a lot in a visual medium like comics, which is probably why A-10 Warthogs such as those flown by the 23rd [Tactical Fighter Wing] don't appear often in comics. The civilian public wouldn't line up by the hundreds or thousands to see them in an air show like they would for much prettier F-18 Hornets. While Warthogs are maneuverable enough to do their jobs, they look ugly and sound downright obnoxious."

"Get to know them though, and you just may fall in love as much as anyone can with aircraft," she continues. "In talking with veterans who served on the ground as well as in the air, I learned why the Warthogs are so feared by enemy forces and strongly beloved by our troops. This is why I’m glad to have 'Korean War' penciller Dan Monroe on board doing pencils and inks. His ten years in the Army helped him learn a healthy appreciation of good close air support such as the Warthogs provide."

In addition to Finnigan and Monroe, "Korean War" team members Eric White (colors) and Tom Orzechowski (letters) are also potentially participating in the "Tiger on the Storm" project. Via Indiegogo, the crowd-funding effort seeks up to $50,000 to cover production, printing, and distribution costs. For more information, click here.

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