1824: Identification Chart
Title text: Be careful-it's breeding season, and some of these can be *extremely* defensive of their nests.
Some aircraft are named after creatures of flight, including birds of prey, other birds, and insects. This comic spoofs an "identification guide" of bird silhouettes, each with the fuselage of an aircraft and the wings of the flying animal from which the aircraft gets its name. All are birds with the exception of the hornet which is an insect, see the table below for individual explanations.
This idea of having feathered wings on a plane is absurd, as bird wings (for birds that can fly) are made to support the lightweight structure of a bird. Supporting the metal parts of a plane along with its human pilot would be impossible.
General military training often includes aircraft identification. Silhouette charts are given to ground observers for memorization and reference so that friend or foe can be determined in the field. Conversely, many bird watching books will carry pictures of avian silhouettes from below, as often key details like tail and wing shape are the easiest way to determine the species of a high soaring bird, especially birds of prey. (Two comics later Cueball is out birdwatching with his friend in 1826: Birdwatching and could need such a chart, if he could spot any birds that is. A hawk, that is actually a drone, was spotted in 1910: Sky Spotters.)
The pseudo-confusion between birds and planes here could be a reference to the "It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superman" quote often used in, naturally, Superman-related entertainment. A similar joke was used in 1792: Bird/Plane/Superman.
The comic highlights not only the various designs of aircraft tails, but also bird wings. Some wings are highly adapted for soaring (eagle), speed (falcon), as well as rapid acceleration and short flights (blackbird).
The title text is juxtaposing military air bases with breeding nests of the animals, both of which might earn a hostile response to approach at the wrong time, but in wildly different measure. Encroaching on breeding territory of some of the birds being referenced may result in getting dived at or chased, so the comparison invites the reader to imagine what might happen if the analogous creatures in the comic were defending their nest with aircraft ordnance. And if the birds were armed, with the missiles normally found on a military aircraft then imagine what would happen... This could also be a reference to the increasing hostility between US and Russia, as well as the generally more strained relationship US now has with many countries after the election of Donald Trump for president half a year before this comic was released. This is also the second comic to refer to the military in less than two months, the first being 1803: Location Reviews reviewing a Nuclear Launch Facility. Randall has seemed very worried in his comics since the election, see more regarding this here.
The idea of a bird with plane engines was first used in 1729: Migrating Geese, which also shows birds in silhouette. The third last bird in the right arm of the V-formation has twin engines.
|Osprey||V-22 Osprey||The osprey (Pandion haliaetus) is a raptor with distinctive white and brown coloring. It's also sometimes referred to as a sea hawk or fish eagle due to its virtually all fish diet.
The V-22 Osprey is a tilt-rotor aircraft that has been in development since the 1980s, and was introduced to the U.S. Armed Forces in 2007. It's a troop carrier aircraft that combines the vertical take-off ability of a helicopter with the high cruising speed of an airplane. (Bell Helicopter and Boeing)
|Hornet||F/A-18 Hornet||Hornets are a type of wasp of the genera vespa or provespa. They're known to be highly territorial and aggressive.
The F-18 Hornet is a fighter developed for the Navy in the 1970s. It's been deployed by air forces around the world in both air-to-air and air-to-ground roles, and is flown by the US Navy demonstration team, the Blue Angels. The airplane is still being produced in an updated and larger version, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. (McDonnell Douglas)
|Falcon||General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon||A falcon is a bird of prey known for its tapered wings that allow for high speed flight and high maneuverability.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a light single-engine fighter. It's flown by the USAF demonstration team, the Thunderbirds. (General Dynamics)
|Harrier||AV-8B Harrier||A harrier is a hawk that hunts by flying low over open ground.|
|Eagle||F-15 Eagle||Eagle is a common name for many large birds of prey of the family Accipitridae.
Introduced in 1976, other jets like the F-16 have filled its role. The U.S. Air National Guard is the largest operator as of now. (McDonnell Douglas)
|Kestrel||Kestrel K-350||A bird of prey that can hover before swooping in on its prey.|
|Hawk||Hawk T1||A hawk is a large bird of prey with a heavy head and beak. They have very acute vision.
A trainer aircraft. It is flown by the Royal Air Force display team, the Red Arrows. T-45 Goshawk is the U.S. designation of a variant of this aircraft. The fuselage silhouette is of a BAe Hawk, although other aircraft have also had Hawk-related names, for example the Hawker Sea Hawk and the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. (BAE Systems)
|Blackbird||SR-71 Blackbird||There are many birds that go under the name blackbird but the common blackbird is a species of true thrush.
A Mach 3+ spy aircraft, known for its speed and engine design (which allowed them to work both as turbines and ramjets). Imagine a bird flying at supersonic speeds, if anything, it would be disastrous at the least. (Lockheed Martin)
- [A silhouette identification guide chart shows eight silhouettes in two rows. The silhouettes are a combination of the fuselage of an aircraft and the wings of birds, or in the second case an insect. Below each silhouette is a label:]
- Osprey Hornet Falcon Harrier
- Eagle Kestrel Hawk Blackbird
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