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Strip # 288
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27 Jan 2014 #269

Not blogging enough to justify maintaining the PHP-based blog system I built. Replacing with a more-or-less static, one-page version. Still probably won't remember to do this very often.

Chapter 2 started today.

17 Dec 2013 n/a

Yesterday, I drew the first two strips of Chapter 2 (wholelly insignificant spoiler: the Chapter is titled "The Organization for Space Exploration").

A couple of things have occurred: One is that I find myself very energized by reaching Chapter 2, a chapter that I was often uncertain I would ever reach over the past three decades. Writing Chapter 1 and laying the groundwork for the entire series that follows it, while challenging, was a lot easier that I had been convinced that it would be. And being done with it, and moving on (mostly) from those foundation-laying characters, has been very freeing.

The other thing, is that although I know all the broad strokes for the entire series, there are countless details that I never considered (and, in fact, never had cause to consider) until I started writing. It has been (and continues to be) very exciting to see those details emerge as I encounter them.

Perhaps the best example is the (again, very minor spoiler) main character of Chapter 2, Volam. Volam is actually a pseudonym. In the history of the stories I'm telling, thirty years worth of notes state that no one ever learns who he really is. I woke up one morning to realize, for the first time ever, that I finally DID know who he was. I've also come to realize that one of the other characters knows his real identity too, but chooses not to reveal it.

The rush I feel from things like this is a large part of why I write.

10 Oct 2013 #207

The third Anniversary of UA: the Comic and the thirty-third Anniversaty of the day I drew T*chorel for the first time, starting myself on the path that led to this comic. While actually creating the comic has revealed aspects and scenes from the story that I'd never imagined in the way-too-many years I spent planning it, I do enjoy the fact that this day's update is a scene I'd laid out over thirty years ago.

Hmm... Five months between blog posts. And it really doesn't take long. I am seriously not good at remembering to do this.

21 May 2013 n/a

I have a couple of major webcomic announcements to make, and I had intended to make them today (technically, yesterday, as it's just past midnight local time). Instead, Ill recount a memory

My sophomore year of college (the second of two-and-a-half I would spend at Xavier University in Ohio), my dad built a loft so that my bed fit underneath a bar-height desk. He had planned it out so well that only a single two-foot piece of wood was left as scrap. At the end of that year, I decided to have some of my best friends sign that piece of wood. Pat O'loughlin wrote the following poem:

I think I thought a minor thought
Twas one I made, not one I bought
I could repeat it, if I sought
But on the whole, I'd rather not.

Twenty-seven years later, I believe that piece of wood is still in my possession, buried somewhere in a box in the garage. But even if it is gone, the memory remains.

10 Oct 2012 #112

Today marks the 2nd anniversary of United Allegiance: the Comic and the 32nd anniversary of the day I first drew T'Chorel and began creating the UA universe.

18 Sep 2012 #109

time keeping in the UA universe

Theko (thee-koh) - 1/100th of a Mona. Approximnately 1/2 second Earth time.

Mona (moh-nah) - 1/100th of an Ora. Approximately 50 seconds Earth time.

Ora (oh-rah) - 1/25th of a day. Approximately 83 minutes & 20 seconds Earth time.

17 Sep 2012 n/a

Happy Constitution Day!

Finished the latest Reacher novel (A Wanted Man) earlier today. As usual, he kicks ass. Already looking forward to the next installment. (Poor Reacher. All he wanted to do was hitch a ride.)

11 Sep 2012 #108

Turns out that lunches and rest breaks make for really constructive drawing time. Paonia Pawns has a full month buffer in the queue for the first time since the fall of 2010, including two upcoming bonus updates. UA:Comic is also slowly gaining a buffer.

In addition to tomorrow's regular Wednesday update, there will also be a bonus update this Saturday (15 September). Why? Well, I wanted Paonia Pawns to be able to celebrate its 8th anniversary with strip # 1700, and it was 4 strips shy based on its update schedule. Since I was getting some good drawing time in, I decided to do bonus Saturday updates (PP's original update day) in September. There are five September Saturdays this year, so I decided to give UA:Comic the extra bonus.

On top of all that, I've re-read the entire archive and I'm working on some major updates: 8 strips with typos will be corrected, 20+ new cast images will be added, and a massive update to the Chublei (encyclopedia) is already underway.

(EDIT: 27 Jan 2014 - The massive Chublei update is even more massive and is still on the way. :p )

10 Feb 2012 n/a


Bunch of small site updates. Fixed a few Copyright statements that still said 2011. Made an overdue change to the mobile version of the index page. Added Marik to random-icon list, joining T'Chorel and Nup.

Why am I doing this in the middle of the night? Acid reflux. Laying back down right now is pretty much out. And it's less than an hour before the alarm's going off to "start" my day. Writing or drawing either comic right now wouldn't work, but site updates are do-able while only half-awake.

15 Aug 2011 n/a

Watched an episode of Warehouse 13 on the DVR tonight. (I love the DVR. I don't even have to know what day of the week it is anymore.) Best line of the night:
        The League of Evil British Writers strikes again.

Heading off to Renovation** with my brother in the morning. If you're going to be there, look for me under the badge name Mek.

Renovation - the 69th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Reno, NV this year, 17-21 August.

29 Jun 2011 #59

A note about today's strip: Marik is nearly 17 and Alesan is 16 and a couple of month, however, the calendar on Teroko does not match the calendar on Earth. While Marik and Alesan are treated like minors on their world, their earth-equivilant ages (and physical/emotional maturity) is that of people in their early 20s.

Marik: 17 * 500 / 365.25 roughly equals 23 years, 3 months.

Alesan: 16.3 * 500 / 365.25 roughly equals 22 years, 4 moths.

So while their society (and they themselves) sees them as children who haven't even reached college-age yet, they do have the maturity to make the kinds of decisions that they're making.

17 Jun 2011 n/a


Friday's non-update on FreakAngels (combined with a tweet pointing me to Joss Whedon's top 10 writing tips) spurred a blog idea...


FreakAngels is down to a mere 6 updates -- just 36 pages -- before its done. Having been a fan of Warren Ellis for quite some time, I'm sure that the ending with blow mw away (again). The "Old Bastard" (as he calls himself) has a firm grasp on how to end a story.

This ties in to Joss Whedon's #1 tip for writing: FINISH IT! Joss has often said that unfinished stories (especially in the form of TV shows that ended with cliffhangers) is a major pet peeve of his.

Josh knows how to end a story as well. Buffy's 5th season finale could have easily been a series finally. (I've often wished that Sarah Michele Gellar had stuck to her guns and left the show at that point. While the rest of the cast continued to deliver excellent performances week in and week out for the remaining two years, SMG just phoned hers in with all the emotional depth of a comatose turtle.) And the 7th season/series finale was even more powerful (despite SMG's please-get-me-out-of-here dead-eyes performance).

Josh's ending of Angel, while some see it as a cliffhanger, achieved exactly what Josh said he set out to do in that episode: the fight against evil is never-ending, but the important thing is to keep fighting. I saw this episode again not too long ago and the ending is still one of my top all-time favorites:
        ANGEL: Personally, I want to slay the dragon. Let's get to work.
Great stuff, that.

And then there are endings that weren't supposed to be endings. Stargate Universe: Eli standing on the observation deck looking out at the FTL vortex with a Mona-Lisa-smile on his face; Destiny sails on through the FTL vortex disappearing from sight.
SERIOUSLY!?!? That's where you're going to leave us?
I understand that SyFy (What the fuck's up with that name?) and MGM made financial decisions that they needed to make in tough economic times. But still...

And it's the difference between satisfying endings (exemplefied by Buffy and Angel) and gut-wrenchingly unsatisfying ones (demonstrated most recently by SGU) that motivated me to have an ending in mind for Paonia Pawns before the first strip went online. I don't know all the details, but I have the broad strokes and the foreshadowing of the final crisis has been building for a while. There's still a ways to go (probably early 2013) but the ending is there and hopefully will leave my readers happy.

Two footnotes. (1) There are more stories of the PP universe beyond the end of the main story I set out to tell, but the main story is intended to stand alone as a complete work no matter which of the sequels and spin-offs I ever tell (or don't tell). (2) UA also has a definitive ending. There's a tremendously long way to go and I hope that I live long enough to get there (but at least I finally got off my ass and started telling it).

(EDIT: 27 Jan 2014 - Paonia Pawns ended its run on 29 July 2013 after exactly eight and a half years and 1807 strips.)

25 May 2011 #49

It seems appropriate that my 50th blog post be about the 50th strip. It's not that I have anything in particular to say about the 50th strip.

Of course the 50th strip is number 49 because I started with strip zero. Starting with zero seemed right for a science fiction strip. And it also discouraged me from taking the milestones too seriously. (In fact, if the 50th blog and 50th strip hadn't come into such perfect alignment, I probably wouldn't have commented on it at all. At least not to anyone besides myself.) Milestones will not effect the plot, nor the pacing thereof. They will not be commented on within the continuity of the strip. I intend to let the story unfold organically.

As an aside, I'm still upset and pissed about the abrupt cancellation of SGU and the resulting never-to-be-resolved cliffhanger. I'm seriously considering continuing the story in comic form, if only for my own satifaction. I think two more 20-episode seasons would be enough to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion. Now all I need is an extra six hours in each day.

(EDIT: Between version 1 of this blog and the current version (v3), many of the entries have been deleted by me for a variety of reasons. For example the countdown blogs from New Years Eve 2010 were fun at the time but seemed increasingly irrelevant upon later readings.)

13 May 2011 n/a

Just watched the last-ever episode of Stargate Universe.


1 May 2011 n/a

United States Navy Seals: When you care enough to send the very best.

1 May 2011 n/a

We got you, you son of a bitch.

28 Jan 2011 n/a


Paonia Pawns celebrates its 6-year anniversary.

Saturday 29 January 2011

The science-fantasy webcomic Paonia Pawns, written and drawn by Michael J. 'Mek' Ahlers will celebrate its 6-year anniversary this Saturday (29 January 2011). Saturday's update will be the 1,278th strip. Paonia Pawns is a long-form pixel comic (NOT sprite comic). Mek has been creating comics since the mid-1970s, though Paonia Pawns is by far the longest running of his efforts.


20 Dec 2010 n/a

Yesterday afternoon, one of the cats jumped on top of Dave's (twenty-plus year-old cockatiel) cage. I didn't see it happen, but I heard it. The unmistakable sound of a cat landing on top of the cage. Dave squaking, flapping his wings frantically. He doesn't always freak out when one of them gets up there. I'm guessing maybe he was asleep and it startled him.

I rushed downstairs. As I said, he doesn't usually freak out. He's lived with cats most of his life and he's taught them to respect him.

He was old and he had fallen off his perches more than a few times the past year or so. He must have fallen wrong. I called him. No response. I unlatched the door and reached in, hoping he would spin around and try to bite me. Nothing.

There's some tiny consolation in knowing that he didn't suffer.

I held him for a while before I prepared him for burial. He never would have tolerated that before, but it felt right.

Dave was a great bird.

Sometimes something as simple as sunlight shining into his cage and he would dance back and forth on his perch, bobbing his head, and chirping and singing. I always thought he was screaming "I'm happy!"

His favorite seed mix had both red and blue seeds mixed into it. As far as I could tell, they were both actually the same seed, just with different food colorings. Dave loved the red ones, systematically picking them out, carefully shelling and eating them. The blue ones he would pick out and throw out of the bowl, often out of the cage, and when possible, at me. I'd love to have him throw a seed at me just one more time.

A couple of seasons ago, when Evil Dick first came on the screen on Big Brother, Dave started chirpping and dancing. The entire season, during Big Brother, during Big Brother After Dark, and even during the live feeds online, if Evil Dick was onscreen, talking or not, Dave was happy and dancing. I should have called a bookie. Dave obviously knew a winner when he saw one.

A friend brought over a gun that shot suction cups and had a laser sight. The cats were thrilled. The friend pointed the gun at Dave and flipped on the laser. Without hesitation, Dave flung himself off his perch and out of sight (presumably screaming "SNIPER!"). Over the course of a laugh-filled hour, we concluded that Dave was actually a (semi-)retired Navy Seal. I'll miss you, you fierce little Navy Seal.

Rest in peace, Dave.

15 Nov 2010 n/a

Back when I lived in Texas, my friend Cesar Stastny was in a band named "Band Schmand". (Readers of Paonia Pawns with good memories will remember that Benny listening to Band Schmand's "Black Pizza" is what tips off Jimmy that Benny had cracked the lock-out code on the Trans-Universal Positioner.)

A couple of times when I was hanging out with the band after practice, the conversation turned to band names. I wrote a few of my favorites down with the idea of using them in some future story. Only the first one below has done so so far. That piece of paper drifted from one pile to another, surviving moves from Texas to Ohio, to New York, to Virginia, back to Ohio (three different addresses), and finally to California. This past weekend, while cleaning the garage, I came across it and shoved it in my pocket.

Below is the list (and, yes, alcohol may have been a factor in the creation of some of the names):

Montrose and the Aldo Romper Vixens
Taboo Tool
The Finito Bradley Extremes
Boogie Household
The Strikeleather Five (a quartet)
Smog Pump

I don't know if any of these has ever been an actual band name (in most cases they are weird enough to bet on no) and at least one of them (Taboo Tool) I'm hesitant to Google. I just enjoy the list and wanted to pass it on.

30 Oct 2010 n/a

Rangers won Game 3. The way the Giants were playing, I half expected them to sweep the series. It got me thinking about World Series sweeps. The first World Championship (which MLB sometimes treats on the same level as a World Series though the name was not yet attached to the series) was a sweep by the 1884 Providence Grays. And I know the Reds did it at least twice (the 1976 incarnation of the Big Red Machine, and the 1990 miracle over the universally favored A's).

Off to Google!

Cubs in 1907
Boston Braves in 1914
(New York) Giants in 1922 and 1954
Yankees in 1927, 1928, 1932, 1938, 1939, 1950, 1998, and 1999
LA Dodgers in 1963
Orioles in 1966
Reds in 1976 and 1990
Athletics in 1989
Red Sox in 2004 and 2007
and White Sox in 2005

(EDIT: 27 Jan 2014 - and the San Francisco Giants in 2012.)

12 Oct 2010 n/a

As a baseball fan, the past decade and a half has been a tough one. But finally, no matter if you call it The Year of the Pitcher or The Year of the Rookie, the Steroid Era is finally over. Watching baseball became fun again, knowing that cheating (at least one particular form of it) was no longer being openly tolerated. Adding to the fun was the fact that three of my favorite teams (Reds, Twins, Rays) all had stellar years, especially in the second half of the season and won their respective Divisions. OK, it was disappointing to see the Twins and Reds both swept in the Division series, but that's baseball (and it the case of the Twins, some bad umpiring, but that's the topic for another blog). I would have liked to have seen a Giants-Reds matchup; I'm close enough to SF that I might have even been able to catch a game. The Rays could still pull it out, setting up one more battle against the (damn) Yankees. And there's always next season.

(EDIT: 27 Jan 2014 - Obviously, I was somewhat premature in concluding that the Steroid Era was over. But, hey, it's almost time for Spring Training. Maybe this is the year.)

10 Oct 2010 #0

     10 October 1980: Sitting, increasingly distracted, in Algebra I (my last class of the day), I started doodling faces. One of them (a scan of which can be seen at the bottom of all of the "Extras" pages, including this one) caught my imagination and "Charlie" was born. Charlie (now T*Chorel) soon became the central figure in what I saw as a "Future History" in the vein of Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and H. Beam Piper. Disparate stories flowed together to form a cohesive universe.

     For thirty years I have (almost completely) failed to live up to the grand plans I had for Charlie and the others he crosses paths with.

     10 October 2010: The thirtieth anniversary of that first sketch (and entertaining date 10/10/10) seemed like a good time to start rectifying the situation. I've proven, to myself at least, that I can set and stick to a consistant update schedule with my other webcomic, Paonia Pawns. And so now I will finally, belatedly, embark on telling T*Chorel's story.

     Welcome to "United Allegiance: the Web Comic"

Chapter 0
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
About - just me and my comic
Blog - read ramblings by Mek
Cast - whos who in UA:Comic
Chublei - UA: Comic encyclopedia
Links - comics and such
Prose - The Path of Fate
Sketches - from 1980 to the present
TopWebComics - Vote for UA: Comic
Twitter - UA:Comic tweets
WebComicList - UA:Comic profile page

© Copyright 1980-2014 Michael J. Ahlers. All Rights Reserved.