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Two realms that very rarely converge, cartoons and college football, have officially combined forces to help spread the word about Kent State do-it-all Heisman Trophy candidate Dri Archer.
"The Archer," a comic strip illustrated by Kent State University alumnus Chuck Ayers of "Crankshaft" and "Funky Winkerbean" fame, made its debut on Twitter's @Dri4Heisman at midnight today and has been reproduced in today's Record-Courier.
Ayers, a 1971 KSU graduate, was thrilled to lend his talents as the Flashes attempt to hype their kick returner/wide receiver/running back sensation.
"I've been working on comic strips for 26 years now and did editorial cartoons for the (Akron) Beacon Journal before that, but I've never done anything quite like this," said Ayers. "It just looked like a lot of fun. I got a chance to see Dri play a couple times last year, so obviously I knew who he was and knew that he had some really good stats. It just sounded like a cool thing to get involved with."
Kent State officials were searching for unique ways to promote Archer for the Heisman Trophy, and Ayers' name quickly surfaced.
"All the credit goes to them. I really had nothing to do with the initial planning part," said Ayers. "Somehow they hit upon sort of a superhero approach, and being a Kent graduate and a cartoonist my name came up. They got in touch with me and asked me if I'd be interested, and I said that sounds great. That's basically how I got involved, I just got asked."
The process of creating "The Archer" was a relatively smooth one according to Ayers.
"I met with the folks that are doing it, a group called (Whitespace Creative) located in Highland Square. I live and work right here in Highland Square, so it's been real easy to meet with them," said Ayers. "They had a basic idea, and we just kicked it around at the first meeting. They said they'd put some words and concepts together for me and let me take off with it. They did a really good job. I think there's a couple of them that are comic book fans, so they've got a good grasp of what we can do and can't do with some of this material."
Ayers was happy with the "material" Archer himself provided.
"Dri is a good lookin' kid. He's really kind of easy to draw, which is a help for me," said Ayers. "The superhero thing just worked so well because most of those superheroes are built like they're wearing football uniforms anyway, so it was real easy to incorporate that - pretty much a football uniform with a cape and Dri Archer's head on it. It works real well, it's real easy to do. It's a fun concept, so it's a lot of fun doing the drawing too."
A second comic strip will be released Wednesday, Aug. 21. Game preview comic strips, beginning with the Aug. 29 season opener against Liberty, will post on Wednesdays throughout the football season.
The Flashes are fresh off a record-setting 11-win campaign in 2012, when they earned their first bowl berth in 40 years. That stunningly successful season captured the hearts Kent State fans and alumni from all over the country, including Ayers.
"I'm not a huge sports fan, but I follow Kent, especially in football," said Ayers. "I've watched them over the years. I go back to the time before the Tangerine Bowl (1972); when I was in school Kent was lucky to win a game or two. So it's been fun watching them go through all of this, especially last year and going to a bowl again. It's exciting. It's fun to be just a little bit of a part of this right now."
Facebook: Allen Moff, Record-Courier