Today is Elon Day – my first as a staff member. It’s set aside as a 24-hour period to drum up support for the university. Students, current and past, are involved in a variety of activities — on and off campus as are members of the faculty and staff. It’s a big fund-raising day but more, it’s about promoting and celebrating Elon. At this point I’ll promote the #ElonDay social media hashtag. Follow it on Twitter.
Before going any further, though, I would also note the sad development on Monday when Elon freshman Molly Offstein of Maryland was struck by a car on a morning run and seriously injured. I’m thinking of Molly, a member of the women’s cross country team, and her family today. We are all part of the larger Elon family. We all come together every day, but especially today.
As a relatively new member of the staff – today I’m two days short of completing my second month on the job – I haven’t got that much to add to the day’s Elon Day beyond some cheerleading support on social media (that’s #ElonDay for those not paying attention. But it does make me recall a couple of things from my newspaper days that involved giving Elon getting some unexpected exposure — and in a good way
A little more than eight years ago I got a call from someone who identified himself as Dan Thompson. He said he lived in Graham and had a comic strip just starting in syndication. I was skeptical. I asked, “which Graham?” He did, after all, have an accent that clearly said Massachusetts.
He assured me his Graham was the one in North Carolina and he had the right newspaper – the one in Burlington. He wanted to know if the Times-News would be interested in a comic by a local creator. When I was editor of the Times-News I received similar calls from writers, photographers and cartoonists who wanted to sell their work. Most of it was pretty awful None of it was already in syndication by an established service.
But this Dan Thompson turned out to be legit and so was his comic – an adventure serial with a sense of humor called “Rip Haywire.” After looking at a few panels, I was happy to add it to the Times-News stable of comics in March of 2009. It was wholly different than anything else on the comics page. Rip gained a following nationally and locally, Dan’s published a couple of Rip Haywire books, taken over the Brevity comic, and works on Lost Sheep and KidsSpot. If that’s not enough just this week he launched a brand new comic called “Harley.” There, I worked in a shameless plug for my friend Dan. He’ll have to talk to the new Times-News editor about adding it, though.
I like Dan a lot and also enjoyed Rip. What I enjoyed most about having a cartoon drawn locally was the occasional reference to things in Alamance County that only Times-News readers would get. For example, in 2013, I got a call from University Communications at Elon. They wanted to know who Dan Thompson is and what his connection to Elon might be. As it turns out, on that particular day, Dan had Rip dressed in an Elon U. T-shirt. Folks at the university were happy to get the free publicity.
I’m not sure if Dan has wedged in any more Elon references over the past couple of years. It wouldn’t surprise me. He once had a character in a Rip Haywire panel drinking a chelada – a tomato juice and beer concoction made famous in Alamance County at the tims because a then N.C. legislator from Burlington was stopped on the interstate driving in excess of 100 mph after consuming a chelada, or perhaps two.
It pays to have local connections.
Later we brought in another artist with a new comic who had a connection to Alamance County. Paul Trap, creator of Thatababy, worked with me at the Times-News in the 1980s creating maps, graphics and drawing illustrations. Thatababy – featuring an infant and his parents — came along well after Paul left our area, but he still has fond memories of Alamance County. A Michigan State grad, Paul is a big sports fan. He began to follow Elon during his time here (and minor league baseball, too). After I decided to purchase his comic from the syndicate he sent me a promotional drawing to use specifically for our market. The drawing features the infant and three things Paul enjoyed about his time in Burlington: Zack’s Hot Dogs, Elon and the Times-News.
Next year if I can remember to think ahead, I may contact Dan and Paul and ask if they could find some way to give Elon some creative publicity through the genius of their brilliant minds and hands. Who knows, I might be able to talk them into doing something for Elon Day. They’re nice guys.