Elks tap into Edmonton’s rich football tradition for comic book feature

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Jed Roberts is a bit of a stand-up comedian, his friend and former teammate Henry “Gizmo” Williams is most definitely an animated character.

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Both won the Gray Cup in 1993, both continue to live in Edmonton long after their retirement from the Canadian Football League. For these reasons and more, they’ve emerged as logical leaders in the Elks’ latest graphic approach to reaching a new generation of fans.

The dynamic duo will be featured in comics produced by Toronto writer Bill Yu and artist Te’Shawn Dwyer that will appear on the Elks’ Instagram and Facebook pages before every home game this year.

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“We were looking for a fun way to tell our story with themes relevant to today,” Elks President Victor Cui said. “We’re using these comics as a way to achieve those goals and reach a new segment of fans who might not otherwise engage with our team or know our club’s history. It’s been a lot of fun to work with the illustrator and writer to bring Jed and Gizmo to life in a new way and we’re excited about the potential to compile these weekly strips into one comic at the end of the season.

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Yu, who is also a PE teacher and lifelong football fan, connected with Cui via direct message on Twitter. Yu’s first pitch for a graphic novel was rejected, but Cui responded with an idea for an educational comic aimed at young people.

“My hope was to highlight the positive aspects of Edmonton’s fandom, history, game day experiences and keys to the game,” Yu said. “I wanted to think of something that could engage, not the older hardcore fans because they don’t need it, but the younger fans, the new fans who love animation. I agreed with Victor, it could be a different way to attack him. We know you also want modern methods, trending videos and player interviews. It’s just a different channel to reach specific demographics. »

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The project cried out for characters with big personalities, making Roberts and Williams the natural choice. Roberts, the former defensive end, is active, engaging and sometimes hilarious on social media. Williams, the energetic former kick returner, has always connected easily with young fans.

“I needed recognizable people. I wanted champions. I wanted people to still be active in the community,” Yu said, when asked how he chose Roberts and Williams to star in the project. “I also wanted to include someone younger, but the fear was, what if we included that person, did they have a season-ending injury, were they cut or traded? Gray Cup champions, legends, would be the better way to go because we’re going to use some of it as a teaching tool. We also wanted people who have faced adversity and success at the Gray Cup in Edmonton. And people with a specific look; The ponytail of Jed, Gizmo who is small and powerful.

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Yeah, about that look.

“The way they drew me, it looks like I’m wearing Lululemon pants and I have Popeye forearms, but I’ll take it,” Roberts laughed. “Who doesn’t want a comic strip made of them? It wasn’t hard to twist my arm. I grew up collecting comics and loved the idea of ​​trying to engage with the younger generation and show them the lore of this franchise. It’s obvious to me. My kids think it’s cool, so I’m finally cool with my kids.

“Some people will look at it and say ‘what is this?’ They won’t really understand, but I do. Just a really cool way to meet the younger generation on their terms and on their turf. When we started the school perseverance program, Gizmo and I, in the early 90s, it was the idea, to go into schools and talk to kids. It’s sort of a modern version of that. Social media is now such a big part of everyone’s life that it’s a great way to build a bridge.

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Indeed, led by Cui, the new management team of the Elks tries to mend what had become a kind of frayed relationship with its fans under the old regime, which had the difficult task of navigating the franchise through a change of long-awaited name.

“I think the Elks kind of wanted to build a bridge to lore, and there’s such a goldmine there,” Roberts said. “You’re talking about people like Jack Parker, Billy Stevenson, Dave Fennell and certainly Willie Pless. It seems like over the last two or three years in particular they’ve kind of moved away from that and that’s understandable. They wanted to make their mark with the new brand and all that. But it just seemed like they had thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

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dbarnes@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/sportsdanbarnes

DAN’S WEEK 3 CHOICES

Saskatchewan to Montreal

Thursday 7:30 p.m. ET — Saskatchewan at 3.5

Runners will likely add to the impressive 13-sack total since elusive QB Vernon Adams is out with COVID and Trevor Harris isn’t as mobile. Key injuries affecting both teams, so it should be close. Saskatchewan by 3.

Hamilton to Winnipeg

Friday 8:30 p.m. ET — Winnipeg at 4.5

The Tiger-Cats are 0-2 and reeling from giving up a 24-point lead to Calgary last week, while Winnipeg has had back-to-back wins over Ottawa and failed to dominate defensively. Still. Winnipeg by 4.

Edmonton to Calgary

Saturday 7 p.m. ET — Calgary at 9 a.m.

That should be the evidence of the week. Stamps QB Bo Levi Mitchell got back to being himself in the second half last week in Hamilton, and the Elks delivered back-to-back sad sack efforts on defense. Calgary by 8.

Toronto to British Columbia

Saturday 10 p.m. ET – BC by 4.5

The Argos, gifted with a win when Montreal kicker David Côté missed from 21 yards, would need a much stronger offensive game than was evident last week to keep pace with Lions QB Nathan Rourke and its considerable armament. BC by 7.

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