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Columbia resident mixes nature and absurdity in hand-drawn comic

Scott Ross’ third issue of his comic “The Dancing Bear” will be available Thursday.

March 22, 2011

Scott Ross is just a normal guy that works at Lakota Coffee Co., but on the first and third Thursday of the past month, he has been the guy who passes out his home-drawn comic. The comic, “The Dancing Bear,” is published in conjunction with his web-comic “Young Learner’s Guide to American Wildlife.”

Ross has been drawing comics on and off his whole life.

“Every few years, I would pick up my pen and get some big idea, but then I'd get bored or decide it wasn't realistic and forget about it,” Ross said in an email.

Doodling in lectures was one of Scott’s favorite pastimes, especially when he had professors who seemed to drone endlessly, Ross said.

“I graduated from college and my friends started getting grown-up jobs,” Ross said. “And I realized being realistic is boring as hell.”

In January 2010, Ross began the first steps toward creating his website.

“So when I got the idea for ‘Young Learner’s Guide’ in the midst of a particularly profound hangover one morning, I held on to it and worked on it slowly over a year, until I finally decided last month that it was time to get off my ass and start publishing,” Ross said.

Emily Downing, a co-worker of Ross, said she has seen Ross drawing and loves getting to see the process firsthand.

“Everything revolves around mass media so much nowadays,” Downing said in an email. “It’s refreshing to come across something that was illustrated, copied, cut folded and distributed by the artist himself.”

Zach Burmaster, another co-worker of Ross,’ helps him by providing input on “The Dancing Bear.”

“I think my input at times helps him think through other options — I’m really just there to bounce ideas off of,” Burmaster said in an email.

With the first issue, he printed out 50 copies — they disappeared almost immediately, Ross said. For the next issue, Ross copied around 100 issues, which disappeared just as quickly.

“I need to figure out a way to print more than 100 copies per issue that doesn’t involve me spending my entire weekend folding them into book shape,” Ross said. “Of course there’s the Internet — don’t Google it though because searches for ‘dancing bear’ turn up a lot of porn.”

Even though they are his first forays into cartooning, as they grow into something larger, he has ideas for other comic strips and potential graphic novel ideas.

“I'm not sure where either of these projects are taking me or what they might spin off into, but I'm just going to keep drawing and developing new material and at some point it will come together,” Ross said. “Then Dreamworks will pay me $5 million for the movie rights and I'll disappear into a haze of models and blow.”

Scott’s new edition of “The Dancing Bear” will be available at Lakota Coffee Co. on Thursday and online at younglearnersguide.com.

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