Welcome to Meet a Dork, a feature on Dorkaholics where we get to know a fellow dork somewhere in the world. Through Meet a Dork, we hope to not only establish new friendships with other fans but showcase the vastness of our community, the diversity of backgrounds, and the unique stories of each person. This week, we have Bob Scott, a Disney/Pixar veteran who also draws the daily syndicated webcomic Bear with Me. A new strip compilation book is being published by Hermès Press and will be out in January 2021.
Neil Bui (NB): With the decline of newspaper readership, comics have still been able to forge on in the digital format. What is your opinion on the decline of print and its impact on comics? Is there any real difference between a printed strip comic and a digital one?
Bob Scott (BS): It is hard to not mourn the heyday of newspapers. There is nothing to replace the reader numbers that came from the daily paper delivered to every house in the country. But, time marches ahead and so must we, right? I see a bright side to digital comics. Without the constraints of a daily newspaper comic strip, strip artists are free to do whatever they like in terms of the size of the art and color, and there are some wonderful comics online that take full advantage of the medium. For me in particular, since I love the classic comic strips of the 1960s and 70s, I model my strip after that format. I love black and white strips. The pure ink on paper.
NB: You had the opportunity to work with some legendary cartoonists such as Jim Davis and Brett Koth. What were the biggest lessons you learned from those two?
BS: Wow, you have done your homework! Way back in the mid-1980s, my friend Brett Koth and I were hired by Jim to pencil the short-lived U.S. Acres comic strip. I learned an amazing amount from both of them. I had been submitting strips to syndicates pretty regularly, but working for Jim on a strip that had real deadlines was eye-opening. I mean, eye-opening! 365 strips needed to be drawn a year. With weekends off and the syndicate asking for more and more lead time, Brett and I were finishing almost 2 weeks of strips per week. It was non-stop. And I loved it. I found my groove at Jim’s studio. Plus, Jim was a great guy – and I learned so much about gag writing from him.
NB: Why did you decide to go with a bear as your co-main character? Are the characters in Bear with Me based on any real-life friends, family, or people you’ve interacted with?
BS: I have always loved drawing bears. One day I drew a very calm girl based on my daughter. Then I drew a terrified bear next to her. The juxtaposition between the two made me laugh. I started drawing them in funny situations and before long I had a comic strip!
NB: If you could feature a cameo from any animated character from any universe in Bear With Me — superhero, Pixar, animal, etc — who would it be and why?
BS: There have been quite a few cameos in Bear with Me over the years. Walt Kelly’s Pogo, Berke Breathed’s Bloom County, Hanna Barbera’s Tom and Jerry, and Al Capp’s Li’l Abner have all graced the strip at one time or another. I love to draw little cameos of cartoons that have influenced or inspired me. I’m certain I’ll do others down the road. I don’t have anything in mind at the moment. Keep reading the strip to find out!
NB: How long does it typically take you to create a single comic strip from start to finish? Is there a specific type of schedule you maintain?
BS: A strip can take me anywhere from 3 to 4 hours depending on the number of panels and complexity of the gag. I draw the strip the old-fashioned way using bristol board, blue pencil, and ink. Instead of using a digital font, I hand letter everything. Doing the strip this way adds another half hour or so to the process because I have to scan the art and clean up the blue pencil lines in Photoshop. Since I’m on the web, I don’t have the daily schedule of a newspaper strip. GoComics lets me post whenever I like. I try to draw 2 to 3 new strips per week. The rest of the week I fill with repeats. I have a full-time job in animation so I can only find time to draw a limited number of new strips. I would love to do more if I could.
NB: Which typically comes first for you — the words or the art to a comic strip?
BS: Sometimes a funny drawing sparks a strip and other times the writing comes first. It’s always different. I actually like to vary the way a strip comes to life. It makes it more fun, more challenging. Every once in a while I will draw up an entire strip and THEN write the gag. Talk about challenging! It works my whole brain that way. I think challenges like that are good for artists; they keep things fresh.
NB: Everyone talks about writer’s block — but is there cartoonist block? If so, what does that look like for you, and is there anything you like to do to reignite your creative side?
BS: I love to draw but some days it’s harder than others. Sometimes I need to walk away from the drawing board and come back later. I watch a movie, read a book or do some cooking. Just clear my head. I also like to look at animation and cartoons that inspire me. I find that really helps fire me back up. But the thing that really gets me drawing the most is being told I can’t. I was at Pixar doing computer animation, and that meant all day long I wasn’t able to draw. I could hardly drive fast enough to get home to draw.
NB: For any aspiring cartoonists reading this interview, what type of advice would you give to them to succeed in today’s market?
BS: I am asked how to get into animation as well as comic strips all the time. I always answer the same way: Draw, draw, and draw some more. The more you draw the better you’ll get.
For more information about Bob Scott:
Read his online comic strip here: https://www.gocomics.com/bear-with-me
To pre-order his book: https://hermes-press.myshopify.com/collections/comic-books/products/bear-with-me-pre-order