Geek Parenting: Meet the Deans! (Part 1: Interview with Creator of Real Life Comics, Greg Dean)

Greg and Elizabeth Dean
Elizabeth, Harper, and Greg Dean

I love those memes floating around right now with the kids doing something exceptionally geeky and the words, “Parenting: You’re doing it right.” For me, one of the best things about being a mom is introducing my little ones to all the things I enjoy and seeing them get as excited about it as I do. I believe that one of the best ways to connect with your children is not only to take an interest in things they love but to introduce them to things you love as well. You may be surprised at how they take to it! If they don’t then of course it’s fine; they are little individuals after all.

For our first family article, I thought it would be fun to introduce you to a wonderful couple who both have a creative way of making their daughter, Harper, a part of the geeky things they enjoy. Greg and Elizabeth Dean are an awesome dynamic duo who juggle parenting, full-time work, and their own separate super-geeky business ventures.

For the first half of this article, I spoke with Greg Dean, creator of Real Life Comics (RLC). I have been a fan of RLC since my husband introduced it to me in 2006. To this day, it never fails to put a smile on my face.

October 31, 2012
October 31, 2012

Greg, in your own words, could you tell our readers what Real Life Comics is all about?

Well, it started off as a way to share the experiences of me and my friends with the world, really. Every group of friends has their own string of “in” jokes, and it seemed to me that I could take that and turn it into something worth reading. It’s long-since morphed into something more of a daily journal comic, with a hefty dose of sci-fi tossed in there. I break the fourth wall constantly, and I generally just use the comic as a sounding board for whatever thought or opinion I have for the day. (It’s probably why I never really got into blogging, now that I think about it…)

Real Life turns 14 this year if I am not mistaken. That is amazing! It seems like a lot of web comics have come and gone, but Real Life has stayed strong. How did it start, and what has made you want to continue?

Oh, believe me, there have been times along the way where I thought it would be much easier to just quit. Especially now that I’ve got Harper – she keeps me busy all day long, and when the evening rolls around, I feel too exhausted to do a comic much of the time. But in the end, it’s gotten to be kind of an extension of me – it’s an outlet where I can take something I’ve been thinking about, put it into some kind of “fixed” form, and send it off into the ether. It also helps me find the humorous side of various things that might be bugging me from time to time, which helps me to deal with them. And there’s a small, SMALL part of me that says “I’ve been doing this for longer than most new webcartoonists have been alive! I can’t quit now!” Hubris is a funny motivator, isn’t it?

Parenting has played a big role in both of your endeavors. I love reading the comics with Harper in them. Would you say becoming parents has been a big source of inspiration?

It almost has to – it changes you so fundamentally that some days your kid is all you can think about. I haven’t included Harper in as many comics as I would LIKE to, simply because I don’t want to be one of “those” parents. But when she walks into my office wearing a drum on her head and beeping like a spaceman, I can’t help but say “Oh, that is SO going in the comic.”

March 3, 2013
March 3, 2013

When Harper is old enough, what are some shows and/or games you are both looking forward to introducing to her? Or are there any you have already started with

I think I’ve gotten the jump on this, really – I’ve been bouncing Harper to sleep on my knee for her naps for well over a year, and I tend to do so in my office while I’ve got something on the secondary monitor, so she’s already seen much of Star Trek (every series from TOS to Enterprise), Stargate, Doctor Who and a couple of other shows I can’t think of right now. Every time she see the T.A.R.D.I.S. she exclaims “Doctor Who!”, and Daleks and Cybermen are simply “Robot!”. It kind of warms my heart. (When she gets old enough for Star Wars, I’m planning on introducing them to her in Machete Order.)

Is there a particular fandom you are hoping she leans towards?

I’m a Trekkie, so I’m hopeful she’ll follow in my footsteps, but as long as she stays as far away from reality TV as possible, she can like whatever she wants. (I say that, and then a myriad of things I will straight-up disown her for liking pops into my head… so I guess I’m just a huge hypocrite.)

Last I heard, you were working from home and taking care of little Harper, which I bet she just loves. What advice would you give to other dads doing the same?

She has kind of a love-hate relationship with it. I think she’s taken for granted that daddy’s just THERE all the time, and she can just come into my office and hang out whenever she wants… but on the flip-side, since I’m actually WORKING most of the time, it means she doesn’t get as much one-on-one time as she might occasionally like. That said, I’m kind of my own boss, which means when I declare it’s Harper time, everything else goes on hold. It’s a tough thing to give advice for, because every child is different. Harper is very self-motivated, and she is able to play or do her own thing without my constant involvement – other kids I know that are her age would be almost impossible to do the same things with. I think the biggest advice I could give any other dad juggling work and child care is just to listen to “Cat’s in the Cradle” once a week or so, and make sure that ain’t you.

April 12, 2013
April 12, 2013

Do you have a favorite Real Life moment?

Yeah – well, a series of moments, really. See, because I’ve been doing this for so long (and never plan to quit), I’m able to set up plot points that go back YEARS – tiny little tidbits over time that seem like dropped threads. Except that they aren’t – I’ve always got them in mind. So with that said, last year I did a comic involving Tony (who is the requisite evil supergenius) helping Greg go back in time to get the Enterprise-A built in Las Vegas, after a news story broke that the project had been shot down by Paramount execs back in the ’90s. (Did I mention the comic trends toward super-nerd?) Anyway, Greg winds up punching the exec in the face, and since the time travel model I was using for this storyline was a single-timeline model, I had to devise a nested series of events that would take place in order to ensure that at no point would time-shifted doubles meet, and try to maintain the integrity of the timeline. As part of this, I got to do a “Back to the Future” moment where my characters went back to a storyline from 2002, and had to hide from their doubles there while still accomplishing their goal. I actually edited a few of the original comics in the archive to include background nods to what was going on in the current storyline. Basically, I just had a great time messing with the continuity of my own comic a bit.

I know that on occasion you help Elizabeth with her company. Do you have a favorite Seams Geeky product?

Absolutely – being a die-hard Trekkie, the Star Trek: The Next Generation Diapers kind of rule my world. I was SUPER excited when we figured out how to do them. That being said… we’ve got some slightly more ambitious diapers in the hopper that MIGHT vie for the title. My lips are sealed on that, though.

Not related to parenting but I am always curious to see what everyone is following! What are some shows, movies, and/or games that you are looking forward to this year? 

My big game obsession actually just came out – Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Other than that, I’m jazzed for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. next week, and movie-wise, Gravity looks like it’s going to be amazing. And then later in the year, The Desolation of Smaug is gonna kick ASS.

And finally, how would you define a “geek” ?

I think Wil Wheaton had about the best answer ever to this question recently, and that is “It’s not about what you love, it’s about how you love it.” Being a Geek means finding something (or somethings) that mean a lot to you, and wanting to know everything there is to know about it, and find other people who love it in the same way that you do. It is NOT, as some people seem to think, a “badge of honor” or some kind of rank you attain once you’ve seen X episodes of this or that show. It isn’t a culture of exclusivity or competition. Geekdom is about loving something and not caring about what the world thinks.

May 17, 2013
May 17, 2013

If you have a chance, pop on over to Real Life Comics and read some for yourself. I would love to know how you liked it. Also, keep an eye out for part two of this interview to read about Elizabeth Dean, founder of Seams Geeky! Till next time, Nerdy Minds!

 Real Life Comics

***The views expressed above are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Nerdy Minds (Magazine) as a whole. But they might.***

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