Real Life

What Did I Learn?

weekly webcomic reviews by Delos

(this is a repost)

Real Life by Greg Dean updates every weekday, ever since 1999.(Wow.) It’s filled with fun geek references to online games, movies and tv shows. There’s more, of course, with side trips to various comic convention locations and situational humor. The writing and jokes are witty with a good range of topics. The storylines are generally short lived and you can tune in anytime and enjoy the comic without getting lost. That’s a good way to create instant return readers.

The art is contained within a four panel layout and has progressed from line work to flat colors to shadowed colors. The backgrounds are usually lineless and slightly blurred, yet still toonish. It’s a nice effect that simultaneously sets the stage and helps the more important foreground events take center focus.

There are also some interesting fourth wall breaks by the word balloons. Once I looked back at it, I realized that it hadn’t distracted my reading of the comic at all. Breaking that fourth wall can easily lead to confusion but since the word balloons are always at the top, your eye is quickly trained to follow that progression. It works well for Real Life.

What did I learn?

There are many many approaches to layouts and interesting techniques to be found if you look around. Those things that Greg Dean uses in Real Life really help it stand out from the pack and that is always worth emulating. Since the archives go back daily for about eight years, I haven’t yet full explored the comic. Maybe you’ll find even more to appreciate about the Real Life comic.


  1. I’m not sure what you mean by “fourth wall breaks” in this case. Usually that means that the characters are talking to, or at least referring to, something outside of the confines of the comic – which does certainly happen a lot in Real Life Comics, due to it being an odd mix of journal comic and outright fiction – but in the context you mentioned it, it sounded like you were referring to the way the speech balloons sometimes extend beyond the top of the panel.

    One thing to note is that pretty much all of the artwork is done as clip-art symbols. That’s not necessarily a slam at Mr. Dean’s artistic skills (since the clipart he’s made is quite good), but more an explanation of how it is that he’s able to update so regularly and frequently (the particularly-charitable could call it an “optimized creation process”). Of course he deserves a lot of praise for his ability to consistently come up with comics to write, which is definitely the hard part given the subject matter.

    Sometimes it seems like he makes major real-life decisions specifically to give himself new material for the comic, and that takes dedication.

  2. Primarily, I was talking about the balloons over-top of the comic, as opposed to butting up against the edge and merging with the panel borders -or- being embedded within the borders themselves.

    They have a strong contour, which struck me as being potentially distracting at first.

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