Justin Dean’s childhood was spent hopping from place to place with his family to different parts of Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado before they finally settled in Marlow when he was in the sixth grade. Apparantly his family had ties to the area, his great grandfather owned something, Dean thinks a bank, but there is a road named after him, Lawler Road.
Dean is coming back to the area to celebrate the release of his first children’s book “Awesome Dog 5000,” a graphic novel which is an action-comedy series about three video game loving best friends and their robo-pet.
He will be doing some school visits in the county and there is a public event at the Marlow Library, teaching some of the tips and trick to illustrating at 5 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Garland Smith Library.
A love for telling stories has always been a passion of Dean’s.
“My interest in both (writing and drawing) started around the same time. When I was around 3 or 4 I would dictate stories to my mom and she would write them down,” he said. “They’re all master works in literature. Stories like the flying trees that took a vacation in space and the big dog who wanted to find a person to pet him. After my mom would write them out I’d then illustrate the story-- or vice versa.”
Dean said after he graduated college he moved to “the big city.”
“I set off to L.A. to become a successful writer,” he said. “But ended up doing a lot of odd jobs instead-- that had nothing to do with actually writing. I was a delivery driver for a Mexican food place, worked in a warehouse, production assistant on some music videos. It wasn’t until a friend got me an entry level job working in a tape vault at an entertainment marketing agency that things started to click. I worked my way up through the company becoming a jr. writer, then producer, then head writer, and ultimately becoming the agency’s creative director.”
It was on this journey up the ladder where he was writing for a wide range of things, South Park, the Olympics, The Office, Playstation, Judge Judy and much more.
“Each project taught me something different that’s helped me on the next project,” Dean said. “When I started as a writer at the ad agency, I would pitch dozens of concepts every day and most didn’t get greenlit. You learn real quick how to have thick skin and take criticism. As a creative director, I would work with a team of twenty plus people and learned how to be better at creatively collaborating. Working in animation, I learned how important pre-production was and to always-- always, always plan ahead to avoid problems down the line.”
He used these experiences to help in the writing of his own book.
“When the book’s in production you’re constantly working with all sorts of creative types like the art directors, sales reps, copywriters, marketing directors, and you have to navigate all those relationships and work together to make the best version of the book possible,” he said. “For me now, prep in pre-production has translated into making sure I have a strong outline of the book before I ever start writing so I don’t waste any time in making my deadlines.”
His most important advice is simple.
“I think the biggest lesson I learned is to be nice,” he said, “Be nice to everyone and I mean everyone from the intern getting coffee to the vice president running your department. No one likes working with ‘that artist.’”
His style is a mash of some of his favorite works.
“There were so many artists that inspired me when I was younger, it’s impossible to name them all but off the top of my head I’d say the big ones were: Bill Watterson for Calvin and Hobbes, Gary Larson for The Far Side, Walt Disney and co. for Sword in the Stone and DuckTales, Shigeru Miyamoto for Legend of Zelda, Roald Dahl for every book he ever wrote, and lastly, whoever created Chester Cheetah,” Dean said. “That 1980’s Cheetos mascot was the coolest. I would practice drawing him all the time.”
There will also be a big two-hour Awesome Dog event in Tulsa on Sept 13th at 10:30 at the Lavender Bleu Literacy Market.