Inked Geek Parents

Featured Geek Culture Parenting

InkedGeeks-FeaturedIt’s probably no surprise to anyone that some of our writers have ink. We wanted to share our ink, what it means to us, and, in most cases, how it also ties to our geekdom.



There’s been an awful lot of talk about the concept of southern identity, and I’ll admit, despite being a lifelong inhabitant of the rural south, my concept of and relation to that identity likely differs from most. Obviously there’s an element of history–and let’s not forget food–yet for me the culture has always hinged on the broader strokes. In short, it’s about language, but, even more than the words themselves, it’s about stories.

The southern tradition is truly that of the storyteller, and I grew up around some of the best. As a kid, however, I felt far removed from this birthright. I knew the words, it just never seemed as though I could get them in the right order. This changed when I discovered Dungeons & Dragons. Other games soon followed. Car Wars, Palladium’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Shadowrun: more than just exercises in creativity, each helped teach me how to tell stories. Moreover, they taught me that my stories were important–they had meaning and purpose.

The story of my D20 tattoo–which, to me, symbolizes that vital connection to narrative–ultimately led me here, to GeekDad. Ken and the crew found me when my tat found its way onto Boing Boing. Without it, I likely never would’ve become a part of an online community that has doubtlessly enriched my life more than any other. And without RPGs, I likely never would’ve discovered the power of language and its one indelible truth: everything’s a story.

My first tattoo was a blue Celtic knot on the right side of my rib cage. The shape is symbolic of both the complexity and beauty of life; the blue is a nod to traditional Celtic woad tattoos. On my lower back, I have a crossed harp and sword on an Irish battle shield – it the art on the cover of one of my all time favorite books, Bard by Morgan Llewelyn — and is a life is beauty and struggle sort of thing. Above that, I have the Eye of Horus, protector of the body; in the pupil of the Eye is the Amulet of Isis, protector of the spirit.
I have Isis with a Nefertiti head on my left shoulder which was, unfortunately, done by someone extremely heavy-handed and scarred pretty significantly. It looks okay, but I have plans for that arm that are going to involve some cover work.

Kick Ass Lady arm. Photo by Shiri.

The current work in progress is a sleeve on my right arm I am calling my “Kick-Ass Lady” arm. The plant on my forearm is Belladonna, the plant from which atropine, which can save one’s life, is derived but when taken in excessive amounts, is a fatal poison; symbolic of the creative part of my brain and my need to write, sometimes to the detriment of other aspects of my life (sleep, relaxation). Over that is a banner proclaiming, in the words of the inimitable Peggy Carter, “I know my value.” Often in my life, I forget my own worth. Now I can’t. On my right shoulder is Captain Marvel and winding up my arm and around my elbow are orange and yellow star flowers, because 1) they’re gorgeous and 2) they represent a beautiful Captain Marvel quote from Kelly Sue Deconnick’s run: “We will be the stars we were meant to be.” On the inside of that arm will be more star flowers, the negative space of the layout outlining Captain Marvel’s Hala star and Ms. Marvel (both former and present)’s lightening bolt.

Future Plans. Photo by Shiri.

Plans for the left arm are to transform it into my “No Fear” arm–On the shoulder, Kanan Jarrus’ armor with the mask he wore while fighting Darth Maul after he was blinded, Ahsoka Tano’s white sabers on the forearm, and integrated into the design, a quote from Dune–“Fear is the Mindkiller.” I may integrate the red star and line work of the Winter Soldier’s bionic arm. I’m still toying with that bit.


Catharsis. Photo by Rory

I have this tattoo for several reasons. The word “Catharsis” refers to many things, including purifying one’s self physically, mentally, or spiritually, a technique meant to bring calm, and the result of a process. My Catharsis tattoo is my reminder to leave the past behind me, and is on my left ankle, to remind me to walk away.

Lucky 13, the Racing Turtle. Photo by Rory

This tattoo I got as a laugh when I was 19. I’d known I wanted a tattoo–something fun but small. On Friday the 13th of I don’t know when, a local shop was doing a promotion for “free number 13 tattoos”. I fell in love with the turtle, and my friend and I both went to get inked. But as the years have passed, I’ve learned from that tiny little tattoo on my right ankle. I’ve learned that luck is imaginary, and the 13 reminds me of that. I’ve learned that progress is progress, no matter how slow, and the turtle reminds me of that. I  also learned that even small or trivial decisions can affect you forever, and as my first tattoo, I remember that lesson very keenly when I look at this tattoo.

Triquetra and Albino Rhino. Photo by Rory

The Triquetra is on my chest, over my heart. It was done in my grandmother’s sewing room, which won’t ever happen again, and was really dumb of me to do. If you study it for a moment, you will see that it’s imperfect, two of the lines not crossing properly. I got this tattoo to remind myself that no matter how far apart we are, my brothers and I will always be the link that connects our large and disjointed family together. Both of my parents remarried and had more children, and they are each other’s siblings because of us, the bond that relates us all to each other.Finally, the rhinoceros is Noah, the Albino Rhino, a toy that is no longer in production. I always told myself I’d get one “later”, but never did, and now they are a collectors’ item. I got the Noah tattoo to remind me to laugh at myself, and to remember that toys aren’t just for kids. Noah, with his iconic eyeball on a stick, was a toy designed for adults, and I find it to be a vital reminder of the childhood I don’t have to give up to be successful or a good parent.

Plusle and D20.

Bonus: My next tattoo will be of Plusle and a dodecahedron (D20) showing 20 on its face. My twin brother will be getting a similar tattoo with Minun and a dodecahedron showing 1. It is the only tattoo I’ve ever considered getting, and if it weren’t perfect on its own, I’d never consider it. It’s also to remind me that I’m not alone, and never will be. I’ve got a brother, but I’ve also got a larger community in the geek world that will always be there if I’m not sure what to do next. Of course, the answer will always be to play another game!


Old Celtic and new Biomech. Photo by Will.

This is actually both my first and most recent tattoos. The Celtic knot on my shoulder was my first tattoo–I got it on my 18th birthday. I’d been wanting to get this specific knot for about a year and treated myself to it as a birthday gift. Although I don’t regret getting it, I do regret not doing more research into where to go and getting a better version of the tattoo I wanted. That being said, the reason I wanted this tattoo (which, yes, is now the logo for Legendary Pictures), is because it’s a Celtic Lover’s Knot, and I wanted a symbol to remind me that the most important thing in the world–the only thing that matters at the end of the day–is love.

So, although I still like the meaning behind that first tattoo, I wanted to “fix” it. Being very black and very deep, I knew I could never cover it up which was fine, as I more wanted to corporate it into something larger and more meaningful. Over the years and through all of my other tattoos, I toyed with different ideas on how I could tie it in to something bigger until I finally came across a bunch of amazing looking 3D biomech tattoos. I immediately knew that was what I’d been looking for. I found an amazing local artist (Marc Cano) who had done some great biomech sleeves and had him design this for me based on some specific types of parts I wanted incorporated. After many sessions and many, many hours, I walked away with this great biomech sleeve. I’ve always been a fan of robots and the idea of being part machine is fascinating to me. It also stands as a nice reminder of my own humanity and ability to fail.

The Endless. Photo by Will.

I have five other tattoos, but they are all “one” thing–The Endless from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman comic series. Gaiman, and The Sandman in particular, is one of, if not the, biggest literary influences in my life. Death is the oldest because of course she is. I got her on my 19th birthday on my other upper arm.. She was always my favorite of The Endless even though I cosplayed as Dream in college (before I knew what cosplay was). I also went through a goth phase which certainly helped me choose which to get first. A reminder that we all get the same thing, one lifetime, is always a good thing. The tattoo was based on a poster Chris Bachalo did for the Death miniseries. I then had a friend of mine draw me Dream that was a combination of the more standard black and flame cloak and ruby look with the Dream from Arabian Nights issue. Desire and Despair, the twins, were a no brainer for a joint tattoo as were Destruction and Delirium. Destruction and Delirium were drawn for me by the same artist friend who did Dream. I asked another friend to draw Desire and Despair for me. And finally I used the amazing Destiny by Frank Quietly for the final member of The Endless. All of the rest of The Endless are on my lower legs.

“He Followed” by Megan Lara. Image provided by Megan Lara.

Future tattoo plans? Of course! The one tattoo I know for sure I want to get some day is one of my son’s drawings. He’s not at the point where he can draw anything recognizable so it will probably be a few years, but with his love of Star Wars and robots, I’m fully expecting to be able to get him to draw me something cute that I’ll get in my forearm. Other than that, I don’t have any definitive plans. I did plan my biomechanical sleeve so that it could be continued down the rest of my arm if I decide to do so down the road. The other thing on my list of possibilities is a Dark Tower related tattoo–specifically, this rocking art by Megan Lara entitled “He Followed.” King and The Dark Tower series are a close second to Gaiman as a literary influence in my life.


Water color with hidden Mega Man. Photo by Ariane.

To celebrate my 30th birthday a few years ago, I wanted to do something I’d always dreamed of doing but never had the guts to do. I had a short list, but finally settled on getting a tattoo. I did a lot of research to pick a tattoo artist with nerdy interests, and requested an abstract watercolor tattoo with a hidden video game reference. I also wanted it to include “QED”—what you write at the end of a mathematical proof. Other than that, I gave him carte blanche. Can you find the hidden Mega Man? (Turn your head 90 degrees clockwise to see the shape of his helmet and cannon arm.


Mommy and baby giraffes. Photo by Sarah.

I had this Giraffe Mom & Baby tattoo done two years ago. It represents me (my maiden name rhymes with Giraffe) and my son. He’s obviously the baby giraffe, but he was also born in March, when crocuses bloom. I had it done when he was almost a year old at Damask Tattoo in Seattle. It’s a wonderful, woman owned and operated shop with private rooms for each artist and their client.

Wedding bouquet. Photo by Sarah.

My huge, lovely, back tattoo is from Brian, the owner of Scapegoat Tattoo in Portland. It’s a stylized version of my wedding bouquet, complete with the “something old” handkerchief I carried it down the aisle in. This tattoo was the result of about 24 hours of work across three sessions. A big commute from Seattle! It’s by far my biggest tattoo. I started having it done about 4 years ago, it was 2/3 finished when I became pregnant with my son. I took a year+ hiatus from it and finally finished it when he was about 6 months old.

Ex Libris. Photo by Sarah.

My Ex Libris tattoo was my very first, done in Studio City, CA about 6 years ago. The image is by Rockwell Kent, who’s also known for illustrating Moby Dick. He drew it for a Manhattan socialite to use as her private library bookplate. I found the image on a book cover when I was working as a bookseller straight out of college. It’s how I saw myself at the time–a girl, immersed in books, in the middle of the city. Actually, I still see myself that way, but now I am so many more things too. Just out of college I couldn’t afford a good tattoo, so I waited several years for this one. I still love it.

GeekMom’s own Judy Berna recently reviewed a great new book, Tell Me A Tattoo Story that helps break down the myths around tattoos and the kinds of people who get them. If you want a great way to talk about tattoos (yours and others) with your kids, you should definitely grab a copy.

We’d love to see your geek ink. Feel free to share it with us on Instagram or Twitter and tag us. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #InkedGeek!

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