December 14th, 2020
Let’s talk about The Flying Squirrel.
To start, I want to give my friend Natalie a super-special shout-out for weaving this wonderful knitted cap. I asked if she could make one with “squirrel ears like my comic book hero’s” and she didn’t trip a beat; it turned out better than I could ever imagine. Thanks, Nat!
The Flying Squirrel was the first hero I introduced as part of my Weirdos series, and he’s the closest to my heart; he is not, however, a copy-and-paste documentation of who I am. Ashley Maypole and I are different people with different lives, but we’re also quite similar in universal and intimate ways. Even if I didn’t write him, I would undoubtedly relate to him. He was the key I needed to explore alcoholism in my story.
He came into existence while I was still drinking, and it wasn’t a plan that he would stop. He was going to be an active alcoholic while I still refused to admit I was one. I eventually decided that a thing would happen, and when the thing happened, he was going to be confronted and shipped off to Lake Mary, a rehabilitation center.
The funny thing is, once Ashley got sober, so did I. It’s funny because Ashley, for me, was my “fiction suit” in the world of the Weirdos. Don’t know what a fiction suit is? Allow me to explain.
Paper is two-dimensional. You are not. That means fictional fantasy worlds, like those found in novels and comic books, can be absolutely real in your mind but you can’t physically go to them.
Or can you?
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby used to write themselves into issues of Fantastic Four. You could argue that’s not the same as physically traveling to a different world, but isn’t it? They were drawing two-dimensional versions of themselves which could fit and live inside the book; those fiction suits could now interact with the other characters. They could have conversations and go on adventures together. And the relationship exists beyond the page.
You don’t have to put a literal version of yourself in a story like Stan and Jack did; a fiction suit is a representation. And the fiction suit works both ways; you can pull things from inside those worlds back out into real life. You can write scenarios and situations for your character that you’ll find suddenly confronting you in this reality.
And that’s what happened. I wrote myself into sobriety. The words that start and end the issue — “Anything can be saved” and “Everything can be destroyed” — were mantras I was repeating in my soul at the end of my drinking life. I was reminding myself that I could ruin everything at any time if I kept living this way — and that I, too, could be saved, just like anybody else.
I wrote a post about layers and digging deep the other day, and the characters in The Weirdos are true examples of that. I’m proud of how deceptively complex and real each one is. You can read more about characters like Ashley on my blog — like the battle we share with Imposter Syndrome: https://dennisvogen.com/2019/12/07/imposter-syndrome-the-flying-squirrel/ — and in the first volume of The Weirdos: From Sand, To Glass.