Introduction Version.2021

November 20th, 2020

This may be your first (or might be your one thousandth) time here, but it’s been a minute since I introduced myself, and I want this greeting to be updated for 2021.

So, hi. I’m happy to see you today.

My name is Dennis. I’m a lot of things

— I’m the guy sitting at the table in this photo, for example — but the simplest word I would use to describe me is storyteller.

I was born in the 80’s and am a lifelong comics & pop culture obsessive. Both have saved my life countless times, and I mean that literally. I’ve expressed myself artistically in a lot of different ways over the years — I released a trio of full-length albums as The Next Step when I was a puppy, I began publishing my own books soon after with the help of Kickstarter, I started a character business called Awesome For Hire — and I always wanted my strange journey to lead to comics.

In August of 2018, I released my first comic book: The Flying Squirrel, which is part of a flawed superhero series called The Weirdos. Over the next two years, I released a total of five issues of the series, eventually collecting & coloring them for a graphic novel volume that was published in May of 2020. The heroes in The Weirdos find each other through their struggles; they deal with things like alcoholism, depression, cancer & anger issues.

I write, draw and produce all of my own work. I did go to art school for a minute, said, “Nah, I’m good,” and am mostly self-taught. I write books for adults — that look like they were drawn by a child.

My latest novella, Theia, is about a silver Boston Terrier who just wants to go outside. My next graphic novel, Brushfire, will be my first for all ages.

The back of my business card has my motto: “Always Love.” It means to try to make your decisions based on love, as opposed to fear or hate. To have compassion over strength, empathy over power. I really believe in that.

I love my dog, I love words, I love art — and I ❤ you. And that’s it.

Visit my website dennisvogen.com and tell me I sent you.

Let’s Talk

December 1st, 2020

Do you write a blog? Do you articulate articles for a website? Are you a constant content generator? Do you have your own podcast? Because, if so, I have an idea: PLEASE INTERVIEW ME.

As we navigate this second lockdown, I find myself with time on my hands and still looking for unique ways to share my work. Maybe that’s where you come in.

What would we talk about? We could discuss what it’s like to release two books in one year during a pandemic. We could talk about how one of those books took a WEEK to write. If your platform has a topic, I could learn a thing or two about it. (I love learning.) If you’re a fellow creative type, we could interview each other! The possibilities are literally endless!

So, if you’re looking for a subject, hit me up and we can chat about some subjects. Coffee is on me.

Grateful For Moments

November 26th, 2020

Today I’m grateful for my sneak-a-peeks.

Those moments when you’re asleep and someone who loves you takes the opportunity to look at you for a longer-than-normal period of time. Those moments when you get to do the same when someone you love is napping across from you on the couch.

My mom was always sneaking peeks.

I can remember nights when she’d walk to the bathroom, and on her way back she’d sneak a peek into each of our bedrooms. At the time I didn’t get it, but now I understand that she was just filling up her mental camera roll, getting some good shots, for the days when we weren’t under the same roof, for in case we would ever be gone.

I learned how to do the same.

I’m grateful for the opportunity I afford myself to appreciate a moment, and let myself be a weirdo and really take it all in. The quiet ones, the stressful ones, the subtle ones, the life-changing ones.

The time you take to memorize crease lines and eyebrows and beauty marks and fur, sometimes.

It being a weird Thanksgiving helps it feel not like a First. A First, everybody reminds you, will always be the hardest. But I’ve only cried twice today, and as I sneak a peek at the puppy on my lap under the blanket right now, I know that as long as I keep peeking, a part of her is alive in me.

Happy Whatever You Celebrate Sale!!

November 25th, 2020

Hello, friends. I want to start this post by acknowledging how hard this year has been for so many people, myself included. Material things feel stupid right now, but they can also be essential, so I’m doing something that’s difficult for independent writers and artists to do just because I want to do it: I’m having a small Black Friday sale, starting now, on a Wednesday, because what are days of the week in 2020 anyway?

First things first: most people want to support local people, and a lot of people are broke right now. So let’s talk about the free ways you can show your fandom for your favorite creators.

Reviews are essential. Online reviews — for example, if you have a blog, or on sites like Amazon — are amazing because of the reach they can have. But word-of-mouth can be even more powerful, and I know, because some of my biggest supporters have come from someone who told them, “You have to check this out.”

Even without a full review, you can put those fingers, toes, and other appendages to use with a few simple clicks: Likes, Shares, Comments, Saves, Tags, and Photos can go a long way in giving your love.

Now, for my sale: I’m offering discounted prices and a never-before-available bundle for the first few weeks of the holiday season! Need to catch up or complete your collection? Now’s the time. Want to get your friend into something but don’t want to potentially lose your own copy? Grab a gift!

Feel free to message me with any questions or requests.

I put a lot of love into my work, and I know some people could use a little love and hope right now. Discounting my own work is stupid, but if it means even one more person can dig in, then it is more than worth it.

Happy Holidays to you all. All my love.

Bee The Difference

November 24th, 2020

Do you know the difference between a wasp and a bee?

It started as something simple but substantial.

Basically, wasps are carnivores. A long, long time ago, a wasp woke up and decided to try out a vegetarian diet. It found that plants could not only supply all the nutrients it needed, but without all the unnecessary drama and danger.

So, thus, bees were born.

Once they made the switch from fauna to flora, their bodies started to adapt, too; it’s the reason those little teddies have all that fur, for example.

Even more incredible than that: plant-life is dramatically different now than it was millions of years ago, and that’s largely because bees decided to be better. They developed what’s called coevolution (the vortices of which can be seen all over the natural world, including the special relationship between humans and dogs). It’s what happens when nature stops competing and understands the benefit of cooperation.

So why do I bring this up today? Well, for one, I will talk about bees anytime. Bees are dope.

But I really wanted to write about this because I love the reminder that sometimes the change in the world you want to see begins with you, and that’s true on a deep biological and spiritual level.

It’s proof that anyone can be better. Whether that means you’re sick or struggling or completely lost, one day you might wake up and make a simple choice that will change the rest of your life. And that personal change will influence generations after you, and it will fundamentally shift the world around you by planting seeds to flowers that have never existed before.

That’s something to think about.

Damn it, I should have said “buzz about.” How did I miss that pun?

Theia’s First Amazon Review

November 19th, 2020

So, Theia just got its first Amazon review, and it is hands down one the best reviews I have ever been on the receiving end of in my life. It comes from one of my longest supporters (for real, I can’t remember a time when I was making anything and she wasn’t there to give it a listen or read), and you should check it out. Hopefully, it’ll inspire others to pick it up (and honestly, if I hadn’t written the book, I would have picked it up after this review).

* * * * * Amazon Review, by Krista Hanner

A self-published author nails another novella that’s worthy of a best sellers list!

‘Theia’ is only 66 pages long but I promise you that it will take you on an adventure of emotions right from the very first sentence; “All Theia wanted was to go outside.”

I never would have thought that I would ever be able to relate to a fictional silver Boston Terrier named Theia. Dennis does an incredible job of bringing you into the mind and history of Theia, as well as the other cast of supporting characters. Each chapter is filled with narrative that brings you directly into the story to where you can’t help but feel the emotions that each character experiences. I cried, numerous times, while reading this book (ie: pretty much anything Nerd does). Please don’t let that stop you from reading this book though! There is a twist that I promise you *never* would have saw coming and an ending that will leave you feeling warm inside but also leave you to reflect on your own personal story. Dennis nailed the ending and left me wanting to read more. What happens next for Theia? Is Murdery really….murdery?!

I’ll conclude this review by sharing my favorite line in the book; “…Never apologize for when you have to bite. When you live in a world that hurts you and doesn’t listen, sometimes all you have left is to hurt them back. But it’s not who you are. It’s who they made you be.”

1000% recommend!

I sincerely got emotional reading this. I couldn’t thank her for this review enough if I tried.

Want to read it for yourself? Get yourself a copy (or support a local writer and buy one as a holiday gift!) here at dennisvogen.com!

Things I’ve Learned Happen After You Lose a Loved One, Part 2

November 18th, 2020

The seconds, hours, and days keep ticking by, and I keep learning new things about this new time in my life. I may as well write you a letter in the form of a sequel.

Things I’ve Learned Happen After You Lose a Loved One, Part 2

– I hurt the exact same whether I’m active and engaged with others or I’m quiet and try to keep to myself. I often feel like I’m staring through the glass while sitting in the cab of a crane, mindlessly pulling levers and pressing buttons, persistently trying to build things while only able to think about their destruction.

– Not all my thoughts are that dark, but I have trained myself to smile and try to laugh a little when I do. So that’s what I’m doing the next time you see me smile and laugh a little for no apparent reason.

– Not hugging people hurts me more than it hurts you.

– If someone disagrees with you, it does not matter if your mom just died. They will still come at you, bro. This is especially true online, where I still regularly receive messages and comments like I haven’t just suffered one of the most devastating losses of my life, often over the stupidest shit you could possibly think of. Yesterday, someone told me I was “no better than Trump” because I believe in compassion for human beings, having an understanding of science, and comprehending the idea of decency. (I have the receipts.) This was the equivalent of a child trying to think of a word to call you that would really hurt you, and it came out, honestly, exactly how I just described it. To be fair, I engaged in this behavior. But if I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that empathy is a mental illness, and I am very, very mentally ill. I love people so much I can’t help but talk about it all the time. And if that invites a bunch of trolls who want to prey on a vulnerable, emotionally unstable target (that’s me!), well… I guess I just gotta love you harder.

– Every time I think I’ve experienced everything my subconscious can create, it says something like, “Bro, check out this magic trick!” while setting my body on fire.

– I don’t know when I’ll stop feeling my stomach drop when I wake up and remember my mom is really gone, but it’s not this morning.

– I will never get tired of you reaching out and saying hello. My responses are usually brief, because I don’t have a lot to say on an individual basis, and I feel like I’m repeating myself a lot lately, but each message hits my heart like a raindrop and it is deeply appreciated.

– Losing a loved one during a pandemic is the fucking worst. Do not recommend. 0/10

All my love, guys, gals, and everyone in-between and beyond. I’m hanging in there, like that cat on the poster. I hope you are, too.

Room for Redemption

November 13th, 2020

Today was one of those days where I just wanted to turn off and turn on, to let things stream into my eyes and brain and heart. To let it make me feel better. So I did.

I had no intention of writing anything today, but then I watched Dave Chappelle on Dave Letterman’s show, and he said something I wanted to reflect on. He was talking about how we can deal with one another, as the flawed human beings we are. He said:

“We have to leave room for redemption.”

I think the way most people would read that is we have to allow ourselves the ability to forgive; that we can’t cancel and demonize people who may have just made errors in judgement. But I believe it goes both ways.

I think that people, even when they’re making mistakes or the wrong decisions, have to show us that they’re more than that.

Rarely, I think, do people try to be villains. By displaying traits like compassion, empathy, and humor, do I see them in the infinite shades of humanity that color most of existence.

Rarely in my existence have I purposefully been a malicious, villainous person. Note that I said “rarely”; I have no doubt that I have hurt people, and I have absolutely said and done things that I wish I could take back. There’s also the subjective nature of villains; I don’t know how many lives I’m in the antagonist in. I don’t know what I would do when confronted with that information, but I hope that I would listen, and try to repair the damage I caused. I may be awkward or nervous or occasionally aloof, but I care deeply for other humans. It’s gut-wretching for me to feel guilt, and to empathize with pain.

That’s the room for redemption they leave for themselves.

And that’s the room for redemption I leave for me.

The reason this compelled me to say something today is because I feel like this is a way forward for us, the divided states of America.

As much as it hurts, it’s true: you have to leave room for redemption for me. And I must leave room for redemption for you.

And if it feels like there isn’t any room, from either point of view — we need to use the little time we have to make some.

Brushfire: Coming 2021

November 14th, 2020

Even though I’m exhausted and anxious and just not having the best year, I am also excited and pleased to announce my next project, my first all-ages graphic novel — Brushfire.

This story has been a long, long time coming.

It started when I was a kid. I loved a lot of cartoons, but there was a block that was unlike any other: The Disney Afternoon. I was obsessed with the adventures of the Gummi Bears, Darkwing Duck, and — especially — Chip ‘N’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers. Their colorful worlds, the painted backgrounds overlaid with the sublimely animated cels, drew me in and inspired me to dream of my own tales.

I’ve always wanted to create my own universe in that style. But I also wanted it to be inspired by the things I love now; especially series like Fringe, The X-Files, Lost, Agents of SHIELD, Doctor Who (and so many more). I wanted it to be complex and deal with real-life stuff. I saw a lot of father-son and mother-daughter relationships explored, but I wanted to examine one of a mom and a son and all that entails. So I started Brushfire, in earnest, a few years ago while I was working on The Weirdos.

I couldn’t have known what this year would bring. Losing my mom while working on something that was very much about her has been devastating. But as I’ve found myself back in the burrow of Brushfire, it’s also been a form of healing. And it’s been a reminder that no day is guaranteed.

Brushfire is an organization of wildlife that live in a huge burrow under Central Park in Faribault, Minnesota. Their mission statement: “BRUSHFIRE exists to reveal and respect the truths of the universe, and to protect and provide for all of its inhabitants.” They have knowledge and technology and are always trying to do the right thing by them.

The characters on this poster are Elle (left) and Bay, just a pair of the over two dozen characters you’ll meet in Wave I (the first book) of Brushfire.

Now that it’s been announced, you’ll periodically see me posting related work and behind-the-scenes material. I’m putting forth a tremendous amount of effort into this one, both in the story and the art; you have never seen anything like this from me before.

I hope you’re all taking the time to appreciate whatever good you may have co-existing with the rest of this grief and madness. I know I have to remind myself frequently. This project is helping me feel a little less heavy.

All my love.

The Queen’s Gambit: (Not a) Review

November 9th, 2020

There was a thing about The Queen’s Gambit for me.

It’s the reason I’m making a whole post about it. This is more than just a review, if you read on. Though my review just basically consists of telling you: if you decide to watch a show this year, watch The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix.

I saw overwhelmingly positive reviews from my friends, family, and critics, but that’s not what finally convinced me to watch it. No — it was Jamie Lee Curtis. I’m kind of obsessed with her and her journey, as her experiences speak to mine as a fellow sober human being. The plot is boring on paper: an orphan discovers she’s good at chess. But it is so brilliantly executed, exciting and powerful and moving. And Jamie said that it was a story that was about a person’s struggle with addiction and alcoholism. That was the push that got me in.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but towards the end of the journey, Beth (our genius protagonist) is going through the game of her lifetime. Being an addict means you often feel like you’re absolutely alone; she discovers, as they reach out, that she had touched so many other people’s lives, and they end up being there for her in her time of need.

And that was the thing for me.

That was a lot of you for me.

I haven’t always been a good (or even decent) person. I still have my days. But, odds are, if you’re reading this, you stuck by me. And you have no idea how much that has meant to me, but it was a special kind of wonderful to see that represented in a television show.

So, thank you. Thanks for not bailing, thanks for your kind words and big hugs, thanks for seeing things that I don’t always see myself.

This is a terrible review.

But you are a terrific friend.