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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.

Of a Feather

April 8th, 2021

This morning at work, I saw this bird.

Well, no, I didn’t initially see it. I heard it. It was repeatedly trying to break its way into the restaurant, flying again and again against the windows and doors, which I found to be bizarre but fascinating.

I took this photo and I shared it in a story.

Within moments, several people messaged me saying that this bird was my mom saying hello.

My first thought was, “That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard” and then my second thought was, “If that’s so stupid, then why are my eyes full of stupid tears right now?”

I thought about how the bird had been trying desperately to get in and with this new knowledge that this bird might be my mom, it made sense that she wanted to be inside with me.

She hung out for a while, keeping an eye from a distance, hopping from tree to tree, singing a song.

She looked happy.

She looked free.

The Last Blockbuster Generation

April 4th, 2021

I watched a movie called The Last Blockbuster on Netflix the other night, and even though it was, on the surface, about the literal last Blockbuster Video in Bend, Oregon, and about how the company itself rose and fell, it ended up being about a lot more.

It’s about Sandi, the manager of the store, the “Blockbuster mom” who made her video business a family one, both literally and by community inclusion.

It’s about nostalgia, the distant memories of Friday nights at the local rental place, the smell of stale popcorn and flat soda, the sound and feel of a VHS box clicking together, the exorbitant late fees.

But the most surprising thing it was about was our old systems of human connection, and it got me thinking: are we the last generation who are going to have a longing for a time that existed before technology reached a certain threshold?

Just the idea of physically going to a place to pick out something to watch is a completely foreign concept to people of a certain age. It’s whatever the opposite of science-fiction is. I mean, the idea of physical content itself is mind-blowing for some (I was just reminiscing about the days that artists put out actual albums in stores and I miss that dearly).

I am in no way anti-technology and am constantly in awe of what the current world has to offer, but there is this bittersweet grief I hold for a time where we all gathered in spaces to talk about the things we love. Yeah, some of those places still exist, but not many in a permanent, routine way.

If you have a little of that longing, too, I definitely recommend the film. It’s a warm reminder of a time not that long ago and yet entire worlds away.

Making It Up

April 2nd, 2021

Don’t listen to me.

I mean it.

I’m constantly scrolling and tumbling through a world that doesn’t trust anything that anybody tells them for any reason whatsoever, contradicted by those same people announcing that they have the truth, that they are awake, that they have done their research, that they have this whole thing under control, they really, really do.

I just want to be the person who tells you that I am completely full of shit and I am making it up as I go along.

Please, do not listen to me.

Unless.

Unless what I say makes sense to you. Unless what I say resonates with you in a way that makes you feel okay, even it’s temporary. Unless what I say makes you think about something in a different way. Unless what I say inspires you to be more compassionate, or empathetic, or inclusive. Unless what I say lets you feel a connection to your grief or your pain or the dark places that exist in us but we tend to not talk about.

But, for real, if it isn’t any of that, then please disregard the words I think and write and speak.

Because, like you, I’m just making them up.

Because, like literally every human that has ever existed, I’m just making them up.

Swimming in the Schadenfraude

April 1st, 2021

One of the first TV shows I remember watching with my mom was America’s Funniest Home Videos.

This show became an integral part of who I am as a human being, even inspiring the first chapter of my first book, ingeniously titled “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

If you don’t know, there’s a German word that specifically and succinctly describes what it is we love about the kind of content AFV provides: schadenfreude. Translated to too many English words, it is “the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another.”

We find ourselves happy through others’ unhappiness.

I used that idea in the opening chapter of Them (which was released eight years ago today, on April 1st): our main character, a young woman named Kim, is laughing at a clip of men getting hit in the groin at the beginning of our story. Soon after, she finds herself in terrible pain, and imagines an audience at home now watching her, entertained by the irony in her tragedy.

One of the last TV shows I ever watched with my mom was an episode of Let’s Make a Deal. As the camera panned over the crowd, we saw that they were all dressed in pink.

This episode had an entire studio audience that consisted of cancer survivors.

And as I held the hand of the person I loved the most, who was losing the same battle these people had won, I couldn’t help but think of the audience at home, watching us watching this, swimming in the schadenfreude.

Life isn’t fair most of the time, but it is often funny in the most heartbreaking ways.

And as we regularly found comfort in the misfortune of others, I am always trying to find comfort somewhere in my own.

Time is Free

March 29th, 2021

Would you like to win a free copy of my upcoming book, Time is a Solid State?! (Easy yes, right? I mean, free stuff.)

For every review you post for any of my books on amazon.com until April 8th, 2021, you will automatically receive one entry. On that day, I will randomly select two (2!) participating people to win a brand freaking new copy of my collection of essays at absolutely no cost to them (or, if you’d prefer a different one of my books, I’m cool with that, too!).

Good news if you’ve already left a review (or a few): those all count as entries, too! So some of you are already in the running (and I thank you dearly for your constant support).

*Possible question 1: “What if I leave a review on a site that is not Amazon?”

No problem! Just send me a link to the review and you will get an entry in the contest. It’s hard for me to check every review site on the internet, but I still want to reward any support.

*Possible question 2: “How can I review your new book if it’s not out yet?!”

Easy! It’s a book collecting my essays, blogs and posts over the past five years, so if you’ve ever read something of mine on the internet that resonated with you, just write about that — because that’s what this book is.

*Possible question 3: “What books can I review?”

In order of release: Them, Flip, Us, The Weirdos: Volume I, Theia, Flip: Special Edition, and Time is a Solid State are all open for review! And each will net you one entry in the contest.

If you have any more questions, ask away! Otherwise, I hope to see your reviews and can’t wait to give away some books! All my love. ❤

Star Bored

March 26th, 2021

What still puts you in awe?

On July 20th, 1969, human beings from the planet Earth, improbably and against substantial odds, landed on the Moon and took a walk on it.

To say it was a big deal would short change the actual events.

Over half a billion people watched it unfold live on television. It radically changed mankind in a very visceral and immediate way.

Just weeks ago, we landed the most sophisticated rover to date — not on our own Moon, but another planet entirely.

It is truly mind-blowing when you think about it.

And, culturally, it hardly made a blip.

That isn’t altogether surprising. The lack of appreciation is apparent in a society that really does have it all. Who knew that Shania Twain would be revealed to have been so prophetic? Seriously: nothing impresses us much.

As someone who lived half his life before technology really bloomed as it has and now half after it, I think about how great things are all the time.

As I opened my clunky plastic case housing a Bambi VHS tape as a child, I never could have imagined that I would actually have the entire Disney library at my fingertips, collected in a literal cloud.

As a kid who basically accepted that I would never have an easy way to reach my deaf parents when I was away from home, the idea that I could send them words through a computer in my pocket was nothing more than wishful science-fiction.

I could go on (and should, if you’re feeling particularly ungrateful today), but I just want you to think about it.

What still makes your heart soar and your head spin?

What simply amazes you?

Because, in this existence, there is more that should than should not.

Have Mercy

March 22nd, 2021

Jesus did me a solid today.

All over the planet, people are having difficult conversations about the state of our world. My family is no exception. My dad and I had a discussion this morning that typified the idea of “heated”: it started by boiling over, then simmered as we discussed factual data and historical context, and then settled as we found common ground.

He and I are sometimes boxers in a ring; not the kind who are bitter rivals, but the type who respect one another and dig each other’s particular fighting style. I won’t get into the details of the conversation, but it basically came down to what happens to a person when they break the law. We saw recent examples from different points of view (which resulted in the early boil), but as he shifted his words to The Word, I found the one I was looking for.

I’m given relevant information from the Bible on a regular basis; I receive it like any other kind, which means sometimes it resonates with me or educates me, and sometimes it doesn’t. When we got to this part of the discussion, he ended it by saying all Jesus is about and all he was trying to teach us is one word: mercy.

And it got me up off my stool in the corner of the ring and allowed me to bring it back to the beginning.

Now we have to look at how criminals are treated through the eyes of Jesus: is it with mercy?

And that answer, over and over again, is no.

If your answer to this is, “But they’re criminals!”, then I suggest you hold on that stone; there is no way you’re reading this and have never broken a law or a rule in your time. And if you’re a Christian reading this, I have just one word for you: mercy.

I have quite a few friends in my feed who have been very non-inclusive (which is a nice way of saying awful) lately, whether it’s with their public comments in public forums (which social media sites highlight for your friends, in case you’re wondering), their memes or their shares.

Many of them are adamantly Christian.

So this is just a reminder to anybody who needs it, as I know I do sometimes. Ask yourself: am I showing mercy today?

And not just for other people. Ask if you are showing mercy to yourself.

The Ghost of You

March 21st, 2021

I’m used to losing little things all the time. I have to let go of small stuff on a daily, sometimes hourly basis.

In less than a year, I lost my job, a parent and my car. I would like to think that my practice of loss would keep me conditioned to properly process its natural occurrence, but it does not.

No, it still leaves me comically unprepared and catastrophically human.

I was very much stuck in my head all day long, reliving a moment from five months ago on a loop. The moment is only seconds long, but it’s one of the most vivid and crushing memories I possess.

I took a shower and found myself unstuck, free of the moment and ready to move on. On my way to work, I heard a new Justin Bieber song on the radio and burst into tears.

When something transforms into a pattern, becomes such a regular part of your existence, it should cease to surprise you in any way.

Such is not the case with grief.

And I found myself angry at Justin Bieber. Not in a vague way, but for that very specific manipulation of my emotions.

But I’m used to letting things go all the time. Little things, like forgiving Justin Bieber before I start my shift at work.

Time is Coming

March 16th, 2021

Preordering for Time is a Solid State is now available!

This project ended up being a much larger task than I was anticipating; what I thought would be maybe 300 pages ended up clocking in at 451 paperback pages, with almost 60,000 words (and an average novel will top out at 40k).

I’m so excited to be releasing another book on May 1st, my BIRTHDAY. 

The paperback is $22.99 and the eBook just $4.99. Since I’m doing a presale, every book that is ordered from now until May 1st will count towards my one-day sales, so let’s see if we can actually get this thing to a decent spot on the charts! That would be a rad b-day gift.

Here’s the official description for the collection.

Dennis Vogen is not a meme.

He has claimed to be an acclaimed writer for years, releasing novellas like Theia, Flip, and Them, and creating comics and graphic novels like Brushfire and The Weirdos.

Here, he collects blogs, posts, essays and loose change from nearly half a decade. They cover a spectrum of topics, from comic books to sobriety, from outer space to his dog, from pop culture to spirituality, from nostalgia to the multiverse, from joy to grief and everything between.

You will find that Dennis Vogen is a lot of things and, for better or for worse, has a lot to say.

But he is not a meme.

Now go! Get yourself one! And thank you, thank you, thank you.

Time is a Solid State @ Amazon: