Featured

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.

Cold World Q & A

May 23rd, 2022

Hiya! I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my upcoming novel, Cold World, and I thought I’d answer them all here; if you have one I didn’t acknowledge, please add it below in the comments!

Q: What is Cold World?

A: It’s a book I wrote. Next!

Q: When is the official release date?

A: June 2nd, 2022.

Q: Have the Cold World Kickstarter Exclusive Editions been shipped?

A: Yes! And, according to my records, they have been delivered. If you were a backer of Fire & Ice and chose Cold World as a reward, and have NOT received your book, please reach out to me and I will make sure you get your copy.

Q: I didn’t back your Kickstarter but I REALLY want one of those Exclusive Editions. How can I get one?

A: You can’t. Period. The community I’ve always tried to cultivate is one of rewarding the people who were there for me first, who have trusted in my ability and just plain like me as a storyteller. Those people put their money where their mouth was and they get the cool stuff.

P.S. I feel like this will be a bigger problem when you see some of the amazing, very rare stuff coming out with the Brushfire Collector’s Set, which will be compounded when people learn that it’s a part of a larger collection they missed out on.

Q: Has anyone read Cold World?

A: Yes!

Q: Did they like it?

A: You know, people are generally nice to me when I release something, so I never really know how they feel about something at first. But I get the feeling that they do.

Q: How can I get a copy?

A: You can order the eBook, paperback or hardcover editions on Amazon right now! The first editions on Amazon have three errors that we caught and are fixing before June 2nd, but I have a whole shipment of the original editions and, who knows, a copy of Harry Potter riddled with errors just went for a buttload of money so maybe we’ll see Cold World do the same (let’s be honest, we definitely will).

Q: Where are you celebrating the release of your new novel?

A: On Saturday, June 4th, I will be at Mighty Fine Coffee in Faribault from 1:30 to 3:30 pm to commemorate the release of Cold World which is, if you go back and read the first answer I gave, a book I wrote!

I hope this helps! Happy Monday! Let everyone know what you think of Cold World as you get your sweaty paws on a copy.

All my love, per usual.

Sunny Days of Rain

May 20th, 2022

Yesterday I went outside to pick up dinner.

I could see the bright sun shining through the window before I left, so it was strange when I walked through the door and found that it was raining.

For all the weather we get here, it felt like the most emotionally relatable.

All I seem to live through are sunny days of rain.

I know what the sun is; it’s the hope I find in being alive.

But the rain is always changing.

Sometimes it’s the grief or loss I feel. Sometimes it’s watching the people I know and love make bad decisions over and over again, both of us knowing that they could prevent the tragedies they create. Sometimes it’s a critical, overwhelming disdain for myself, which is easy for me to get drenched in.

And there it is with the sun.

I don’t want to spoil Cold World too much, but I feel like it’s better than one line, no matter how good that line is.

On a certain page, Calef turns to his father and says: “Dad, when mom died, I knew that I was going to be living in winter for the rest of my life, no matter where it was I lived.”

For everything we say Minnesota weather gets wrong: it seems to get life most of all.

Hello There

May 17th, 2022

This doormat is a lesson.

We saw it last week and fell in love with it. How could you not? It has one of the best breeds of baby on it, wearing sunglasses, borrowing Obi-Wan Kenobi’s most famous (and meme-able) phrase.

We did not buy it.

See, we live in a destructive community; it has a lot of children and dogs and lacks any kind of responsible, respectful adult oversight (it’s annoying, to say the least). We know that if we get a doormat, there is a good chance that it will be stolen, or torn in half, or a dog will take a shit on it, or a child will take a shit on it.

Yesterday, I had to remind myself:

Don’t let the fact that beauty will be destroyed prevent you from putting beauty into this world.

Nothing gold can stay, we know that, and yet we often let it prevent us from doing something that makes us happy.

So I bought the mat.

This mat makes us happy.

And it has made me happy several times already, every instance of opening my door to let my puppy out. The next time I turn the knob, the mat might be gone, but it was here for a time and that time would be over.

I am beautiful and I will not last. Same goes for you.

I hope you remember that the next time the fear of inevitable entropy tries to prevent you from embracing beauty.

Look at that death, right in her eyes, and welcome it: “Hello there.”

Cold World is Real

May 9th, 2022

Cold World is here.

I made a video, duh, but if you prefer, I also transcribed the words for you to read.

“Good morning, everybody! I’m Dennis, if you don’t know who I am, now we’re friends. I’m making this video because today I received my shipments of my new book, my new NOVEL, Cold World. So, we’re gonna unbox one, we’re gonna look at it together, we’re gonna talk about it for just one minute. You ready?

“So, I said it was my new novel, and it is a novel this time. It’s got more words than The Great Gatsby. So, if you consider The Great Gatsby to be a novel, then this is a novel. But is it better than The Great Gatsby? Does The Great Gatsby have laserguns and hovermobiles? I don’t know, I never finished it. Maybe it’s because it didn’t have laserguns and hovermobiles. What’s so great about that Gatsby?

“The one I’m unboxing here is the Kickstarter Exclusive version of Cold World. And the design idea for this was to make it look like the book was encased in a block of ice. And, so, I talked to my good friend, Steven, and he was my photographer for the ice and he was the co-designer of this cover. He put in a ton of work to make this thing look beautiful. Oh, my gosh. Spoiler alert, I opened up the Amazon copy, too, and it’s great, but this one is so much better! So, if you donated to the Kickstarter – if you INVESTED in the Kickstarter – you get one of these copies, and they are just – they are worth the that money I put into them, that YOU put into them. I can’t wait for you to get this one.

“I want to talk about this for just one minute. One minute. Ready, go.

“So, when people find out that I’m a writer, and that I’ve written several books, they ask, ‘Which one should I read first?’ and that’s a hard question for me to answer. So, usually, I end up asking them a bunch of questions to figure out what they’re into and then I kind of figure out what book they might like the most.

“From now on, this is the book that I’m going to tell people to read first.

“I feel like it’s a culmination of everything that I’ve done so far. It’s got the sci-fi elements of Them and Us, it deals with loss and grief like Flip and Push do, it’s got a dog named Joan who is the best, and I’ve written animals in Theia and Brushfire, and then, like Time is a Solid State and The Weirdos, I deal with a lot of major themes in life, and spirituality is a big one, and that’s the main theme of this book, spirituality.

“I feel like there’s a lot of books about strong beliefs, and there’s a lot of books about how people who are religious are crazy, and I don’t feel like there’s a lot of things for people like me who are in the middle. ‘Cause that’s what I am, I’m in the middle.

“I can’t tell you that there is no God, but I can’t tell you that I’ve found the God I believe in. But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in anything. So, this is a book dedicated to people like me who don’t feel like they’ve found ‘the right thing’ but they’ve found the right thing for themselves. I think that’s a really important distinction to make, because there are a lot of people out there who think they’ve found ‘it,’ and I think that they’re missing a big part of what life is all about. And so that’s the major part of Cold World. That’s why I wrote it, and that’s what compelled me to tell this story.

“What’s really cool about the way that I built this world is that you can, going forward, we can explore it forward, backwards or sideways, and I’m really excited for people to read it and be like, ‘I really want to know what happens with this, or that,’ or ‘Why are things this way?’ or ‘What happened to that character?’ I’m really excited to see how people gravitate. But yeah, this is a world that – like they say in Star Wars, this is the first step into a larger world.

“So, I really hope you guys love it. I hope the people who are excited about the concept love it, but I really hope the people who are kind of on the fence about it, I hope they find something to love, too.

“With that I’m gonna wrap this up. This is way more than a minute, I’m so sorry, I told you one minute and I took up more. Please forgive me. But these are going to be going out this week, if you were a Kickstarter investor. You can go on Amazon right now and you can also order your copy. Official release date is June 2nd, on June 4th, I’ll be at Mighty Fine Coffee, please come join me! Get your copy if you haven’t already bought one.

“I’m really excited. This is my eighth book. I just – I just keep doing it. And I do it because of you. So, thank you for supporting me, thanking you for reading stuff and saying nice stuff, you know, even if you’re someone who says bad stuff about my writing, good for you –”

And the video cuts off.

All I had left to say was “All my love.” All my love to anyone on this journey with me, in any capacity. This is so many flavors of crazy, as I am, and I love each one.

Happy Monday. I’ll see you soon.

TRUE lies

May 8th, 2022

My mom said lies that she would make true.

For example, she used to regularly tell me how nice my teeth are. Not just nice, but how I had the whitest, straightest, most astonishing teeth that she had ever seen in her entire life.

Most of you have seen my teeth. They are normal teeth, at best. I think I tried to whiten them once, but they bled all over the sink, because there was a span of over ten years where I never visited a dentist. Objectively, my teeth are okay, if you’re being generous.

But she believed it.

I could tell. She wasn’t indulging in toxic positivity, she wasn’t lying to enhance my self-esteem, she genuinely thought that I could have been a professional male model based on the quality of my molars alone.

She would compliment my hair even though I’m balding.

She thought I had style even though I dress like I can’t see myself.

She told me regularly that she thought my music sounded good. (This is my favorite because my mom was literally deaf.)

And she believed it so much that I would start to believe it, too.

I want to say Happy Mother’s Day to those who are celebrating.

But if you’re like me and feel a little down today, I have a suggestion.

Tell someone you like their teeth today.

And mean it.

And watch all the moms we have lost live on.

Free Comic Book Day 2022

May 7th, 2022

It’s Free Comic Book Day, an event that celebrates an art form that has had not only a substantial impact on culture and society, but has a deeply personal connection with the people who love it.

I’m one of those people.

I create comics (see: The Weirdos: Volume I, a graphic novel I released in May 2020, or Brushfire, a graphic novel coming out this July). I have also said countless times that comics have saved my life; I’ve told some of those stories to my friends, but I don’t know if I’ve written about any.

Let’s write about one.

Avengers #687.

Part 13 of No Surrender. Waid, Ewing, Zub, Medina, Vlasco & Aburtov.

This book came out at the beginning of my sobriety. I was having a very hard time, to put it plainly.

In this issue, Bruce Banner — the Hulk — had just come off a rampage. “Do you know what it’s like to turn on the TV in the morning to find out what you did the night before?” I’m paraphrasing, but that idea hit me like a big, green fist. I know exactly what that’s like.

I was sober, but I had just started the journey to figure out if a life like mine was even worth saving.

Then Jarvis, the butler, had this to say to Bruce:

“It has long been my privilege to serve heroes. Including you, doctor.

Including you.

And often, what drives them on is the knowledge that they are not always heroes. If, when we do what good we can, we are avengers — what crimes are we avenging?

I think… our own.

We carry within us all our failures. All our mistakes. All the times we have done less than we might. We are all exiles from the divine, Doctor Banner.

What matters is how hard you work to rise again.

I beg you, sir. Do not give up.”

And so I didn’t. This page got me through that day, and I refer to it often.

It saved my life.

And I’ve heard so many stories of pop culture lifting people up that it reminds me how worthwhile it is.

Even when we don’t deserve it.

Happy FCBD, true believers.

put em up

May 4th, 2022

I hate guns. Hate ’em.

In fact, I think that anybody who owns one can’t, with a straight face or clear grasp on reality, call themselves “pro-life,” as guns are designed to only end life — human, animal, or otherwise.

Anyone who has a gun and tells you it’s strictly for “defense” is just showing off their cognitive dissonance, which is way less impressive once you look up what “cognitive dissonance” means.

So do I think guns should be outlawed?

Nah.

Because the guns are out of the bag, so to speak. They will always exist because they do exist.

Keeping them legal everywhere keeps us responsible for them; we don’t get to throw our hands up in the air (metaphorically) and say they’re not our problem because they’re not allowed.

It’s bizarre, but we have a whole culture around guns, groups of people who obsess over this device that is simply here to kill.

And not only is gun culture legal, but encouraged.

Lots of people even call guns “fun.”

Fun.

I don’t want to own a gun myself, but I just don’t see the logic in banning them. It allows us to theoretically keep their existence as safe as we can as fallible humans; we can educate and train people in their use; it gives us a good idea of where they go and who to.

Even though I don’t like them.

Not one bit.

Image description: it’s me firing a gun, a tool invented to kill stuff.

Star Wars Day 2022

May 4th, 2022

Happy Star Wars Day.

I have written at length about my love for that galaxy far, far away several times (even recently, as I was going through my first viewing of the Clone Wars television series), so I’ll keep it light (side) today.

Cold World is a love letter to many things. One of those things is pop culture, and Star Wars specifically; I’ve even described my new book half-jokingly as “Star Wars for people who don’t like Star Wars,” which will totally make sense when you read it.

For someone who is in the middle spiritually, the universe of Star Wars has been a place for me to make sense of the spiritual world. I’m not doing a bit when I say that; the idea of the Force allows me to see varieties of faith presented in terms I can comprehend, appreciate and interpret.

That’s a pretty neat trick for a story about laser swords and alien puppets.

I’m notorious for finding the good in things, and there isn’t one corner of this galaxy where I can’t discover greatness.

No matter how you choose to celebrate (or not celebrate) today, May the Fourth be with you. Always.

“Uncomfortable”

May 2nd, 2022

“In America, you have the right to seek the truth and speak the truth, even if it makes people in power uncomfortable. Even if it makes your viewers or readers uncomfortable. You understand how amazing that is?” – Trevor Noah, 2022 White House Correspondents’ Dinner

“Uncomfortable.”

It’s a word I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

What makes you uncomfortable? Why?

Many people don’t ask themselves because the answer might make them… uncomfortable.

Because of what I am, I’ve had to learn to embrace radical honesty. That means that I often speak my mind and allow my guts and heart to spill out.

A side effect of this is that it makes some people uncomfortable.

And I believe that if people explored why, it might tell them exactly what they need to learn about themselves.

More precisely: what is it that they’re trying to avoid or escape?

Is it conflict? Emotion? Certain ideas? Specific situations or people? Their lifestyle? Their impending and not uncertain end?

If I never got past being uncomfortable, talking about uncomfortable things and making uncomfortable changes, then I would never have become the person I am today.

If I hadn’t embraced radical honesty, then I would be dead.

If that’s not radically honest AND uncomfortable, I don’t know what is.

The next time you feel uncomfortable, ask yourself why. I know I do.

And the next time someone tries to silence you because the truth you’re speaking is making them uncomfortable, allow them to feel sorry for themselves for a moment, and then say the truth, anyway.

Good Time

May 1st, 2022

It’s my birthday today. I put on the calendar “write something heart-wrenching, soul-baring, way too much, you know, like you used to” and who am I to argue with the calendar?

Living with the problem of addiction means I will always be hungry for more. This remains true in the case of time.

Last year, May was a hard month for me. I was born on the first day, my mom was born on the last, and they stick a day in the middle for mother appreciation; I woke up every May morning reminded that “moms are great and yours is dead.”

I didn’t say anything because the show must go on, and my life is just show business, baby.

I am a ridiculously nostalgic person. I know that nostalgia affects most human beings, but my entire life I have felt nostalgia for the moments I am in.

When I was a kid, I would look around on my birthday and think, “It’s not going to be like this forever.” As a teenager, I was constantly doing the math, counting down summers and class days and rehearsals and after-school shifts. In my twenties, I watched myself wash down any hopes of being a prodigal talent.

And through all of it, all I wanted was more.

More minutes, more hours, more days, more time, just like this.

And that would be my birthday wish. More.

I don’t know when it happened. It was slowly, almost imperceptible. But one day, instead of wanting one more year just like this one, I was grateful for getting the year I got.

Because who the fuck am I to have gotten all this good time?

I don’t know when this happens for most people; I know for a fact that it doesn’t happen to everyone. But I do know that once you figure it out, to be grateful instead of hungry, is when you finally start appreciating life on its own terrible terms.

And life is. Terrible, I mean.

It’s cruel and it’s mean and it pushes you around and it isn’t fair.

And the only way to beat it is to love and be kind and to hold people close.

So go celebrate your life today. Let yourself appreciate the gift you got when you woke up this morning.

Because who the fuck are you to get all this good time?