Sober Distancing

April 11th, 2020

This is a shout out to my beautiful peeps who are dealing with the same stuff that we’re all dealing with, but also doing it sober.

We live in a world (and social media climate) that actively promotes and adamantly believes in the idea that to get through things — big things and small things and good things and bad things — we need the assistance of adult libations.

This idea is fine. For some people.

For some others, the idea is painful. It doesn’t work, and it made things worse. But we found ways to change and grow and while life is better, times of stress and trauma are difficult for everybody, and I’m proud of the way you’re holding it down.

You might be like me — scrolling past your ninth “I NEED A GLASS OF WINE” meme of the morning, tapping through yet another “SEE A SHOT, TAKE A SHOOOOTTTT” in your story, wondering why so many booze ads seem to be targeting me, and why so many people seem to be triggering me.

And hopefully, like me, you’re using the tools you have and you’re doing your best. You’re checking in on friends, and your friends are checking in on you. You’re finding safe ways to stay well and stay sane, even if it’s just fueling your Netflix addiction (hello, Schitt’s Creek!).

I just wanted to send you message to say: I see you, I care about you, I’m proud of you and you are doing so well.

Keep going. I’ll keep going with you. ❤

A Nut is a Circle

April 2nd, 2020

I’m always saying it: the universe is too strange and too perfect to be random.

I just had to go on a grocery store run, and there at Target, I ran into Eric.

You would be easily excused if you don’t know who Eric is. But if you do know, you would realize how absolutely insane it is that I just happened to run into him after all that has happened this week.

Eric was the GM of Old Chicago when I started, and he was the person who hired me.

I asked him how he was, and he said, “Medium.” We caught up for a little while; he hadn’t heard about the mass collapse of our former mutual colony. Then we nodded from a distance and said see you later.

It brought all of this full circle in a way that I know it’s the end.

I’ve said it previously, but I have to say it again: I just want to thank all of my co-workers and guests — my family — for everything. This was a huge part of my life, and just know that for the last few years I have gotten up every day to give you all the very best of me, even if I never reached that bar.

Oh — the photo of Squirrel Girl? She’s one of my favorite superheroes, and she is the embodiment of hope and resilience and compassion and reason. She’s unbeatable, and she will be the first to tell you that you’re unbeatable, too.

Love you all. ❤

No Foolin’

April 1st, 2020

Dang it. I had all of this planned before tonight happened, before I lost my job of almost thirteen years; but I still want to do this, and I’m gonna, damn it.

To address what happened simply, though: I will never be able to express how grateful I am, for so many reasons and to so many people. And how glad it makes me that for the last few years, you all got me at my best, and I got to end this chapter of my life on the highest possible note. Thank you. ❤

Now — for the rest of the post!

It’s April Fool’s Day!

No joke – the last month has been ROUGH, for all of us, to say the least. Our generation is in uncharted territory, at least as far as what we’ve lived through. We’re existing in relative seclusion, latching onto kings of tigers and our dusty shelves of pop culture comfort foods to get through it all.

Movie-makers, musicians and more are releasing surprise projects and content early to help us pass the time, and I think it’s about time I do the same.

The Weirdos: Volume I is NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon for your digital devices, a full month before it’s official release on May 1st, 2020.

It’s here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086M8W8R6

Better yet: if you were a donor to my Kickstarter and filled out your survey, you will find an email in your inbox RIGHT NOW with a link to your copy FOR FREE.

It’s not much, but it’s all artists can offer at a moment like this (which I stole from Kelly Clarkson). We’re not essential in a literal life-saving way, but we can offer trinkets and treasures of hope and love.

The Weirdos is all about connection, and in a world without, it can be helpful to remember.

(Again, thank you all. I am feeling so many feelings right now, and when I get my head and heart wrapped around it, I’ll give you my words. Enjoy this for now.)

Excellent Adventure

March 28th, 2020

I finished the special Collector’s Edition behind-the-scenes pages of my book today, and it required me to go through all the material it took to get here. As you can see, it took no less than NINE notebooks, SIX years and THOUSANDS of pages to get to this 128-page graphic novel now.

I say six years because I actually found a timeline this afternoon that began and took place in 2014, which must be the year I started this. For the record, there is a canonical timeline in the book, and The Weirdos does take place in the year 2020. Having Axis be asleep during the COVID-19 crisis is probably one of the most genius ideas I’ve ever had.


It was crazy and kind of emotional going through all these words and sketches and paintings and photos. It gave me some constants; touchstones that grounded me in this whole experience.


Who would have thought that I was going to stick with this over half a decade later? ❤

&

March 24th, 2020

The word “duly” means importantly.

And I think it’s important that we remember or realize that people are made up of “and”s.

Not blacks and whites and “or”s, but a spectrum of color, and the grays that exist between them.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this post. I want it to be intentional and meaningful. But you just reading it will suffice, because I can’t change anybody’s mind.

The reason I say a person is a collection of “and”s is because people are complex. You are not one thing or another; conversely, you being one thing does not automatically make you not another.

For example: I like ice cream AND candy.

You might find this a ridiculous thing to point out, because why would one ever be exclusive to another? I use this simple base of an example because I’m going to turn it up to 11 real quick.

Michael Jackson (allegedly) sexually abused young children AND he was an entertainer who brought pure joy to billions around the world.

Kobe Bryant is a(n) (alleged) rapist AND he was an inspiration to generations of people of every kind, regardless of specific interests or boundaries.

You see what I’m saying?

One doesn’t change the other. They are “and”s. Both exist concurrently, and though one can affect and change the other, they will never make either fact less true.

We very much live in a #cancel society; to that point, there are people who absolutely deserve the severe repercussions of their behavior, and sometimes that involves their livelihoods and social influence.

But what are we doing when we try to cancel a life? Are we delivering a kind of true justice that the law could never satisfactorily accomplish? Are we microwave-evolving a society that moves too slowly and too softly in its judgements, using our swift blades of harsh truth to cut through the bullshit of a system? Are we burying the fact that there are things we have all done that we are not proud of, but can morally rationalize those away in the name of good intentions?

I don’t know. No answers here. I’m just as confused as most people are most of the time.

But I’m not confused about the duel nature of people. I think that you can be smart AND dumb, pretty AND ugly, sweet AND hurtful, kind AND cruel, caring AND cold — and I think you can be all those things in one day.

But mostly, I think we can be upset — sad, angry, empty — AND full of forgiveness. We can recognize that both parts of anything always make a whole, and that the whole rarely ever needs to be thrown out.

We can learn, and we can be cautious, but we have to keep remembering that we are made up of “and”s — and that is the most human thing.

Thank You.

March 17th, 2020

Weird world.

I was waiting until I could write something thoughtful and meaningful about everything that has happened over the last few days, and then I realized that waiting for anything is stupid, so here we are.

First of all: thank you. I say thank you a lot, and I mean it every time, but this time is special.

Believing in yourself is hard. Believing in others is both easy and magic.

It’s easy because you don’t know what’s inside of others. You don’t know how insecure they are. How stressed out they can regularly be. How anxious they are or about much they doubt themselves and fear being exposed as a creative imposter. You just know what you see, hear and feel. And you believe.

It’s magic because the act of believing inspires others to do so, too. Even in the person who’s being believed in.

I started creating the characters of The Weirdos when I was in a dark place. They were like a fun house of who I was, am and aspire to be; none of them are me, but all of them are a singular reflection of me in a room full of mirrors.

As I worked on their stories, I worked on me. Fun fact: I wrote about Ashley (The Flying Squirrel, the closest character to me) getting sober before I ever even considered it. I wore these fiction suits as necessity and used them as compasses to navigate who I wanted to be.

They mean a lot to me. Some days, doing this — creating art to share with people — feels impossible. Some days I don’t know if I can do it.

And then I get a message. Or someone makes a comment. Or, over the last few months, someone would make a donation. And it would say: “This means something to me, too.”

And it’s not the reason for my fire. But it is often a match for when I’m cold.

So, thank you for helping me raise $1,785, well over the $1,500 I needed. I will use every cent to make the best book I can. It’s crazy; I have spent hours on every single page, and I can tell you that each one has something — a word, an image, a phrase, a color, an emotion — that can start whole conversations, or inspire ideas. That is my only guarantee, and only if you look closely enough.

The book is done, btw. I finished lettering last night, after I found out I was (drumroll, please)…unemployed. For those of you who don’t know, I am a server and bartender (I know, a bartender who doesn’t drink, a regular Sam Malone!), and yesterday, the state of Minnesota shut down all bars and restaurants in an attempt to slow down the pandemic.

In light of this, I’m even more aware and appreciative of how precious the funds I’ve received are, because I understand the financial strain of our climate very personally. Did I say thank you? Because thank you.

The book will be officially released on May 1st, 2020 (my birthday!). The release plans are secret/still being figured out because of our national situation, but you will be the first to know.

So lastly: thank you. You have no idea how much I love you all, and how much you mean to me.

I created these characters to help make me a better person. And you helped them come to life.

I can never repay you. But I will always pay our love forward.

Den

Give A F***.

March 15th, 2020

“This is a story about our struggles, and our suffering — and this is a story about how our connections to one another is the way we weather them.”

That’s the last line of my description for The Weirdos. Today is the last day you can pre-order my book or donate to the project.

I’m seeing a lot of people out here not treating each other with respect. I see a lot of people not listening to one another.

I see a lot of gloom and doom and despair.

And the way you fight that is the Weirdo Way: you stand by one another. You listen. And you carry on alongside your friends and family and even acquaintances who have the same goals, hopes and dreams. (You can do this while practicing a safe social distance.)

If this sounds like something you agree with, please consider supporting it. Your name will be on page two, making you an official Weirdo and announcing to the world that you DO give a fuck.

Please give a fuck.

It is exactly what this world needs right now.

P.S. This is a sticker sheet that comes with one of the donation tiers and it is my favorite thing today. It is so cute.

We Did It.

March 14th, 2020

WE DID IT. ❤

(I am celebrating and dancing and screaming in my head, and I’ll have so much stuff to say later, but we still have work to do!)

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: You can still donate! PLEASE still donate, if you can. In fact, the only way I can promise you a first-printing book is if you pre-order your copy right now. That is your only guarantee, if you wanted to add The Weirdos graphic novel to your summer reading list this year.

DID YOU KNOW? When you pre-order the physical copy of The Weirdos, you get the digital copy for FREE (a $15 value!). On some of the rewards levels, there are bonus materials you won’t be able to get anywhere else (or you’ll at least get FIRST)! I just ordered some of the prizes this weekend. They’re neat! (You can also add to your donation if you want to reach a new tier, or get a book!)

You have no idea how much this means to me. It was never a sure thing, and you believing (at least a little) in me makes me believe (a little) in me, too. And a little, to me, is a lot. ❤

Keep sharin’ and lovin’ —  only a little over 40 hours left!

The Final Countdown

March 12th, 2020

Voilá!

Here’s a special banner for anyone who has donated to this work and wants to proudly display it.

I ❤ my Weirdos. Which would actually make a great bumper sticker.

We are at an astonishing $1,300 out of $1,500 needed. I legitimately teared up when I saw that this afternoon. THANK YOU.

A donor has also stepped up and said they will contribute 50% of whatever we raise together this weekend! This is the LAST weekend of fundraising. Just a few days left until the Ides of March, the conclusion of this project.

I am so excited to stop talking about funding, and getting back to everything else. You all have been so amazing, and supportive, and your shares, comments and messages have been keepin’ me and this dream alive.

Don’t stop. Can’t stop. All my love.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dennisvogen/lets-bring-the-weirdos-to-life