Comic-Con@Home

July 23rd, 2020

This is probably the only time I’ll ever get to be an exhibitor at San Diego Comic-Con.

And also be able to bring my dog.

Due to the pandemic, this year’s main event has become Comic-Con@Home, and since we nerds, geeks and weird folk go entirely all out regardless of the situation, OF COURSE I made badges for myself and my best friend, Marvel.

She is obviously thrilled to be here.

In all seriousness, conventions are one of my favorite kinds of places in the multiverse. In a world that feels very divided and disconnected, I miss what they provide even more. I miss meeting and seeing and talking to you all like the desert misses the rain.

I’ll personally be checking in on panels all weekend (I watched a few last night, including Solar Opposites, one of my favorite new shows), keeping up with the latest news and trying to keep my con-buddy hydrated and from going potty on the con floor.

Also! I myself am a comic creator. My first graphic novel, The Weirdos, was released in May and is available to buy on my website dennisvogen.com, at a number of Minnesota comic book shops, and digitally on Amazon and ComiXology. For more info, click on my bio or just check out my social media. If you’re looking to support comics at this time, I mean, it’s not a bad way!

All my love, y’all. Have a wonderful con, and I hope to see you soon.

TV Picks Of The Week!

July 22nd, 2020

Are you stranded on a desert island of stress and uncertainty? Same! Are you looking for an escape raft of the streaming variety? These are my four picks for what I’m watching (and adoring) this week.

Expecting Amy — This three-part documentary is a master class in what it means to be human; and yes, this is the same Amy Schumer who makes frequent jokes about her vagina. She and her husband, with various family, friends and camera crew, document her life as she becomes pregnant, continues to be pregnant (with significant difficulty) while she works on her career as a stand-up comedian (who is about to shoot a new Netflix special), and then brings both her human and creative babies into the world. It features twists, turns, and unexpectedly kind detours; glorious highs and hard-to-watch lows; and some of the most emotionally honest conversations I can say I’ve seen had. And I watch a lot of The Bachelor (see below).

FIND IT ON: HBO Max

Aaahh!!! Real Monsters — Nostalgia is a powerful thing. It can make us feel just by simple suggestion; substance becomes irrelevant. That becomes apparent when we transform into adults and rediscover the stuff we loved as a child; it rarely holds up under the slightest weight of scrutiny, as anyone who is a fan of Adam Sandler’s early work knows. So imagine my surprise as I began to rewatch the four seasons of Aaahh!! Real Monsters; it not only holds up, but is actually far better than I recall and has any reason to be. Every episode is delightfully about *something*; monsters have been unmistakable metaphors since their inception, and these stories use them to excellent effect. You can even see their influence now: Pixar’s Monsters series simply doesn’t exist without Ickis, Krumm and Oblina; speaking of the star students, can anyone else name a trio of students at a magical school, one of whom is a confident, remarkably skilled young woman considered best in her class? Hermione had a predecessor hiding in these halls, as well.

FIND IT ON: DVD, Amazon Prime (To Own)

Bachelor In Paradise — With no new seasons filmed due to the pandemic, ABC has been producing a wonderfully wacky Greatest Of All Time series on Mondays, and they’ve also added the first three seasons of Paradise to stream. Paradise, for me, is the ultimate comfort food; the whole of the world’s complex problems wash away in a sea of tears, margaritas and broken hearts (with the occasional true love!). I’m actually not big on reality television, but the Bachelor franchise is the reality version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: these people/characters have detailed histories with one another, they cross over into each other’s shows — and their shows often cross over into their real lives. Plus, every season is the most dramatic EVER.

FIND IT ON: Hulu

Agents of SHIELD — If you’re one of those “I tried the first season but…” people, get the heck out of here. You don’t deserve this show, which is one of my all-time favorites. Over seven wild and weird seasons, these Agents have seen it all: good guys, bad people, Inhumans, B-(and C-)list Marvel superheroes, LMDs, time travel, alternate timelines, Ghost Rider (but not Nicolas Cage). Despite all their trials, however, this show has always been about one thing: family, of all kinds, but mostly about the kind we choose for ourselves. In this season, their last, they’ve pulled out all the stops, to fantastic (and comedic and dramatic) effect; tonight’s time-warping, heart-wrenching episode (expertly directed by cast member Elizabeth Henstrige) may have been its best yet. I’m sure not looking forward to the end of this mission, but I am absolutely savoring the ride there.

FIND IT ON: Netflix (earlier seasons), Hulu (current season)

Stranger Danger

July 20th, 2020

My anxiety is like a light switch, but one of those switches that doesn’t click; meaning, it’s always on, but at varying degrees of intensity.

It’s always been that way. I vividly remember a hot day walking home from the library (which is just a few short blocks down the hill from my parents’ house). I was lugging home a plastic bag full of books I had probably checked out half a dozen times before, and I reached an intersection.

A car pulled up at the same time, and one of my worst childhood fears unfolded before my eyes: a man gestured for me to get into his vehicle.

I acted as my instincts instructed: I panicked and hollered and started running as fast as my Airwalks would allow me.

I ran and I ran and I ran until I burst through the front door of my house, scattered up the stairs into my room, collapsed onto my bed and let the tears stream down my face.

As the fear subsided, and my lungs started manufacturing standard breaths, I began to recall the situation. My cheeks felt hot as I took a moment to reassess what had happened. I was mortified.

The man had not gestured for me to get into his car at all; no, I was now fairly certain he was just waving me along to walk across the street safely.

And now I started to think about the story, but as he told his wife when he got home:

“I pulled up to the intersection, and I thought I would be nice and let a child cross the street. Fucking kid burst into tears, started screaming and running and I don’t even know where he went. I don’t even know if he knew where he was going. He was just running and screaming and crying. Craziest shit I seen this week.”

The only point I have to this story is to be kind.

That man didn’t know who I was or what I was going through. And who I am colored how I saw what was happening in that moment. It wasn’t until we both had time to reflect that we realized it was a misunderstanding.

Maybe he’s reading this, and if so, I’d like to take a minute to apologize, and thank him for his kindness. And if he’s not reading, but you’ve experienced a misunderstanding, possibly due to your own internal interpretations and processes:

May you always assume that the stranger is trying to safely get you across the street.

Happy 15th Anniversary To My First

July 13th, 2020

Today marks a neat anniversary I’d like to quietly celebrate with some introspection and a sparkling grape water.

15 years ago today, on July 13th, 2005, I released my first full-length album.

The Next Step existed before this (it all started in high school…), but this was the first time I put out a real album like a real boy and went out and played some real(ish) shows.

“Something Old, Something New” is a concept album, because I am nothing if not pretentious and ambitious. The record tells a story from beginning to end, even featuring an introduction and closing credits track, like a feature film. It details the whole of a relationship, from first dance to final plea.

I didn’t know if I would ever be able to do this. Making music is hard. I’ve had some of my best moments as a human doing something with music, but I’ve also had some of my worst and most stressful.

The best moments are always the ones that seem to matter in the end, and the ones that stick in my heart and mind and gut.

The soaring chorus of “Positively,” a song that feels like a train rolling on its side down a hill. The odd, staccato waltz of “Dance With Me,” the opening number. The haunting strings (and sentiments) of faux emo ballad “All I Need.” And one of the best songs (in my obnoxious opinion) that I’ve ever written, “Have A Nice Life.”

I remember late nights, running out to my car with a burned CD of new audio mixes, to hear how they sounded in the speakers. Fine-tuning and re-recording and re-mixing and making myself fall in love with the mistakes (some of which still make me cringe to this day). I remember sharing songs on sites like Soundclick and watching them climb the charts, and getting feedback from people all over the world.

Making music is hard, but it taught me some of the best lessons of my life, and was responsible for saving it more times than I can count.

And it all really started with this little gem. Released on CD (as all my records were), thus dating us forever.

I love this ode to love, and I just wanted to celebrate its birthday.

P.S. I had plans this summer to play a show or two, as a fun little surprise to any fans that still exist. That didn’t happen for obvious reasons, but I might be shooting some new performances to share online, so if you have a request, let me know! All my music is available on any major streaming service.

Pocket Universe Of Joy (Or, S.O.S.)

July 9th, 2020

Releasing a book this summer, of this year, has not been the most fun.

I mean, let’s be honest: this year has not been the most fun.

So moments like this — seeing my book on a shelf at one of my favorite shops, Mind’s Eye Comics — are little bubbles of joy.

It reminds me that my work is real.

As I navigate how to share that work at a time like this, there is a way you can help, for free: write a review.

Specifically, writing a review on a site like Amazon can vastly improve its chances to be found in a heavily saturated market. Think of my book as Waldo; your review is a helpful pointer finger.

It can be really simple: click on some stars (the more, the better) and add a one-sentence description. It can also be deep; the reviews that have been posted already are so insightful and very thoughtful.

It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s one of the ways us small, independent creators can find the people who will connect to what we do.

And connection, right now, feels like the most important thing in the universe.

Here’s an easy link if you want to leave a review: https://www.amazon.com/Weirdos-I-Sand-Glass-ebook/dp/B086M8W8R6/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=dennis+vogen&qid=1594322985&sr=8-1

Let’s Keep Talking

July 7th, 2020

This morning, I was scrolling and came across a local post by KARE 11 about supporting black businesses. The comment section was horrifying; it inspired me to write a very angry post (I hadn’t had my coffee yet) directed at the people who still insist that racism isn’t real.

And then Facebook deleted it after I hit “post”.

I couldn’t believe it. I had spent all this time and energy crafting what I wanted to say, and then it was gone, like I hadn’t even said it. I was too frustrated and exhausted to even attempt to try again — and immediately realized that it was but a small glimpse into other lives.

In the post, I reiterated what has been reiterated, again and again: “reverse racism” is not a thing. Supporting black businesses is not a racist practice. Putting spotlights on marginalized communities are for the benefit of everybody.

But the sentiment that I feel needs to be shut down the hardest is people — especially white folks — telling others what to protest for.

You know what I’m talking about.

Posting about an atrocity that has occurred, and then adding: “Where are the protests for THAT?”

Let me fill you in on something: if you’re upset about an injustice in the world? Then YOU protest about it. You get your ass off your couch, you organize a gathering, and you tell people that you will not stand for this. That is literally how protesting works. If you’re not protesting, then obviously the problem does not affect you like you think it does — or you simply have the privilege to ignore it.

Do better.

We — the aforementioned white folks — need to let go of this fragility, these insecurities and own that this is our problem. Nobody out there is telling us that we’re responsible for slavery; but we are responsible for a system that continues to oppress others on layers and levels that we’re not committed to tearing up and breaking down.

By saying “There is not a problem,” you are confirming that you are the problem.

I’ve recently learned that being a White Ally is not a thing. And there was nothing about that new knowledge that was surprising or hurtful to me. How can I possibly “be in this” in the same way? I can’t. All I can offer is the ability to recognize how our systems discriminate and challenge some unfairly, and support efforts to change them.

This post actually ended up being much longer, and possibly angrier than the first (despite me finding some coffee). I spend time reading and listening now, and speak up when I feel like it can help.

I figure: it is the least I can possibly do.

Defund Me

July 1st, 2020

Sometimes, people just need a really big problem broken down to its simplest form. So I’m going to try.

For a long time, my way of living — my entire system — was broken. And I refused to address any of my problems in a fair way, to myself or others. This led to pain, and anger, and guilt, and every other noun it takes to get to the Dark Side.

I kept telling myself, for years and years, that “not every drink was a bad drink”; but the way that I used drinking was rarely for its intended purpose (for lack of a better term). I used a drink for every tool that I lacked in my life; as I’ve learned, I was lacking most of the tools required for a healthy, successful adult.

So I had to change. I wish I could say that the changes were small; but I had to absolutely defund my way of life, and use the time that allotted to make myself better.

Where I used to drink, I now try to help.

Where I used to drink, I now use my words.

Where I used to drink, I now ask for the things I need.

Where I used to drink, I now try to be honest.

Who I am as a person didn’t drastically change; the way I acted and reacted did. My ability to learn and adjust and adapt did. My shed, which was once just full of cobwebs and half-empty bottles, now has a full shelf of tools that I (mostly) know how to use; and I know where the drawer full of manuals is for the ones I don’t.

But none of this came from keeping things “normal.”

“Normal” did not work.

“Normal” was killing me.

And if you’re glad that I’m still here, then know it was only because I defunded the parts of myself that were destroying me — and that I had to build new parts to make a better self, and give myself a life.

yolo

June 27th, 2020

Hi. I’m doing my best.

As far as feeling like I’m in the middle of a dark forest that’s burning inward from all possible sides, I’m relatively fine. To manage my anxiety, I tend to turn inward and find personal value in pop culture — right now, my favorites are Green Lantern, Doom Patrol, The Bachelor’s Greatest Seasons, To Tell The Truth, Floor Is Lava and anything Disney Afternoon — but I really want to talk to you about something.

I want to talk to you about intent.

Let’s play an uncomfortable game. Let’s say that tomorrow, you simply cease to exist. Poof. You’re gone. And the only thing left that people can actively use to hold onto you and your memory is your social media presence. For the rest of their lives, all anyone will ever know of you is what you’ve managed to already display on your multitude of digital profiles.

How content are you with what is here?

When I find myself frustrated or feeling empty as I scroll, I realize it’s because what I’m seeing is void of intent; it’s just pages of mindless copy & pasting, dutiful production of meaningless content. However, when I find myself engaged, or inspired even, it’s because I’ve stumbled upon something special: a person thoughtfully expressing themselves in a way that feels genuine. Human-like, even.

Intent does not always mean important, at least not in a traditional sense; your picture of a tomato, paired with a paragraph about your struggle to grow a single plant, could make a day.

I scroll through my own posts, and I feel like I’ve wholly put myself in them. People who go through them will see: He’s dramatic. Uses too many words, could possibly use an editor. Way too excited about way too many things. But he’s passionate. Complicated, and a little tortured. He’s a writer. Obsessed with his dog and comic books. Dresses up like an idiot, and frequently. Avoids sitting in boxes. Loves hard. Works hard . . . on occasion.

Rarely in the history of human beings have we all been allowed to create long-form obituaries in an autobiographical format. That’s not meant to sound grim, but we are all going to die at some point. And at your funeral, people are going to talk about who you were.

Maybe you’ll be a collection of memes. Maybe you’ll be a sprawling mural of art or photography. Maybe you’ll be an inspirational wall of poetry. Or maybe you’ll be remembered by people mostly for what you did in real life.

Whatever it is you are here after life — I hope it’s because you lived it intentionally.

The Weirdos on ComiXology

June 24th, 2020

Happy Wednesday, and Happy New Comic Book Day!!

ComiXology is the premiere digital comic book store, period. It offers a massive array of comics and graphic novels, from every major publisher — Marvel, DC, Image, Archie, Boom, Dark Horse, Dynamite, IDW, Top Shelf, Valiant, and Weekly Shonen Jump, to name just a few.

Honestly, the only way ComiXology could get any better is if they offered The Weirdos in their shop.

And DO YOU KNOW WHAT: as of today, my graphic novel is available digitally on their service for just $9.99! (I am super excited AND humbled by this development.)

The Weirdos on ComiXology:

https://bit.ly/2BnVKGM

On top of that: I updated my personal store, so if you’re looking to pick up a paperback copy of the book, it’s now just $25 (20% off!) — AND I added a brand new Weirdos Collector’s Convention Set!

Since conventions are (rightfully) shut down for the time being, I put together a box of what you could expect to pick up if you attended one: an autographed copy of the book, a MN Nice mug and a set of two Lake Mary pins (all pictured) for $35. It’s a great way to start your collection, or to gift this series to someone else in your life who you think would dig it!

My Official Shop: https://sleeping-kitty-productions.square.site/

I hope you’re all staying safe, and sane, and weird as hell. ❤

SWM

June 23rd, 2020

I’m a writer.

I’m a straight, white male.

Every time I come up with a new character, he starts off as a straight, white male. Even if I imagine her as a red-haired young woman, on the inside she is a straight, white male.

For her to be anything else takes work.

The work varies. It may be that I have to just let her be whoever she is. It may be that I have to walk in her shoes for a while, be in her thoughts and feelings and her very specific way of living.

I have to be empathetic to who she is, where she came from and where she wants to go, which requires extra work from my end.

Empathy requires work.

Which is why, I believe, the people who resist change do so.

You might argue that empathy is natural for some. You could argue that but, the fact of the matter is, for most people, their lives are easier when they don’t select empathy. Choosing empathy takes emotional work.

When I came up with my band of superheroes, they were all boring, straight, white ass men with neat powers. Do you know how stupid easy that book would have been to write?

Stupid, stupid easy.

Instead, I wanted my world to reflect THE world. I find nothing scary about people the way they are; I find our collective, colorful world freeing, liberating, exciting, diverse, limitless, infinite . . .

And I find that our most intimate, personal hopes, dreams, problems and failures are the same.

I put in the work, and I found that for this story, the one straight, white male was enough. The rest were something more in every single way.

For a person still trying to take the easy road, I’d only have one question to ask: why?

Why not be limitless, why not be liberated, why not be compassionate, why not have empathy?

Your effort could be the hand that holds up another.

Put in the work.

The rewards will be infinite.