Picture it: West Virginia. In your memory it is always bleak, always winter. Picture a town 15 miles from the nearest interstate exit, a town so insular and clannish that if you were not born inside a house (or on the marble floor of a bank lobby or on a pile of hay in a horse stable or on the filthy floor of a gas station bathroom) within the city limits you will be forever relegated to Outsider status.
Now. Imagine you are an Outsider, and you work but you are still poor. So poor that you often look at your cats lounging on the kitchen linoleum and think, You have no idea how close we are to being homeless. Enjoy your ignorance.
Also: you are lonely. So lonely, so lacking in any type of social network that your closest friends are your 70-year-old boss at the newspaper where you work, and a cattle farmer who also owns the town’s Western Auto franchise.
You are so lonely that to combat boredom you write a novel and teach yourself how to use Photoshop and Dreamweaver and learn how to make a website where you put up other things you’re bored and lonely enough to write.
You’re online a lot. Wait! Not a lot. All the time. Through some strange twist of not-quite-fate (but maybe something akin to it) you stumble upon a website called Astonishing Tales.
You know nothing and care even less than that about comic books, so you have no idea that this is also the name of a comic book series. You only know that the guy who writes the material on the Astonishing Tales website is breathtakingly funny.
And by breathtakingly, we mean he literally makes you laugh so hard and so violently that you frequently feel lightheaded and sometimes take a coughing fit that almost makes you fall on the floor.
You read pretty nearly every word on the Astonishing Tales website. You only skim the “Dawson’s Creek” recaps and don’t pay much attention to the comic book stuff because. I mean. Yeah.
Still. There are bits you go back and re-read on a regular basis because they always make you laugh. And life is no laughing matter for you and your cats most of the time. If a true nadir of your existence could be pinpointed, this period of time would be it.
But Dan Liebke’s Astonishing Tales is a beautiful, bright light when the end of the tunnel, you know, is so far away that you could lie down for days without fear of being run over by a train. And Dan Liebke likes some of the things you write, especially the Citizen Jim stories. He likes them so much that you put him in some of the stories, much to the chagrin of Citizen Jim’s character.
Fast forward a decade and a few years. For old times’ sake you go to look at Dan Liebke’s Astonishing Tales website, and the site is gone. Well, the site is still there but everything that made you laugh is no longer there to browse through.
So you buy Breakdancing with Hollywood, which makes you so happy because most of the funniest stuff from Liebke’s website is there! You cannot believe your luck! You cannot recommend this book more highly or to enough people!
You buy A Little Known Fact I Just Made Up, and then you’re really laughing like old times. But at new things. That’s the magic of Dan Liebke.
Before you decide to banish comments on your blog, Dan Liebke leaves the only real comment left by anyone: “Wait, what? You’re blogging again? This is great, even if it is an old person thing.”
Fast forward several months. You write a blog post lamenting your lack of Twitter followers, as well as your dearth of consequential Twitter followers, and not long after that you realize you have one new follower who turns out to be – wait for it! – DAN LIEBKE!
You black out. Your cat revives you from your case of the vapors just in time to go to work. You want to tell all the old ladies you’re paid to keep occupied and off the streets about your reconnection on Twitter with @danliebke, but you know they will want him to be a boyfriend you’ve never spoken of before but that’s not going to happen so you just keep your lips zipped.
Dan Liebke will be your sweet secret of the day. This feels much better than other secrets you have to keep from them, like being a socialist and a Democrat and a lesbian.
You come home from work and you write this blog post. You can’t believe how happy you are.