Preview for NORMAL: "A Change is Gonna Come."

Without further ado, I'd like to introduce everyone to Ben and Mia.

These previews are panels from "A Change is Gonna Come" my first collaboration with the incredibly talented European illustrator [I just love saying that] Ander Sarabia, for the upcoming Eric M. Esquivel produced zine, Normal. Normal is a zine by creative people, for creative people [and everyone else, of course], looking at alternative lifestyles, the creative process, and other interests of people likely suffering from vitamin D deficiency. Actually, I can't back that last part up -- it might just be me who lives in nigh-constant fear of the sun.

For those of you who don't frequent places like CBR, I've clipped some panels from the comic, and stripped out the dialogue, so without giving too much away you can have a taste of what Ander and I have in store for Normal. Of course, there's only so much I can show you, as our freshman outing together [boy, that sounds like we went on a date] is only five pages long.

Ander's work is really beyond exceptional, and though I'd love to, I can't take credit for the level of detail he brought to these pages. It's amazing how much of the finished product ended up looking like the story I saw in my head, especially since we were under a mad time-crunch to get finished, which meant a far-less detailed script, and no time for the usual tweaks or coaching I'm used to during the process.

Still, the final pages turned out spot-on, and I can't wait for everyone to see them. Have to blame timing for it taking me this long to even get previews up -- first there were the holidays, then my computer trouble, not to mention I wanted to check with Ander and make sure showing off his work was okay [and big thanks to him for his input on what panels would be best to use, and for sending me such high quality images to work with for this]... I was even a little up in the air about doing this at all, because a little mystique goes a long way.

But a few people have been asking. And it's not exactly like I need my arm twisted to show off the cool things I'm involved in.

Taking the weekend to try and catch up on some things. Shot off a final draft of "VHS Generation" to Ander [not a lot of changes from the previous one], and he's already hit me with a few character sketches that just look great. Really excited about the look of protagonist for this one, and our e-mails have me branching out into the old mythology a little bit, digging up some concepts, ideas I haven't thought about in ages.

Have some things from other people to read too, which I always look forward to. Particularly in this case... I enjoy this person's work a lot, have for awhile, and I feel terrible I've had to put off looking at it for this long.

Final bit of trivia before I go: I named this comic for The Gits cover of the Sam Cooke classic. I guess you could just say I named it after the original song, but it's not really what I had in mind. Cooke's is a civil rights anthem which I think would be in bad taste for me to try and co-opt, whereas there's something about Zapata's that's still very personal, but in a more singular sort of sense.

And besides, the character's name is Mia. Not Sam.

My St. Baldricks/CheriAnn picture

Here's my sketch from CheriAnn for donating to her St.Baldricks pledge drive. I didn't really have the money, to be honest, but it didn't feel like quite enough to just link CheriAnn's philanthropy from here, and anyway, I can sacrifice the cost of a couple of woot! shirts to help out a good cause. I actually feel kind of embarrassed speaking about it here, because I prefer to donate to charities anonymously when I can, and this takes the piss out of doing that, but... I wanted to show off my cool CheriAnn Borgstrom original.

I feel like I've kind of got a Keanu Reeves thing going on here, with a tiny plush super-ego rocking out on my shoulder. And it's nice to see Kyle's good work [and Glen's design] working their way into the Randall Nichols mythology. And hilariously, this is a fairly apt take on my creative process.

I want to thank CheriAnn for the wonderful likeness, and just for undertaking the cause. I also want to apologize, because I'm probably going to make a huge fuss when she shaves her head come March 20th. Because that is how I roll.

Again, I encourage everyone to donate if they can, it's a wonderful cause and CheriAnn's a saint for undertaking it. And keep checking CheriAnn's tumblr for the pieces she does for other donors.

In other news, I'm going to put up some previews here for "A Change is Gonna Come," probably in the next couple of days. I know a lot of people have been asking me about the work Ander and I did together, and I'm anxious to show it off, and get excitement going for "Normal" too. I've also seen some of the first character sketches for "VHS Generation," and am trying to polish off a final draft of the script in the next couple of days. Ander's doing amazing work, as usual, and I'm just trying my best to hold up my end of things, make sure the writings at least half as good as the illustrations.

Finally, I have a friend in a rough, but familiar, spot right now, who I don't believe is reading, but... if you are, just know you're in my thoughts, and I'll do anything I can. All my best.

I'm back... and CheriAnn's shaving her head.

Computer's back up and running. Hinge on the screen is now nice and tight and probably what it should have been when it came out of the factory in the first place. I remain annoyed I had to pay for something that wasn't my fault, but the honest fact is that you can't dwell on these things forever, especially with the problem fixed, the check cleared.

Missed quite a few things in my "absence." The biggest one is this, from friend of the Mojo Wire CheriAnn Borgstrom, who is shaving her head for St. Baldrick's Kid's Cure, childhood cancer research fundraiser, on March 20th. You can check our her participation page here, to learn a little more about just what her donations go towards, and to learn a bit more about the organization [always a good idea before you donate]. CheriAnn is sweetening the pot by promising everyone who donates 5 dollars or more [and sends me an email to to let her know] will get a free drawing! From what I can tell, it can be a commission of anything, and you can check out some of what other donors are requesting [and receiving] on CheriAnn's tumblr. For more information straight from Cheri, check out the video she posted after the jump, and also her blog posts here and here on the whole affair.

I know we're post-Christmas here and money's probably tight for some, but if you have a little extra, and want to help out CheriAnn, help out the cause, or just get a cool little piece of art instant-karma style, then I encourage you to donate. More than the $5, if you can, but really, whatever you can spare.

Plus? CheriAnn's going to shave her head. How awesome is that?

Other things... let's face it, I've missed a lot. What takes me about an hour or so a day to read through, and then link the high points, really builds up when I'm gone for a week+. Instead of trying to play catch up on Twitter [boy, that would take forever], I thought I'd just cover the high points here.

First up, if you're not getting your regular entertainment news from Sarah Crow over at Popeater, you're missing out. Also, Valerie "Occasional Superheroeen"/"I thought she was MIA but she was actually MTV" D'Orazio is blogging again, less [though still some]on her own site, and more on the new, but not much talked about MTV Geek.

Speaking of comics, super-heroes, and geeks, oft-linked Eric Esquivel has been really busy [Eric's always busy], working on a secret project with my own fellow collaborator Ander Sarabia, which you can check out some sketches of here, and a scan here. Along with the news of two of my favorite creatives coming together, Eric's also got his first Diamond solicited comic coming out in April, which means you can reserve an Esquivel-penned copy of Zombies vs. Cheerleaders #3. The Diamond Order Code: FEB111092, just in case you have any problems [hey, I have a pull-list too -- barely -- and I know things happen]. Big congrats all around.

A great many other things from my friends - Glen "Mario's Closet" Brogan has been showing off a lot of new work on his website, including a couple of the Christmas portraits he put together for our circle of friends [think Mickey meets Miyamoto, or Kirby, eats Kermit], along with a Wet Hot American Summer piece for Gallery 1988's comedian tribute show Is This Thing On? [which there are really no words for how much I love it], and something special to commemorate Glen and his girlfriend's [the lovely Miss Hillary] 2nd Anniversary. It's got a very cool, comic-book inspired thing going on that really brings together all the odds and ends that make up knowing both of them... it's really very fitting, and even if you don't know them, absolutely beautiful work by Glen.

And hey, who says blogging [and rooftop pinup shoots] can't build friendships? Check out "Pass the Flask You Hag," a joint reading by Kimberly Kaye and Hannah Miet at the Bowery Poetry Club. Both links have the vimeo videos of the performances attached, so pick your poison or sample how both of these talented ladies introduce some of their best work to date [with all my compliments, I suddenly find myself expecting reprisals].

Ian's been back at it too, with some of his work as of late making me sad he's leaving Japan so soon. "A Picture Essay of My Tohoku Trip" and "My First Aomori" put most, supposedly "first rate," travel writing to shame, but even if a little world culture isn't your style, he also has a very intelligent and I think... important look at some recent literary controversy as it concerns one Mark Twain. My thoughts are if Tarantino can get the "Dead Nigger Storage" scene of Pulp Fiction on basic cable [beaming DIRECTLY INTO OUR HOMES], maybe Huck Finn is all right in our public schools.

Actually, a lot of my fellow Bennington alumni have been busy on the web. J'aime has a hilarious [and delightfully exhausting] look at office politics and social mores in Paris [and she hardly ever blogs anymore]. My friend Hannah's still at it too, looking at the mysteries of the mind, death, the universe, and various BBC produced programming. Over on "Marginal Pass, Russel has a new entry about the state of Oregon switching his license's gender marker from "F" to "M" [Go, Big Blue!]. And while usually I only see photography from Joel on his blog, I really liked his reading of "Meditation at Lagunitas" by Robert Hass, and have been contemplating doing something similar if I ever get a camera.

There's also no talking about prolific Bennington alums without bringing up John and his Bathroom Monologues. In lieu of fiction though, and since I'm still trying to hold up some pretense this blog is about writing, and the process.... check out John's "Rejection of a 'High Quality' Story That's 'not all that good.'" One more hilarious reminder of the incompetency keeping good writing from the public abroad. For something a tad more upbeat, that might make you squirm a little, also check out "The Danni" - a tale of a six-fingered bassist, and his bare-assed guitar.

There's so much more. New movement from the blogs that gave me my own variation on Stockholm Syndrome - mabroshi and ClawDiaries [Maria Erikson and Naomi Nowak, respectively]. Touching and hilarious soul-searching/life-lessons from Adria [just scroll down the whole page, really]. Never hurts to check in with Lauren at Hipstercrite [seriously, if I'm the only reminder you have to do so, get an RSS feed people!]. Justin's finished his moleskin sketchbook, yet he's still sketching [now that's the sign of a real artist], and the too-often-uncredited [sorry] co-creator of my and Justin's comic project "Calamity Cash," Laura Phalen, has started a blog of her own called "Sentimental Geek."

Oh, and last, far from least, a little bit about current events from Amy Klein - "Jared Loughner Was a Sexist: The Unspoken Truth Behind the Shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords." Just a really interesting perspective on the shooting, not from a place I've been seeing much commentary coming from. Worth a look... and a lot of thought.

All right, I think I'm all caught up. Just wanted to get some of these links out there, give shout-outs to all those deserving of attention. I know it's a lot, but definitely dig through... I guarantee all of it is absolutely quality. And if I missed anyone, I can only say plead that I had a lot to catch up on.

On the work front, I've got a monster of a book to review, couple of things I want to write about, lot... weird, soul-search-y stuff that I think I'd normally do here, but now I'm no so sure. Time's going to be a funny thing, plus I've gotten strangely used to taking these long walks in cold and reading Joan Didion with my feet up. Plus, I've got this huge backlog of music, this strange compilation of Joan Baez and Ghostface Killah which I've promised myself I'd check out. And all those Oscar contenders I want to catch up on too...

We'll play it by ear. Glad to have my computer back, though. Twitter, and Blogger, and Dark Room, and Final Draft. And I can open PDFs! Update my iPod! And post inanities to Facebook!

I guess what I'm saying is all the Neo-Luddites can eat me.

Let's call it a draft.

So when I'm done writing this, I'm shutting down the computer, yanking the hard drive out, and getting everything ready to be shipped back to Dell. Anyone who has been reading my blog, or has known me for any length of time, knows I'm pretty protective of my machine, mostly because, hey, it's what I do a lot of my writing on, and sometimes, it's my big connection to the part of the world that doesn't run adjacent to Elk River.

And yes, I know how sad that sounds.

Upswing, I did manage to finish something I've been working on. "VHS Generation" now has a first [well, sort of second... ish] draft, which is good because I've come to depend on Final Draft a lot to put my disjointed notes together, and I won't have access to it with the computer in the shop. Even though I had been taking a little time to scribble some stuff down on paper, or in Dark Room [thanking Jami for that link], I was actually worried I was in a bit of dry spell, but I guess it was just a matter of putting all the pieces together. I don't think I realized how personal the end result was going to be, and I actually feel a little raw over it right now. Probably would have taken more time, but having such a thorough outline of the story made all the difference.

Write outlines, kids. It's the only thing about writing I know for sure.

Anyway, I shot it off to Ander to have a look. It'll probably need another draft, and I have a few more ideas too, though right now I'm just going to take some time, get some distance, and start thinking about how to fix the peep show script. Got some really great feedback on it recently, made me want to jump back into it. Plus, there's a new book to review, and a side project for a friend. Plenty to do.

Time being, I'll have access to a computer and the internet, so I can still be reached and will still be doing work, even though it'll be limited. How much of my regular schedule I'll keep up I don't know, which is a shame as I'm way behind on my reading anyway. But I guess it's not going anywhere.

For now, signing off.

Hate making two posts in such quick succession, but...

Irksome news, everyone. You may be hearing slightly less from me over the next week or so. My laptop's casing has a pretty serious crack in it, which I probably wouldn't even bother getting repaired if not for the fact that it's right around the screen. Now yes, I have access to a fairly ancient desktop computer here, the very machine I started writing this blog on, but I am now spoiled and set in my ways, and am also looking at a little bit of freelance work coming up, so there might be a few less Mojo Wires here at the beginning of 2011.

We'll see, though. I've said the same thing before, and then went and posted four or five times in the same week.

I also just really loathe anything being wrong with my computer, and I was surprised how... embarrassing it was to call about physical damage to the laptop itself. Having to talk to four different people, each time getting "So, sir, you dropped the machine," each time being "No, I never dropped it, it's just wear and tear" followed by the half-smirking [I'm good with voices, I can just tell these things, goddammit!] "Yes, of course." Makes me feel like the techie-laughing stock of the Indian subcontinent.

Oh, also? Not covered by my warranty. Goddammit.

Trying to focus on the positives, that at least I can still get any work done I need to, which means I'll actually be able to do a few things to cover the cost of repairs.

Sorry for the two posts in such short order, but I really didn't want to put any grumpiness in the previous post. That's happy stuff. And this...

Well, again. Goddammit.

Postcards from Boston, Boston, and Brooklyn [and Brooklyn].

So, sort of an unofficial rule here on the Mojo Wire is that if you send me a postcard via snail mail, I'll put it up on the site. Sort of a nice treat for me, here in the middle of nowhere, where it's mostly my grandmother's mail waiting at the box every morning. It's also a pleasant callback to my college years, when Dad, even when were sort of on the outs each other for awhile there, would drop me one in the mail, all tobacco-stained with messages not... really about much of anything at all. But like these, I rarely expected them, and their arrival was always a nice surprise.

With the holidays in full force, lot of mail has piled up, plus I've been busy, so there just hasn't been the time to dig out the scanner.

This first one is from my favorite freshman Smash Bros punching bag, Jessie, and like her first this one is a rad homemade deal. I don't know if it's a quirk of Jessie's, or if she just knows there's this little hipster part of me that just kind of gets off on having something no one else has [yes, I'm one of those "I like That Band you haven't even heard of yet/may not actually exist guys... only with everything]. This one is actually a Christmas card, though, really, even here in the south, we don't let chickens in the Kitchen during Christmas [though we do let them stay with the Swedish Guy in his Bunska-bunska].

The next card that popped up was from my friend Cara, a regular reader [and like Jessie], and smashing designer and fellow Bennington alumni. It's actually an Escher print [awesome], called Metamorphosis III, which not knowing as much about Escher as I should, I'm still feeling pretty safe in assuming is probably inspired by/a reference to Kafka's famous tale.

Which I actually didn't realize right away, and thought at first that, like Jessie's, Cara's was another Christmas card. A a really, really strange one, but hey, I like really, really strange, and tend to attract that when it comes to friends. And in an awesome show of getting so much text in so little space [which if you've ever gotten a card from me, you know I dig], Cara more or less implies as much herself.

Though, okay, okay! It's not a Christmas. It was still exceptionally awesome to get [I should also mention that I got the nicest card from Terry Lively and her company, Vandalia Productions, but since it's a little more business-y, I'm keeping it to myself. Still, it was a wonderful surprise].

This next come from Elle, a picture-print-postcard of Joshua W. Cotter's work, an illustrator and cartoonist who is one of those "I didn't know I knew them" kind of artists, his art popping up uncredited [or I was too lazy too look for the credit] on various tumblrs and I think some t-shirts [I'm a big fan of shirt.woot! and I'm pretty sure he's had some stuff there]. You can see a more detailed version of this piece on his website, along with a lot of other awesome illustrations.

I didn't scan the back, because it's not really a postcard proper, and the message on the back was pretty simple, just "Randall -- Keep writing. --Elle" a lovely sentiment that I've sadly been negligent at as of late. It wasn't postmarked either, because this card was actually tucked away in a lot of other schwag Elle scored for me at the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival [so... goddamn... jealous], which was the second best thing to actually getting to go with her. I contemplated rolling everything out like I had in the past, but it seemed a bit like boasting.

Last, but far from least, is the only New Years card I've ever gotten, ever, and like all the rest they came from Bennington gals -- the oft-linked journalist Sarah Crow, and her roommate and fellow blogger Sarah St. Lifer [those links aren't even close to all they do]. The multi-colored zebras already had me flashing back to Fruit Stripe gum, but the inside...

The lovely ladies on a background of lasers, in what can only be their family Christmas photo. I don't think I've ever made the list of someone's holiday cards I wasn't working for, and this one was so 1990s-riffic that I sincerely hope ushering in each new year will continue to include a callback to my favorite decade. It also really gave me the itch to hunt down my old Charlotte Hornets pullover, which considering what a little porker I was in middle school, I might actually be able to wear again now.

So, there we have it. Two from Boston, two from Brooklyn. Each one absolutely awesome, and I just... don't even know where to begin when it comes to thanking you guys. It means a lot, and I hope you don't mind me showing these off here. Also gives me a very nice impetus to scan everything, and get nice digital copies because in the boxed-up way I have to keep everything in my one room domicile, I don't always have the option of digging cards up and leafing through.

It's also a really loud, and [I think] sweetly obnoxious way to just say thank you. Sincerely.

And hey, guys, this is not a girl's only kind of racket I'm running here. Anyone who wants to drop me a postcard, the address is Randall Nichols at 72 3rd Avenue, Elkview, WV, 25071, and I will heap just as much attention on them as I did on these. I really enjoy getting them, and if nothing else they remain one of the most novel ways to catch up. Always reminds me of Kerouac for some reason... And it's very interesting what people write to you, when they only have a set amount of space.

Except of course for Cara, who I think pulled an Escher-like trick herself, and got a small novel on the back there.

This has also reminded I really want to show off what Glen [that's Glen "Mario's Closet" Brogan, folks] did for me for Christmas... it's a picture print, that shows off my hidden affinity for slightly rotund, bearded gentleman [whew... so glad I spent the bulk of this post talking about chicks. Chicks and...postcards... huh]. My phone camera is rubbish for the job, though, so I may have to talk to Glen about it.

And again, everyone, thank you. I haven't had much time to slow down and just... appreciate things. But I do. A lot.


I don't tend show off Christmas Gifts, but...

What can I say? This appealed to my ego.

CheriAnn Borgstrom [née Stevens], or... maybe you know her as Nixon Agnew, or Cheeseborger, did this for me. She's... insanely busy, but for Christmas she said people could request a small sketch, no string attached, and did this for me. Kind of a striking likeness for someone who's never seen me in real life [and also? THANK YOU, Cheri, for making me blond. I fight so hard for the acknowledgment of my actual hair color], complete with a POV that might explain that necromancer's tan I rock. And even though the artist was apologetic for being late, I have to say... this couldn't have come at a more wonderful time. Sounds weird to say, of course, but I just took the Christmas tree and all the decoration down, so a slightly belated reminder of the holiday was just what I needed.

Merry Christmas, CheriAnn, and thank you so much for this. Anyone who's reading, help me thank CheriAnn by checking out her deviantART site here, and her tumblr, both of which regularly feature updated work from her. CheriAnn has been lovely to me for... well, as long as I can remember, though I like to think our friendship really took off after working together to solve the riddle of Emilio Estevez's crotch-related super-powers.

Oh, the search terms we're generating.

As for other things, I have several posts forthcoming, lot of stuff to show off that isn't Christmas related, maybe some writing I've been messing around with, but right now I've kind of put everything off to do holiday-related things, watch movies, and dig into the massive stack of books that I received for Christmas. So, promise, more soon. Not at all strange for me, but... lots to talk about.

Until then, just a short post.

And thanks again CheriAnn. I really appreciate this.