Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Exclusive - Interview with Author: Art Aguinaldo

Over the summer at Comic Con, I was lucky enough to meet and talk to author Arthur Aguinaldo. Here exclusively at Phamtom Zone is an in-depth look at the author also known as loujen haxm’Yor.

Can you tell us what your novel is about? Did you provide the illustrations as well?

The title of my novel is ChaulE A Barbarian Fantasy.  It is the story of the ChaulEr Guardians of the Holy Well versus the evil Qortlite Empire, which seeks domination over the Lynk Star system as well as control of the Well.  The main characters are Paun—rise-to-fame Sinner Chieftain of the ground forces of ChaulE and one of the most powerful warriors on Lynk Star.  

She is betrayed by her lover, kidnapped, tortured, and imprisoned.  Eventually she is rescued by a mariner from another planet.  His name is Jyl.  Suspicious of his true intentions, the ChaulEr nobility have assigned their council sleuth to construct him as the enemy.  His primary interest is the location of the Well of Sut UnBii.  It is a tale of ferocious battles, elite female warriors, witchcraft, serpentlords, flying elkstallions, very foreign lands, romance and treachery.  All this takes place on a star system of two primary planets periodically connected by a great river in space.

Currently my only illustration for this novel is the book cover.  Within the next few weeks I am going to upgrade my story with at least three illustrations, each of them reflective of their chapter content.  My final goal is to have at least one illustration per chapter.  I got the idea for this from when, as an eight year old, I checked out Robinson Crusoe from the library and was excited about the black and white drawings throughout the story.

When did you starting writing? Has it always been something you were passionate about?

I began writing as a poet in high school.  I wrote a poem about a possible end-of-the-world situation using the meter from Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven.  I later transposed it into an Elizbethan sonnet for a senior English class.  Since then I’ve continued to jot down poetic notes, some of them in my making of holiday and special occasion cards to friends and family.

Barbarian fantasy/ancient history movies were my favorites as a kid.  Hercules, 300 Spartans, Ulysses, Helen of Troy, and Demetrius and the Gladiators to name a few.  While in the military between 1968 and 1972, I had this story in my head about well-trained women sworders defending a mysterious land and an armada of parasailed enemy ships sailing a great Lynk Sea from one planet to another.  Finally, in 1982, I took out my banker’s box of partial hand-written chapters, scribblings, index cards and doodle drawings and put everything to an old fashioned typewriter.  

What's the hardest thing about writing a novel and how can you overcome that obstacle?

The hardest part was how to end the story—with real closure—and not let the audience hanging.  When the finale light bulb cracked my brain I had to change some of the inner guts of the story to make it work.  But it was fun doing it.  

Of course, the other hard part of story writing is deleting, not just small, but even large areas of content.  In 2011 I found out about e-book publishing by way of a one-day free seminar.  By then I had written some short stories as well as a collection of about fifty poems.  I reread my novel, ChaulE, cringed a bit—actually a lot—then did some major editing to make the story more reader friendly.  

My original version was too full of grammatical correctness (people just don’t converse that way) and too many poetic lines (I remember using a whole page of prose to basically say “It was a dark and stormy night.”)  I just had to tell myself that major sacrifices, despite how much work was put into them, have sometimes got to be made.  

You mentioned you also do a series of self-help books with your wife. Could you give us some details about those?

My wife, Jenny, collaborated with me on two self-help e-books.  One of them was Retirement on a Sea Level Budget.  One day in our mid-forties we took a hard look at our economics.  We always paid our bills on time.  Did dinner and movies on weekends.  Took all our yearly vacations.  But how much did we have saved up?  And by the time we’re in our sixties, how exactly will we live?  We figured that if we continued our current middle income lifestyle, we’d never be able to retire—or at least not comfortably.  So we put together some really helpful advice on what we did since that time to achieve our retirement goal.

Our other book was Going with the Flow: Life’s Triumph over Dementia.  When my brother and sister-in-law on the east coast both lost their jobs, they were stressing hard, both economically and over the care of my 83-year-old mom.  Despite her dementia and other health problems, they found it hard to put her into a nursing home.  But the round-the-clock care was taking a toll on them.  I agreed to have mom come stay with us in California.  I figured it would be easier for us, since I was already retired and home most of the time.  After three months of sleepless nights, Jenny and I knew that mom needed more professional quality care.

This story is about our manner of helping my mom as well as the nursing home staff during our visits—myself on a daily basis, and my wife on weekends.  In the long run, it made everyone’s life—especially my mom’s—much more pleasant and rewarding.

Under his pen name, Aguinaldo has written the following books, which can be found on Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites as e-Books:

A novel—Chaule    A Barbarian Fantasy
Short Stories—Kissers
 White Box
 The Job Interview
            Collection of Poems—When Apricots Had Wings
Using our real names, Jenny and Art Aguinaldo, my wife and I have written:
Retirement on a Sea Level Budget
Going with the Flow: Life’s Triumph over Dementia

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Review - Avengers vs. X-Men #9

Marvel has really been taking their time with this crossover. I haven't seen a story arc this panned out since Civil War. While I'm not the biggest fan of Adam Kubert, he nailed it this issue.


As Hope Summers continues her training in the mystical city of K'un-Lun, Spider-Man gives her some words of advice about what it means to be an Avenger. Elsewhere, the Wakanda is devastated by Namor's attack on the city and is in ruins. Storm, who sided with the X-Men, returns to her home and husband Black Panther. The the latter delivering some pretty harsh news. Now that Namor has been defeated, the Phoenix Force inside him is divided up among the remaining four hosts: Cyclops, Emma Frost, Colossus, and Magik. Pretty much they're more powerful than ever.

With the Avengers broken, beaten, and thinned out, the siblings Colossus and Magik carry out an attack on the team. So this is the best part of the entire book, and for me a highlight in the series. Spider-Man gives the team a chance to escape by taking on the Phoenix-powered Colossus and Magik by himself. The hero, who's actions parallels the advice he gave Hope earlier on in the issue, takes probably the most brutal beating I've seen anyone take in a Marvel book in a long time (Punisher books not-with-standing).

This moment of self-sacrifice is totally in character with Spider-Man and something that's been missing from previous blockbuster cross-overs. I won't tell you how it ends, but this book has been a major turning point in the series. I am most excited and anxious to see what happens next in a few weeks.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review - Spider-Men #3

A pretty fun issue, packed with tons of action and breathtaking art. Peter and Miles take on Mysterio who conjures up Spider-Man's entire rouges gallery. The fight scenes are pretty cool, but it's issue #3 of #5 already and Peter hasn't taught Miles jack shit.

When they first announced the series I was excited for Peter to interact with Miles and teach him a thing or two about being Spider-Man. Now we're three issues into it and all we've gotten are fight scenes and a few handfuls of irrelevant dialogue.


So far, all Peter has pieced together is that he's in another world where their Peter Parker is dead and outed as Spider-Man. I'm really worried about the pacing of this series because he should have realized this at the end of issue one or early issue two. 

I also feel they've dumbed down the 616 Peter for the series. He's supposed to be the experienced superhero, but Miles (13-years-old and just starting his Spidey career) gets the upper hand on him twice. Pretty lame. 

The issue concludes with Peter showing up and revealing himself to Aunt May and Gwen Stacy. Hopefully we'll get some answers next issue but until then, I have a pretty bad feeling the last two books will be rushed in terms of story.


Editorial - Next Batman Franchise

The Nolan Batman movies have finally come to their epic conclusion with the Dark Knight Rises. With Hollywood throwing out reboots of films like it's Halloween candy, maybe it's time to have a fresh new take on the Batman story. Everyone is still in love with Christopher Nolan's interpretation of the Dark Knight, what director in their right mind would want to follow that?

Here's my pitch: Batman Beyond.

It'd be great to see the cult television cartoon that appeared at the end of the 90s on the big screen. It's fresh enough that we can get a entirely new Batman experience, but with the same themes and elements that we have all come to love from the Batman character.

Set in a Neo-Gothic future, a new Batman takes the mantle as Bruce Wayne's successor. Batman Beyond can be the new film we need to tide us over until the next appropriate reboot of the Batman franchise.

Joseph Kosinski, the director of Tron: Legacy, would be a perfect candidate to direct this futuristic take on Gotham City.

Something to think about.

New CW Series - Arrow

We all know that this fall, CW will be premiering their new series: Arrow. The show will be based on the Oliver Queen/Green Arrow character. The incarnation had previously appeared on Smallville, played by Justin Hartley. But the CW has made it adamantly clear that the show will have no ties to one another and that the new Oliver Queen is a completely different and new character.

From the trailer, it looks like we'll be getting a much darker version of the Emerald Archer. Most people on the message boards are hoping it will be more closer to the Mike Grell version of Green Arrow, where he's more of a hunter than a superhero. From the looks of it, it will be. 

What I'm most excited for is that they're bringing in some of the most bad-ass comic book villains in the DC Universe pretty early on in the show (Deathstroke, Deadshot, and Constantine Drakon). The first two being a complete waste of an opportunity when they appeared on the final season of Smallville. 

The only thing I'm worried about is that they seem to be calling him "Arrow" instead of "Green Arrow" and that crappy face paint mask he has.

Other than that, I'm pretty stoked to catch the premiere. 

Trailer - The Dark Knight Returns Pt. 1

Hot off the release of The Dark Knight Rises, DC Universe Original Animated Movies have officially released the trailer for the next installment of their animated film franchise, The Dark Knight Returns. Adapted from Frank Miller's legendary graphic novel, the story focuses on an elderly Bruce Wayne returning to a life of crime-fighting as the Batman. The movie is to be split in two parts, with the first releasing on DVD and Bluray on September 25.

With the commercial success of The Dark Knight Rises, fans are probably eager to get their next Batman fix. Peter Weller, better known for his role as RoboCop, will provide the voice of Batman. DC animated movies have been pretty hit-or-miss, but they have more or less hit a consistency of good storytelling when it comes to Batman.

Very excited for this!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Smallville Season 11

As all of you know, Smallville ended it's tenth and final season with Clark taking to the skies as Superman. Earlier this year, it was announced that an eleventh season would be picked up. In comic book form.

As a fan of Smallville since the very first episode (I was in eighth grade), the thought of furthering the adventures of the characters I grew up with sounded amazing. I didn't have to say goodbye just yet. Thankfully, Smallville Season 11 still has most of the heart of the TV show. The pacing is a bit faster since each chapter is only a handful of pages, but the story and medium allows for much more action than the television show. It's great to see Superman in costume flying around in action.

The art is pretty spot-on when it comes to making the characters look like the actors that once portrayed them, also giving them the freedom to do things in the book that the budget on the show once would not allow. As far as the writing goes, it's pretty hit-or-miss depending on the chapter.

But then again, that's Smallville.

The best part is, there's no summer break in between as this is a comic book. Definitely worth checking out.

Under Rated Movie: Meteor Man

Does anyone remember a time where a comic book movie didn't come out every other month? Back when comic book fans took what they could get in a superhero flick? 

Back in 1993, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer gave us Meteor Man. Starring Robert Townsend, the film focused on shy educator Jefferson Reed. Reed lives in a neighborhood that is under the thumb of a local gang: The Golden Lords. After a rough encounter with them, Reed is struck by a meteor and gains superpowers. He then uses those powers to become Meteor Man, defending his neighborhood and standing up for it's residents. 

Now as much crap as the movie got back when it came out, it still holds the spot for one of my favorite superhero movies ever. The Meteor Man pretty much has everything you could ask for: action, comedy, family, heart, and James Earl Jones in a high-top-fade! 

Now, if you do manage to find yourself a copy, I'm not promising The Dark Knight, or even Spider-Man 2, but I am going to promise that you'll get a laugh or two with this light-hearted superhero comedy. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Toon of the Week - "Canadian Bacon"


Ever bite into a crispy piece of freshly fried bacon with your breakfast? With bacon trends blowing up in the foodie world over the last few years, do you ever stop and wonder:

"Hey, what's the history behind this salty piece of meat I'm about to put in my mouth?"

This piece I did for FOODSCAPE, "Canadian Bacon," gives us a look into the lives of these delicious breakfast creatures. What we have is a window into at their problems, their loves, and their sorrows.

Review - Hit-Girl #2

Taking place after the events of Kick-Ass vol. 1 and Kick-Ass vol. 2, Hit-Girl bridges the gap between what happened after Dave and Mindy took down the Genovese crime family and before the Red Mist's rose to power. Mindy is secretly training Dave to be a better hero, and Dave is teaching Mindy how to be a regular 12-year-old girl.


Not much takes place as far as the story goes. We get a bunch of hilarious scenes of Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl training. She's toughening him up after what she saw in vol. 1. Mindy, who can kill men three times her size, is having the hardest time adjusting to a normal life. She's unpopular, and ridiculed and she doesn't understand why. Her home life isn't going too great either as her step-father, Marcus, makes her promise to give up the superhero life.

But come on, we all know better.

Not much of Red Mist in this issue, but from the ending, it looks like he's going to start his war against superheroes first thing the next issue.

Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. deliver the same consistency and quality that they put into Kick-Ass 1 & 2. The dialogue is natural, ridiculous, terrifying, and hilarious all at the same time. The Hit-Girl series is the perfect transition between the two Kick-Ass books. Romita's art is great in this book. Though I'm not a fan of his work on Avengers, I'm happy with the quality and real-life vibe he puts into Hit-Girl.

Stay tuned! 4/5