Lobsters & Candy: Loux talks "Salt Water Taffy”

Fri, April 11th, 2008 at 11:37am PDT | Updated: April 11th, 2008 at 1:42pm

Comic Books
Shaun Manning, Staff Writer

"Salt Water Taffy" on sale in May

Next month, Oni Press will debut the first volume of “Salt Water Taffy,” writer-artist Matthew Loux’s new series of all-ages graphic novels taking place in coastal Maine. Loux’s previous book, “Sidescrollers,” was in 2006 named as one of the Ten Best Graphic Novels for Teens by the Young Adult Library Services Association and the American Library Association. CBR News caught up with Loux to discuss the inspiration for his new series and the bonds brothers form over taffy.

"’Salt Water Taffy’ is about two young brothers, Jack and Benny, on vacation in a small port town in Maine called Chowder Bay,” Loux told CBR News. “In this town there are plenty of mysterious and exciting things that happen and the boys are constantly getting into adventures and meeting interesting characters, both human an not (aka giant lobsters, eagles, ghosts...). The stories are all fun and quirky adventure comedies, sort of episodic in that each book is a stand alone story. They follow the same characters, though. ‘Salt Water Taffy’ was a way for me to play around with the sort of fun adventure stuff that I loved as a kid, like ‘Indiana Jones,’ ‘Duck Tails,’ ‘Zelda,’ to list a few."

At the beginning of book one, Jack, the older brother, is none too happy about his family’s retreat to the sleepy town -- and to make matters worse, his Gameboy has just run out of batteries. “Jack grows from rejecting anything about Chowder Bay and his brother, to getting waist deep in the craziness of the town. He also learns to rely on Benny for help,” Loux said. “As the series progresses the boys really become each other’s support structure. They develop their brotherly friendship, the kind that is strong with a sense of duty and alliance even if you don't always see eye to eye.

Pages from "Salt Water Taffy"
“I think of Jack and Benny as any good comedy team. Jack is the strait man and Benny the silly guy, but like the classic comedy teams they're both pretty ridiculous at times. I play around with this dynamic, because even though Jack’s usually the less impulsive one, I switch it up at times in the next book. I'm having a lot of fun with these characters.”

On the subject of classic comedians, one of course wonders about the significance of the brothers’ names. “I knew I wanted the younger brother to be named Benny, so when I was thinking of the other name 'Jack' just fell into place,” the writer explained. “So yes, I was thinking of Jack Benny. I liked him a lot when I was younger, along with the Bob Hope, Bing Crosby road movies and the Marx Brothers.”

Despite the name of the series, salt water taffy itself will “not always play a 'central' role, but it's presence will be there,” Loux said. “Like in the next book, 'A Climb Up Mt. Barnabas,' there are references to the candy, but Mr. True doesn't make an appearance (he's busy cleaning up the shop after the break-in [in volume 1]). But the third story, 'The Truth About Dr. True', centers around the actual Dr. True, or to be more specific, the ghost of Dr. True and his mysterious murder over one hundred and twenty years earlier. I'm excited about that one because I get to draw 1800s garb. Most of the stories will bring them by the Taffy Shop at some point. How can you resist good taffy?”

Pages from "Salt Water Taffy"

Chowder Bay is a strong presence “Salt Water Taffy,” and readers are introduced to the town through the young brothers’ exploration. “I worked really hard to try and make the environment as important as the characters as well as feeling specifically Maine, or at least New England,” Loux said. “I grew up in Connecticut and went camping all over the east coast and we went to Maine often. I think part of why I made the setting Maine is because unlike the other coastal New England states, Maine still has a lot of areas that seem far away from civilization.

"Chowder Bay has to be like a 19th century village that time forgot. Also, the last family vacation I went on as a kid (or early teen, I guess) was too Mt. Desert Island with my mom, dad, cousin, and uncle, and it was probably the most fun vacation I had been on. And my older brother stayed home and threw a party just like in an ‘80s movie.”

Pages from "Salt Water Taffy"
Loux is hoping to keep the brothers on their seaside holiday for some time to come. “There are three books solidly planned, with the idea to continue depending if anyone likes it as much as I do. I have ideas for six books right now,” he said. “I'm currently in the middle of drawing 'A Climb Up Mt. Barnabas' and it's going well. This one is more of a linear adventure about how Jack and Benny meet Barnabas the giant gold eagle and how he steals their father’s hat, so the boys have to climb up a treacherous mountain to get it back. I think the plan for release will be maybe three per year. They've been taking me longer to do than I expected, but I'll try to work faster.”

The pace of writing and illustrating several graphic novels each year means readers shouldn’t expect many side projects from Loux in the meantime.“‘Salt Water Taffy’ has been taking up most of my time. I kind of want to do a web comic, though,” he said. “I've got a bunch of ideas, just not enough time to do them. If I do, I'll announce it on my blog at my website. Other than that it's the world of Chowder Bay for me!”

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TAGS:  salt water taffy, matthew loux, oni press

 
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