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Salt Water Taffy: Fun for the Whole Family

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A graduate of New York’s School of Visual Arts, Matthew Loux’s first foray into comic book craziness was as the artist for Antony Johnston’s F-Stop from Oni Press, and he’s been with the diverse publisher ever since. His first book as both writer and artist was 2006’s Sidescrollers which followed three gamers’ antics as they sought to impress Amber, the object of one of the geeks affections. Full of pop culture laden wit it appeared to be the product of a more family friendly Kevin Smith, and soon garnered critical praise, becoming one of the American Library Association’s 10 Best Graphic Novels For Teens.

Salt Water Taffy Volume 1: The Legend of Old Salty was next. Young brothers Jack and Benny’s adventures on a strange family trip to Chowder Bay were chronicled in the all-ages tale and cemented Loux’s reputation as a talented writer and artist. Jack and Benny’s next glorious and hilarious seaside adventure can be seen in the upcoming Salt Water Taffy Volume 2: A Climb Up Mt Barnabus.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Why focus on all-ages comics? Did you see a gap in the marketplace that wasn't being filled?

MATTHEW LOUX: I've always been a fan of children's and all-ages literature. I think some of the most purely fun and creative adventure stories stem from this category. That being said, the Salt Water Taffy ideas sort of evolved from a quirky port town scenario into the children's book format that it is. My ideas about monsters and giant animals seamed to fit perfectly. And these are stories that are really fun to write and draw. I don't really have to worry too much about the finer subtleties of relationships or politics, just funny adventures. I do think the marketplace needs more great all-ages comics too, but I also think there are a lot more of these out now than in recent memory. And kids love reading comics! They want this stuff and there should be more of it.

BF: Why did you and Oni choose to publish these as digests, rather than monthly issues?

ML: Mainly because of me. I honestly don't like floppy comics, I think it's a dying format. It certainly is a limiting one these days. There's really only one place to market floppy comics which is in the direct market (comic shops) but if it's a book it can go to shops and book stores including online stores. I also just like having a longer story. I have a hard enough time containing these into 92 pages. And also these are all separate adventures, meaning each volume is a new story not an ongoing single plot. There are elements that tie together which adds to the fun but you could read them out of order if you a non conformist.

BF: How many more adventures do you have planned for Jack and Benny?

ML: I've got one more next on the queue, Vol. 3, 'The Truth About Dr. True' which is due out next summer in ‘09. After that it’s not as clear. I will definitely do more, but I might take a break from Chowder Bay for a book and work on another project. I haven't decided yet. I've got several story ideas beyond Vol. 3 though. It's the kind of world that I can just add more and more adventures as time goes on, as long as I can think of giant versions of things.

BF: With Sidescrollers and now Salt Water Taffy, you've emphasized the fun that teens and children can have. Is your writing inspired by your wild imagination as a youth?

ML: Yeah maybe. I don't remember being all that imaginative as a kid, but if you ask people like my parents they might say so. I was blessed to have a stable upbringing and to live on six or so acres of woods in New England to play around in. I think some of my creativity comes from exploring those woods with my brother. I did live in a fantasy land as a kid, created by whatever cartoon, book or comic I was in to at the time. I always drew, but I never thought I'd be a writer since my ideas were just versions of the Ninja Turtles or Spider-Man. And I have horrible spelling.

BF: Your artwork for Salt Water Taffy and your paintings seem like they're from two different artists. Would you like to do a fully painted comic one day?

ML: Yes I would like to some day, but only if the pay is really good. As you might think, it takes a long time to do a painting like that (if you don't know what I'm talking about go to my website www.actionmatt.com) I miss doing it but I barely have the time to do comic pages, and sadly there isn't much of a market for realistically rendered paintings like that anymore. You've got your chosen few who manage to get published but I wasn't able to get any interest when I was making my rounds back in the day. I have been experimenting in painting over my cartoons with some SWT paintings, and I'd love to do a painted short story of that some time. But again it would take me forever to do it, so, only if there's a lot of money involved.

BF: As both writer and artist, which role dictates the content of your work? Are there two different voices yammering for attention?

ML: I feel like I'm an artist who writes. I will always view myself as avisual artist over anything else. I think I'm a decent writer though, but I am a visual writer. A lot of my ideas will come from either exciting action scenes I can picture, or beautiful landscapes to build some story around. Or even a wild character design (lobster, eagle,...) Remember for me, I will have to draw all of this eventually so it had better be interesting.

Sidescrollers might have been the exception to this, but I was able to enjoy drawing the familiar suburban settings I grew up around by referencing actual places in eastern Connecticut, but much of the writing of Sidescrollers came from visual gags and jokes. Well, the whole thing probably, so it's not so different.

Salt Water Taffy Volume 2 is available now from Oni Press priced $5.95. Click here for a huge 16-page preview courtesy of Oni.

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