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FCBD 2010: Exclusive Interview with Oni Free-for-All's Matthew Loux

In addition to The Sixth Gun #1, this FCBD, Oni Press is offering the all-ages title Oni Press Free-for-All, giving readers a taste of three series – The Crogan Adventures by Chris Schweizer, Possessions by Ray Fawkes, and Salt Water Taffy by Matthew Loux.

In this interview from, Loux discusses what it was like crafting a FCBD story that fits into his well-received, kid-friendly series and the day itself.


Oni Press Free-for-All Set your project up for those that might not know much about it. What can we expect to see in terms of story and art?

Matthew Loux: My Free Comic Book Day story is a short based on my ongoing series of all-ages graphic novels, Salt Water Taffy, which is about two young brothers, Jack and Benny, who are on a summer-long vacation in a mysterious old seaside town in Maine. In this town they encounter many fun adventures involving giant lobster sea monsters, old-timey ghost stories, and even giant eagles who love stealing hats.

The FCBD story centers around the telling of a tale about the town's Civil War hero, Captain William Hollister, and his first encounter with Old Salty, the giant lobster sea monster. The fun part is when the boys daydream themselves into this tale, changing it as it unfolds. The art style matches the fun and elastic adventure in its animated, cartoony look, juxtaposed with lush and beautifully scenic New England backgrounds. What’s your favorite part about being able to work in comics?

Loux: I am in a fortunate position to be able to create stories and worlds that are all my own. I both write and draw my books, so I control the humor of each character and situation, the pacing of the action, and the look of this seaside town and its often bizarre residents. Having this control and working on an ongoing series allows me to really get into creating the feel of this world with its cache of characters, both human and animal, the details and history of the town and its folklore, and also the visual look of its New England'y setting. Oni Press is great in that they fully support a creator's vision, allowing us to tell a story in our own ways without much compromise. What audience are you targeting with your comic?

Loux: All-ages of course! And by that I mean, kids will love these adventuresome stories and it's sometimes zany humor and action, but I really wrote it so anyone can enjoy the fun. I try to be real about the boys’ reactions to the crazy things that happen, but at the same time they accept that a lobster is talking to them without question. It really boils down to me writing an adventure story that both a kid would want to read, and I would want to read. Writing and drawing a series by yourself must be challenging. How far in advance do you start working on a graphic novel before it is on store shelves?

Loux: On average, a year for one of the graphic novels. Usually I have the idea far in advance and while I'm working on whatever I'm working on, I'll think out the story over time. Once I'm ready to start on that story I will begin to break down the idea into beats and details until it's fleshed out enough to start the script. This can take two months or so, with a high level of concentration. Not my favorite thing.

Once the script is done, I thumbnail the whole book which also take lots of concentrating, but that’s completed in only a week or two. During all of this I'm already doing the character and location design. Once all the planning is done, it's a matter of drawing/inking and computer touchup-ing the 90ish pages, which can take me anywhere from 7 to 9 months. It seems like a long time, and it is, but if you think about it one year out of a hopefully 120 year reign is a small price to pay for a great book! Were there any of your own experiences that inspired the adventures of Jack and Benny in Salt Water Taffy?

Loux: Definitely. As kids, my brother and I were brought to many New England locales for vacation. Growing up in Connecticut, it was easy traveling to great outdoorsy places like Mt. Desert Island, Maine, or historic Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts. The fictional Salt Water Taffy town of Chowder Bay is very much based on places like Boothbay harbor or a less touristy version of Cape Cod. Also the younger brother/older brother relationship in the books are loosely inspired by myself and my older brother, Jesse, from that age, and how, when on vacations, you're forced to hang out with you sibling whether you want to or not. In Salt Water Taffy, the boys' relationship in ChowderBay begins grudgingly like this but it quickly changes to real camaraderie. Why do you think FCBD is so vital to the industry?

Loux: It's a win-win-win situation. People who like free comics get free comics, comic shops get lots of new foot traffic from people who might like the place and may come back, or who might buy something while they are getting free comics. And publishers and creators get to give lots of people a free taste of their stories which could turn them on to their books, all on a day that feels like a holiday. It's a great thing all around. Since FCBD has now been a yearly event since 2002, do you, your creator friends and/or your family have any annual FCBD traditions?

 Loux: We used to go see whatever super-hero movie was out that May. I will sometimes do local signings when I can. This FCBD I will be in Brooklyn, NY at Rocketship Comics signing in the morning. It's always lots of fun there. What’s the biggest challenge when creating a FCBD book as opposed to a standard comic? Do you have to approach it differently knowing you might have a broader audience?

Loux: Sort of. First off, I really wanted to have a sharp and clever story that would entertain anyone who hasn't read any of the Salt Water Taffy books at all. But I also wanted to show them why the Salt Water Taffy series is awesome and worth checking out. I think I was able to cram in a bunch of aspects from the whole series that were fun and crazy, but served as a good way to introduce all of it to a new reader. And I also put in a bunch of great things for those who are already fans of the series.

Salt Water Taffy GN Vol. What was your favorite character, setting, or sequence to illustrate?

Loux: There is a sequence when Jack, the older brother, daydreams himself into the story being told, and he gradually changes it from a tale of old time exploration, to a Sci-fi video game fight complete with an army of alien cyborgs and a giant King spider. It was so ludicrous it was awesome. I was also really glad to draw Old Salty, the giant lobster from the first Salt Water Taffy book, "The Legend Of Old Salty." That's the last time I drew her in a comic, and she still feels like a pivotal character in the series. She looks like she's challenging to draw with all the legs and claws, but it is actually super fun. Knowing that so many readers are sure to pick up the issue, does that put more pressure on you, or is that something that gets you more excited about what you’re working on?

Loux: I was very excited when I was asked to do a Salt Water Taffy Free Comic Book Day story. The idea came to me pretty quickly, too. The real challenge was fitting it into a short format, but it worked out great. I'm honestly very proud of it – both on the story end and the art side. I knew that a ton of new people would read this who had never heard of the series, and that is awesome. I went all out on it and I hope they like it. In the spirit of potential newcomers picking up comics, what was the first comic you remember reading or that inspired you to get involved in the industry?

Loux: I think it must have been some old Peanuts books my grandmother got from various yard sales. I say that because the earliest comics I drew (that I can remember) were some Snoopy and Woodstock comics. Second would be Eric Larson Spider-Man comics from the early 90's. That's when I first mused out loud about being a comic artist. What comic(s) or graphic novel(s) would you recommend to someone that enjoys your FCBD book and is looking for something like it to read next?

First off, any of the three already-available Salt Water Taffy graphic novels! After that, I'd recommend the manga series One Piece by Eiichiro Oda, Ted Naifeh's Courtney Crumrin series for the more macabre, and go ahead and pick up a Carl Barks Uncle Scrooge collection. That'll do ya!


Be sure to visit often to check out previews of this year’s books and to learn more about our FCBD Sponsors, what merchandise and downloads are available this year, where favorite creators will be showing up for signings, and much more. You can also follow all the latest FCBD news on Facebook and Twitter.

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