Summer may be over, but the seaside vacation town of Chowder Bay still holds further adventure for two young brothers in “Salt Water Taffy: The Truth About Dr. True,” the third volume of writer-artist Matthew Loux’s series of all-ages graphic novels. The new book arrives in stores September 30, courtesy of Oni Press, and CBR News caught up with Loux to discuss the series.
“Salt Water Taffy” follows the adventures of brothers Jack and Benny in the eccentric coastal town of Chowder Bay, where their parents have brought them for a relaxing summer. While Benny, the younger brother, rather enjoys exploring, Jack tends to be uninspired by the scenic surroundings and would prefer to play his video games all day. Together, though, in a town full of mysteries, sea monsters, and giant eagles, Jack and Benny cannot help but be drawn into Chowder Bay’s dramatic adventures.
The third volume of the graphic novel series focuses on a long-ago conflict between two of Chowder Bay’s most famous residents, Dr. True and Captain Hollister. “Dr. Gershom True is the great-great-grandfather of George True, the current owner of the town’s famous salt water taffy shop. Dr. True was a medic in the Civil War for the Union Army, and after the war ended, he tried to make some money by peddling a cure-all elixir (with questionable results),” Loux said. “We also know that he disappeared mysteriously one night in Chowder Bay and was never heard from again. That is until, over a hundred years later, Jack and Benny stumble upon one of his old elixir bottles and upon opening it, they release the ghost of Dr. True.
“It was very exciting for me to finally get into Dr. True’s character, especially since I planted the seeds back in book 1, ‘The Legend Of Old Salty,’ knowing he would make an appearance in book 3. I came up with the first three book ideas all around the same time, so I tried my best to work in some references to future events.”
Dr. True has returned to haunt Chowder Bay in revenge for the town’s admiration of Capt. Hollister, the local Civil War hero whose statue graces the town square. “Capt. Hollister was a captain in the Union Navy, and is a source of great pride to the town. But his heroic legend is brought into question by none other than the ghost of Dr. True, and this sends the town into an uproar,” Loux said. “One thing that is fun to play around with is the concept of myth vs. fact. So many of the stories about our founding fathers have morphed from actual events into legendary tall tales–tales that sometimes do not even resemble the original events and often obscure important facts that really should be known. Like, how many kids think the pilgrims were the first Europeans in North America?
“Another theme to explore is how a place and it’s people will base their own egos and feelings of pride on these local legends,” the writer continued, “to the point that if it’s ever disputed, many would be unwilling to believe the facts.
“It was fun to create that kind of historical character as well as the legend surrounding him. There are countless towns in New England who have these kind of local historical characters. One of these guys I probably had in mind the most was Israel Putnam, a local Connecticut hero who was an army general during the Revolutionary War. There’s a big statue of him in Putnam, CT, near where I grew up. (This is also where I got the name for Jack and Benny ‘Putnam’).”
In volume 3, the Putnam family has found its rhythm in Chowder Bay, and the relationship between the two brothers has mellowed since their first adventure. “I think they’ve become more comfortable with the idea of being each other’s friend as opposed to a forced companionship,” Loux told CBR. “That is what always seems to happen when you’re a kid on summer vacation, all of a sudden the only person close to your age that you can hang out with is your sibling. This can either end in misery or it can turn into a genuine camaraderie and even friendship. Now that some time has gone by, and some adventures have been had, Jack and Benny work more as a team when dealing with the craziness of Chowder Bay. They can still fight like brothers, but at this point they know they’re in it together for the long run.”
As to what’s coming up in the as-yet untitled fourth installment, Loux suggested that “The Truth About Dr. True” holds a significant clue toward the end of the story. ” I don’t want to give it away, but it’s pretty cool,” Loux said. “There are also a lot of locations on the map that will be very important in future stories. And you might have noticed a small island often in the background near the lighthouse island, one that always has a cloud over it. That might involve something, too…”
Be sure to return to CBR tomorrow, September 22, for an exclusive 25 page preview of “Salt Water Taffy” volume 3.