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The Maxx #1, illustrated by Sam Kieth.
|Publication date||March 1993 – 1998|
|Number of issues||35|
|Main character(s)||The Maxx
|Volume 1||ISBN 1-4012-0124-5|
The Maxx is an American comic book series created by Sam Kieth and published originally monthly by Image Comics and now collected in trade paperback collections from DC Comic's Wildstorm imprint. The comic book, which stars a character of the same name, spawned an animated series that aired on MTV. The first appearance of The Maxx was in Primer #5, published by Comico Comics.
The series follows the adventures of the titular hero in the real world and in an alternate reality, referred to as The Outback. In the real world the Maxx is a vagrant, a "homeless man living in a box", while in the Outback he is the powerful protector of the Jungle Queen. The Jungle Queen exists in the real world as Julie Winters, a freelance social worker who often bails the Maxx out of jail. While the Maxx is aware of the Outback, Julie is not, though it is integral to both of their stories.
Mr. Gone, a serial rapist with a telepathic link to Julie and extensive knowledge of and access to people's various Outbacks, starts phoning Julie. She thinks he is merely an obscene phone caller, and ignores him. Eventually, The Maxx gets in Gone's way by "protecting" Julie, so Gone tries to kill him, assisted by the Isz, the Outback's main predators. The Maxx fights him in both The Outback and the real world.
Eventually, Mr. Gone makes Julie see the truth about her past, and reveals to her how The Maxx came to be. A twist is revealed by Gone: the fact that Gone first met Julie when she was a child as "uncle Artie", a friend of her father's. Gone's tall tales about a visit to Australia helped shape Julie's Outback. As Julie begins healing herself and The Outback, the series follows Sarah, a depressed teenager whose mother sends her to Julie for counseling. Sarah is often in conflict with her mother, who disciplines her so she won't grow up to be like her father, eventually revealed to be Mr. Gone.
The backstories of several characters are revealed midway through the series. While in college, Julie picks up a hitch-hiker, who beats and rapes her before finally leaving her to die. To cope, she hides in what is referred to as her 'Outback' (a primeval landscape situated entirely in her subconscious, where she has control). In The Outback, she becomes "The Jungle Queen", an all-powerful goddess. She spends so much time dwelling in her Outback that the real world and The Outback gradually become unstable.
One night, she accidentally hits a homeless man with her car. Remembering what happened the last time she stopped to help someone, she covers the unconscious body with trash, but in doing so she unintentionally opens a link to the Outback. After Julie leaves, a lampshade in the trash (which had brushed the Outback) expands over the man's body, becoming a mask that costumes him and links him to Julie.
After the conclusion of the first storyline, the action leaps forward from 1995 (the then-present) to the year 2005. Julie and Dave (the former Maxx) having vanished, the action focuses on Sara (as she now spells her name) and Iago, a giant, murderous banana slug from her Outback. Iago has a list of people to kill, and it turns out that Julie and Sara are both on it. Sara is hounded by a homeless man named Norbert whom she soon realizes is her Maxx. Sara has constant confrontations with Mr. Gone, who is repentant of his past crimes. He is visited by three special agents intent on arresting him, but he turns them into insects. Later, after reading a diary he leaves for her that reveals his tragic origin story, Sara eventually feels sympathy for and a connection to her father. She also begins developing a strange power that she may be inheriting from Mr. Gone.
Julie and Dave return to the story after Julie is attacked by Iago and loses a few fingers. It turns out that Julie abandoned her son, Mark, to keep him safe from Iago. She tries to have Dave tell Mark that she's dead so he will stop seeking her out, but Mark doesn't believe him. Sara, Dave, Mark, Mr. Gone and Norbert band together to rescue Julie from Iago, who kidnaps her and takes her into Sara's outback. Norbert cuts Iago open, apparently defeating him, but Julie has already escaped.
Mr. Gone soon reveals that time is unraveling for the group, which now includes Glorie, one of Mr. Gone's past victims who now has a friendly relationship with him. Gone returns Dave's Maxx power to him. Sara returns as a being whom different people perceive as a giant Isz, pink fairy or football. Mark has an odd dream about eccentric kidnappers. Each member of the group begins to disappear from reality to be reborn in another. Before Mr. Gone can disappear, the three agents who previously tried to arrest him, who now appear as humanoid beings with insect bug heads, return and kill him, as he expected. Mark is the last to disappear.
In Julie's outback, Mr. Gone is reunited with Sara, who is now a child again. The Maxx considers attacking him, but the Jungle Queen says to leave him be, because even evil deserves a place to rest.
In the new reality, Mr. Gone is a professor and Dave is a janitor at his school. Julie and Mark are still mother and son, but seem to live in better conditions. All the principal characters now lead completely different lives, yet retain a small part of their connection to the Outback and to each other.
One of the dominant concepts of The Maxx is that every human being has a spirit animal, which is linked to the person during a pivotal moment in their life. Julie's spirit animal is a rabbit. When she was very young, Julie rescued a dying rabbit that lay in the road in front of her house (as seen in The Maxx #12). Julie later witnessed her mother bludgeoning the rabbit to death with a shovel to put it out of its misery. This traumatic event linked the rabbit to Julie's subconscious. Julie projects the rabbit onto Dave as she tries to take care of him like the rabbit she was unable to save. Maxx, who is linked to Julie and her spirit animal, worries that, if he removes his mask, she will find the head of a rabbit beneath it.
Sarah's spirit animal is a horse. In the latter half of the series, this spirit animal manifests itself as Norbert, a homeless man she takes pity on.
The main inhabitants of The Outback, the Isz are small, eyeless beings with egg-shaped bodies, arms and legs, about as large as housecats. The omnivorous white Isz of the Outback become cannibalistic black Isz when brought into the real world. They are stronger, faster, and have sharper teeth than white Isz. However in one instance, a single White Isz was able to cross over into the real world unchanged when there was a small punctured hole in an alley wall that directly connected both realities. The Black Isz proceeded to torture their less aggressive kin after its initial mission had been completed, showing the completely opposite degrees of aggression the two types exhibit. The Black Isz can assume different appearances depending on the clothes they wear, and their intent. If an Isz is dressed as an elderly woman, it appears as such to anyone who does not know already that it is an Isz. In the latter part of the series, Sara's Isz appear as pink, flying, eyeless fairies that explode if not kept in water.
The comics have been collected into a number of trade paperbacks:
Other issues include The Maxx #½, and a Gen¹³/The Maxx crossover.
The Maxx has made cameo appearances in the graphic novel Popbot (which Kieth co-wrote), issue #1 of the independent comic Armature, the Sonic the Hedgehog comic Sonic Super Special #7 Sonic/Image Crossover; the four issue limited series Altered Image, the Image mini series Blood Wolf (1995) and The Savage Dragon #28 (collected in Savage Dragon Vol. 7: A Talk With God). He also briefly appears in the series Mars Attacks The Image Universe. He appears on a TV screen on the Frostbite version of the cover to DV8 #1. A Maxx story also appeared in Gay Comics.
The Maxx: The Complete Series DVD set
|Created by||Sam Kieth
|Voices of||Michael Haley
|Country of origin||USA|
|No. of episodes||13|
|Running time||11 minutes|
|Original channel||MTV (USA)|
|Original run||April 8, 1995– June 19, 1995|
The comic book series was adapted into an animated series as part of the MTV program Oddities. It covered Darker Image #1, The Maxx #1/2, and issues #1-11 of the regular series, depicting the introduction of Julie, the original Maxx, Mr. Gone, and later, Sarah. The series included few of the revelations of the characters' origins, however, and did not describe the interconnections between them.
The animation frequently changes styles. In one scene, characters may be rendered in detail but in the next, they may be simplified and cartoonish. Often this is done to show a change in perspective. CGI and even live-action are sometimes integrated in with the hand-drawn animation. Critics such as Richard Matthes have noted how much of the animation is based directly on panels from the comic.
The show was released once on VHS, though missing an episode, then later in 2009 it became available to stream on MTV.com though only to American audiences. On December 17, 2009, The Maxx became available on DVD exclusively through Amazon.com's CreateSpace "Manufacture-on-Demand" program which contains every episode of the television show and also includes audio commentary on each episode plus interviews with Creator Sam Kieth & Director Gregg Vanzo. Full episodes of the entire season now stream for free on MTV's Liquid TV reboot liquidtelevision.com.
McFarlane Toys released a Maxx figure (packaged with Isz figures) as part of its Spawn line. Shocker Toys has released one The Maxx mini action figure as well as a larger, fully articulated 8 inch figure for their Indie Spotlight line of figures.
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