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Comic Book / The Maxx

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"Most of us inhabit at least two worlds: The real world, where we're at the mercy of circumstance... and the world within, the unconscious, a safe place, where we can escape. The Maxx shifts between these worlds against his will. Here, homeless, he lives in a box in an alley. The only one who really cares for him is Julie Winters, a freelance social worker. But in Pangea, the other world, he rules the Outback, and is the protector of Julie, his jungle queen. There he cares for her. But he always ends up back in the real world.
And me? Old Mr. Gone? Only I can see that the secret which unites them could destroy them. I could be helpful... Bah, screw it. I think I'll have some fun with them first. Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-hah!"
Mr. Gone Opening Narration

A homeless man only known as the Maxx fancies himself a superhero, but often ends up causing more trouble than he stops. The thing is, he does look like a superhero, though kind of a weird one. Even weirder is that he shifts between the real world and a world called the Outback, a fanciful version of Australia populated with various bizarre wildlife.

Self-described "freelance social worker" Julie Winters has a friendship with the Maxx, often bailing him out of jail; she also exists in the Outback as the Leopard Queen. Then there is the mysterious Mr. Gone, a serial rapist/murderer with apparent supernatural powers, accompanied by a pack of Iszes, corrupted creatures originally from the Outback. He knows why Julie and the Maxx are connected, but he's not talking... at least, not at first.

As the story goes on, the role of protagonist shifts from the Maxx to Julie to one Sara James, who was introduced early in the storyline... but all the characters are ultimately part of the same story.

Sam Kieth's very strange 1990s series from Image Comics lasted for 35 issues (March, 1993-February, 1998). In 1995 it was adapted into a short and generally very faithful animated series on MTV. A movie adaptation was announced in late 2019.

In 2018, IDW Comics released a crossover with Batman, "Batman/The Maxx: Arkham Dreams". Around its original release it was the subject of a module for the obscure RPG Heroes and Heroines, although this overlooked most of the deeper material of the source comic, being a general story about Maxx as champion of the Outback, saving the Jungle Queen from Mr. Gone, who's portrayed as a fairly standard Evil Sorcerer.

Provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Towards the end of the comic's run, a number of side stories began to be told, including one about Glory and another that featured Mickey and Dude from the Friends of Maxx spinoff. Both of these ended on a cliffhanger, and Kieth chose to end the comic rather than resolve either of them.
  • Action Survivor: Julie proves to be this when she was able to escape Mr. Gone in the second issue/episode and behead him.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The animated series, though abbreviated, equals the original comic book in quality, helped, no doubt by the heavy involvement of the original creator. (The video version of the series, however, inexplicably cuts out most of the most beautifully animated sequences.)
    • Several comic storylines were also expanded for the better, including Sara's introduction.
  • Affably Evil: Mr. Gone, sometimes
  • Age-Appropriate Angst: Sara does whine a lot, especially in her introduction, but she is 15 and in a rotten high school where she is constantly bullied.
  • Animated Adaptation: The MTV series, which was very true to the comics - and in many ways, superior.
  • Anti-Villain: Mr. Gone, after issue 21.
  • Apathetic Citizens: Most people seem to just ignore Maxx's crazy antics. One early issue has him fight Mr. Gone and several Isz disguised as old women on top of a car at a gas station, and the car's owner seems only mildly amused by the whole thing.
  • Art Shift:
    • The Crappon Inna Hat dream sequence, both the comic and animated versions.
    • The art actually changed in style a lot the further the comic went on. It would oftentimes shift between realistic to cartoony and back on the same page.
    • The cartoon keeps these shifts in art on top of adding in shifts of animation. In a given scene, the animation can change between still frames, limited Motion Comic style tweening, standard TV-level animation, and bouncy, fluid animation at a whim; and often combines a mix of these styles at the same time alongside a liberal usage of CGI for establishing shots and moving vehicles.
  • The Atoner: After the Time Skip, we find out that Artemis, aka Mr. Gone, became this in the ten years between issues 20 and 21.
  • Bald of Evil: Mr. Gone.
  • Barbarian Longhair: The Maxx has long blond hair while in the Outback.
  • Beard of Evil: Mr. Gone, again.
  • Beautiful All Along: Subverted. Sara tries this once, and doesn't feel it works for her. She's still pretty damn cute when she's not trying her hardest to look like a girl version of Maxx's hobo disguise, though.
  • Bitter Sweet Ending: The ending of the animated version, which ends with the Maxx finding peace in his own Outback after Julie leaves the city.
  • Bizarrchitecture: The City with No Name where the series is set has this in spades.
  • Blaming the Victim: Julie Winters firmly believes that people don't get robbed or raped if they aren't stupid, and dismisses any objections to that worldview as "liberal-feminist garbage". This attitude makes her terrible in her chosen occupation of "freelance social worker" and is hinted to be the result of her own trauma.
  • Bland-Name Product: Mr. Gone drinks 8Up. A few real-life TV shows and brand names were changed for the animated version. However both version reference the cosy Sitcom world of Cheers, ironically.
  • Captain Ersatz: The Image characters The Savage Dragon and Mako guest-starred in the comic, but were replaced by a detective and a different shark guy for the animated version. Another Image character, Pitt, also guest-starred in the comic, but the issue was adapted - perhaps for the better - as a solo adventure (the part where Maxx is very small and attempting to make his way around Julie's apartment).
  • Cardboard Box Home: The Maxx used to live in a cardboard box until Julie took him in.
  • Cartoon Creature: The Isz are some weird-looking, vaguely humanoid creatures which at one point are described looking as "marshmallow with teeth".
  • Cerebus Retcon: A lot of stuff that seems amusing or inconsequential comes back with a vengeance as you learn more about what's going on. One particularly jarring example are the goofy-looking fear monsters, all of them named Dave, in the Dr. Seuss pastiche. The name seems like a gag, but it becomes very significant later on.
  • Crapsack World: Dear, God, "The City" is like Gotham without a Batman. Everything, including the Police, has been infiltrated by Iszes serving the villain.
  • Creepy Uncle: Mr. Gone to Little Julie, though it turns out he was just a friend of the family. A lot of people who only watched the TV series think there may have been something really incestuous going on in the pink bunny suit bit near the beginning, since this is only made explicit in the comics and her dad does look kind of like a big, fat version of Gone.
  • The Cuckoo Lander Was Right: Maxx. He has a very slim grasp on reality, believes he's some kind of superhero, and narrates his exploits out loud. To people of the real world, he's a nut, but aside from Mr. Gone, he's the closest one with any awareness to how the universe actually works.
  • Dead All Along: The Maxx, at least the version of him in the real world, is actually the reanimated corpse of an out of work plumber named Dave that Julie murdered with her car, mistaking him for an attacker because she had been raped a few weeks before. He was brought back to life and imbued with the power of Julie's Spirit Animal, Br'er Lapin, when she hid the body under a pile of garbage that included a lampshade empowered with the eldritch energies of The Outback by contact with a nearby dimensional portal.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Julie takes a lot of things, up to and including being kidnapped a rapist-murderer, with a bored roll of the eyes and a sardonic wit.
  • Declaration of Protection: Maxx makes it his mission to protect Julie in the real world and the Jungle Queen in the Outback.
  • Deconstruction: The comics and the animated series often deconstruct many superhero related tropes, such as The Cowl and Working-Class Hero (The Maxx is even referred as such by one kid in the sixth episode of the series): Not only does The Maxx constantly fails to save people from Mr. Gone, his vigilante actions only cause him to end in jail, forcing Julie to bail him out. Ultimately, most of the actions done by the main character as a superhero fail to have the same effect they would have in a more conventional comic book.
  • Deranged Animation: Moderately deranged animation, even more deranged writing. This is best exemplified in the cartoon, which deliberately alternates between extremely limited and extremely fluid animation at will as a stylistic choice.
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: A Running Gag is that characters will often respond to Maxx's Private Eye Monologue, to which he'll usually mutter: "Damn, I was talking out loud again."
  • Dream Apocalypse: Julie fears that if she and Maxx separate the worlds this will happen.
  • Dream Land: A variant. The individual dream realms of several people appear during the series. They function as Magical Lands.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Sara for Mr. Gone, but he was also very fond of Julie's parents.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Mr. Gone started off as this, but later claimed that his magic powers were limited to knowing a few "loopholes". And then later it turned out that he had no power at all and was just an ordinary dude who everyone else consensually hallucinated was an evil sorcerer. Or something.
  • The Faceless: Maxx, he's never seen without his mask on. After the Time Skip, when he appears as Dave, his face is always drawn in Silhouette.
  • Failure Hero: Played for Drama. Despite his best intentions, The Maxx keeps failing to protect the people from Mr. Gone and ultimately all his victories might be only imaginary.
  • Fauxshadow: Thanks to the Gecko Ending, a lot of the foreshadowing in the cartoon (which was copied from the comic) doesn't lead anywhere.
  • Freudian Excuse: As a child, Mr. Gone was humiliated in a particular way, by wearing an oversized pink woman's coat and paper bag over his head. Later, he inflicts that specific punishment on a few of his victims.
    • Mr Gone’s Monster Misogyny in general can be traced back to his childhood: he was molested by his aunt, then later his first wife was a junkie that sold their infant son’s eyes for a box of morphine, resulting in the boy’s death; his second wife was a feminist who refused to take his abuse at the hands of his aunt seriously, on the grounds that “women almost never abuse men,” and then later kicks him out and forbids him from seeing his daughter after he opens up to her about a nightmare he had. Granted, none of this excuses or justifies his actions in the slightest, but still.
  • Fur Bikini: The Leopard Queen wears one.
  • Gainax Ending: Even for a comic as surreal as this, the ending is very weird and confusing. In short, the world ends. Or the main characters are unable to continue existing in it due to their time unraveling. They all disappear and reawaken in alternative realities separate from one other. And Sara has permanently turned into an Izs-like creature. This is partly because Kieth decided to just end the series and move on after what was supposed to be a hiatus to work on a movie.
  • Gecko Ending: The animated series ended with the Maxx finding peace in his own Outback, as the one he thought was his was in fact a part of Julie's psyche while the comics version continued the story without anything like this happening.
  • Gentle Giant: Maxx is a hulking beast of a man who can smash concrete with his bare hands and give a man an impromptu throat opening, but he's literally described as being "Too careful" at a point, and he also clearly has a set of strong morals.
  • The Glasses Gotta Go: Shortly after the Time Skip, Sara inexplicably starts being drawn without glasses.
  • The Goggles Do Nothing: Sara is oftentimes seen wearing some pilot goggles after no longer wearing her glasses, for some reason.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Julie counts cause she finds the Maxx to be interesting.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Semi-platonic version (despite some misunderstandings). Julie and The Maxx, The Maxx and Sara, Sara and her Maxx.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Mr. Gone knows the psychology for why he does what he does and feels bad about it. It doesn't stop him..
  • Jungle Princess: The Leopard Queen.
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: A boy gets his hand stuck in a portal leading to the Outback. His friend finds a solution to his problem by pulling out a hacksaw...
  • Magical Land: The Outback. While at first they seem to be some sort of Happy Place or Dream Land which only exists in the minds of the main characters, it is also shown to have a certain effect in reality (Like for example, allowing the Isz entering into our world)and its said that dying there equals death in the real world. The Outback is also linked to the "spirit animals" of Julie and Sara.
  • Mind Screw: Oh yeah. Especially after chapter 30. The series frequently uses surreal imagery, but also presents comedic one liners that turn out to be foreshadowing with far darker meaning.
  • Mind Screwdriver: A few of the oddness and mystery of the series did get explained. We never did find out the answer to a few others.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: Sara's mother, Tilly James. Julie subverts the stereotype, having elements of the archetype but breaking from it in other ways.
  • '90s Anti-Hero:
    • Some of the goofy kids providing colour commentary think The Maxx is one of these. However the truth is something else.
    • If anything, the entire series is a very surreal Deconstruction of this type of hero, as well as the comics being released at the time.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Most of the time, the efforts done by The Maxx to protect the people from the city only cause him to end in jail.
  • Off with His Head!: Julie manages to cut off Mr. Gone's head a couple times over the course of the series. He spends a large amount of time trying (and failing) to put it back on.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Played with. The Isz, who are short, eyeless things with More Teeth than the Osmond Family often go about in the human world with nothing in the way of disguise but ill-fitting clothes. Fortunately for them (and unfortunately for everyone else), this is all they need, since they possess a latent psychic ability that causes any Muggles who look at them to see them as whatever they're dressed up as.
  • Police Are Useless: Shown in the first issue/episode no less. The cops arrest Maxx for apparently threatening a thug (who had been in the process of stopping the latter from mugging a woman), leave the thug where he is, and never once notice the woman who was attacked. And when they're gone, Mr. Gone rapes and murders the woman himself.
  • Prefers Going Barefoot: It's safe to assume that Julie always barefoot unless explicitly shown to be wearing shoes in an earlier panel. At one point she spends some time in a dirty, trash-filled alley, and even steps on something sharp and hurts herself. All she has to say is that she should learn to watch where she's going when she's barefoot.
  • Rape as Backstory:
    • Mr. Gone. Not only he was molested by his drunk aunt as a child, she immediately accused him of raping her. Later, the crimes Mr. Gone reveals he has done to others.
    • Julie's rape and her trauma after the event cause her to hit Maxx with the car in the first place.
  • Re-Release Soundtrack: "(I Want to Marry a) Lighthouse Keeper" by Erika Eigen, notably from the soundtrack of A Clockwork Orange, was played in the broadcast of the animated series, but home video versions replaced it with a song with the lyric "I'm in Love with a School Bus Driver", which kinda misses the point of the Clockwork Orange reference.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: In her first appearances, Sara is often drawn in silhouette with only the blank lens of her glasses visible
  • Shoot the Hostage: In one of the most memorable moments of the series.
    "Now surrender, Hopping Boy, or this charming young chippy's added to my score!
    "You killed my hostage... You killed my hostage! YOU KILLED MY HOSTAGE! [...] Never do that again. *grunt* Nothing's easy."
    • Turns out it was just a dummy. But neither of them knew that.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To The Sandman (1989) (or possibly a Take That!, with, "Death is hard an' cold an' ugly. Not some cute chick!"). Sam Keith worked on the very earliest issues of the comic. Actually, Death (The Sandman (1989) version) appeared in a poster in the Comic Book.
    • The Crappon Inna Hat dream sequence from episode 7 of the animated version is done as a full nod to Dr. Seuss, complete with rhyming speech and a shifted art style. The Crappon himself is a cross between the Cat in the Hat and the Warner Bros. singing frog, and Julie herself refers to one of the long-necked outback creatures as a "Seussadon".
    • The animated series had Beavis And Butthead appear on a TV. Well, it was an MTV production after all, and Rough Draft Studios animated on both shows.
    • Issue 6, the two kids that find the dead guy in the box, one of them is a spiky-haired blond kid in a striped shirt with a stuffed tiger named Nietzsche.
  • Show Within a Show: The Crappon Inna Hat, Fred Flower and Uncle Italian Moose Show.
  • Spell My Name With An S: Strange In-Universe example: The character's name is spelled "Sara" at first, before being written as "Sara" after the Time Skip, but, bizarrely enough, her name is spelled as "Sara" in flashbacks during the second half. According to Kieth, it was always intended to be spelled without an H and the first half was a scripting error that got overlooked until part two. As well, Artimis/Artemus/Artemis's name is never consistently spelled right, and Julie becomes Julia repeatedly. These are likely just lettering or scripting mistakes as well.
  • Stripperific: The Leopard Queen again. Some of Julie's regular outfits would also qualify. Despite often being casual clothes, they are still quite stripperific. On more than one occasion, she almost looks like a hooker, which is sometimes commented by other people, much to her annoyance.
  • Surreal Horror
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Parodied with Sara's version of the Isz, which are "faeries" with ribbons, dresses, and pink bodies. But they're still carnivorous and extremely creepy
  • Time Skip: A ten-year jump from 1995 to 2005, starting with issue 21.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The post-issue 21 stories took place in the future year of 2005.
  • Unbuilt Trope: The Isz feel like a somewhat sinister deconstruction of other Adorable Evil Minions popularized in media such as the Despicable Me series. Despite all their silly antics, they are genuinely vicious opponents. Also, their constantly appearing wearing funny costumes is not for mere comic relief, but also a way in which they are able to infiltrate among humans without arousing suspicion.
  • Urban Fantasy
  • Wicked Cultured: Mr. Gone.
    Julie: You! I always knew you weren't dead. Now I want the truth!
    Gone: Talk to Descartes, toots!
  • Will Not Be a Victim: Julie takes this attitude as a way of coping with her traumas, holding that people have no one to blame but themselves for their suffering. It makes her a poor social worker, as she has nothing but contempt for most of her clients, and she cannot sustain a healthy relationship with anyone, including her own son.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: After his Heel–Face Turn, Gone unsuccessfully attempts suicide because he's wracked with guilt over all the raping he did, only to find that the power of The Outback has rendered him immortal.
  • Wolverine Publicity: Of the IDW "Maxximized" reprints, only one of its new covers for the various issues doesn't feature Maxx. He appears rather prominently in all the others, even for chapters where he wasn't all that prominent in.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Maxx, especially at the beginning, believes he's the protagonist of a typical superhero comic. If only it were that simple...
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: The title.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Mr. Gone kidnaps a doctor at some point to have his severed head sewn back on while talking to him about his life and Julie's. It's implied that when it's finished, Gone then had him fed to the Isz.


Video Example(s):


"You killed my hostage!"

Mr. Gone attempts to get the Maxx to surrender by taking a hostage, to which the Maxx responds by brutalizing them. Thankfully, it's just a mannequin.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / ShootTheHostage

Media sources: