Alright. This one might not be your traditional Halloween fare, but it’s weird, violent, and creepy as all heck, so it fits enough for me. What we have here is a comic series by Sam Keith that’s filled past brimming with twisted imagery, dark themes, and a soul-wrenching story of pain, loss, and coping. there’s also a gigantic purple clad super hero who lives in a cardboard box.
The Maxx is a comic book series released by Image Comics in the 90’s, but you might also know it from the MTV’s Oddities animated series (which is fantastic and stays strikingly close to the source material). I saw the cartoon first myself, but I eventually tracked down the comics because the show only got one season and ended on quite the cliffhanger. Little did I know that not only would reading the comic not provide me with any answers, but it would actually confuse me even more. And I mean that in the best way possible.
Let me see if I can boil this down for you. The Maxx is the story of Julie Winters, a rape victim turned social worker who has questionable fashion sense, Mr. Gone, a serial murderer with supernatural powers, and The Maxx, a gigantic homeless superhero with bright yellow claws, and an unending need to protect Julie. There are two worlds these characters inhabit: The real world, and the Outback. Mr. Gone is the only one who can travel between these worlds at will, and he uses this ability to in conjunction with his magic powers to brutalize and murder young girls in order to get Julie’s attention in the real world. This is because in the Outback, Julie is a goddess known as the Jungle Queen, and The Maxx, while pretty strong in the real world, is much stronger in the Outback, and thus much better at protecting Julie there. When they travel back to the real world, they don’t really retain their memories, and the same goes for traveling to the Outback. I know this is sounding confusing, but that’s because it is. And we’ve only just gotten started.
The Maxx fighting Mr. Gone
It turns out that the Outback was created by Julie as a coping mechanism after her rape. Why are Maxx and Mr. Gone there too? Well, when Julie was in college, she picked up a hitchiker who beat her, raped her, and left her for dead. Years later, she accidentally hit a homeless man named Dave with her car, and remembering what happened the last time she let a stranger into her car, she covered him with garbage and ran away. Among that garbage was a purple lamp shade, and through some sort of comic booky magic, and the instability of Julie’s Outback, that lampshade melted onto Dave’s body turning him into Julie’s Maxx, which is actually a person’s protector is called in the Outback, hence Maxx’s need to protect Julie (See, everyone has their own Outback. It’s kind of like your subconscious). Oh, and Maxx is crazy. He often narrates his own life, and can’t remember if he’s saying it to himself, or out loud. And Mr. Gone is actually Julie’s uncle Artie who she hadn’t seen in years. (He had a pretty kick-ass mustache back in the day).
An example of The Maxx talking to himself
But that’s not all! There’s also a character by the name of Sarah, who lives alone with her mom because when she was a kid her dad shot himself in the head. Turns out that he didn’t die, because Sarah’s dad is actually Mr. Gone, and he can survive a gunshot in the head because of magic or something. Julie is Sarah’s social worker, and they are sort of friends. Sarah meets Maxx, they become sort of friends too, things get weird, she finds her spirit animal, eventually travels to her own Outback with her own Maxx, and to be honest, it’s best I stop there.
Sam Keith has a unique way of capturing beautiful moments, which isn’t a way ever imagined describing a scene with a purple super hero clipping someone’s toenails.
There’s no way I can properly describe what actually happens in the rest of this book because it defies description. It’s confusing, strange, unsettling, stunningly beautiful, fascinating, and one of the most memorable pieces of media I’ve ever consumed. I’ve read the entire series a few times over and I still can’t tell you exactly what happens and why. What I can tell you is that it is deeply affecting, and something any comic book fan should read. Sam Keith’s art style is a sight to behold, and this book is arguably some of the best work he’s ever done.
On the left is an Isz, the predators of the Outback. On the right is the Dark Isz, what happens to an Isz if it’s ripped from the Outback and brought into the real world.
I mentioned earlier that there was an animated series, and that’s also something you should track down. It’s almost word for word, panel for panel faithful to the comic while it lasts, and the animation and voice acting are spot on. I’m talking absolute perfection here. For as many times as I’ve seen it, taken on its own, there’s nary a flaw to be found. The timing of the jokes, the tension of the violence, the beauty of the visuals, and the unsettling soundtrack make this short lived series one of the very best pieces of animation I’ve ever seen. Of course, if you were to compare it to the comic, there are a few cool things that were left out (like the Savage Dragon and Pitt cameos) but if you take the animated series as its own animal, it’s simply breathtaking. I could go on and on about the finer details here, but honestly, I’ll never do it justice. Just read it. Watch it. Be confused. Ask questions. But most of all, take it all in.
So, while not your traditional horror/scary comic, The Maxx has a very shocking and unsetling vibe to it, which for my money makes it the perfect comic to read for Halloween. But don’t let the season stop you. This one’s perfect any time of year.