The Maxx: An Excuse to Draw a Circle and a Triangle and Add Some Arms
June 21, 2009 10:34 PM   Subscribe

Sam Kieth is an interesting guy, coming from an artistic family (including a cousin who created the animated series Cow and Chicken). His professional work has mostly been in the world of comics, though he did direct a movie for Roger Corman, entitled "Take it to the Limit" (2000), as a way "to recharge [his] batteries after the Maxx." The Maxx was a 35 issue comic (plus a few bonuses), and later animated and aired on Mtv's Oddities in the mid 1990s. (More videos inside)

Only officially released in part on VHS, and now slowly re-appearing as fragments of the original episodes on MTV2 Legit, most of the 13 episodes can be found on YouTube. Unfortunately, the mix of the YouTube runtime limit and clips taken down due to copyright claims has lead to incomplete episodes, so this list includes redundancy for the sake of completeness.

* Episode 1, part 2
* Episode 2 (alternate link, alt vers. 2)
* Episode 3 part 1 (pulled) part 2 (alternate link)
* Episode 4 part 1 (part 2 was pulled) (alternate link, alt vers. 2)
* Episode 5 part 1 (pulled), part 2 (alternate link, alt vers. 2)
* Episode 6, part 2 (alternate link, alt vers. 2)
* Episode 7, part 2 (alternate link, alt vers. 2)
* Episode 8, part 2 (alternate link)
* Episode 9, part 2 (alternate link, alt vers. 2)
* Episode 10, part 2 (alternate link, alt vers. 2)
* Episode 11, part 2, part 3, part 4 (alternate link pt. 1, pt. 2; alt pt 1 vers. 2, alt pt 2 vers. 2)
* Episode 12, part 2 (alternate link)
* Episode 13, part 2 (alternate link, alt vers. 2)

More fun:
A review of Mage in 2008, with very informative comments
An incomplete summary of the 35 issues of The Maxx, plus Issue 1/2, and the 3 Friends of Maxx issues
The Sam Kieth-ification of Ojo
Kieth on Scratch
A look at Kieth's newest comic, titled My Inner Bimbo, which was delayed from it's 2006/07 release
posted by filthy light thief (30 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, wow. Love love love The Maxx. Watched it rabidly when it was on the air, had a friend pass me off a bootleg DVD about 4 years ago and had a total nostalgiagasm. How excellent to see it surfacing online.

Thanks for the post. Great stuff. I'm looking forward to digging into more work by Mr. Kieth.
posted by hippybear at 10:56 PM on June 21, 2009

I'm hoping the clips on MTV2 are viewable internationally, as they're amazingly crisp. It looks gorgeous when full-screened, and almost seems like the whole show was re-traced, when compared to the VHS-sourced YouTube clips. It's really a shame that the re-introduction of The Maxx, The State, Beavis & Butthead, Celebrity Deathmatch, Aeon Flux, and those other shows are now shown in fractions of episodes, as if the attention span of the current MTV2 viewer is best suited to website-friendly clips.

In regards to Kieth's other work: read the first two links, and maybe even listen to this podcast (via). They're interviews where talks about his progress as an artist over the years, which makes me even more interested in his new material. His newest stuff is very personal, though it sounds like some material in The Maxx wasn't too far removed from his reality.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:04 PM on June 21, 2009

I adore The Maxx. Read the comics and watched it on MTV.
posted by Malice at 11:21 PM on June 21, 2009

Kieth Feet!
posted by ooga_booga at 11:32 PM on June 21, 2009

nice - thanks for this!

was a fan way back when -
hope they release high quality official versions sometime
posted by sloe at 11:47 PM on June 21, 2009

Another fan of the (animated) Maxx here, although, to be honest, I could never quite work out just what the hell was going on.

Is anybody able to explain, or offer a theory?
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:01 AM on June 22, 2009

Five or six years ago, someone created a series of VCD-compliant MPEGs stitched together from the VHS release and some fortuitously made off-the-air recordings.

Apart from the 'fragments' hosted on it's probably still the best source available.

Thank god for citizen-curators (without whom there's be no way to watch Daria).
posted by unmake at 12:04 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm a huge Kieth fan.
I have a nearly mint copy of the VHS Maxx and I don't even have a VCR to play it on.
posted by juv3nal at 12:37 AM on June 22, 2009

Filthy Light Thief, you rock. I've been thinking a lot about the Maxx recently. Everything about the cartoon (never had a chance to get the comic) was wonderful to me, and tidbits of the various characters' internal monologues have, over time, popped up out of my subconscious at various times. Hearing the Maxx saying "she's leaving" tortured me through an agonizing break up years ago.

Absolutely fantastic. Maybe someday it'll be released on DVD?
posted by Ghidorah at 12:44 AM on June 22, 2009

For those of a more nautical bent, you can find The Maxx at a well known European cove.
posted by cerulgalactus at 2:22 AM on June 22, 2009

"A bud becomes a rose when the pain of remaining the same becomes greater than the fear of change."
posted by humannaire at 4:51 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I really like his stuff, but I will maintain forever that he's spelling his name wrong.
posted by disclaimer at 4:55 AM on June 22, 2009

The Maxx was a complex and challenging literary exploration that made use of superhero and horror genres, wandering in its own strange, post-modern direction, with multilayered writing and an amazing, borderline abstract art style.

The "Letters" page was filled entirely with fanmail from eight-to-twelve year olds who liked that "The Maxx" had claws where his middle finger goes, which made him even more awesomer than Wolverine, who he should totally have to fight.

On the one hand, Sam Keith seemed to love that he was getting fan mail and drawings from a devoted audience, on the other hand, he was really hoping that they'd be more along the lines of the stuff Morrison and Gaiman found in their mailbox.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:01 AM on June 22, 2009

Among other things, I really appreciated the music and sound design on the show. I got the graphic novel and I appreciated that the show did a lot to preserve the layout and framing etc, from the comics but reading it without the audio it seemed ... hollow.
posted by wobh at 6:34 AM on June 22, 2009

Slap*Happy, are you sure about the letters? In this interview, it sounds like he had some pretty heavy letters, and that he has kept them all (at least up to December 01), and wanted to re-print them all, too.

disclaimer, he's gone so far as to name two collections of early and unpublished work as I Before E, and I think Zero Girl was copyrighted to "I Before E." In short: I think he'll fight you on that one, physically or mentally.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:49 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Maxx (the animated series, I never read the comic book) was a big deal among me and my friends when it aired. Lots of discussion about what various stuff meant, how it tied together, etc. Sort of like Lost is to some people now. I'd love to watch it again, but I'd be afraid it wouldn't hold up to how good I remember it being.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:55 AM on June 22, 2009

When I was a little kid my parents were divorced, so me and my brother spent half our weekends back in our hometown with my dad, who sometimes had to work weekend nights. (How he managed to do that and still spend the day with us is beyond me.) So maybe half the time we'd be sleeping at my grandmother's house, which was always great fun- not least because Grandma and Grandpa had cable. Now, Grandma was a night person like me- while my grandfather was the up at 6 and down by 9 type, she'd get up around 9 or 10 and be up into the wee hours, even after my brother and I'd gone to bed. She didn't really mind the fact that I liked to stay up late, and I used to channel surf into the evening. It was then that I discovered The Maxx. It was completely unlike anything I'd ever seen and my thirteen year old self was fascinated. At some point it stopped being on, and I was saddened; I had no way of finding information about it.

I have a bootleg VHS copy of The Maxx that I got in a comic shop that shall remain nameless back in 2001 or so. Damn, I'm still happy about that purchase.

And DecemberBoy, it's still good, but goddamn is it depressing.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:11 AM on June 22, 2009

Also, I'm surprised no one has mentioned "The Head", which also ran on MTV Oddities, maybe even concurrently (I can't remember exactly). Nothing nearly as literate as The Maxx, but I remember it being pretty edgy for 1994-5 or whenever it originally ran. MTV was airing some pretty great shit (Oddities, Liquid Television/Aeon Flux, Beavis & Butthead, The State) for a brief period there in the early to mid 90s.
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:14 AM on June 22, 2009

I still have a VHS copy from one of the last times MTV (the original channel) played the full Maxx. The commercials are vintage awesome. I'm afraid to play it much anymore, though. I neeed to figure out how to transfer it to DVD.

Fun fact: One of the first mailing lists I joined in the early/mid 90s was about The Maxx. Chase and Jenny, I still love yooooou!
posted by Eideteker at 7:22 AM on June 22, 2009

oh and thank you thank you thank you for the heads up on MTV2 Legit. As a reward, here's a recent MetaChat post that's on-topic. Well, it starts out on-topic, then LT and HJ take over...
posted by Eideteker at 7:25 AM on June 22, 2009

Eideteker, the Dazzle works pretty well for me.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:38 AM on June 22, 2009

I never did find out how the story ever ended. I had the first four issues of the comic, but noneafter that; I remember a print ad for the 5th one, with him versus The Pitt.

All I remember is toenail clippings and that dude with the huge-ass cloak. Might need to re-watch now. Thanks for the up.
posted by FarOutFreak at 8:45 AM on June 22, 2009

Sam and I share a birthday, and one year, back in the 90's, at either a DFF show or the ComicCon, he drew me into a Maxx panel on a big ol Bristol board, which I have stored flat in museum cases, waiting for Boy to get old enough for me to put my collection back up on the walls.

Watching him work was great fun. He works with such a minimum of wasted effort; he erases very little. He's one of the artists that really doesn't need an inker to make his work pop. Even his pencil work is strong and vibrant. Also, he's a sweetie.
posted by dejah420 at 9:14 AM on June 22, 2009

Pope Guilty - According to the Wikipedia notes on The Head, 13 episodes of The Head ran on MTV's Oddities, then all 13 episodes of The Maxx, then 6 new episodes of The Head.

DecemberBoy - MTV was edgy for a while, though Aeon Flux, The Head and The Maxx were the edge of all that. MTV2 Legit shows some of the old bumpers, including clayanimation beheadings and whatnot. They had Headbangers Ball and 120 Minutes, showing more hardcore and weird videos than they do now.

Also, check out the episodes. I think they've aged well, and if you like them, look for the comics. They complete the story (as complete as it'll ever get). The animation really captures the feel of the comics, only feeling cartoony when that's the goal (as with The Crappon, who looks like a Cow and Chicken version of the WB frog). Then again, this all might be better with heavy doses of nostalgia.

dejah420: He's one of the artists that really doesn't need an inker to make his work pop. -- seeing Sam's collaboration with Chris Wisnia in the Sam Kiethification of Ojo, I can really feel that. You get the notion that he's practiced enough now that his style comes out with ease.

Also, he's a sweetie. - Yeah, his interviews really show off how humble he is, for lack of better word.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:27 AM on June 22, 2009

Lovely post. Good to hear about Keith in a non-Sandman context.
posted by Artw at 10:22 AM on June 22, 2009

thanks for the post! I find myself remembering snippets of this animated show (which was years ahead of its time imo) all the time. it's great to have links to re-watch so much of it in one place.
posted by ericbop at 11:58 AM on June 22, 2009

I haven't watched the animated version yet, but I was a big fan of the comics. I'm just glad I read them at 50 instead of 13...
posted by sneebler at 5:06 PM on June 22, 2009

I watched an episode of 2Legit today and it reminded me of why I don't watch MTV anymore. 7 minutes of content, 5 min of commercials, rinse, repeat. Still, with a DVR and some attention to the FFWD button, I get approximately 20-25 minutes of awesome (with the occasional Smashing Pumpkins video thrown in to stimulate digestion and alleviate constipation).
posted by Eideteker at 7:50 PM on June 22, 2009

I remember a print ad for the 5th one, with him versus The Pitt.

I seem to recall some interview way back when about how Kieth was pretty much forced to shoehorn Pitt into that issue due to the huge demand for 'crossovers' during those heady ridiculous comic-boom days. It's kind of funny if you compare the comic to the TV series, too - the show was often frame-for-frame identical to the comic, almost to the effect that the "animated" Watchmen DVD had. However, when they get to the story arc that had Pitt in the comic, the show just removed him outright, as well as any incidence of people speaking directly to him... and it didn't change a thing in the story. In the comic, he pretty much just showed up, and then followed Maxx around babbling, and then disappeared. You don't even notice the void while watching the show.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:14 PM on June 23, 2009

Sam Keith to draw Lobo - written by some guy from Anthrax.
posted by Artw at 9:57 AM on July 10, 2009

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