The Maxx is a beautiful, disturbing comic. Created, drawn, and co-written by Sam Kieth (The Sandman), the book chronicles the strange life and stranger times of the titular character, a gargantuan homeless superhero whose sanity is an open question. The Maxx’s reality constantly shifts between a crumbling city and a fantastic place called the Outback. The city is a supremely scuzzy hellhole warped by communal apathy and callousness. The Outback is a beautiful, brutal expanse populated by bizarre, occasionally sinister wildlife.
In both worlds, The Maxx tries to stand as a champion. He brawls his way through gaggles of vicious critters called the Isz and tries to be a confidant for his best and only friend, the cynical, sour freelance social worker Julie. The results of his efforts are mixed. At best. Yet still, The Maxx presses on, even as his world grows ever stranger, ever sharper teeth.
The Maxx, which was originally published from 1993 to 1998, is well-regarded to this day. In 1995, Kieth worked closely on a similarly beloved animated adaptation.
Now, in collaboration with Clover Press, Kieth is Kickstarting a 2021 wall calendar dedicated to his signature character. According to Graphic Policy, the calendar will be 11×17 inches and wire-bound.
To speak personally for a moment, I’ve only just started reading The Maxx myself, but what I have read is really darn good comics. Kieth and co-writer William Messner-Loebs crafted a great hero in The Maxx. He’s as confused by the strange goings-on around him as the readers, and his sense of self is shaky on a good day. And still, he recognizes when other people have experienced trauma and tries to help as best he can. There’s a moment at the end of the fourth issue when he sits with Julie, trims her toenails, and listens while she tells him about part of her experiences as a rape survivor. It’s a quiet, moving moment amidst the book’s many weird happenings, one that stands out as much for The Maxx’s compassion as it does his bizarre appearance.
And as far as the calendar itself goes, oh good gosh. The Maxx is a gorgeous, gorgeous comic. Kieth weds the surreal and the grotesque to the familiar. He moves between them with skill, whether abruptly dropping The Maxx into the city or the Outback from the other, blending them together, or cutting between them as he does on this page:
Character-design-wise, Kieth plays The Maxx off of the rest of the cast and the rest of the cast off of The Maxx. In the city, his impossible physique looks inherently out of place next to his more immediately human-looking castmates. Even in the Outback, where he’s more of a piece with the world, he still does not quite mesh with it. The result is an eye-catching, expressive character who consistently draws the reader’s attention.
I’ve been hunting for a good 2021 calendar. Thanks to Kieth and Clover Press, I may have found just the one.
The Maxx 2021 Kickstarter is live now.
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