IDW Publishing debuted “The Maxx: Maxximized” #1 this week, a re-colored and re-mastered edition of Sam Kieth’s legendary ’90s series. Telling a homeless man’s adventures as a massive dream-warrior in the surreal Outback, “The Maxx” was originally published thought Image Comics and lasted for 35 issues, inspiring a cult-favorite MTV animated series along the way.
In speaking with CBR News about “The Maxx: Maxximized,” Kieth described what it’s been like revisiting the property after so many years, what the status of “The Maxx: Artist’s Edition” is, sharing his confusion as to why people care about his work, explaining why we’ll never see a “final” Maxx story and much more.
CBR News: What has the reaction been like since you announced you’d be re-releasing your classic series and “The Maxx: Maxximized?”
Sam Kieth: Before the interview, I just wanted to apologize to my endlessly patient fans, many of whom have wondered if I am okay, given I have not posted in many months. I am indeed alive. And working on “okay.” So thanks for everyone’s considerable patience and kind concern. Also, if I have not drawn your commission, I promise you are not forgotten. Just get me get through the holidays and I will pop back up on everyone’s radar.
[As for fan reaction to the series,] I’m actually not too sure. I tend to insulate myself from fans’ excitement over it, as my lack of recent posting on my blog attests to. But from what I’ve heard from fans so far, readers seem up for it.
How does this new series differ from the issues’ original release?
It’s less a new series and more of a chance to finalize everything we tried in the DC/Wildstorm trades. Mostly coloring, but some things that were out of continuity and are back in the original order. For example, the first chapter of the eight-page “Darker Image” story actually goes before “Maxx” #1. Nothing earth-shattering, but we may as well get a few loose ends sewn up.
Seeing as how you’re re-releasing it in the single issue format first, do you think “The Maxx” is better read in that way?
I’m afraid it’s just as confusing a read either way. I see the single issues as fans chance to re-familiarize themselves with it again — then they can pick up the collected editions later, if they wanna pop for it. Or maybe they’ll go, “Wait, I never understood this book 20 years ago,” and in their case, wisely skip the trade.
Steve Oliff did a great job coloring “The Maxx” during its initial run. Why are you choosing to recolor the reprints?
You’re not gonna get a better colorist than Steve. He gave me his blessing on the phone last week. I wanted to tweak some things I failed to communicate to Steve the first time out. You can compare pages side by side, find things you like better in the new ones, or liked better in the old ones. Just personal taste. My goal was less-saturated colors and a lighter pallete for the Outback. It’s just an overall clarifying of visual and plot details I was too rushed to get right in the first place.
Sometimes it might work, sometimes not. But I promise: I’m not changing it “just to change it” for no good reason. Instead, I’m just slightly re-adjusting some colors and adding some lost sub-plots. If it’s done right, hopefully they’ll be subtle tweaks you’ll barely notice on a first read. Which is the whole point. Trying to not change what isn’t broken in the first place. Hopefully, readers will cut us some slack.
In our last interview, you briefly talked about some missing scenes which might make their way back into the series. Can you give us some details on what we should be looking for?
Well, I don’t want to build them up into too much. Like I say, I’m not fond of director’s cuts and fixing what isn’t broken. Luckily, “Maxx” wasn’t a perfect story to begin with. Many people admit they stopped reading after the first dozen issues, with good reason, so I don’t want to explain too much. But I know the ending left some people feeling a lack of closure. There was a kid whose hand is stuck in the Outback, and the slug subplot was never resolved. Just small bits and pieces. Don’t worry, it’s still baffling in places. No explanation for the little oranges playing band instruments, Uncle Freddy, diapers, powered donuts, or Soccer Queen has to do with anything, so plenty of goofy-assed UN-EXPLAINED confusion will still be in there.
I was gonna put these story sub-plots and unseen bits and bury them in the back of the collected trade, but all the fans really wanted them where they belong, sequentially placed in order in larger story, which I agree is a better idea — and probably a smoother read, too.
Does revisiting the character now ignite any desire to create new “Maxx” material beyond the new covers?
Thankfully not. I went through a phase where I toyed with a last “Maxx” story, but I really think these covers alone should be a warning sign my art is so much more bizarre now that it was then. The kindest thing I can do for fan’s is not subject them to how I’d mutilate Julie and Maxx now-a-days. Maxx would probably be dead or in a nursing home, so it’d probably be too depressing to read. They’re probably lucky I killed them off like I did in the first “Maxx” series.
“The Maxx: Maxximized” isn’t the only place we’ll be seeing the character pop up this year. What’s going into IDW’s “The Maxx: Artist’s Edition?”
It’s really only the first six issues and “Darker Image” #1 and #2. Like all [Artist’s Editions] it’s full of browning paper and white out, missing word balloons and all the other production flaws you peek past when you glimpse original art. It’s really a subculture, isn’t it? Original art is kinda a disappearing thing, given digital. I know very few artists who have originals to sell anymore. I told IDW that while I am flattered, truth is, much of the later “Maxx” issue’s art is not deserving of an Artist’s Edition. “Maxx” got very sloppy in places. All my fault, too.
What have you found to be the most surprising aspect of “The Maxx’s” long-term success?
That you’re even asking me that question. That what started as a goof, fluked into a cancelled cult animated series — what’s that old song? “Time Loves a Hero.” After the boom of the ’90s faded, “Maxx” took the same nose dive other comics did, so “success” is how people like to remember it. I gave up on trying to counter people’s protections about it. If they like it, who the heck am I to argue.
There may not be any new “Maxx” stories in your future, but you do have another IDW project in the works. What can you tell us about the upcoming “Worlds of Sam Kieth” books?
Ted Adams asked me to do a traditional art book, like Bernie [Wrightson]’s “A Look Back,” but I wanted to focus on the whole creative process. People ask, “Where do you get your ideas from?” “How did you dream that up?” The first “Worlds” book goes into the same nerdy childhood many of us had. Comics were escape, and, not to be too pretentious sounding, but drawing for me was something of a salvation.
It was a pretty emotional experiencing doing it. The second one will be ready around July. I want to thank my fans for picking it up. If you only bought one other Sam Kieth book besides “The Maxx,” “Worlds” would fill in many questions you have about everything.
[Other than that,] there’s five 200-pagers, but they’re all twisted and meshed into each other with Sam Kieth’s typical version of pretzel logic. Which is to say, no logic at all. My goal is to get at least two of them out in the next three years. One will be “Nola.” But I’ve been saying that forever, so don’t hold your breath.
But, hey — maybe we’ll luck out and I’ll slip on a bar of soap, and then none of us will have to worry about it.
“The Maxx: Maxximized” #1 is available now from IDW Publishing.