Friday afternoon at Comic-Con International in San Diego, IDW Publishing announced their plans to re-release writer/artist Sam Kieth’s seminal work “The Maxx” in a monthly remastered edition featuring new colors and new original covers by Kieth.
“The Maxx’s” original run lasted 35 issues at Image Comics between 1993 and 1998. Kieth initially co-wrote the book with William Messner-Loebs before taking over full writing and penciling duties with issue #16. The book followed the adventures of dream-warrior Maxx as he travelled between the real-world and an alternate dimension called The Outback in order to protect a young woman named Julie. The book also inspired a 1995 cult animated series on MTV that ran for 11 episodes.
Kieth, who was also the original artist on Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman,” spoke with CBR News about IDW’s “The Maxx” announcement, revealing why he decided to re-release the book now, what extras will be included in the issues, what it’s like to be labeled the “weird guy” and much more.
CBR News: Sam, why re-release “The Maxx” now, and why do it with IDW?
Sam Kieth: It’s the 20-year anniversary of “Maxx,” and while I’m not a big nostalgia dude, it’s impossible to avoid, especially at San Diego. Like “Sandman’s” 25th Anniversary. Your past catches up with you.
Why IDW? It seems like a natural transition from DC [whose Wildstorm imprint published the collected editions], since “The Maxx” rights have reverted back to me this year. Plus, I’m already doing the “Worlds of Sam Kieth” art book with them. I’ve worked with and known Ted [Adams], Robbie [Robbins], Scott [Dunbier] for years, so that always helps.
Why did you decide to release the book in a monthly format and not go straight to a high-end collected edition, such as IDW’s Artist’s Edition or Limited lines?
The monthlies (in a recolored form) are meant to re-familiarize new readers who may not even know of “Maxx.” Plus I’m doing a new, painted cover for each issue, which means that, while I’ll try to look “normal” in the beginning, eventually my covers degenerate to my usual all psychotic-abstract style, which might be entertaining — or disturbing — to watch. Short of a new series, new painted covers are a nice way to revisit “The Maxx” in small spurts.
And remember, monthly issues let readers check out the recolored version and help them decide about a series of hard covers later next year — like the Absolutes. If we’re going to do it, we may as well get it right this time.
How is the book being re-mastered? Will any new art or story be added to the books?
As far as re-mastered, this just means going back to the original art and scanning it in a higher resolution, catching a lot of line work and brushwork that didn’t show up in the single issues. A lot of detail gets lost in the shrunken-down painted panels I did. Luckily we were able to get almost every single “Maxx” original page re-scanned.
It will also be recolored by the amazing Ronda Pattison, an award-nominated colorist who worked on “Atomic Robot.” I liked how subtle her pallet was. The original colors by Steve Oliff were terrific, and nothing against Steve, but I often wished we had more time to color it so as to get things exactly like I wanted. The Image coloring was often rushed out over a weekend!
Anything new added? Yeah. Lots of unseen art, a few finished scenes I drew at the time but never included — things that were intended to go into the first Wildstorm “Maxx” trades, but I was lazy. But I don’t see adding it in sequence with the published version, just afterwards in the books. I hate artists who go back and re-work old, old work. I don’t think “Maxx” is perfect, but it’s a 35-issue snapshot of who I was at the time. No need to mess with that, outside of some coloring tweaks. We’ll leave it intact, flaws and all.
Is there any involvement from your original “Maxx” co-writer William Messner-Loebs on the project?
Well, not to exclude him in anyway, but since I started writing “Maxx” myself around issue #16, most of the unseen scenes were written and drawn by me. But Bill and I remain pals, and we’re talking about possibly doing an “Epicurus” project down the road. My old inker and friend Jim Sinclair has been a lot of help too, tracking down and helping me by scanning old “Maxx” pages.
How do you look back upon “The Maxx” now in hindsight? How did it change your career, for better or worse?
It’s a mixed bag for me. Obviously it got attention for me and cemented my style in people’s minds — for better or worse — as the “weird guy.” I have no right to bitch about it, and overall I’m thankful to everyone involved. Fans. Pros. Publishers. Everyone. I lucked out on “The Maxx,” and I know it.
You mention you got labeled the “weird guy.” Did that affect your career trajectory? Do you see yourself having gone in a different direction artistically otherwise?â€¨
No, actually I didn’t have a choice because that’s the only way I know how to draw – what others calledÂ ‘weird’ seemed normal to me. The label also helped other fans who dug weirdness find me easier.
Is there any possibility for new original “Maxx” comic books?
I said all I had to say in the first run, unless I get hit by a brick tomorrow and suddenly want to draw new “Maxx” crap, decide to screw it up with a sequel. You can’t go home. Why ruin it? Let it be what it is. Maybe fans should thank me for not screwing it up and trying new stories! It would disappoint fans if I did it again. I might — but only if I had anything new to say.
You could pretend that all these new covers I’m painting are like a new “Maxx” story, only with no words. And one panel a page. But they will all look so different… maybe that’s proof that I’m doing us all a favor by not drawing a new “Maxx” series, because (for better or worse) I don’t even draw like that anymore!
Are there plans for “The Maxx” in other media soon?
“Maxx” movie ideas have bouncing around for years. Who knows? I’d love to see the first animated series finished, but we can’t reproduce what Rough Draft did back in 1995; even if we had a time machine that will never happen. Our best shot at nostalgia is reprinting it in a nice series of hardcover collected books.
You recently had an exhibition based around your “Samplings and Dabblings” book at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco. What was that like?
Cool. But exhausting. I had to take a couple months off just to regroup. This is why I avoid crowds, and why San Diego is probably about it for me, con-wise. Much rather toil away in my seclusion.
What other projects do you have coming up?
Two more volumes of the “Worlds of Sam Kieth” series are finished and ready for release over the next two years. Various “Trout” graphic novels too.
Are there any characters you’d like to draw that you haven’t had the chance to do yet?
I’d kill to write and draw “My Little Pony vs. Godzilla.” But no one will let me. I know it would kick ass with me drawing it — I’m telling you — but these franchisors have no sense of humor.
Meanwhile I’m also doing a “Mars Attacks!” miniseries for IDW, and the “Demon” miniseries at DC is still happening too.
When will fans see another creator-owned series from Sam Kieth?
Four more fully painted “Trout”-related 300-page graphic novels are in the works, and I plan to wrap up these “Trout” projects over the next 3-5 years while “The Maxx” is fresh in fans’ minds. If even one “Maxx” fan in ten picks up a new comic or art book I do, then it’ll be worth it. After that I’ll be too gnarled up to draw anymore… And I’ll be ready for the “comic book old folks’ home.”
“The Maxx” returns monthly from IDW Publishing in 2014.