Welcome to Adventure(s) Time's 70th installment, a look at animated heroes of the past. This week, it's another chapter of Image TV. What happens when one of the most successful Image heroes lands his own TV show, and legal issues prevent his comic guest stars from tagging along?
Fans of the era might remember The Maxx #6-8. A quirky book by anyone's definition, The Maxx didn't feel as if it fully belonged in the nascent "Image Universe." That didn't prevent three issues in a row guest-starring the Savage Dragon and Pitt, however. The early years of Image were packed with these crossover appearances. Even if the heroes didn't seem to fully fit into that character's world, even if the creators didn't seem to even like the characters that much, Image heroes bounced around from title to title.
The Maxx #6 continues Sam Kieth's oddball exploration of abuse, trauma and comically masculine vigilante stereotypes... while also guest-starring the Savage Dragon. The story has Dragon traveling to The City, looking for a Chicago fugitive, a shark-man known as Mako.
Dragon comes across two kids ogling a box in an alley. One's a clear parody of Bill Watterson's Calvin, complete with his own stuffed animal. It's an ocelot named Nietzsche. Perhaps fear of a lawsuit caused the animators to recolor "Calvin's" shirt blue in the MTV adaptation. And, oh yeah, the Dragon's been replaced by William Shatner.
Okay, they didn't have a budget for celebrity cameos. But that's animator/actor Tony Fucile voicing the Shatner-inspired cop. In the DVD commentary, Kieth states Fucile was originally the Dragon's voice before the change was made. Assuming he didn't misspeak, that means production made to the voice acting stage before they realized the Dragon couldn't appear.
Why? Well, anyone remember the Savage Dragon cartoon, which aired on the USA Network? Since Larsen had already signed a deal with USA, Dragon couldn't be appearing simultaneously on MTV. The same goes for the Dragon's cast, which means Mako has been remade as Hammerhead.
On the commentary, Kieth recalls calling Larsen, asking permission to create a shark knockoff villain for Maxx to fight. "You're not going to sue me, are you?"
Hammerhead is played as even dumber than Mako, his dialogue mostly consisting of "blood, blood, blood." The in-story explanation is that Maxx's nemesis, Mr. Gone, has hired Mako/Hammerhead to keep him distracted. In practice, it was an excuse to give the Maxx a more traditional opponent for an issue. It's certainly not what the comic was known for.
Co-writer Bill Messner-Loebs comments on the sheer stupidity of the fight throughout the story. One thread has Mr. Gone narrating the violence, speaking directly to the audience, reassuring them it's okay to love blood and gore. The other narrative has Julie and her friend Tilly stranded at a lake. Their conversation turns to violence in the media, with feminist activist Tilly revealing that she's joined a media watchdog group.
Cute bits, but what saves the issue are the ongoing subplots. In her subconscious, Julie has joined Maxx inside the Outback. She encounters the Jungle Queen, the representative of how she viewed herself before her assault. Julie's warned that she shouldn't be here, and the ramifications will cause the world to "never be the same size again."
What does this mean? Honestly, it's the most egregious weirdness for weirdness sake during the initial run of the book. It's an excuse for Kieth to send the Maxx on a "totally tiny" adventure for the next two issues. And, hey, let's bring the Pitt along.
For unexplained reasons, Pitt appears in the Outback with Maxx and Julie. Simultaneously, in The City, both he and Maxx are teeny-tiny. The Outback Maxx, with the mane of straw, has also switched places with the homeless bum Maxx. From there, hijinks ensue. And this time, the comic doesn't have any clever asides, pointing out this is all empty calories distracting from the main story.
The Pitt never starred in his own television series... but maybe a deal was in the works? Regardless, Pitt is erased from the cartoon adaptation. Taking his place is Ret'qark'n, the monster from Maxx's first Image appearance, Darker Image #1. The cartoon filled a short episode earlier by adapting this story.