Why The Maxx Was the Perfect Comic for '90s MTV

Welcome to Adventure(s) Time's sixty-second installment, a look at animated heroes of the past. This week we're going to explore another aspect of the 1990s media landscape. Launching in 1992, Image Comics quickly became the biggest story within the comic book industry. And, given the number of units sold, an easy target of Hollywood's attention. While it took years, often decades, for television and film adaptations of Marvel and DC heroes...Image's properties began as "hot."

The Maxx wasn't the first Image comic to be adapted to television. (I believe WildC.A.T.s beat it by a few months.) It was very possibly the first to enter production, however.  Initially, MTV planned to debut it in the Fall of 1994, pairing an eleven-minute episode with an original cartoon called The Head. Maxx and Head would air as the two-halves of MTV's Oddities, a half-hour series highlighting quirky animated concepts. This was the height of the "alternative" movement in pop culture, and MTV wasn't shy about exploiting the fad.

Truthfully, MTV could make claims for participating in its development.  By the mid-'80s, MTV was basing much of its identity on the New York arthouse scene. Starving artists and film school students produced MTV promos and short films for little money, but decent exposure. MTV maintained its status as the cool, new place for entertainment and young, experimental artists found work.

MTV became serious about developing animation in the early 1990s with the alternative cartoon showcase Liquid Television. The show famously debuted both Aeon Flux and Beavis and Butt-Head. The Maxx missed Liquid Television by a few years, but would've fit right in.

aeon flux

Having made the decision not to run Oddities as a split series, the show debuted in 1994 with two Head stories each episode. The Maxx took over Oddities during its second season, debuting on April 8, 1995. It's not an exaggeration to call MTV's Maxx the most loyal comic to TV adaptation ever. (Or at least since those '60s Marvel cartoons that traced Kirby pencils.) Most of the art is scanned from the actual comic, thanks to the still-new process of digital coloring and editing. And much of the new art required to flesh out scenes is directly from Kieth, who worked in the studio several days a week.

Almost every issue of the book translated easily into the eleven-minute limit of the cartoon. That means each Oddities episode adapted two issues of the comic. (Those that ran short had assorted Maxx stories from Darker Image and the Wizard #1/2 issue tossed in as padding. And, occasionally, entirely new material.)

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