by Arpad Okay. Almost 25 years on, and you’re still missing The Maxx? That’s only natural.
Clover Press understands there’s still a demand for Sam Kieth’s weird, wonderful 1990s comics series. Meeting that demand is the publisher’s proposed 2021 calendar, which would feature images from Kieth’s strange, complex world as well as a brand new illustration of the big, purple subcultural icon by the master himself.
“I’m thankful, and surprised, that people still enjoy THE MAXX,” Sam Kieth said in the official press release, available below. “I hope this calendar will provide some strange color onto their walls as we count the days go by.”
You can count the days of this new year, and slip a little further into the wilds of the Outback, to boot, as Clover’s Maxx calendar reveals over the course of 12 months some of the best covers from Kieth’s 1993-1998 comics run. You can help Kickstart this 2021 calendar here.
We couldn’t sit idle as this project came into the world, such is the power of The Maxx. So to mark the launch of this crowdfunding campaign DoomRocket contributing writer Arpad Okay has compiled a Top 5 list of the covers from Sam Kieth’s The Maxx that have remained in his mind’s eye for years and years and years.
The thirteenth issue is the first hint of the potential the art in The Maxx would reach. Not to knock the past appearances of Maxx’s immaculately drawn donk, but this vision of Frazetta-into-darkness was an exciting harbinger of how much paint would come to be on the pages and in the panels. Muscles that take up so much attention and detail that they end in explosions, claws reduced to spirals. Face in total shadow and above a cloud of golden smoke. When this came out, nobody but Karen Berger or Shelly Bond were in the mainstream and challenging conventions with covers on this level, and only Sam Kieth was delivering interiors that matched.
Fifteen is my favorite cover of The Maxx, bar none. This is the balance the series would come to evolve into, ink and paint trading off, layered and layered. The three-dimensional textures from Kieth’s painting contoured with classic comics linework. I love this long take on Maxx’s face, the eyes turn into forking points and the teeth an impossibly shifted curve. The squiggles at the edges of the purple are clearer evidence, but everything on the page is in service to loving the line first and depicting reality second. Kieth lets it go where it wants to suit the mood (chaos) and then paints the whole thing Easter colors. Bad dream candy.
Another beautiful cover that captures the Oceana big sky country color palette of the dreamscape, teal, topaz, sand. Chance Wolf’s Maxx logo and the rest of the trade dressing for nineteen are all done as etched glass and fit in behind the action. Clear, depending on your angle, but ghostly. Set against the sky-sea is Kieth’s a creature of concentrated anatomical obsessions: strong arms with beer belly body, the negation of a head, and tree-trunk dinosaur feet. A daffodil, a pitcher plant, a jellyfish, a piece of gum going from your shoe to the floor.
Sara’s coat as one big piece of painted-in watercolor honey is just inspired, its execution magnificent; Kieth goes Klimt for issue twenty-two. The hatching work on her features (and the wrinkles of her fingers) give the illusion of depth and wear to an otherwise unmarked expanse, an undisturbed pool of a face with a nose blown too many times. I love pulling the coat’s pattern into Wolf’s logo, particularly how it stands against the blue. Love the simplicity of what’s going on on this cover, that the series has come to the point where a figure is more important than a fight. The Maxx was a decade ahead of the rest of Image.
The twenty-seventh issue has a cover that warrants comparison to Dave McKean’s Vertigo books, or Bill Sienkiewicz’s groundbreaking superhero horror work. If you put the super-blasted, Simon Bisley fantasy bodybuilder arms aside, Iago the slug could be on an issue of Sandman… or Raygun. The indiscernible mix of paint, photo, and process (turn the cover around and I’m reading about cheese for some reason) by this point in the series is present on almost every page of The Maxx. This issue’s cover is what I liked about thirteen refined: the detailed anatomical aggression contained, with the textures around it replaced by curated, abstract imagery.
From Clover Press: (November 9, 2020) Strange, surreal and unforgettable, Sam Kieth’s THE MAXX is a comic book unlike any other. Originally released by Image Comics from 1993 to 1998, THE MAXX has been hailed by Publisher’s Weekly as “one of the weirdest ‘mainstream’ comics ever published.” It has transfixed comic book fans, inspired cartoonists, and been adapted by MTV into a cult classic animated television show. Now Clover Press is heading to Kickstarter to crowdfund Sam Kieth’s 2021 THE MAXX Calendar, with two different collectable calendars, each one featuring a different calendar cover with an all new illustration of THE MAXX.
“I’m thankful, and surprised, that people still enjoy THE MAXX,” says Sam Kieth. “I hope this calendar will provide some strange color onto their walls as we count the days go by.” The full-color, 11″ x 17″, wire-bound, 2021 calendar contains months from January 2021 to December 2021, with each month featuring a different, dynamic piece of THE MAXX cover art.
THE MAXX follows the adventures of its purple-clad hero The Maxx in two worlds: the real world, in which Maxx is a “homeless man living in a box,” and an alternate reality called the Outback in which Maxx is the powerful protector of the Jungle Queen. The Jungle Queen exists in the real world as Julie Winters, a social worker who often bails Maxx out of jail—and while Maxx is aware of the Outback, Julie is not, though the alternate realm is essential to both of their stories.
Image’s publication of THE MAXX lasted for 35 seminal issues, with Sam Kieth sometimes sharing co-writing credits with legendary writers Alan Moore and Bill Messner-Loebs. The comics were republished in 2013 by IDW Publishing with new covers by Kieth and new colors by Ronda Pattison.
THE MAXX campaign has multiple tiers, with pledge rewards including a set of THE MAXX postcards and a Sam Kieth variant cover of Juggernaut #1 signed by the artist. For updates, follow Clover Press on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. You can check out what Kieth is working on at his blog: www.samkieth.blogspot.com