The Maxx: The best MTV show you never heard of

OK, who still remembers Liquid Television? Birthplace of many better-known animated series such as Beavis ‘n Butthead and Æon Flux?

From 1991 to 1994 Liquid Television was MTV’s attempt to tap into the independent animation scene, with a hodge-podge of memorable (and not so memorable) shorts, short series, vignettes, and other usually-animated — or mixed animation and live action — pieces. For my wife and I, Liquid Television is inexorably bound up in our courtship. We can still quote the damned thing all these years later, laughing hysterically over bits of dialogue from Winter Steele and Dog Boy.

As noted, not all of Liquid Television was golden. In fact, a good deal of it was not. But the stuff that was golden — or at least original or otherwise so strange as to be memorable — was quite excellent.

Today, the ghost of Liquid Television lives on, in the form of shows like Robot Chicken and the Nickelodeon Nicktoons Animation Festival.

And, thanks to the success of Liquid TV’s spin-off series, MTV eventually bankrolled a seperate animated production of Sam Keith’s comic book series, The Maxx.

The Maxx - VHS Cover

I’m not sure what my wife and I expected when we bought The Maxx on VHS — it’s never been released on DVD, for reasons that boggle me to this day — but we certainly got more than we bargained for.

Ostensibly an anti-Super Hero series about the titular Super Hero, The Maxx is anything but comic. Oh, sure, there are any number of humorous or ironic moments, but The Maxx has far more gravitas than either its packaging or its title gives it credit for. In fact, it’s a rather deep film, which does the delicate trick of being just deep enough to achieve meaning without reaching so deep as to become pretentious or otherwise deep to the point of incoherency.

I won’t spoil the plot. If you can somehow find it on VHS — or YouTube — I highly recommend it. Sam Keith is, of course, well known to those of us who collected comic books in the late 80’s and early 90’s, though I am sad to say Keith’s art and writing has not (yet) attained the kind of national currency I think it deserves. As a series, The Maxx retains all of Keith’s artistic markers, making it a beautiful visual experience, in addition to being intellectually entertaining.

Were it that MTV still gave a damned about doing more experimental production along the same lines as The Maxx. I guess the market was never there? Or maybe the market just grew up and moved on, prior to MTV converting itself into the 24/7 Hip Hop Network.

Some of the more memorable lines from the series:

THE MAXX: Yah got any toast?

MR. GONE: Of course I’ve got a problem with women! Everyone has a problem with women. Women taunt and tease. They are attractive yet the punish you for being attracted.

JULIE: This city’s full of people who are experts at avoiding reality.

EDIT FEB. 2010: It appears that Amazon.com is now officially selling high-quality DVD-R editions of The Maxx. These are not third-party copies from VHS, but appear to be something Amazon is doing internally? At the price, seems like more than a bargain. My wife and I are both very excited.

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4 thoughts on “The Maxx: The best MTV show you never heard of

  1. The Maxx has been one of my favorite cartoons/comics for YEARS! I even admit to having the action figure. It’s a shame that MTV is no longer the rebellious boundary pushing force of nature it was when it first started. I ranted about this very same thing a couple of months ago (http://gabrielnovo.com/2009/05/16/what-happened-to-taking-chances/).

    Where are the modern day equivalents of “The Sandman”, R. Crumb and Hunter S. Thompson? Where are the trailblazers, burning down the conventional, the tame and the mediocre? Adult Swim seems to be the only one fighting the good fight these days.

  2. Ever since I saw the first episodes I have been “in love” with The Maxx. Are there still availability for the VHS? I would love a copy. I still have a vcr.

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