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STRANGE VISIONS: Check out bizarre cartoon ‘The Maxx’

STRANGE VISIONS: Check out bizarre cartoon ‘The Maxx’

By THOMAS F. JOHNSON

Hello, Aztec Press readers. This new column will be about oddities of both the small and big screens — strange films and shows that few people have ever watched, but would love if they did.

Specifically, it will showcase ones you can find legally and for free on websites like Hulu. That way, you don’t have to take my word for their quality. Watch ‘em yourself right after you finish the article.

But let us get to our first show, “The Maxx.” Airing on MTV in 1995, this 13-episode series was a faithful adaptation of Sam Keith’s bizarre comic book “The Maxx,” an early title from Image Comics.

Whereas most other Image comics of that era embodied every bad ‘90s cliché (Guns! Pouches! Terrible anatomy! Liefeld!), “The Maxx” was something far weirder.

The show concerns a large, purple homeless man who calls himself the Maxx. He considers himself a superhero and kind of looks the part, but constantly gets in trouble and must be bailed out by a young and somewhat cynical social worker, Julie.

He keeps blacking out and finding himself in a strange Australia-like fantasy world known as the Outback, where Julie appears as a being called the Leopard Queen.

The Outback is very real. A mysterious man named Mr. Gone manipulates it for his own means. He also has a gaggle of minions called Black Izes — nasty, toothy, vegetable-like creatures native to the Outback.

As Mr. Gone causes a spree of destruction (in the early episodes, at least), the Maxx must stop him. The Maxx also works to unravel mysteries of the Outback, and figure out how he and Julie are connected to it.

That synopsis is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how weird this series can get.

For example, the Izes can look like anything you dress them up as, which leads to the spectacle of the Maxx being attacked by what look like old ladies. There’s also a Dr. Seuss nightmare/pastiche that pops up in the middle of an episode.

One character has a revelation involving a horse statue and a crappy motivational poster. In another scene, the Maxx slips into Julie’s trippy subconscious. I could go on, but we have limited page space.

The series is a strange Jungian story heavily focused on the history of Julie and her link to the Maxx.

One thrill is seeing the characters unravel the mysteries around them while undergoing personal self-discovery. Like many stories that use this as a plot element (see “Inception”), it’s easy to lose track if you aren’t paying close attention.

The artwork is excellent, too. Though the animation is limited, it does a very good job of mimicking the look and feel of the original comic. The odd art style shifts work beautifully.

The only problem is the series’ abrupt and somewhat unsatisfying ending. This is likely a consequence of the comic going on hiatus while the show was still being produced.

When the comic returned, it took a sharp nosedive in quality, so perhaps it’s just as well that it ended.

If you want a real head trip of a series that shows Western animation at its finest, view “The Maxx.” Watch it at mtv.com/shows/the_maxx/video.jhtml.

© ‘The Maxx’

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