Surreal '90s MTV Series 'The Maxx' Was Ahead Of Its Time

In 1995, one of the most ambitious TV shows of the decade premiered on MTV. The Maxx animated series was one half of MTV's Oddities, a 10-minute show that was a must-see part of Liquid Television. It was also one of the weirdest animated shows on MTV. Adapted from the Image Comics series of the same name, The Maxx tells the story of a homeless man struggling with his place in society as he journeys between two worlds. 

Even though this short-lived series only ran for 13 episodes, it built a cult following and remains an enthralling watch. More than two decades after its release, the series still feels fresh, and the animation is genuinely exciting. The Maxx takes chances and isn’t afraid to get seriously weird, which is exactly why it’s worth your time.


  • It Was Based On Sam Kieth's Image Comics Series And Part Of The MTV Show 'Oddities'
    Photo: MTV

    It Was Based On Sam Kieth's Image Comics Series And Part Of The MTV Show 'Oddities'

    Throughout the 1980s and early '90s, Sam Kieth was a journeyman comic book illustrator. He began his career inking comics for both DC and Marvel, and he even penciled the "Preludes & Nocturnes" story arc of Neil Gaiman's Sandman in 1989.

    In 1993, he brought his concept for The Maxx to Image Comics, and it ran for 35 issues from 1993 to 1998. In 1995, an adaptation of Kieth's comic was produced for MTV's Oddities, an animation showcase that featured weird and outlandish shorts on the channel's Liquid Television block.

    The Maxx ran for 13 episodes, each of them only 10 minutes in length, which was great for the format at the time - and now serves as a great excuse to shove these bite-sized episodes straight into your head.

  • The Show Utilized Varying Styles Of Animation To Differentiate Settings And Characters' States Of Mind
    Photo: MTV

    The Show Utilized Varying Styles Of Animation To Differentiate Settings And Characters' States Of Mind

    Rather than farm out the animation for the adaptation of his comic, Kieth was a major part of bringing The Maxx from page to screen. He worked in the studio in order to make sure the show never strayed too far from his initial concept, and a major part of that was using art from the comics.

    The series isn't just made up of stills from the comics, but rather a combination of the original art with a variety of styles edited together. The first short of the series, which tracks through an alley towards a cardboard box, is early CGI (which still looks amazing). Later, when the Maxx is in the back of a cop car, the scene is a mix of an illustration and live action that's been heavily edited. It's very cool.

    As chaotic as this sounds, the surreal visuals blend together well, and they're focused through the lens of a film noir, with lots of shadows and negative space. 

  • The Story Follows The Maxx, A Homeless Man Turned Superhero Who Vows To Protect Julie
    Photo: MTV

    The Story Follows The Maxx, A Homeless Man Turned Superhero Who Vows To Protect Julie

    The basic plot of the show follows the Maxx, a homeless man who's all bulk and muscle shoved into a skintight purple suit. He believes it's his duty to watch over his social worker, Julie Winters.

    The Maxx watches over the city as he struggles with memory loss, the day-to-day problems of living on the streets, and the confusion brought about by his consciousness slipping back and forth between two separate realities. Julie is in both, although she only realizes she's in the "real" world and not the Maxx's "Outback."

    This might sound like it's hard to follow, but each episode mercifully begins with a quick intro to catch the audience up to speed.

  • The Maxx Is A Clumsy Oaf In The Real World But A Savage Warrior In The Outback
    Photo: MTV

    The Maxx Is A Clumsy Oaf In The Real World But A Savage Warrior In The Outback

    The Maxx is always a hero, but he's far less suited for existence in the real world. In the city, the Maxx mumbles when he speaks, and he can't help but slam into walls or fall between buildings as he carries out his personal brand of justice.

    His social worker, Julie, sees him as a strange man who's lost his marbles, and the police believe he's nothing more than a piece of street trash. However, in Pangea, the alternate dimension where the Maxx drifts to without his control, he's a heroic savage fighting in service of his warrior queen. 

    In Pangea, the Maxx moves and acts similarly to the way he does in the real world, but it's clear he's much more suited to fighting on plains than in a densely populated city.