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The Maxx

Indie Spotlight
by yo go re

Most of the early Image Comics books were about three things: boobs and bullets. Sure, Savage Dragon did its part to capture the joie de vivre of the Marvel Comics of yesteryear, but that was an outlier: after that, the brainiest book was Spawn, which isn't really saying much; it's basically just a ripoff of Faust (the comicbook, not the opera/novel/play). There was one title that broke those boundaries, though, mixing psychology and mystery into the story. That book was The Maxx.

the story of The Maxx, a homeless man who believes he is a superhero. The Maxx shifts between the real world and a dream world, which he refers to as The Outback; this alternate universe, which resembles a fantastic version of prehistoric Australia, is just as real to him as the real world. His only friend is Julie Winters, a "freelance social worker." Little does she know that she and The Maxx have a deeper connection, and it involves the dream world into which The Maxx is constantly drawn.

Like ShadowHawk, Maxx has had an action figure before, from McFarlane toys. That was released in 1996's Series 4, and was one of the early signs of the dark path McToys would one day walk: namely, he was given an extreme pose and not enough articulation to get out of it. That figure has remained a favorite, though, because it was the only Maxx merchandise ever made - time for an upgrade.

Maxx is the big figure of Indie Spotlight Series 1 - Shocker's plan seems to be four average-sized figures (plus variants) and one huge monster. During the long run-up to IS1's release, Maxx was at one time bandied about as a Build-A-Figure (literally as a Build-A-Figure: Shocker's press release used that specific term as though it weren't a trademark of Marvel Toys; Mattel's idiotic fill-in name may suck mightily, but at least it's theirs), but in the final release, he's sold by himself on an oversized card. And yes, he's completely assembled; another idea was that he'd be sold as separate pieces in one package to conserve space.

The size discrepency of the card lets you know right away how big Maxx is going to be. At his tallest, he's a daunting 8½" tall - an appropriate size, as opposed to "big because it can be" BAFs like Apocalypse, Pitt and Monkeyman. Articulation is plentiful, and mostly accomplished via balljoints: Maxx moves at the neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, thighs, knees and ankles. Heck, if you give him a more typical hunched pose (like Blanka), he's still 6" tall.

Sam Keith has a very distinctive art style - there's nobody who draws like him. The sculpt captures that feeling without trying to duplicate it exactly, which means the muscles are huge and chunky, and the feet are massive! At least they'll keep him stable in big poses. Instead of shoes, Maxx wears complicated wrappings that look like cloth and metal, and all that detail's been perserved here. Excellent work!

One thing worth noting are the hands. Shocker kept fans entirely up-to-date on the progress of these figures, and one of the near-final sculpts showed Maxx's hands as complete fists with large claws coming off the back - kind of like Wolverine if he had one big spike instead of three small ones. That's wrong, though: the "spike" is actually Maxx's middle finger, so he should only have the three remaining fingers curled down into his palms, with a gap beneath the spike. Well, because we saw that mistake early, the fans pointed out the right way it should be done, and Shocker made the correction. Compare that to Mattel, who makes arbitrary changes without informing anyone, then claims they were just doing what the fans "wanted" - you know, lying.

Maxx comes with two interchangeable heads, either with or without his headdress. On McFarlane's figure, that was just a removable accessory, and it never quite sat right on the figure's head. By making it a sculpted element, Shocker has avoided that problem. The heads are a bit tough to pop off, but that just means they won't fall off accidentally; you don't have to worry about the joints breaking when you swap them, either (as you did on, say, the Street Fighter toys. The head looks great, and those huge front teeth jut out just like they should. The "outback" head even gets an additional balljoint, where the fur connects to the neck.

The paint on Maxx is clean. Purple and yellow may not be the first two colors you think of as a workable combination [obviously you're not a fan of the Lakers --ed.], but Maxx carries them off. There's shading on the brown wraps on his feet, and the silver rings don't spill. Maxx is a nice dark purple, and has many airbrushed shadows to bring the sculpt to life. The varied edges on his yellow "gloves" should perhaps look more like splashes than hot rod flames - Maxx claims he got them (and his claws) by thrusting his hands into boiling lava, and when they came out, they were changed, made invulnerable, stained and tempered by the sulphurous rock.

Just because Maxx is a huge figure, it doesn't mean Shocker skimped on the accessories. You'll recall how all the Series 1 figures came with a bonus Is to display with Maxx - both Julie's white and black Isz, and Sarah's pink fairy Isz. Not to be outdone, Maxx himself comes with three of the little guys: one each of black, white and pink. If you didn't buy anything but Maxx, you'll still have a fine assortment of Isz to keep him busy; if you collected the entire series, you'll end up with three white, three black and three pink, which is an impressive number overall. McFarlane's Maxx came with an Is (either black or white, depending on which variant you found), but the only way to get multiples was to hunt down a very rare FAO Schwartz exclusive.

Maxx is the creation of Sam Keith, but the packaging and all Shocker's press releases identify him as the property of MTV. Why's that? Well, in the mid-90s, MTV was pretty much the equivalent of today's [adult swim], in that they were the home of weird cartoons that appealed to teens and 20-somethings. One of the cartoons they picked up for their MTV Oddities show was an adaptation of The Maxx (that actually finished before the comic did), and apparently part of the contract was that while Keith retained the rights to the comics, MTV Networks got the rights to everything else - including action figures and other ancillary merchandise. So yes, technically this figure is of MTV's character.

As an oversized figure, the Maxx obviously costs more than the others - and since Toys Я Us' Indie Spotlight shipments haven't hit stores yet, that could be anything from two to three times as much, depending on what your favorite online retailer's markup is. However, if you can get a price you're happy with, Maxx is definitely worth it. We already said that Shocker Toys is better than Mattel, and now we can say that they're better than McFarlane, too. Nobody was expecting very much from Indie Spotlight... well, not very much other than abject failure. It was in that regard only that the fanboys were disappointed: Shocker Toys has delivered a really good set of figures, with no failure in sight.

-- 11/29/09

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