Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Maxx (YouTube clip 2/12 [mislabeled 3/12])

ThomasDaTubeEngine has mislabeled this Maxx cartoon -- parts two and three of twelve should be the other way around. The right movie is here. This one takes us to the end of issue 1 of the comic book.

This opens with a really silly and entertaining cartoon National Geographic sequence, which jumping slugs, "Crabbits" (very much like the animals on Avatar, no?), and then the Izz. "It is just stupid" is just as funny a description of why the slug has no natural predators as it was when I saw this years ago.

Back in the city we see the Izz again, but this time they are black. Interestingly they are voyeurs, very much out of Rear Window, but also very telling of the comic book fan who sees all this sex and violence in a voyeuristic fashion, like the Izz, jumping around from one "frame" to the next. The tableau of life shown is significant: a man nervous about sex with a powerful woman, old people doing nothing, and a couple fighting give us three views of romance between men and women, important for this series and it's rapist villain. When we see people basically alone - a guy sitting, a girl dancing, and a man ignoring the kids jumping on him -- we are transported to the outback, and see these things as connected to this other world -- a savage world in which their loneliness makes them either monsters or the monstrous victims of violence.

Over these scenes, Julie is giving a fairly long monologue on third wave feminism, in which she admits that sometimes "no" does mean "yes," and admits that maybe a liberal is a conservative who has never been mugged. At 14 I found this really impressive. It strikes me now as interesting more in the way such a monologue is juxtaposed with the superhero genre Kieth is playing with on the Maxx. Batman's monologues as he gazes over the city at nigh from high on buildings are really dramatically refigured here, as Julie walks home through the streets at night. And reversing the perspective on the superhero monologue is not enough -- he also keeps throwing cartoon creatures, and lines like "Ya got any toast" so that we are always aware of the unreal, willy world in which all of this is happening.

Mr. Gone in the glasses, and in the layundry room, is terrifying. Notice that his living cape owes something to Spawn, also at image around this time. Notice also that Glory is not the sexually active teen of horror movies, punished by the monster who will in turn be taken down (or escaped from) by the good girl virgin. She rejects sex -- sending her boy away to cool off -- and is punished. She is dressed slutty like Julie, but the context indicates that this has more to do with laundry day than any active desire to be provocative. The fade to black when her boy returns, are also especially effective.

When the Maxx mentions the woman in the alley he was trying to save, reported rape, we have one more shut down of superhero tropes. Julie chastizes him for assuming responsiblilty for the lives of hurt women. All he can say is " I am the Maxx" a very superero thing to say, along the lines of "I am Batman" or "I AM BEOWULF." That kind of male tautological posturing -- along the lines of God's "I am what I am" in Exodus -- does not cut it here.

As the Maxx chases an Izz notice the heavy breathing -- just from going around the block. The comic book rooftop chase scene is really brought down to size, as Kieth continues to set up his claim that the guiding principles of superhero comic books have severe limitations.


Jason said...

Back in the day, the animated series seemed -- to my eyes -- to give the whole MAXX series a coherence that the comic-book series (which did not include that pan across the city, among other things) lacked. I'm already starting to see that there was more internal coherence to both than I really gave the comic credit for.

For example, in issue 3, Gone has that line, "Of course I have a problem with women! Everyone does -- because they are attractive, and then they punish you for being attracted."

I've re-read the series more than once and I never really connected that to the bit with Glorie and her "doof" boyfriend here. But, of course -- Gone is talking about a phenomenon he just witnessed two issues earlier.

Like you, Geoff, I was also often impressed with the discussions of feminism in The Maxx. It seemed like something completely foreign to comics, yet so obvious. (Later, when I read more about Paglia, it struck me as even more clever to merge that permutation of feminism with the cliched "comic book female.") I was fascinated to learn that scripter Bill Messner-Loebs worked as a writer on "Wonder Woman" for a while, and was always curious as to whether he brought any kind of similar sensibility -- i.e., discussions of different waves of feminism -- to that character/series. Does anybody know? (I never did get around to finding out myself.)

Geoff Klock said...

I never read anything by him. I actually forgot anyone other than Kieth worked on this book -- and it also turns out that Alan Moore wrote an issue, which is REally weird.

Jason said...

Yeah, that was a great marketing gimmick. I was going to stop collecting at issue 20, since it ended the story so neatly and near-completely. Then they announced Alan Moore was writing issue 21, and I was pulled right back in.