Thursday, August 28, 2008

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

ThomasDaTubeEngine has the second the third parts of his Maxx cartoon out of order. Here is what should be part three.

This episode opens with a wonderful moment of Julie posturing in the mirror -- she looks just like every hot supehero female, who seem to stand around like that all the time, by default. But Julie breathes out and her whole body changes -- shoulders slumped, belly out, breasts in. People always say that those comic book women are unrealistic -- and of course often the proportions are so bizarre this is true. But I live in New York and have seen women that are as skinny, for example, as Quitely's Jean Grey. Just as, in the last episode, Julie admits that sometimes yes does mean no, Kieth here admits that women can sometimes look like superhero characters -- but only for a moment. Kieth is creating a middle-ground between superhero comics and their absurd women, and indie-comics and their "real women don't look like that, give-me-a-break" exasperation. [Boy, I do not know what I think about that sentence, but I am leaving it in for now.]

In addition to the serious sexual violence (Gone) meeting the cartoon foolishness (his henchmen), Kieth adds a third texture to the mix -- the total dead pan. "Oh. I get it. It's that guy's cape." There is something of the jaded comic book fan in this voice, and it strikes me as very much the audience Kieth is going for -- or trying to build.

In another example of deflating the superhero genre, the Maxx kills a hostage (or thinks he does). This is a very Wolverine moment, but is immediately taken down when a moment later he faints from being shot in the leg.

Gone himself is not immune to such takedowns. Here we see him shaving in the bathroom -- and getting shaving cream out of a fixture that shows a cows ass. Bad-ass in his living cape, he now appears pudgy, and weird, in the full light of the bathroom.

A kidnaped, tied up, and sexed up and not at all afraid Julie makes fun of his "tawdry sexual revenge" scheme, and the "baroque posturing" -- which we will recognize as the baroque posturing of ordinary superhero comic books. She dismisses the whole thing: Mr. Gone is not so hot since any crackhead on her block can kill her, and actually, she is not all that physically great -- she has a fat stomach, chafe marks from her jeans, stubby arm pits, and bad breath.

Importantly Gone reiterates what the cop said in the first episode: she was asking for it, wearing her underwear outside of her clothes. He is referring to her crazy outfit from her first appearance but "wearing underwear outside your clothes" has a different meaning -- it is the most traditional way to make fun of superheroes.

Mr Gone monologues in the dramatic way we have come to expect from comic book villains -- except here, we can barely hear him as he is not the focus, and his captured woman in the bunny outfit (significant for reasons we will get to later) is coming to kill him. He talks about the Outback and this elaborate fiction she has built -- it seems for a moment that we are in Morrison territory, which the fantasy world as the real world and our dreary world as something we have to rise above to see the truth. But the damaged Julie Maxx had a vision of re-asserts herself, and we see what Gone means -- he is talking about psychic pain and the fictions of self we build to avoid confronting it. Here is Kieth's thesis -- the superhero is not enough, because physical violence is not the problem, emotional violence is.

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