Friday, September 19, 2008
Maxx (6/12 Youtube clip)
Why O Why did I not write about the Maxx in my superhero book -- Sarah is the anxiety filled writer who cannot connect with her distant overshadowing father. And Kieth is responding to Miller. For all the errors in How to Read Superhero Comics and Why the basic idea gets confirmed for me a few times a year. "I guess in every food chain someone has to be at the bottom. I guess in everyone's life there's a point where your stuck and can't turn back."
Indecent Proposal is brought in by Kieth to continue his exploration of feminism. Maybe the Maxx's anxiety of influence extends to the model of the anxiety of influence -- Bloom here become Bloom's student Paglia. The Maxx squints his pupil-less eyes like Miller's Batman as he confronts the street thugs from Dark Knight Returns. Except he beats them up while Sarah's monologue robs the moment of Miller's operatic glory, and the whole thing takes place inside a small car. "That was cool. This is ugly." With Sarah in play Kieth can always compare the "story" to "what really happened" setting his psychoanalytic depth as the real thing underneath the superhero genre he plays games with on the surface of HIS story.
The Maxx monologues about pain, but the contrast with Miller is always the point -- this is psychological pain. The physical pain of the battles in the story are literally just cartoon silliness involving, as Sara calls the Izz, "little blue men" bouncing around. The absurdity of the Izz allows Kieth to keep action but anchor his story in psychoanalytic realism, just as Whedon anchors his stories in emotional realism.
In the next story, on this clip, we almost get a version of the famous Batman comic book where the kids talk about Batman but interpret him in different ways -- adapted quite well for Batman animated. The story within a story mode is a cute way of being able to show various incarnations of Batman -- Adam West, Neil Adams, Frank Miller -- without sacrificing narrative unity. (As a side note Ellis is up to something similar with Batman/Planetary but goes the more modern way -- parallel universes). For the Maxx we hear about a kind of Superman-Batman version, and something that sounds more like the then-contemporary Wildstorm -- "demented loners". Then we get Kieth's semi-origin story for the character, that is too much of a downer for the kids. Importantly this is not a chance -- as Moore would take it -- to show the Maxx in various comic book styles. The kid's thoughts are just notebook scribbles -- because unlike Moore, Kieth is not interested in exploring the stretch-y-ness of the superhero story. He wants to show the limitations, and then go somewhere else.