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"Most of us inhabit at least two worlds: The real world, where we're at the mercy of circumstance... and the world within, the unconscious, a safe place, where we can escape. The Maxx shifts between these worlds against his will. Here, homeless, he lives in a box in an alley. The only one who really cares for him is Julie Winters, a freelance social worker. But in Pangea, the other world, he rules the Outback, and is the protector of Julie, his jungle queen. There he cares for her. But he always ends up back in the real world.And me? Old Mr. Gone? Only I can see that the secret which unites them could destroy them. I could be helpful... Bah, screw it. I think I'll have some fun with them first. Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-hah!!"
—Mr. Gone Opening Narration
A homeless man only known as the Maxx fancies himself a superhero, but often ends up causing more trouble than he stops. The thing is, he does look like a superhero, though kind of a weird one. Even weirder is that he shifts between the real world and a world called the Outback (later more accurately described as an Outback) a.k.a. Pangaea (Julie's particular Outback has this name), a fanciful version of Australia populated with various bizarre wildlife.
Self-described "freelance social worker" Julie Winters has a friendship with the Maxx, often bailing him out of jail; she also exists in the Outback as the Leopard Queen. Then there is the mysterious Mr. Gone, a serial rapist/murderer with apparent supernatural powers, accompanied by a pack of Iszes, corrupted creatures originally from the Outback. He knows why Julie and the Maxx are connected, but he's not talking... at least, not at first.
As the story goes on, the role of protagonist shifts from the Maxx to Julie to Mr. Gone's daughter Sarah James, who was introduced early in the storyline... but all the characters are ultimately part of the same story.
The Maxx provides examples of:
- Action Survivor: Julia proves to be this when she was able to escape Mr. Gone in the second issue/episode and behead him.
- Adaptation Distillation: The animated series, though abbreviated, equals the original comic book in quality, helped, no doubt by the heavy involvement of the original creator. (The video version of the series, however, inexplicably cuts out most of the most beautifully animated sequences.)
- Several comic storylines were also expanded for the better, including Sarah's introduction.
- Affably Evil: Mr. Gone, sometimes
- Age-Appropriate Angst: Sarah does whine a lot, especially in her introduction, but she is 15 and in a rotten high school.
- Animated Adaptation: The MTV series, which was very true to the comics - and in many ways, superior (see above).
- Anti-Villain: Mr. Gone, after issue 21.
- Apathetic Citizens: Most people seem to just ignore Maxx's crazy antics. One early issue has him fight Mr. Gone and several Isz disguised as old women on top of a car at a gas station, and the car's owner seems only mildly amused by the whole thing.
- Art Shift: The Crappon Inna Hat dream sequence, both the comic and animated versions.
- The art actually changed in style a lot the further the comic went on. It would oftentimes shift between realistic to cartoony and back on the same page.
- The Atoner: After the Time Skip, we find out that Artemis, aka Mr. Gone, became this in the ten years between issues 20 and 21.
- Bald of Evil: Mr. Gone.
- Beard of Evil: Mr. Gone, again.
- Beautiful All Along: Subverted. Sarah tries this once, and doesn't feel it works for her.
- She's still pretty damn cute when she's not trying her hardest to look like a girl version of Maxx's hobo disguise, though.
- Bland-Name Product: Mr. Gone drinks 8Up. A few real-life TV shows and brand names were changed for the animated version. However both version reference the cosy Sitcom world of Cheers, ironically.
- Captain Ersatz: The Image characters The Savage Dragon and Mako guest-starred in the comic, but were replaced by a detective and a different shark guy for the animated version. Another Image character, Pitt, also guest-starred in the comic, but the issue was adapted - perhaps for the better - as a solo adventure (the part where Maxx is very small and attempting to make his way around Julie's apartment).
- Cerebus Retcon: A lot of stuff that seems amusing or inconsequential comes back with a vengeance as you learn more about what's going on. One particularly jarring example are the goofy looking fear monsters, all of them named Dave, in the Dr. Seuss pastiche. The name seems like a gag, but it becomes very significant later on.
- Crapsack World
- Creepy Uncle: Mr. Gone to Little Julie, though it turns out he was just a friend of the family. A lot of people who only watched the TV series think there may have been something really incestuous going on in the pink bunny suit bit near the beginning, since this is only made explicit in the comics and her dad does look kind of like a big, fat version of Gone.
- The Cuckoolander Was Right: Maxx. He has a very slim grasp on reality, believes he's some kind of superhero, and narrates his exploits out loud. To people of the real world, he's a nut, but aside from Mr. Gone, he's the closest one with any awareness to how the universe actually works.
- Dead All Along: The Maxx, at least the version of him in the real world, is actually the reanimated corpse of an out of work plumber named Dave that Julie murdered with her car, mistaking him for an attacker because she had been raped a few weeks before. He was brought back to life and imbued with the power of Julie's Spirit Animal, Br'er Lapin, when she hid the body under a pile of garbage that included a lampshade empowered with the eldritch energies of The Outback by contact with a nearby dimensional portal.
- Deadpan Snarker: Julie takes a lot of things, up to and including being kidnapped a rapist-murderer, with a bored roll of the eyes and a sardonic wit.
- Deranged Animation: Moderately deranged animation, even more deranged writing.
- Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: A Running Gag is that characters will often respond to Maxx's Private Eye Monologue, to which he'll usually mutter: "Damn, I was talking out loud again."
- Does Not Like Shoes: Julie. The fact that she even walks barefoot in dingy alleys suggests she's barefoot whenever her feet aren't shown.
- Glorie is also barefoot in her appearances, and Sarah also has random barefoot moments.
- Dream Apocalypse: Julie fears that if she and Maxx separate the worlds this will happen.
- Dream Land: A variant. The individual dream realms of several people appear during the series. They function as Magical Lands.
- Evil Sorcerer: Mr. Gone started off as this, but later claimed that his magic powers were limited to knowing a few "loopholes". And then later it turned out that he had no power at all and was just an ordinary dude who everyone else consensually hallucinated was an evil sorcerer. Or something.
- The Faceless: Maxx, he's never seen without his mask on. After the Time Skip, when he appears as Dave, his face is always drawn in Silhouette.
- Foot Focus: the toenail-clipping scene probably counts.
- Freudian Excuse: As a child, Mr. Gone was humiliated in a particular way, by wearing an oversized pink woman's coat and paper bag over his head. Later, he inflicts that specific punishment on a few of his victims.
- Fridge Logic: Oh so much. One of the most shining examples from the cartoon was the denouement when Maxx finds his own Outback, which is gardening in a little greenhouse. This is significant because the "animals" in Julie's Outback are all plants. This leads to several possible conclusions:
- Julie helped Maxx find his own Outback.
- Julie and Maxx were meant for each other and the conclusion is a tragedy.
- Maxx's own Outback is the reason why he was so good at protecting her, which was why she could never grow with him around.
- Fur Bikini: The Leopard Queen wears one.
- Gecko Ending: The animated series ended with the Maxx finding peace in his own Outback, as the one he thought was his was in fact a part of Julie's psyche while the comics version continued the story without anything like this happening.
- The Glasses Gotta Go: Shortly after the Time Skip, Sarah inexplicably starts being drawn without glasses.
- The Goggles Do Nothing: She's oftentimes seen wearing some pilot goggles though, for some reason.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Semi-platonic version (despite some misunderstandings). Julie and The Maxx, The Maxx and Sarah, Sarah and her Maxx.
- Ignored Epiphany: Mr. Gone knows the psychology for why he does what he does and feels bad about it. It doesn't stop him.
- I Will Protect Her: Maxx makes it his mission to protect Julie in the real world and the Jungle Queen in the Outback.
- Jungle Princess: The Leopard Queen.
- Karma Houdini: Mr. Gone, who along with the rest of the remaining cast, is reborn in a different reality, though he also is seen living happily with Sara(h) (who is a white Isz and also apparently de-aged) in Julie's Outback, to raise the daughter he was never there for.
- Not quite -- if you know the full story, Mr. Gone has quite a good deal of pain inflicted upon him. Especially if you consider not only getting his head cut off repeatedly, but also stepped on and blown right off. Keep in mind, said abuse doesn't kill him but simply hurts a whole heck of a lot. And that's not including the fact that his head continued to rot while he was still living in it after its initial decapitation.
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: Until late 2009, when MTV finally released the show in its entirety on DVD.
- Life or Limb Decision: A boy gets his hand stuck in a portal leading to the Outback. His friend finds a solution to his problem by pulling out a hacksaw...
- Magical Land: The Outbacks.
- Mama Bear: Julie with her son Mark.
- Mind Screw: Oh yeah. Especially after chapter 30.
- Mind Screwdriver: A few of the oddness and mystery of the series did get explained. We never did find out the answer to a few others.
- Nineties Anti-Hero: Some of the goofy kids providing colour commentary think The Maxx is one of these. The glue-sniffing punters browsing the comic books shops back in the day were meant to think the same thing so Keith could sucker them into actually reading something with brains for once.
- New Age Retro Hippie: Sarah's mother, Tilly James. Julie subverts the stereotype, having elements of the archetype but breaking from it in other ways.
- Off with His Head: Julia cuts off manages to cut off Mr. Gone's head a couple times over the course of the series. He spends a large amount of time trying (and failing) to put it back on.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Played with. The Isz, who are short, eyeless things with More Teeth Than the Osmond Family often go about in the human world with nothing in the way of disguise but ill-fitting clothes. Fortunately for them (and unfortunately for everyone else), this is all they need, since they possess a latent psychic ability that causes any Muggles who look at them to see them as whatever they're dressed up as.
- Police Are Useless: Shown in the first issue/episode no less. The cops arrest Maxx for apparently threatening a thug (who had been in the process of stopping the latter from mugging a woman), leave the thug where he is, and never once notice the woman who was attacked. And when they're gone, Mr. Gone rapes and murders the woman himself.
- Rape as Backstory: The childhood of Mr. Gone. Later, the crimes Mr. Gone reveals he has done to others.
- Julie's rape and her trauma after the event cause her to hit Maxx with the car in the first place.
- Rape Is Love: Not quite, but Glorie does eventually become friends with Mr. Gone after he's reformed, which seems a bit strange.
- Scary Shiny Glasses: In her first appearances, Sarah is often drawn in silhouette with only the blank lens of her glasses visible
- Shoot the Hostage: In one of the most memorable moments of the series.
"Now surrender, Hopping Boy, or this charming young chippy's added to my score!
"You killed my hostage... You killed my hostage! YOU KILLED MY HOSTAGE!
- Turns out it was just a dummy. But neither of them knew that.
- Show Within a Show: The Crappon Inna Hat, Fred Flower and Uncle Italian Moose Show.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Strange In-Universe example: The character's name is spelled "Sarah" at first, before being written as "Sara" after the Time Skip, but, bizarrely enough, her name is spelled as "Sara" in flashbacks during the second half. As well, Artimis/Artemus/Artemis's name is never consistently spelled right.
- Stripperific: The Leopard Queen again. Some of Julie's regular outfits would also qualify. Despite often being casual clothes, they are still quite stripperific. On more than one occasion, she almost looks like a hooker.
- Shout-Out: To The Sandman (or possibly a Take That, with, "Death is hard an' cold an' ugly. Not some cute chick!"). Sam Keith worked on the very earliest issues of the comic. Actually, Death (The Sandman version) appeared in a poster in the Comic Book.
- Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Parodied with Sarah's version of the Isz, which are "faeries" with ribbons, dresses, and pink bodies. But they're still carnivorous and extremely creepy
- Time Skip: A ten-year jump from 1995 to 2005, starting with issue 21.
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future: The post-issue 21 stories took place in the future year of 2005.
- Urban Fantasy
- What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: Tons of stuff. Up to and including toenail-clipping.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: After his Heel Face Turn, Gone unsuccessfully attempts suicide because he's wracked with guilt over all the raping he did, only to find that the power of The Outback has rendered him immortal.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Maxx, especially at the beginning, believes he's the protagonist of a typical superhero comic. If only it were that simple...
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: The title.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Mr. Gone kidnaps a doctor at some point to have his severed head sewn back on. It's implied that when it's finished, Gone then had him fed to the Isz.