The definitive issue-by-issue comic book collecting guide and reading order for The Maxx by Sam Kieth in comic books and omnibus, hardcover, and trade paperback collections.Find every issue and appearance! Part of Crushing Krisis’s Crushing Comics Guide to Collecting Indie & Licensed Comics. Last updated March 2023 with titles scheduled for release through July 2023.
Sam Kieth’s The Maxx was one of the earliest independent Image series, not tied to any of the six founding imprints. It was also one of Image’s most widely-known comics alongside Spawn thanks to its own 13-episode animated series on MTV in 1995.
The Maxx was a surreal, challenging, and shockingly mature comic that feels like a direct progeny of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman (for which Kieth was the launch artist!).
The title centers on a hulking, purple-clad, buck-toothed superhero who splits his time between alleyways and the fantastical mental landscape called The Outback. In each location, he considers himself a defender of Julie, a woman with whom he seems to have no other connection. However, sometimes it is Julie who defends him.
The question of what demands them being so defensive drives the plot of the series. Julie is a hippy social worker, but also a survivor of trauma. Maxx may really just be a man confused about reality and his place in it. Both of them are threatened by Mr. Gone, who may either be a serial rapist or a wizard – possibly both. And then there is the unassuming Sara, a bespeckled teenaged nerd who befriends Maxx and gets embroiled in his adventures (or, is he embroiled in hers?).
Kieth and scripter William Messner-Loebs explored themes of sexual assault, feminism, PTSD, mental health, and generational trauma in a comic that could feel both fast and dense, and which often didn’t make sense on an issue-by-issue level even as it stayed lodged in your brain for weeks afterward. However, as the series pressed on, its mysterious plot began to reveal itself and resolve – leading eventually to a second generation of the story in the back half of the series.
Between its surreal qualities and its MTV exposure, The Maxx became a cornerstone of teenager counterculture media in the mid-90s at the peak of grunge alongside the likes of Beavis and Butthead – though the vibe of the typical Maxx fan was closer to that of Daria (which would debut two years later).
Much like Sandman before it, Maxx drew in readers from outside of the typical sphere of comics – and, certainly from outside of Image’s typical demographics of superhero enthusiasts. Each issue ended with several pages letters and artwork from impassioned fans, which eventually spawned a pen pal exchange.
The Maxx was not a typical superhero, or really a superhero at all, so Kieth allowed him to make only limited canonical appearances across Image’s loosely-bound shared universe. He made just three meaningful appearances elsewhere in Image outside of his own title during its run, and each kept up the guessing game of whether he was truly a superhero or just a confused man. He was also the cover star of the underground Gay Comics at the end of 1996, though the featured story focused on Sara.
Shortly after Maxx’s series concluded, Jim Valentino used The Maxx as a stand-in for the since-excommunicated sixth Image flagship imprint of Extreme Comics in his Altered Image mash-up comic. In 2013, IDW revived the original series with modern recoloring by Ronda Pattison (and overseen by Kieth). They remastered and reprinted the full 35-issue run (but not the 1/2 issue or supporting Friends of series), collecting all of them in a handsome line of oversize hardcovers and a trio of paperbacks.
Kieth returned to his creation in narrative form only twice after the end of the original series – once for a brief Hero Initiative fundraiser in 2014, and again for a long-demanded team-up with Batman in 2018 that felt perfectly aligned with the unique tone of the original series.
- The Maxx (1993) #1-35 & 1/2 (Mar 1993 – Feb 1998)
- Darker Image (1993) #1
- Troll: Halloween Special (1994) #1
- Savage Dragon (1993) #28
- Wizard Mini-Comic (1995) #2 AKA Maxx Mini-Comic (Nov 1995)
- Gen13/Maxx (1995) #1 (Dec 1995)
- Friends of Maxx (1996) #1-3 (Apr 1996 – Mar 1997)
- Gay Comics (1980) #24 (Fall 1996 / Spring 1997)
- Altered Image (1998) #1-3 (Apr – Aug 1998)
- Hero Comics (2009) 2014 Edition
- The Maxx: Maxximized (2013) #1-35 (Nov 2013 – Sep 2016)
- Batman/The Maxx: Arkham Dreams (2018) #1-5 (Oct 2018 – Nov 2020)
- MTV’s The Maxx Animated Series
The Maxx (1993) #1-35 & 1/2 (Mar 1993 – Feb 1998)
Every issue of this series except for #1/2 was remastered, recolored, re-released, and re-collected by IDW starting in 2013 to mark the 30th anniversary of the title. See below for collections of those remastered editions.
In a line of WildStorm & DC trades
#1-6: Vol. 1 (1995 Image paperback, ISBN 978-1887279000 / 2003 DC/WildStorm paperback (alt Amazon listing), ISBN 978-1401201241)
#7-13: Vol. 2 (1997 Image paperback, ISBN 978-1887279437 / 2004 DC/WildStorm paperback, ISBN 978-1401202804)
Also collects material from Darker Image (1993) #1
#14-20: Vol. 3 (2004 paperback, ISBN 978-1401202989)
#21-27: Vol. 4 (2005 paperback, ISBN 978-1401206130)
#28-35: Vol. 5 (2005 paperback, ISBN 9781401206215)
Vol. 6 (2006 paperback, ISBN 978-1401209469)
Collects Friends of Maxx (1996) #1-3 (and may also recollected The Maxx (1993) #1?)
Collected by single issue…
#1-6: Sam Kieth’s The Maxx: Artist’s Edition [AKA Artist’s Edition Vol. 38] (2016 paperback, ISBN 978-1631404795 / eBay)
Collects original uncolored art reproduction from Darker Image (1993) #1 and The Maxx (1993) #1-6
#1/2 [AKA “Wizard Presents: Maxx”]: Not collected. A Wizard Magazine incentive issue released in 1993 shortly after the launch of the series. This came in a special plastic case with a certificate of authenticity. To the best of my knowledge, the 11pg storyhas never been collected in full. If you know differently, please tell me! [Single Issue: Amazon / eBay]
Troll: Halloween Special (1994) #1: Not collected. This October 1994 issue released alongside issue #11 is a full-issue Maxx tale by writer Andy Mangels, featuring both Julie and Mr. Gone! This is worth reading for any major Maxx fan. [Single Issue: Amazon / eBay]
Savage Dragon (1993) #28: See Guide to Savage Dragon. Maxx makes one of his only in-continuity guest appearances in another Image Comics here, the same month as his own issue #24.
Wizard Mini-Comic (1995) #2 AKA Maxx Mini-Comic (Nov 1995)
A Wizard Magazine mini-comic featuring sketches and creator commentary.
#2: Not collected [Single Issue: eBay]
Gen13/Maxx (1995) #1 (Dec 1995)
A crossover with WildStorm’s teen team written by Maxx scribe William Messner-Loebs, this was released in December 1995 between issues #20-21. Also, see Guide to Gen 13 (eventually).
#1: Not collected. [Single Issue: Amazon / eBay]
Friends of Maxx (1996) #1-3 (Apr 1996 – Mar 1997)
Released alongside issues #24-29, this series of triple-length anthology issues does not feature our purple star himself. Instead, it tells stories of the many supporting characters of his world. Some of these characters appear in the main series in issue #33.
#1-3: Vol. 6 (2006 paperback, ISBN 978-1401209469)
Collects Friends of Maxx (1996) #1-3 (and may also recollected The Maxx (1993) #1?)
Gay Comics (1980) #24 (Fall 1996 / Spring 1997)
This issue of the underground series focused on queer creators and stories bore a special cover from Sam Kieth and a black-and-white Maxx story written by Andy Mangels (who wrote the Troll: Halloween Special, above) with art by Daerick Gross Sr. and letters by Mac Performa. Though the cover date is Fall 1996, the indicia and contents page list it as the Spring 1997 issue.
This is a five-page story where Sara meets Mikal, a gay teen who left home. They have a brief heart-to-heart conversation under a bridge, in which they both muse about their sexuality. It’s an incredible short that feels of a piece with the main series even though the rest of the cast only appears in brief montage while Sarah summarizes the story.
Sadly, this has never been recollected.
#24: Not collected [Single Issue: eBay]
Altered Image (1998) #1-3 (Apr – Aug 1998)
Maxx appeared in this alternate reality Image jam comic by Jim Valentino alongside characters from the five remaining Image imprints, which had already been fractured from each other’s shared universes in Shattered Image a few years prior.
#1-3: Not collected [Single Issues: eBay]
Hero Comics (2009) 2014 Edition
A special Hero Initiative charity comic featuring an original Maxx five-page story by Sam Kieth. The story features the primary cast of four characters all opining about what The Maxx is really about, and if there ought to be more of it made. It’s inessential, but charming – but don’t read it first if you’ve never read the comic, as it gives away one major plot point!
2014: The Maxx 100-Page Giant (2019) #1 (2019 comic / digital)
Collects Maximized#1, 21, & 23 and Hero Comics (2009) #2014. [Single Issue: eBay]
The Maxx: Maxximized (2013) #1-35 (Nov 2013 – Sep 2016)
Starting with the 20th anniversary of issue #1 in 2013, IDW reissued the complete main series with art rescanned from Kieth’s original work and recolored with his supervision by Ronda Pattison.
Since the original-color versions were last produced by DC Comics as part of their purchase of WildStorm, they’ll never be reissued in the same format again. It’s likely that moving forward any reprints of the book will be from these recolored versions. If you aren’t sure if you’ll like the Maxximized recolors (or the series itself), check out 100-Page Giant (2019) #1, below, for a cheap digital sampler of three issues from different parts of the run.
in a line of seven “Maxximized” hardcovers…
The first two hardcovers in this line were also released as an extremely limited slipcover edition.
#1-4: Maxximized Vol. 1 (2o14 oversize hardcover, ISBN 978-1613779590 / eBay / digital)
#5-8: Maxximized Vol. 2 (2o14 oversize hardcover, ISBN 978-1631401046 / eBay / digital)
#9-12: Maxximized Vol. 3 (2015 oversize hardcover, ISBN 978-1631402029 / eBay / digital)
#13-18: Maxximized Vol. 4 (2015 oversize hardcover, ISBN 978-1631403231 / eBay / digital)
#19-24: Maxximized Vol. 5 (2015 oversize hardcover, ISBN 978-1631405136 / eBay / digital)
#25-30: Maxximized Vol. 6 (2016 oversize hardcover, ISBN 978-1631406614 / eBay / digital)
#31-35: Maxximized Vol. 7 (2017 oversize hardcover, ISBN 978-1631408007 / eBay / digital)
in three “Maxxed Out” paperbacks…
#1-12: Maxxed Out, Volume 1 (2016 paperback, ISBN 978-1631405556 / eBay)
#13-24: Maxxed Out, Volume 2 (2016 paperback, ISBN 978-1631407055 / eBay)
#25-35: Maxxed Out, Volume 3 (2017 paperback, ISBN 978-1631408809 / eBay)
Collected by single issue…
#1: The Maxx 100-Page Giant (2019) #1 (2019 comic / eBay / digital)
Collects Maximized#1, 21, & 23 and Hero Comics (2009) #2014.
Batman/The Maxx: Arkham Dreams (2018) #1-5 (Oct 2018 – Nov 2020)
A long-awaited and much-demanding mashup of The Maxx and Batman by Sam Kieth with colors by Ronda Pattison and letters by Shawn Lee. This series truly captures the surreal qualities of the original as our heroes and Julie venture across The Outback to confront Mr. Gone. Kieth plays with a delightfully unhinged Joker in issue #2, but that is the extent of his appearances.
#1-3: Batman / The Maxx: Arkham Dreams – The Lost Year Compendium (2020 comic)
An extra-length single issue reprint of the first three issues to catch readers up before the final pair of issues were released at the end of 2020. [Single Issue: eBay / digital]
#1-5: Batman / The Maxx: Arkham Dreams (2021 hardcover, ISBN 978-1684054329 / digital)
[Single Issues: eBay / digital]
MTV’s The Maxx Animated Series
The Maxx: The Complete Series (DVD)
Contains the complete 13-episode MTV series.
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[…] It’s time to bring the first ever Crushing Comics Indie Comics Month to a close! This month I’ve already added 15 new guides to the Crushing Comics Guide to Collecting Indie & Licensed Comics. This final guide of the month is for one of my favorite series, one that changed what I expected from comics (and, in a way, what I wanted from life). It also arrives exactly when I always wanted it to – to mark the 30th Anniversary of the debut of this title! I’m incredibly happy to share with everyone my Guide to The Maxx by Sam Kieth. […]