The Maxx.

It’s better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles…

– Buddah. One of.

A friend invited me back to his last night to drink champagne, eat oysters and watch The Maxx.

I’ve fallen in love with this program. It’s ingenious. The brain-child of writer and comic illustrator, Sam Keith.

The series follows the adventures of the titular hero in the real world and in an alternate reality, referred to as The Outback. In the real world the Maxx is a vagrant, a “homeless man living in a box”, while in the Outback he is the powerful protector of the Jungle Queen. The Jungle Queen is similar to the Maxx in that she also exists in the real world as Julie Winters, a freelance social worker who often bails the Maxx out of jail. While the Maxx is aware of the Outback, Julie is not, though it is integral to the story of both the Maxx and Julie.

It’s also very much an existential narrative on the nature of grief, mental illness, and the writer. Maxx keeps falling between the cracks, he keeps getting arrested. He tries– with a degree of futility and comedy– to get his shit together… He really tries.

My friend informs me the series is pretty hard to find on the net. I’d never heard of this program. It really is worth trying to get your hands on.

The story goes–

One day, after Julie stops her car to help a man in the street, she is beaten, raped, and left to die. To cope, she hides in what is referred to as her ‘Outback’ (a primeval landscape situated entirely in her subconscious, where she has control). In The Outback, she becomes “The Leopard Queen”, an all-powerful goddess. She spends so much time dwelling in her Outback that the real world and The Outback gradually become unstable.

One night, she accidentally hits a homeless man with her car. Remembering what happened the last time she stopped to help someone, she covers the unconscious body with trash, but in doing so she unintentionally opens a link to the Outback. After Julie leaves, a lampshade in the trash (which had brushed the Outback) expands over the man’s body, becoming a mask that costumes him and links him to Julie.

The series begins three years later, and the reader is not initially aware of the deep interconnections between the characters; they are slowly revealed over the course of the series. The homeless man does not remember anything about himself, only that Julie is important to him somehow. He doesn’t even know his own name (he now calls himself The Maxx) or what he looks like under his mask.

Mr. Gone, a serial killer and rapist with a telepathic link to Julie and extensive knowledge of and access to people’s various Outbacks, starts phoning Julie. She thinks he is merely an obscene phone caller, and ignores him. Eventually, The Maxx gets in Gone’s way by “protecting” Julie, so Gone tries to kill him. The Maxx fights him in both The Outback and the real world. In the meantime, Julie leaves Maxx and wanders the countryside, sleeping with any man she meets.

Eventually, Mr. Gone makes Julie see the truth about her past, and reveals to her how The Maxx came to be. A twist is revealed by Gone to a secondary character who is killed: the fact that Gone first met Julie when she was a child. She knew him as “uncle Artie”, a friend of her father’s. Gone’s tall tales about a visit to Australia helped shape Julie’s outback. As Julie begins healing herself and The Outback, the series follows Sarah, a depressed teenager whose mother sends her to Julie for counseling. Sarah is often in conflict with her mother, who disciplines her so she won’t grow up to be like her father, eventually revealed to be none other than Mr. Gone.

After the conclusion of the first storyline, the action leaps forward from 1995 (the then-present) to the year 2005. Julie and Dave (the former Maxx) having vanished, the action focuses on Sara (as she now spells her name) and a giant, murderous yellow slug from her Outback, Iago. Iago has a list of people to kill, and it turns out that Julie and Sara are both on it. Sara is hounded by a homeless man named Norbert whom she soon realizes is her Maxx. Sara has constant confrontations with Mr. Gone, who is repentant of his past crimes. Nevertheless, he is visited by three special agents intent on taking him in, but he turns them into bugs. Later, after finally reading a diary he leaves for her that reveals his tragic life and origin story, Sara eventually feels sympathy for and a connection to her father. She also begins developing a strange power that she may be inheriting from Mr. Gone.

Julie and Dave return to the story after Julie is attacked by Iago and loses some fingers. It turns out that Julie abandoned her son, Mark, to keep him safe from Iago. She tries to have Dave tell Mark that she’s dead so he’ll stop asking around for her, but Mark doesn’t believe him. Sara, Dave, Norbert, Mark, and Mr. Gone band together to rescue Julie from Iago, who snatches Julie into Sara’s outback. Norbert cuts Iago open, apparently defeating him, but Julie has already escaped. Norbert and Iago are never heard from again.

Mr. Gone soon reveals that time is unraveling for the group, which now includes Glorie, one of Mr. Gone’s past victims who now has a friendly relationship with him. Gone returns Dave’s Maxx power to him. Sara returns as a giant isz/pink fairy/football (depending on who’s looking at her). Mark has an odd dream about eccentric kidnappers. Each member of the group begins to disappear from reality to be reborn in another. Before Gone can disappear, the three agents from before (now humanoid but with bug heads) return and kill him, as he expected. Mark is the last to disappear.

In Julie’s outback, Gone is reunited with Sara, who is now a child again. The Maxx considers attacking Gone, but the Jungle Queen says to leave him be, because even evil deserves a place to rest.

In the new reality, Gone is a school teacher and Dave is a janitor at his school. Julie and Mark are still mother and son, but seem to live in better conditions. All the principal characters now lead completely different lives, yet retain a small part of their connection to the Outback and to each other.

This subject matter is of particular interest to me. Where we go when we can’t cope. Where the mind roams. To a place that’s always more empowering. I’m already a published author and a successful musician and stand-up in my own Outback, for example. I know why I go there. And I know that we flirt with ideas long before we commit to them.

I’ve been really moved by this series and I implore you to try and get your hands on it. Episode 5 is a cracker.


In My Secret Life. – L. Cohen.

I saw you this morning.
You were moving so fast.
Can’t seem to loosen my grip
On the past.
And I miss you so much
There’s no one in sight.
And we’re still making love
In my secret life…

I smile when I’m angry.
I cheat and I lie.
I do what I have to do
To get by.
But I know what is wrong.
And I know what is right.
And I’d die for the truth
In my secret life…

Hold on, hold on, my brother.
My sister, hold on tight.
I finally got my orders.
I’ll be marching through the morning,
Marching through the night,
Moving cross the borders
Of my secret life…

Looked through the paper.
Makes you want to cry.
Nobody cares if the people
Live or die.
And the dealer wants you thinking
That it’s either black or white.
Thank God it’s not that simple
In my secret life…

I bite my lip.
I buy what I’m told:
From the latest hit,
To the wisdom of old.
But I’m always alone.
And my heart is like ice.
And it’s crowded and cold
In my secret life…


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