Brand Echh: Comico Primer #5

There was a hot moment in the mid-1990s when this issue of COMICO PRIMER was momentarily a highly sought-after back issue. That time coincided with when MTV turned Sam Kieth’s Image series THE MAXX into a short-lived but well-remembered animated series. This issue of PRIMER featured Kieth’s first published work, and there was a lot of speculation going around that Max the Hare, the character Keith debuted in this issue, evolved into The Maxx over the years. Some of this was due to the fact that the Maxx was said to be wearing a mask, and the overall surrealist nature of that series. Plus, less-than-scrupulous dealers will say just about anything to drive up the price of a back issue such as this one.

Sam Kieth, of course, went on to have a long and distinguished career in comics. He started out providing inks/finishes on the back half of Matt Wagner’s MAGE: THE HERO DISCOVERED. (Wagner was the editor of record on this issue of PRIMER, and may have been the one who selected Max the Hare from the submissions piles for inclusion.) He was also the first artist in Neil gaiman’s SANDMAN, and worked on most of the well-known characters at Marvel and DC at some point. As he developed, he began to write his own material, which grew more distinctive and idiosyncratic and personal. These included works such as ZERO GIRL and FOUR WOMEN.

This first Max the Hare story showcases an artist still figuring out his craft, and showcases a strong John Byrne influence. Which isn’t a huge surprise, Byrne was a massive influence on up-and-coming creators in the 1980s, probably about the hottest mainstream artist in the business. Story-wise, Max the Hare is a bit on the thin side, with the copy pretty much there only to stitch the narrative together a little bit better. Kieth would become more interested in the text of his comics as time went on.

Max the Hare didn’t make really any impact at the time. It was one of a number of short features in this issue of COMICO PRIMER, most of which never managed a second installment. (The one exception in this issue is an installment of Victor, which we discussed earlier here:

Still, for all its weaknesses, Max the Hare is a breezy read and displays a fun sense of humor. You can see that there’s potential in this Kieth kid and what he might grow into in the years to come.

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