* Paperback: 192 pages
* Publisher: King Hell Press; 2nd King Hell Edition (May 1, 2005)
* Language: English
* ISBN-10: 0962486477
* ISBN-13: 978-0962486470
* Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 6.7 x 0.6 inches
* Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
Seven years before “The Amazing Adventures of Kavelier and Clay”, Rick Veitch married the larcenous history of the comic book business to the outrageous themes and characters of his infamous BRAT PACK, creating one of the most startling and uncompromising visions of the superhero ever put to paper.
Like BRAT PACK before it, THE MAXIMORTAL takes the underpinnings of our most beloved four color superhero archetypes and turns them to silly putty with a razor sharp edge. Equal parts horror, humor, history and rock-em sock-em action, THE MAXIMORTAL is an authentic cult classic that is definitely not for kids (or the faint of heart.)
“After all these years, and all the many lovely superhero satires that have been done, I think THE MAXIMORTAL still stands right up there with BRAT PACK as one of the most twisted takes on comics culture anyone is likely to encounter,” said Veitch. “The book may not be for everyone, but for readers who might find themselves getting a little overstuffed by the same-old same-old in comics, THE MAXIMORTAL is the perfect antidote.”
THE MAXIMORTAL tells the tale of an idea so perfectly suited to an age that it makes itself manifest in reality. What seems to be a simple fantasy created in 1937 by two kids from Slumburg, is also embodied in a living creature encased in a meteorite in 1918. As these two tracks intertwine across the course of the twentieth century, they touch the lives of some of the most famous people of the age, played against the backdrop of the sordid history of comics.
THE MAXIMORTAL includes an expanded and updated “Curse of the Superman” by Veitch, in which he lays out the surprising political and cultural origins of the Superman and reports on some of the startling historical coincidences that have been associated with it over the last century.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Equal parts heart-wrenching and horrifying, this superhero deconstruction is both a gripping tale for graphic novel enthusiasts and a perfect starting point for those new to the medium. Veitch tackles the daunting task of examining the alchemy of ideas that simply must exist in order to make their way into the collective human experience. In doing so, he presents the painful cautionary story of two naïve young men who create a superhero named “True-Man,” only to see the creation lead to their own artistic and spiritual ruin. Veitch offers a warped view of the real story of Superman’s creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, adding a dark, violent examination of what a real superbaby from another planet might be like. The narrative’s driving force is this unnatural entity, whose attributes are godlike yet devastating (in one sequence, the military struggles to put this nightmarish creature to use as an ultimate weapon, adding a startling wrinkle to the tragedy of Hiroshima). Meanwhile, the Siegel and Shuster surrogates suffer indignities of both a creative and financialnature at the hands of an all-too-human monster: their publisher. Veitch’s art is powerful and even occasionally gruesome. With its depth of both art and storytelling, this is a comics counterpoint to The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay: it’s strong stuff that looks into the history of comics in America and finds an abyss.
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Veitch has penned three full-length graphic novels—The One, Bratpack, and The Maximortal—that attempt to deconstruct the superhero archetype. This output, though perhaps not as well known as key books by Frank Miller, Grant Morrison, and Alan Moore, is nevertheless contoured with penetrating ideas about the superhero, and deserves to be regarded in the same study.
Take The Maximortal, which like Crypto Zoo is published by Veitch’s own King Hell Press. A Nietzschean fable about the dark societal impetus of the Superman (here named “True-Man”), the book deftly weaves together the splitting of the atom, the early history of superhero comics, and a vision of what would have happened if a super-powered being actually appeared on this earth. In the second of those threads, it plumbs territory similar to Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (though it was published, in serial form, first), exploring the creation of a fantastic hero by Jewish teenagers and how the corporation that made millions off the property took them to the cleaners. Yet it’s the final narrative thread that is most vicious: rather than beginning life as a human with the kindly old Kents, this super baby from a strange land unleashes a violence that becomes harnessed by the military; whether or not that’s the best choice in an impossible situation is part of Veitch’s probing, glaring look at our country’s most innate values.
The Maximortal showcases Veitch’s ability to pastiche recognizable tropes, just as his Greyshirt: Indigo Sunset engages pulp literature or Swamp Thing transforms horror conventions (which are not entirely absent from The Maximortal: at one point the super baby goes on a spree decapitating the townspeople and throws their heads in a silo, saying “I’m workin’. Doin’ my farmin’.”). Veitch’s writing and art may not have the formal elegance and postmodern savvy of his sometime collaborator Alan Moore’s, but his rougher, edgier style generally serves his story—this is an urgent warning communicated in thick yet kinetic strokes, as if by the love child of R. Crumb and Jack Kirby. Veitch’s pacing of the complex story is masterful. There are plenty of grace notes in the language, too: one interlude imagines Sherlock Holmes playing a role in the proceedings, and is pitch-perfectly narrated by Watson; another, about the actor who played True-Man on the silver screen, is told from the point of view of fellow actor David Niven.
Whether one reads The Maximortal, Crypto Zoo, Can’t Get No, or any of Rick Veitch’s other noteworthy works, one hears and sees the hallmarks of his style on every page, the personal stake he has placed in setting pen to paper. If some of his books seem extreme, cynical, or difficult, well, they are. But they are also shaded by a fervent belief that the medium of comics can and should grapple with such states. In the end, this creator seems to have eschewed a single voice in favor of chasing down as many ideas as possible through his comics—and in this, his comics smartly reflect more about the absurd complexities of life than most.