Article – By Morgan Thistlethwaite
You either get Sam Kieth or you don’t, and from what I can tell, Sam’s okay with that. Over the years, Kieth’s instantly-recognisable style has not only got him work with all the major comic publishers, but also a devout following for his stories and artwork.
He’s done everything from Batman to Wolverine, Incredible Hulk to Judge Dredd… The list goes on. He was also the first artist to bring Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman to life.
Over the years, he’s written and drawn many of his own books for various publishers but if you’re anything like me, you probably know his name from the comic, The Maxx, which was also adapted into an animated series in way back in 1995.
His idiosyncratic style, along with the themes his stories explore, are often quite dark yet balanced with a whimsical humour and absurdity. Readers who connect with his material may, like myself, find this connection stays with them their entire life.
Kieth says he became a comic artist because he felt he was never really good enough to do anything else. He grew up reading comics and hung out with other artists, and always felt his work wasn’t up to scratch compared with what he saw other people doing. Despite this, he got himself noticed and scored a few gigs by ruthlessly shopping his work around at comic conventions. It was this effort that led to the Sandman gig, which wasn’t as big a deal at the time, as it might seem to be in hindsight.
Five years into his career and Kieth had made his mark, at least on his peers anyway, and when the comics industry shake-up of the early ’90s that gave rise to Image came along, Kieth was invited to join their ranks. It was here that he came up with The Maxx, who made his first appearance as part of Darker Image, a one-shot collection created to showcase original and more adult-oriented content. Kieth’s handful of pages were well-received and he was asked to develop The Maxx as an ongoing title.
This was around the same time that MTV were taking an interest in the ongoing production of animation. Having already found success with Beavis and Butthead and Aeon Flux, MTV approached Kieth to turn The Maxx into a series. Saying yes exposed his modest little comic to a whole new audience.
The Maxx, however, was a long time ago. Since then, Kieth’s stories moved away from the superhero imagery that this book played up to. His following books would delve further into the realm of character study (Zero Girl, Four Women) and exploration of themes previously only touched upon in The Maxx.
Additionally, Kieth has also produced the five-part comic series Ojo, with Chris Wisnia and Alex Pardee. He directed the film Take it to the Limit (2000) and continues today to work as a comic artist and has put together a number of special edition collected books of his work to unleash upon a whole new generation.
For more of Sam Kieth and his art, visit his blog.