Copyright Acknowledgment: All images of MAX FX and other Products and Images, created by Mel Birnkrant, are Copyright (c) BIRNKRANT KISCOM/ The OBB
Here I am, thirty years later, unexpectedly reminiscing about Maxx Fx. He has invaded my life again. This resurgence of interest in him has come about, due to a series of current events:
A year ago, my friend, Blake Wright published a book called, “Toys That Time Forgot.” In it, he included a chapter about “Invasion Earth,” which was another of my spectacular failures that came close to achieving success. And then, a few weeks ago, Blake visited Mouse Heaven again. It was a lovely get together. James and Jeanette Gurney were here as well, with Jim’s original drawings and prototypes for a line of toys that Hasbro almost produced, based on his classic literary masterpiece, Dinotopia. Dinotopia will be included in Toys That Time Forgot, Volume II, and so will Maxx FX. Blake went home with a DVD that included many images of Maxx, some of which have never been seen. Among them, were unpublished photos of my favorite sculpture of the entire project, the Monster of Frankenstein.
Last week, Blake put me in contact with a young man who collects only toy prototypes of the Alien. His collection and his credentials as a connoisseur were impressive. He made me a generous offer for the prototype of what has become known as the “Xenomorph,” a term I never heard before. Perhaps, it might have been unknown in Maxx’s day. And so, I had a decision to make.
This choice was further complicated by the sudden appearance on YouTube of an excellent video, created by a young man named, Dan Larson. The title that he chose: “Maxx FX: How One Dumb Mistake Killed a Toyline,” conveys everything one needs to know about the premature and untimely death of Maxx FX. When I stumbled across Dan's video, it was only one day old, and it had already received a thousand viewings. I was impressed. Then, over the course of two more weeks, that total rose to over one-hundred-and-eleven-thousand. I was AMAZED! That’s more viewings then all seventy-one of my YouTube videos, combined, have amassed in their ten years on line!
Four-hundred and fifty people sent in comments. These ranged from brilliant to banal: I was stunned to see how many viewers didn’t get it, even though, the title alone made it crystal clear why Maxx FX was terminated in mid-stream. Nonetheless, the vast majority of commenters shared the belief that if Maxx FX were introduced again, today, he would most certainly succeed. On the other hand, a few a-holes, who clearly qualified to work at Matchbox, revealed that “honi soit qui mal y pense” is true, by pegging Maxx as a pedophile, because he drives a van, and condemning him to once again be banned. In spite of that, the vast majority of comments recommended that Maxx deserved a second chance, and suggested everything from soliciting a manufacturer to launching him on Kickstarter.
This led to a week of contemplation, wondering if such a thing could ever happen. In the end, I decided that it was unlikely. Obtaining the license for the Alien would be prohibitively expensive these days, which would rule out a modest Kickstarter offering. Thus, only a major toy company could afford to undertake the project, and in case you haven’t noticed, in this age of video games, kids don’t want toys anyway. Maxx FX reissued would have to be for adults. So, I decided to let him go, with one condition: If, by some miracle, a manufacturer is willing to manufacture Maxx FX again, his new owner will make his Alien prototype available to be copied harmlessly by laser scan.
So, here we see him, the Maxx FX Alien, living happily ever after in the collection of his new master, where he is clearly cherished, and elegantly displayed in his new forever showcase.
Meanwhile, this sudden interest in Maxx FX has brought him back to life again. And, looking over files of photos, shot many years ago, has made it clear to me that some of my favorite images have never seen the light of day, while others that have been in the previous pages of this website were relatively small in size. So, I made up my mind to finish the tale of Maxx FX, once and forever, by posting several of the missing photos, this time, bigger and better than those that have been previously shown.
Several of those who commented on Dan’s video remarked that my Maxx looks like Max Headroom, a computer animated TV personality who was popular when Maxx was new. Although, I never watched the show, I had seen the image of Max Headroom, and noticed the similarity only after Maxx was finished. But any resemblance to Max Headroom, was purely subliminal and not consciously intentional. Nonetheless, the likeness was perhaps too striking to be merely coincidental. I even gave Maxx FX a pair of sunglasses. Others who commented on Dan’s video shared with us the ass-tute observation that Max resembles Donald Trump. As Maxx was created thirty years ago, I hardly think that’s possible. If anything, the head I fashioned for Maxx FX was consciously reminiscent of Barbie's boyfriend, Ken.
Here, in one slideshow are all the characters from the initial presentation. These represent Maxx FX as I envisioned him. Unfortunately, that was not destined to happen, and the path of his destiny was all downhill from there.
The following photos were intended to become the covers for the series of video cassettes that were imagined to contain his various makeups, in the event that the manufacturer to be might choose to sell them separately. The Werewolf and the Mummy were my favorites among these. I had to have actual colored prints made, and paste the quickly hand drawn lettering in place. These original undecorated colored slides are decidedly more attractive.
Maxx FX was really conceived as a toy line. On the other hand, my partners were always trying to force every product I came up with to become a licensed property. That’s how the Maxx FX story came to be. Meanwhile, every line of toys needed a play set, in the conventional thinking of the day. This was often a stupid piece of crap that had no play value, and was little more than a storage container for the toys. I chose to turn Maxx’s playset into a van, in a lame attempt to inject some play. Matchbox, on the other hand, being mired in mediocrity, and buried neck deep in conventionality, turned it back into a thinly disguised carrying case again. Their pedestrian vision thrown together in time for Toy Fair, was complete with closets and tiny coat hangers. So becoming a monster and coming out of the closet, turned out to be one in the same.
Below is a newly assembled combined image of all the Super Sculpey originals together. At this point in his creation Maxx was fresh and promising. He was an open doorway to endless possibilities. These sculptures were done very quickly, over the course of no more than two days. They were never meant to stand up to close scrutiny, but merely set the stage for, hopefully, a far better sculptor than me to finesse them to perfection. Alas, the polar opposite took place.
I know that you have already seen this photo, earlier on this website, but for the sake of continuity, here it is again, showing all the original prototypes, fully dressed and ready. At this point, no one had seen these in any stage of their creation, other than my wife, Eunice, and yours truly. Would you believe it was she who actually knitted that black and red striped sweater for Freddy?
This brings us to my favorite view of my favorite sculpture of the entire Maxx project, this fast and fresh impression of the Frankenstein Monster. Even though, I whipped this out an a few minutes, it captured the brooding menace, combined with a hint of sadness, and, at the same time, it was a decent likeness. To see how Matchbox’s chosen sculptor ruined this was painful . On top of that, my original sculpture is still missing. I never got it back again. I figure that the sculptor who redid it, either kept it, or hid it to avoid comparison with the lifeless mediocrity he created.
This close-up reveals how quick and rough my sculpture really was. I was aware that it would need to be refined to be used in production. I wish that I had taken a few minutes more and done the job myself ; not that Matchbox would have used it.
The Alien was fast and fun. Those were the days when working with Super Sculpey was easy. I fabricated those detailed lengths of jointed tubing instantaneously. All one had to do was roll out a tube of Super Sculpey, then, press the teeth of an ordinary comb across it to create the segments automatically. I used several combs of several sizes, ranging from fine-toothed to bold. I really loved this figure's styling. I had been a fan of H.R. Giger, for years, and collected several rather expensive volumes of his amazing art, including volumes I & II of his Necronomicon. His imagery was well defined, long before he created the Alien
Although, this photograph is slightly blurry, it still conveys the excitement I experienced, working up close with these figures. In the background you can see Maxx, as I would have preferred him to be done. With his basic outfit painted on, and thus, his stupid street clothes, especially that awful yellow sweater, could have been eliminated. The money saved could have enabled, either a lower selling price, or been applied to his makeup.
And, here, in this photo that has never been seen before, are the three newly finished figures, the Boris Karloff Monster, a scarier Vampire than Lugosi, and the H.R. Giger Alien. The following day, I sent all three of these to Matchbox, and never saw them again.
It had always been my understanding that Lugosi’s heirs would never let his image be used for Dracula. So, I went ahead and tried to craft a better vampire, one that reminded me of a movie starring Roddy McDowell, whose name I can’t remember now. I would have welcomed the challenge of trying to capture a likeness of Bella Lugosi. But, seeing that was off the table, I feared that Dracula might look like just some guy in a tuxedo. Therefore, I gave him exaggerated fangs, blood red eyes, and iridescent bat-like wings.
His hideous face was just the sort of thing that, in my day, would have been saved to flash across the screen in the last few seconds of a movie, the jump out of your seat pay-off, that sent the audience home happy. Alas, Matchbox chose to pierce his heart with the sharpened stake of mediocrity. And they turned him into an ordinary human being with slightly larger than average teeth.
My final contribution to Maxx FX was this variation on the Creature from the Black Lagoon. I didn’t care much for the film. Nor did I know that it was originally in 3D, and as I stated previously, he always looked like a goldfish to me, and was equally as un-scary. So I seized this opportunity to intensify his teeth and steer him in the direction of his look-alike in the movie Monster Squad. I didn’t get away with it. I later glimpsed a kelly-green head that the sculptor who wrecked the other heads had made. It transformed him into a guppy again, but, as you know, it didn’t matter in the end.
Speaking of the end, this is about all that I can cram onto this page. So, I will stop now with this final image of Maxx’s evil alter ego, “Ultra FX.” With the help of the idiots at Matchbox and their talking Freddy Kruger doll, his diabolical plan to do away with Maxx, succeeded admirably.
But wait! We have room for one more thing! No story about Maxx FX, and how Matchbox murdered him, would be complete, without a final bow from the notorious Freddy Kruger doll. So, to quote Uncle Miltie, whose motto some believed to be,”Always Leave ‘em Laughing,” I present this legendary video by the hilarious Mike Mozart: