Barbarians, walled-off cities, drone surveillance, and post-apocalyptic nightmare realms. No, this isn't a prediction of climate cataclysm or World War Three. These are the imaginary worlds of Memfamous Comics, the comics company owned and operated by Memphis-based comic book and tattoo artist Anthony "Tony" Max.
To promote the release of the newest issue of Memfamous Comics' The Crimson Hand, Max, who was voted best tattoo artist in the Flyer's 2018 Best of Memphis contest, will be at the annual Memphis Comic Expo at Agricenter International on Saturday, October 19th, and Sunday, October 20th.
Like Steven Spielberg running around his childhood backyard with a Super-8 camera or Alex Ross doodling the Hulk in crayon, Max got an early start. "I was born in Memphis, but I was raised on a farm in Mississippi," Max says. "There was nothing around for miles to do, but my grandmother worked for stationery companies. We always had a pen and paper." And with pen, paper, and an imagination fueled by sword-and-sorcery and adventure comics, Max set to work building imaginary worlds.
Another early influence for Max was Star Wars. "My family got me a subscription to Star Wars comics from Marvel Comics," Max says. "My parents were always great about giving me extra art lessons and buying me art supplies. I think they saw it as a hobby that kept me out of their hair, and so they were proud to nudge me into it."
Max continued writing and drawing his own comics, and he decided to pursue a degree in painting in college. At some point, though, he realized there might be a better way to translate his passion for illustration into a steady gig. So he decided to become a tattoo artist. "It was a good way to keep from being a starving artist," he says. "I kept three jobs in college, working in warehouses mostly. It's just real grunt work, and I didn't necessarily want to be a tattoo artist but I wanted to make a living selling art. It was one of the few areas at the time where you could get paid well making artwork, and so I took it on and found that it was pretty suitable to my style."
For a time, Max set his mind to making a mark in the world of tattooing. After stints at other Bluff City tattoo shops, he has practiced his craft at No Regrets for 13 years, and in November, Max will have been tattooing for 21 years. The medium that helped set him on his artistic journey was never far from his mind, though.
"I was always making comics as a kid, especially in high school," Max says. "I stopped to pursue my career and put everything into tattooing for a long time. Then one day I realized that I was wasting a lot of time, and since working in comics as an adult had always been one of my dreams, there was nothing stopping me other than me sitting down to do it. I've been reading comics for most of my life, so there was just a day where I decided it's time to give something back."
So he put his imagination to work. Max publishes his own titles under the Memfamous Comics label, featuring The Golden Silence and its sequel, The Crimson Hand, and the anthology series Memfamous Comics Presents. He'll add his fourth title in 2020. The books are all set in the same reality, in a walled-in Memphis 200 years from now. It's a world steeped in the history of alternative comics — with disgraced former cops, barbarians at the gates, and crumbling society.
Max says his work on Donald Juengling's Bethany's Song was the first "real" comics gig he got. In a full-circle scenario common in the panelled pages of comics but rare in real life, Juengling is the mastermind behind the Memphis Comic Expo, where Max will debut the newest issue of The Crimson Hand. How's that for a comic book ending?
- Tony Max
Tony Max will sell and sign copies of his comics at Memphis Comic Expo ($25-$35 admission) at Agricenter International, Saturday, October 19th, and Sunday, October 20th. His books are for sale at No Regrets and Comics & Collectibles and on Amazon and Kindle. They can be read for free at tapas.io/rabideyemovement.