|Parent company||Marvel Comics|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Headquarters location||New York City, New York|
|Key people||Joe Quesada|
MAX Comics is an imprint of Marvel Comics specializing in comic book media aimed at adult-only readers. It was launched in 2001 after Marvel broke with the Comics Code Authority and established its own rating system.
The MAX Comics imprint is not Marvel's first effort in featuring explicit content in their titles. The company's Epic Comics imprint in the 1980s and early 1990s often featured stronger content than their mainstream imprint. However, the MAX Comics imprint is the first time Marvel has specifically produced comics with uncensored content.
While some works such as Alias have received acclaim, the imprint has attracted controversy, with some critics considering some of the titles to be gratuitous in its use of mature or vulgar content. Since 2012, the new works under the MAX imprint have been limited to the Punisher series. Marvel now portrays MAX as a rating indicating mature content, rather than a separate brand.
The first series to be published under the Max imprint was Alias, written by Brian Michael Bendis. Several limited series were then created specially for the Max imprint, such as Apache Skies and Haunt of Horror, but the majority of its publications were based around existing Marvel characters, such as Howard the Duck and Devil-Slayer.
One Marvel character who was revived by Max was Rawhide Kid who in 2002 became the first openly gay comic book character to star in his own magazine. The first edition of the Rawhide Kid's saga was called Slap Leather. According to a CNN.com article, "The new series pairs the original artist, John Severin, now 86, with Ron Zimmerman, a television writer. Making the Rawhide Kid gay was Zimmerman's idea." The character's sexuality is conveyed indirectly, through euphemisms and puns, and the comic's style is campy. Conservative groups protested the gay take on the character, which they claimed would corrupt children, and the covers carried an "Adults only" label.
Former Marvel president and chairman Stan Lee openly criticized the Max imprint. Referring to an incident of strangulation with intestines in the 2001 Fury miniseries, based on the character Nick Fury, whom he co-created, Lee said, "I don't know why they're doing that. I don't think that I would do those kinds of stories".
MAX Ant-Man and Deathlok miniseries were both solicited, but were cancelled before their release.
Some of the titles such as Alias, The Hood, Wisdom, Thor: Vikings and Apache Skies are considered part of Earth-616, the main Marvel Universe, while others like Punisher MAX, Wolverine MAX, Fury, Deadpool MAX and Foolkiller take place in alternate universes.