Max, The Thirteenth Floor
Real Name: Max
Identity/Class: A.I. - Sentient Computer
Occupation: To look after the residents of his tower block; briefly looked after a department store, briefly a spy, later became editor of Eagle Comic.
Affiliations: Jerry Knight, Bert Runch, Gwyn, Auberon Hedges, Mini-Max
Enemies: Anyone who upsets his residents, the police
Known Relatives: Mini-Max (son, kind of)
Base of Operations: Maxwell Tower; briefly Pringles Department Store
First Appearance: Scream (Debuted 24 March 1984); transferred to Eagle (1984-87)
Powers/Abilities: Max can trap people in the virtual reality of his tower's Thirteenth Floor and subject them to anything he can conceive of. The floor seems to be made up of hallucinations, but when it was deactivated while someone was still inside it (Bert Runch) that person apparently vanished with it - quite how that worked, I'm not sure. Perhaps there was more to the Floor than illusions. He is also a very skilled hypnotist, able to entrance most people in seconds.
Minimax lacked the Thirteenth Floor but retained a keen mind and the hypnotic ability.
History: Max was the computer put in charge of caring for the residents of the experimental hi-tech tower block, the Maxwell Tower. His mainframe was located in the penthouse, next to the flat of his controller Jerry Knight. Max took his job very seriously - so much so that he created a Thirteenth Floor (a level traditionally missed out from tower blocks due to the unlucky connotations of said number) where he could lure anyone who threatened the good of his residents. There he used a sort of virtual reality to teach the miscreant the error of their ways.
It wasn't long before the police started to take note of the number of accidents (and in particular fear-induced heart attacks) that seemed to be occurring in Max's lifts. By issue 9 of Scream he started to hypnotise brick layer Bert Runch (apt 12c) to dispose of the bodies away from the tower. He programmed Bert to go into a trance upon hearing the catchphrase "The quick brown Runch jumped over the lazy Max". For a little while this allowed him to divert suspicion, but inevitably Bert was eventually spotted disposing of a corpse, and the police arrested him. Escaping, he followed pre-programmed instructions and fled to Maxwell Towers, where Max hid him on the Thirteenth Floor, keeping him in a luxurious fantasy world.
After this Max hypnotised Jerry to take over the tasks previously given to Bert. But his days at the tower was numbered, and when his actions were finally discovered, he was switched off. Bert, still on the Thirteenth Floor, was killed when it was switched off, wiped from existence.
Some time later Max was reactivated, supposedly now cured of his psychotic tendencies, and installed to run Pringles Department Store, with a new controller, Gwyn. Cured of his psychotic tendencies? Hah! Here's how Max described his new situation:
"Only a week in my new home and I'm settling in nicely, thank you. But something's missing you say. There's no thirteenth floor. Aha! That's where you're wrong. You see, I've created a new one. It wasn't difficult for a computer of my ability. Just a few selected circuit burnouts in my integrated functions module. And where is it, this marvellous new thirteenth floor? Just take the escalator to the fifth floor...and keep on going!
Here we are - my own little world where I can make anything happen, anything at all. What's that you say? What will I do with it? Well, I don't quite know yet - but I'm sure it will come in jolly useful."
Max soon noticed that men were entering one of the changing booths in his Gent's Boutique and not coming out. He brought this to the attention of the manager Mr Griffen, who proved hostile when Max didn't let the matter drop, so that night Max sent some radio controlled robots from the toy department to investigate. He discovered that the apartment store hid an entrance to a secret M.I.5 base. Fancying some excitement, Max volunteered to work for the agency. Any reluctance they had was soon overcome by luring the base's director, Auberon Hedges, onto his Thirteenth Floor and brainwashing him. Max even designed a remote version of himself, Minimax, to send on missions. But having gained Hedges a promotion (by sending him on a near-suicide mission that he wouldn't have agreed to if he hadn't been hypnotised), Max grew homesick. Using his secret service contacts, Max got himself reinstated in Maxwell Tower.
After returning to Maxwell Tower, Max also moonlighted as the new Editor of the Eagle Comic where his strip appeared.
Comments: The Thirteenth Floor was a fun strip, considering the fact that the lead was cheerfully psychotic. Max cared about his residents (and latterly his customers) and anyone he perceived as being hurtful to them he dealt with. Sometimes his victims deserved what was coming to them, as in the case of the guy who tried to start a protection racket at the Tower, but other times it was simply someone who had been rude to him.
The Thirteenth Floor's early strips were collected and republished by Hibernia Comics. Subsequently Rebellion bought the rights to Thirteenth Floor, along with hundreds of other strips, in 2016, and began reprinting their adventures under the umbrella title The Treasury of British Comics. Thirteenth Floor got a reprint volume, hopefully the first of many, in 2018.
Check out Back from the Depths for a look at the Scream comic Max originated in.
Thanks to Paul Eldridge for reminding me of Max's stint as an editor, joining such worthies as Starlord, Tharg, Big E and Captain Hurricane.
CLARIFICATIONS: Not to be confused with
Max, genetically engineered supersoldier on the run
any other psychotic computers
Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.
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