Whatever pops into her mind, Maxine says. Ordinarily,
folks might be offended.
But instead, millions of Americans have identified
with the crabby, irreverent Maxine,
The popular Hallmark character that lambastes
everything from holidays to aging, and does not hesitate
to tell it like it is - or as she sees it.
Maxine keeps up with the times. 'I'd like to try day
trading,' she says. 'I'd start by trading Mondays for
Or she might snap, 'You're a year older?...Want me to
moon the birthday fairy for you?'
Nobody and nothing is sacred to Maxine. She's not
your typical warm and fuzzy greeting-card character.
The only thing warm and fuzzy about Maxine is her
bunny slippers - and her dog Floyd!
She points and shakes her finger at you. She dishes
out philosophy to any one who will listen:
'When life hands you lemons...tuck 'em in your bra.
Couldn't hurt, might help.'
John Wagner, Hallmark artist since 1970, says Maxine
was inspired by his mother, his maiden aunts and his
grandmother, the woman who bought him art lessons when
'fill in the pumpkins' was about the extent of his art
classes at St. John's Catholic School he attended in
John remembers doodling as a preschooler, and says
both his grandmother and his mother encouraged his
artistic interests. He eventually attended the Vesper
George School of Art in Boston, and landed at Hallmark
as part of a new artists group.
But it was the birth of the humorous Shoebox
Greetings (a tiny little division of Hallmark) in 1986
that added a new dimension to John's professional life.
The Shoebox way of seeing the world unleashed his
talents and he created Maxine.
'Cartoonists are sensitive to the insanities of the
world; we just try to humanize them,' John says.
'If Maxine can get a laugh out of someone who feels
lonely or someone who is getting older and hates the
thought of another birthday, or if she can make someone
chuckle about stressful interpersonal relationships,
then I'm happy. Putting a smile on someone's face is
what it's all about.'
Those smiles have led to Maxine's becoming a bit of a
celebrity. She (and John) have been the subject of media
stories, including People, USA Today, Good Morning
America, The Wall Street Journal, St. Petersburg (FL)
Times, and Las Vegas Journal-Review, and they have been
included in a major Associated Press story.
Collector and trade publications have reported that
fans nationwide are collecting Maxine items. Letters
from consumers and fans to John and Maxine reveal a very
personal connection to Maxine. Many people say they are
just like Maxine.
Why the name 'Maxine'? 'People at Shoebox started
referring to the character as 'John Wagner's old lady,'
And I knew that would get me into trouble with my
wife,' John says. The Shoebox team had a contest among
themselves to name the character, and three of the
approximately 30 entries suggested 'Maxine.
John says the name is perfect. John, who says
he's humbled by such acceptance of Maxine, admits he's
proud of her.