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MORRIS MAXWELL

Real Name: Morris Maxwell

Identity/Class: Human mutate, powers granted by mystical forces

Occupation: Pawnbroker

Group Membership: None

Affiliations: Madame Web (Cassandra Webb), Norman Osborn, Spider-Man (Peter Parker), Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew), Spider-Woman (Mattie Franklin), Override (Gregory "Greg" Herd)

Enemies: None

Known Relatives: None

Aliases: "Mo" (nickname used by Mattie Franklin)

Base of Operations: Unrevealed;
                                   formerly a Greenwich Village pawnshop, New York City

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man I#441 (October, 1998)

Powers/Abilities: Empowered after taking part in the mystical "Gathering Of Five" ritual, supposedly empowered by the demon Shadrac, Morris received the gift of ultimate knowledge. However,it came at a price: he quickly discovered the human mind could not accommodate omniscience. To prevent Maxwell from going mad, he could only answer very specific questions. He received the answers as visions during which he usually convulsed violently, often frothing at the mouth while he tried to make sense of the often cryptic messages he was shown. Maxwell's source of power was the Gathering of Five shard which he kept safe inside a bank vault.

Height: 5'9" (by approximation)
Weight: 180 lbs. (by approximation)
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Grey (balding)

History:

(Amazing Spider-Man I#441 (fb) - BTS) - Antiquarian and pawnshop owner Morris Maxwell came into possession of one of the mystical shards of the Gathering of Five. Those who would participate in this could either be granted ultimate power, infinite knowledge, eternal life, madness or death. Maxwell kept the shard safe for many years, slowly gaining an understanding with and of the shard, the Gathering ritual and its many secrets.

(Amazing Spider-Man I#441) - After learning that Maxwell possessed one of the shards, Norman Osborn visited Morris in his pawnshop and was fascinated to hear the shard had already "told" the owner that Osborn was gathering the others. Maxwell took it all in stride, but was curious to find out why Osborn would even want to risk everything for a three-in-five chance. Norman assured him he had every intention of being the first to succeed at the gathering. His curiosity piqued, Maxwell accompanied Osborn to his offices where he found that Norman had already secured the central piece and the platform the other shards needed to be gathered on. He agreed to participate in Osborn's ritual.

(Spectacular Spider-Man II#262) - Maxwell watched and listened while Norman Osborn was on the phone with Jerry Franklin, owner of one of the Gathering shards. He grew slightly annoyed with Osborn when he attemped to strongarm the reluctant Franklin into participating in the ritual. After the call ended, Maxwell reminded Norman that intimidation wouldn't work: all five must come of their own free will or the ritual would end badly. Osborn thanked him for his constant reminders, but assured him Franklin is a fool and fools do as they're told. He added that it's merely quibbeling to debate if such obedience is truly voluntary.

(Spectacular Spider-Man II#262 - BTS) - Jerry's fifteen-year-old daughter Mattie had listened in on her father's phone conversation with Osborn and decided to take his place in the Gathering ritual. She retrieved his shard and flew to New York where Osborn was waiting to pick Franklin up at LaGuardia airport. Expecting the elder Franklin, he was understandably stunned when Mattie showed up instead, carrying the mystical stone in a brief case.

(Amazing Spider-Man I#441) - Morris Maxwell encountered Mattie for the first time when Osborn took her to meet the other participants in the Gathering ritual: Madame Web and Override (Gregory Herd). At first, Maxwell had his doubts about letting a teenage girl participate, figuring she was too young to understand the risks involved. Osborn overruled his concerns and allowed the ritual to go through as planned. They each placed their respective artifact to complete the mystic object which would divide the gifts of power, knowledge, immortality, madness and death at random among the participants. Madame Web was the first to place her shard and seemingly received the gift of death though it was in fact immortality. Mattie was next but, while she gained ultimate power, all she felt was slightly lightheaded. Override inserted his shard in its slot and received death, but mistook it for immortality. Morris Maxwell figured he would gain ultimate power but when he dropped to the floor, frothing at the mouth, everyone believed he'd been gifted with madness (it was ultimate knowledge). Osborn was the last one left and completed the ritual. He gained madness but, in his deluded state, believed he'd acquired power instead. Osborn donned his Green Goblin gear and swore final vengeance on Spider-Man.

(Spider-Woman III#4 (fb) - BTS) - After the ritual, Maxwell slowly figured out his gift had actually been knowledge. He also discovered omniscience had its limitations and, in order to cope with knowing everything, he retreated back to his Greenwich village pawnshop. To make sure his shard was safe, he stored it at the vault of the high end Commerce And Mercantile bank in New York City.

(Spider-Woman III#4) - Maxwell was visited by Mattie Franklin who had decided to fight crime as Spider-Woman. Unknowingly, she greeted him with 'wassup?', which was exactly the kind of question Maxwell tried to avoid. Morris then confirmed Mattie's suspicion that one of the Gathering shards was stored there, his own in fact. He then gave her information that led Spider-Woman to the hideout of the villains Flesh and Bones who had been trying to steal the shard from the bank in recent days.

(Spider-Woman III#6) - Hoping to get some leads on the mysterious Shadowcaster, Mattie and Jessica went to Morris Maxwell's pawnshop. The omniscient Maxwell almost had a seizure when he was barraged by the information he got after Drew wanted to test his knowledge and asked if he knew who she was. After he'd recovered, he tried his best to help Mattie and Jessica locate Shadowcaster. When the women finally formulated the right question: "where can we meet Shadowcaster?", he pointed them to an old, rented house on Long Island.

(Spider-Woman III#7) - Annoyed because she'd only fought villains recently with unrevealed or incomprehensible motives, Mattie went to see Morris Maxwell. Despite Jessica's warnings, she asked the all-knowing pawnbroker to help her find and fight a bad guy she could understand. Maxwell guided her and Jessica to Death Valley where she would eventually fight off an impending alien invasion.

(Spider-Woman III#9) - Unsure how to deal with the threat of Spider-Woman (Charlotte Witter), a psychic vampire stealing powers from other Spider-Women, Mattie's mentor Madame Webb called Morris Maxwell for a meeting. Web went to his shop, accompanied by Mattie, Jessica Drew and Spider-Man. Cassandra wanted to know if Morris had experienced any power loss in recent days (Webb had seemingly lost her Gathering granted immortality). Maxwell wasn't sure, admitting no one had asked him any questions lately. When Spider-Man bluntly asked him how they could stop Charlotte, Morris had one of his trademark seizures and was caught at the last moment by Jessica Drew. After he'd recovered on an old psychiatrist's couch in his shop, the only answer Morris could offer in their fight against Witter was that they could only do nothing.

Comments: Created by Howard Mackie (writer), John Byrne (pencils), Scott Hanna (inks).

It's not been revealed if Maxwell still has his powers. The other participants pretty much lost their gifts along the way, Madame Web became an old woman again, Norman Osborn's insanity returned to semi-manageable levels and the supposedly ultimately powerful Mattie was stabbed to death by Ana Kravinoff using a common dagger. It's not been confirmed whether or not Morris Maxwell has his powers. If he still owns his shard, it's very well possible. Bit of a shame his character hasn't been seen since 2000, the notion that you can tell anyone anything given the right question (and not swallowing your own tongue while you get the answer) is a fascinating one. Definitely one of the high points of the Byrne/Sears Spider-Woman series.

Profile by Norvo.

CLARIFICATIONS:
Morris Maxwell should not be confused with


images: (without ads)
Spider-Woman III#6, p4, pan1 (main image with Mattie Franklin on the right)
Amazing Spider-Man I#441, p18, pan1 (receives his powers)
Spider-Woman III#4, p4, pans 2&3 (tells Mattie Franklin things he already knows)


Appearances:
Amazing Spider-Man I#440 (October, 1998) - John Byrne (writer), Rafael Kayanan (pencils & inks), Bud LaRosa, Humberto Ramos & Jimmy Palmiotti (inks), Ralph Macchio (editor)
Spectacular Spider-Man II#262 (October, 1998) - John Byrne (writer), Luke Ross (pencils), Al Milgrom (inks), Ralph Macchio (editor)
Amazing Spider-Man I#441 (November, 1998) - John Byrne (writer), Rafael Kayanan (pencils), Bud LaRosa (inks), Ralph Macchio (editor)
Spider-Woman III#4 (October, 1999) - John Byrne (writer), Bart Sears (pencils), Randy Elliot & Raymond Kryssing (inks), Ralph Macchio (editor)
Spider-Woman III#6 (December, 1999) - John Byrne (writer), Bart Sears (pencils), Randy Elliot (inks), Ralph Macchio (editor)
Spider-Woman III#7 (January, 2000) - John Byrne (writer), Bart Sears (pencils), Randy Elliot (inks), Ralph Macchio (editor)
Spider-Woman III#9 (March, 2000) - John Byrne (writer), Graham Nolan (pencils), Randy Elliot (inks), Ralph Macchio (editor)


Last updated: 04/17/15

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