Sam & Max (franchise)

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Front cover of The collected Sam & Max: Surfin' The Highway.

Sam & Max are a pair of comic book characters who occupy a parody of American popular culture. Sam is a 6-foot tall anthropomorphic dog in detective's clothing and Max is a "hyperkinetic rabbity thing". Created by Steve Purcell in a 1987 comic book, the characters are probably best known for the 1993 computer game, Sam & Max Hit the Road and the more recent Sam & Max episodic series for Windows PCs.

They are private investigators, or as they like to call themselves, "Freelance Police". The pair live and work in New York City, but often travel to such places as New Orleans, ancient Egypt, the Philippines, and the Moon. They drive a seemingly indestructible black-and-white 1960 DeSoto Adventurer to most of these locations (including the Moon, which they achieved by stuffing the muffler with thousands upon thousands of match heads).

Their crime fighting technique involves brandishing their oversized guns to intimidate criminals (it is not clear where Max keeps his weapon concealed as he is completely naked; when asked, Max always replies with "None of your damn business, Sam."), but more often than not they need to rely on more creative solutions to vanquish evil. When they do use firearms Sam favors a gigantic revolver, while Max prefers a Luger. Sam and Max occasionally receive assignments from a mysterious Commissioner over the phone, but they usually just walk straight into trouble.


[edit] History and appearances

Sam & Max originated as characters made by Dave Purcell when he made comics as a child. His brother Steve would find Dave's unfinished comics lying around the house and completed them in a parody of his brother's style, leading to early running gags such as Sam and Max getting each other's names mixed up and breaking the fourth wall to comment about the poor drawing style.

As the years went on Steve Purcell started to make Sam & Max stories of his own and they got more and more of his own style. Eventually he got a special birthday present from his brother one day: Dave had wrote up and signed a contract transferring his rights to the characters (which he hadn't used himself for a while by then) to Steve.

Steve continued to make Sam & Max comics, some of which appeared in the school newspaper for the California College of Arts and Crafts he attended. But the first commercial appearance and true start of the franchise as we know it today was in 1987, when Fishwrap Productions published a Sam & Max: Freelance Police "special edition", containing Monkeys Violating the Heavenly Temple and Night of the Gilded Heron-Shark.

More comics followed handled by various publishers, but not enough to be a day job. Instead, Steve did freelance work and later got a job at LucasArts doing background and animation work for several of their adventures, including the first two Monkey Island games. Sam & Max were popular at LucasArts, getting a regular comic in their magazine and cameos in almost every game they produced at the time. This popularity ultimately led to Sam & Max getting their own LucasArts adventure game, the cult classic Sam & Max Hit the Road.

An animated series was later made and aired on FOX in the season of '97-98. Though only one season was produced, it won a Gemini Award for Best Animated Series. A handful more comics were made at the time.

After the year 2000, the enduring popularity of Hit the Road led to attempts to make another Sam & Max game. The first of these was Sam & Max Plunge Through Space, an action-adventure for XBox that was cancelled when the developer went bankrupt. The second was Sam & Max: Freelance Police. This was to be made by LucasArts themselves, who ultimately canceled it for business reasons, to the dismay of many and great criticism. A German publisher tried to acquire the rights and assets to the game, but were unsuccessful.

In the wake of the cancellation, many LucasArts employees who had been working on the game left or were laid off, and several of them went on to found their own adventure game studio: Telltale Games. In late 2006 Telltale started their own series of episodic Sam & Max games, consisting of Save the World, Beyond Time and Space & The Devil's Playhouse which have 6, 5 and 5 episodes respectively. All seasons are available on PC & MAC, Seasons One and Two are available on the XBox 360 & Wii while Season Three is also on the PS3. Telltale's success has since rekindled Sam & Max's popularity, enough for the comics (bundled in Surfin' the Highway) and animated series (on DVD) to be easily available once more.

[edit] Major adventures

Main article: List of Sam & Max stories
  • Monkeys Violating the Heavenly Temple (1987): Sam & Max journey to the exotic Philippines ("drawn without reference material") to stop a volcano god cult.
  • Night of the Gilded Heron-Shark (1987): Sam & Max have a run-in with the fish-headed Mack Salmon and his goons. Introduced the Rubber Pants Commandos and their leader, the chimpanzee Sergeant Blip.
  • Fair Wind to Java (1988): Sam & Max fight pyramid-building aliens in ancient Egypt.
  • On the Road (1989): A complete story in three chapters, chronicling what happens when the Freelance Police take a vacation. The heart of this story is "I Love a Band Leader", involving fake land-pirates, manatees, and talking octopuses.
  • Bad Day on the Moon (1992): Sam & Max travel to the Moon to aid an anthropomorphic rat civilization rid itself of giant moon roaches. This story was later adapted for the short-lived Sam & Max animated series. Rats and cockroaches are frequently seen throughout Sam & Max's adventures.
  • Beast from the Cereal Aisle (1992): Sam & Max grapple with paranormal life forms at the local supermarket.
  • Sam & Max Hit the Road (1993): A computer game published by LucasArts sprawling the width and breadth of the continental United States. The Freelance Police travel across America in search of two freak show escapees; who have been kidnapped by famous Country/Western singer Conroy Bumpus.
  • Sam & Max Season One (2006–2007): The first episodic season of the new computer game published by Telltale Games. Due to the episodic nature of the game, there is no single plot but several small plots linked together by the background plot involving various hypnotized people and entities (like the Internet) trying to take over the world.
  • Sam & Max Season Two (2007–2008): Season Two of the episodic computer game series published by Telltale Games. Again, several seemingly unrelated plots combine together to produce an overall story arc for the season. There is a connection between the episodes, but it isn't as easily summed up as for the first season.
  • Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse (2010): The third episodic season developed and published by Telltale Games features a linear story of events occuring after Max mysteriously develops psychic powers. The story is much more connected then the previous two seasons, most episodes taking place within minutes of eachother.

Sam & Max albums
Cover Sam and max se.png Sam and max cmcs.png Bad Day on the Moon cover.png Sam and Max sce.png Sam & Max - Surfin The Highway (front cover).jpg Surfin' the Highway (Anniversary Edition)
Year 1987 1989 1992 1992 1995 2007

[edit] See Also

List of Sam & Max stories

[edit] External links

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