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Sam & Max
by yo go re

The success of Eastman & Laird's 1984 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles led to a boom in black-and-white comics, and by 1987 the number of small companies publishing their own books had grown from 10 to 170. Not all the output was crap, though. From its print origins, Sam & Max: Freelance Police earned a LucasArts videogame in 1993 and an animated series on Fox in 1997. The pair has never really had huge success, but they remain recognizable, and now Boss Fight Studio is making toys.

Max retains few of the characteristics of your average bunny. He sometimes calls attention to his own fluffy paws of lovable button nose but he's probably doing it to give us the creeps; since anything considered precious or cuddly is so obviously contrary to his real personality. For Max, the world exists only to provide him with input for his pinball-like stream of consciousness. He's uninhibited and unhinged. If someone points out that he's not wearing clothes he reacts with pride.

Max is a child-sized rabbity thing with big ears, an oval head, widely spaced eyes, a slight belly, stubby arms and legs, and a huge shark mouth; he's a violent yet loveable antihero prone to biting things and causing mischief. Also, he uses a gun. That... sounds familiar somehow.

Between print comics, 2D adventure games, animation, and 3D games, Sam and Max have appeared in four different mediums over the years, and yet the art style has been so consistent, this toy could be based on any of them. So I guess make that five, now! His ears are in no way floppy; they stand in a permanent, excited posture and for the most part his face is locked in an unsettling wall to wall grin. He does have his black dot eyes and pink button nose sculpted on, of course. The set includes your choice of heads for him: one with the mouth open and teeth parted, revealing his tongue behind them; one with the teeth bared, but shut together, which feels very threatening, and one with the mouth closed entirely, so all we get are eyes and nose.

Max refuses to wear big, cartoony shorts to accommodate America's watchdogs of decency. He thinks that ridiculous garments would take away his streamlined, iconic visual appeal. His body is just as smooth as his head, with no texture other than anatomy: knobby knees, a belly button, individual toes, and a little tail in the back. They even sculpted - and painted - the toes on the bottoms of his feet. This is a small figure (just over the 4" mark thanks to his ears), so there's not a lot of room for details, but what we get is enough.

When it comes to articulation, Max is closer to a normal Boss Fight Studio release than Sam is - at least in terms of the size of the joints. He has a balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel/hinge elbows, swivel wrists, balljointed hips, and swivel/hinge knees. There's no waist, and no ankles. The ears swap between the heads, but there's no point of articulation there: the pegs are semi-circular, so they only fit in one way. The tiny joints felt stuck at first, but moving them carefully got everything going safely.

He may be tiny, but Max gets plenty of accessories. Since his hands in the package are molded with the trigger fingers out, we'll start with his weapons: a hammer, and his "Lugermorph" pistol. A pun on the fact that Max calls himself a "lagomorph" (the scientific name for rabbits), this accessory could also be loaned to TF2's Engineer, since it was a reward in that game. Additionally, Max has a pair of fists, a pair of open hands, and a pair with fingers extended: one finger on the right hand, two on the left. The set also includes a little rat, often seen in the stories, and the rotary telephone Sam and Max always fight over when the Commissioner calls with a case for the Freelance Police.

Both Sam and Max are sold in small, red and orange boxes with drawings of the characters all over (and no ownership info beyond creator Steve Purcell, so presumably starting his licensing experience with LucasArts made him savvy enough not to give up all the merchandising rights, like other creators had to). Get both, and the art on the right side of the box lines up to form the full image from the cover of their trade paperback collection. Keen!

Are these toys based on the comics, the games, or the cartoon? Yes! It doesn't really matter. Every version of the Freelance Police has had the same look and the same kind of violent, absurdist humor. Sam and Max's popularity far out-strips their actual appearances: they only had four sporadic issues of their comic, one computer game, and a single-season cartoon nobody saw, yet their fandom persists. The odds that these two would ever get action figures seem astronomically low, but Boss Fight Studio delivered a lot of fun.

-- 12/09/20

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