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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.

Sam is the motivating force of the Freelance Police. It's his slightly foggy sense of justice that gets things going. He's the one that's most charged up about being a cop. It was his idea to paint the DeSoto black and white. He loves dressing the part and talking tough. "You're taking the fall!" is the kind of thing Sam feels at home saying to a rat carrying a pilfered ice cream bat or an old lady in the supermarket who tries to smuggle one extra item through the express lane. The thing that keeps Sam from taking his "job" too seriously is having Max around.

Sam wears a hat and baggy suit because he takes his job seriously. He knows that when someone answers the door to a six foot talking dog, who also happens to be naked, it makes them dizzy and uncooperative. Believe him. He's tried it.

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! Sam retains his Irish Wolfhound good looks, and a puppy-like innocence: his ears flop out behind him, his eyes are solid black dots, and his mouth is open slightly to show off his teeth. There are two alternate heads: one angry, with his brows knitted and his flews pulled back in a snarl, and the other seemingly impressed, with his mouth in an "ooooo!" pose. They look nicely different.

Counting to the top of his removable fedora, Sam stands an even 6" tall. His gray suit is appropriately rumpled, as any good fictional detective's should be, with big wrinkles and folds all over. He wears a broad, blue-and-black-striped necktie that hangs outside his jacket - cleverly, that's done as a separate piece with the collar of his shirt. There's no advantage to removing the tie, but if you look behind it, you'll see the buttons of his shirt have been sculpted. Detail! He wears no shoes, leaving his big round toes free.

The Sam & Max toys are a far departure from Boss Fight's usual output, but the articulation is still good. Sammy has a balljointed head and neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel/hinge elbows, swivel elbows, a balljointed waist, balljointed hips, swivel/hinge knees, and swivel/hinge ankles, and swivel feet. The shoulders of his jacket are sculpted to leave room for the arms to raise to the side. When you open the box the figures are shipped in, there's a printout of Max jumping at you, with a not thanking you for your purchase and reminding you that if anything joints are stiff, to try warming them up before forcing them. On mine, everything worked just fine without that.

Sam comes with a handgun the length of his arm, a pair of melting orange popsicles, and several alternate hands: the ones he has on in the package have the trigger fingers extended, but there's also a pair of fists and a pair that's relaxed. Finally, there's a "loveable, paper bag, Max head hand puppet," which was seen in the "Artsy Craftsy Bit of Time-Wasting Nonsense." It is cute, and plugs onto the figure's wrist like any other hand does.

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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