That’s right, they’re back, but who are they? Sam and Max are the creation of Steve Purcell who based them on the childhood drawings of one of his siblings. Sam is an anthropomorphic dog who dresses like a 1950’s gumshoe and Max is his partner, a “hyper-kinetic rabbity thing” or “lagomorph” depending upon whom you ask, and they work together as freelance police tackling all the cases no one else will. Several books were published in the late 80’s and a collection of their adventures was published in the mid 90’s (copies of said collection fetch as much as $200). Their creator, Purcell, was a creator for LucasArts who managed to create a best-selling game based on the duo and was almost done with the sequel when LucasArts scrapped it. There was even a short-lived animated cartoon on Fox in the late 90’s. Recently, Gametap has been releasing episodic games featuring the violent/comedic pair and there has even been a web-comic created by Purcell featuring their return.
Seems like a whole lot of media for a pair that have less recognition than say…Howard the Duck. Anyways, the draw for me has always been the over-the-top violence, the off-the-wall and screwball comedy, and of course the long-winded verbosity of the characters. Where else do you find characters who are hired to rid the moon of giant roaches and travel everywhere in their beat-up, black and white Desoto?
Their newest adventure, in which they make their first ever entrance to the world of web-comics, is titled, “The Big Sleep”, and literally starts with the titular Sam and Max hauling themselves from a shallow grave in a cemetary in England. The drawings themselves are loose and kinetic. None of the that slick “vectorized” type stuff that most webcomics present. They are organic, fun, and with just the right balance of sharp detail and plastic cartoonishness. The colors are remniscent of Bill Plympton’s animated work and look to be either water-colored or gouache and are gorgeous. My favorite aspect of this web-comic is how the lettering was handled. You see, this comic can be viewed one of two ways- either “FLAT” with text, sound effects and lettering all present within the panels, or “INTERACTIVE” where you can view just the art by itself, uncorrupted by the rigid formalities of grammar and type- just pure form, line and color. The cool part comes in when you actually “roll-over” the panels and simplified panel animations take place giving them extra life (Note: I realize some of the more jaded critics will think this feature relatively boring), it also triggers the speech baloons- So where in “regular” comics the art is usually eclipsed by the text- this comic affords you the ability to view the panel as only art(and there is a lot to see), then to see the text and type secondary.
It’s also been nominated for an Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic. If you are looking for something different “Sam & Max” are most definitely that, but don’t take my word for it.