What makes a cult classic? To me a cult classic is something that is absolutely fantastic yet still unknown to the average consumer. Cult films, tv shows, and books fall in and out of cult status as time goes on. For example, The Big Lebowski was a film that, when it came out originally, was not seen by many and had not yet gained popularity. It was a film of tremendous quality but was still not widely known for such. Since then, Lebowski has gained much notoriety for its dialogue and fine acting and, though I am sure that this can be heavily debated, is no longer a cult film as it is widely known and is now regarded as being a popular film.
In thinking about this subject, I had to really ask myself what criteria I would allow myself to use in determining whether or not something is cult or just bad and poorly received. I decided to look at characterization, technique of story telling, and quality of dialogue.
With these criteria in mind, the first cult entity I will be discussing is Sam and Max: Freelance Police.
Sam and Max: Freelance Police, written by Steve Purcell, is one of my favorite cartoons/comics/video games ever. It is my hope that some of the people reading this are fans of the series already but, I guess if everyone was a fan already, it wouldn’t be considered cult anymore.Sam and Max was first a comic book in their inaugural journey in 1987 but were the culmination of Steve Purcell’s work up to that point. The comic was not popular when it debuted but rather remained slow selling throughout most of the comic’s life on the shelf. Following the comic, there were several attempts to make this a marketable franchise though, it never really took.
This can perhaps be attributed to the mismanagement of the property’s marketing strategy. Lucasarts made the attempt to make several games based on the comic duo’s misadventures but failed to make a successful one. I have played most of them and, based on my experience, they were fun, well put together, and funny. I really have no idea why they did not sell.The scope of the story is this: Sam is a canine detective who lives with his partner in solving crime, Max, a little, bunny type thing. Sam is the straight man in the duo for the most part which allows Max to cause much pandemonium and hilarity. That is not to say however that this show is purely slapstick but to rather suggest that it is one of the many facets of Sam and Max. What I like a lot about the series is its high brow sense of humor. At their core, Sam and Max are hyperactive and destructive but are somehow quick witted and informed. The dialogue is simply brilliant and leaves very little to be desired.
Following the comic and some of the games, Sam and Max found their way to the small screen when their cartoon debuted on Fox Kids. The cartoon was not met with high anticipation as, most people had not heard of them. I loved the cartoon because, one, being a child I loved talking dogs and rabbits and two, it was smart and fun. The cartoon did not stay on the air long as it was thought to be too evolved and smart for children. This is probably correct as it took me until I was in college to get some of the jokes.
The cartoon was very good but was again too smart for its own good. That is probably what I love about this series most, the level of intelligence it brings to the table. All things considered, Sam and Max is one of the smartest cartoons and comics I have ever read or had the pleasure to read. This is of course my opinion so, don’t attack me.
After failing as a cartoon, Purcell revived the series as a web comic and, in 2007, won an Eisner award for best web comic. Shortly thereafter, the series became a video game again, this time by Tell-Tale Games. The new game is an adventure type game making the player solve puzzles and perform actions through clicking the mouse. It is not very fancy but is very, very entertaining. Each level of the game is dubbed an episode and comes with audio and video cut scenes that emulate what it would be like if it were a show on television and, it is a model that must be working as it has spanned multiple “seasons” of the game being released each year as well as the series being ported to other gaming systems.
Overall, I love Sam and Max. I loved them as a comic, a cartoon, and now a game. I strongly suggest this series as again, it is smart, esoteric, and very funny.
- How Sam & Max Hit The Road Taught Me To Love Words [Video] (kotaku.com)
- News: Telltale Games launches Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space (ilounge.com)
- I Got It! I Got It! I Got It! – A One Season Wonder (thethumbcast.com)
- Sam & Max: Season 2 launches for iOS (vg247.com)
- Telltale offers discounts and free episodes in Christmas sale (gamesradar.com)