Sunday, May 4, 2008

Gosh Recommends... Sam & Max Surfin' The Highway

Story and Art: Steve Purcell
Telltale Press

The various stand-out entries in the genre of late-20th-century independent humour comics shared a number of similar characteristics. They were usually the product of a creator’s singular vision, they were usually deeply demented, and five-odd years after the fact, they were usually almost impossible to find. Thankfully, now, a century later (sort of), this final point has been remedied. Evan Dorkin’s Bill and Ted and Dork comics were republished by Slave Labor, Roger Langridge’s Arc D’Ecco and Fred the Clown were resurrected by Fantagraphics, and now, at long last, Steve Purcell’s Sam & Max: Surfin’ The Highway is back in print in a lush new edition from Telltale Press.

Some people may already know the dog-and-rabbity-thing combo from their other incarnations in video game or Saturday morning cartoon form, but it was the sheer strength of Purcell’s early self-published works that snagged these later expansions to the franchise. Even from the first issue (originally published in 1987), these comics are possessed of an anarchic and lightly satirical vibe all their own, a unique signifier that survives in all the duo’s adventures right up to this day.

The characters’ perennial adaptability is evident in this collection, as they hop, skip and blast their way through full-length comic books, single-page gag strips and colour splash pages in consistently guffaw-inducing style. What’s more, while the characters may have emerged fully-formed, the artwork certainly didn’t, and seeing Purcell’s artistic leaps and bounds through the years adds another dimension of enjoyment to this compilation.

Ignoring the duo’s other appearances over the last 20 years, the material in this collection (some of which is reprinted here for the very first time) stands up brilliantly just as a collection of humour comics. Every page of Surfin’ the Highway is packed full of personality, sight gags and ravishingly pretty/shockingly disgusting pictures. The only downside is that these pages are far too few. Kudos to Steve Purcell on this gorgeous new edition, and here’s to another 20 years of Sam and Max! You crack me up, little buddy.

Recommended by Tom

Some images courtesy of Telltale Games, see more beautiful Steve Purcell artwork on his blog.