December 25th, 1948
Fellow Squad Members:
Before he became a police officer, Sam claimed to have worked in a delicatessen, been a dentist, and studied law.
Upon entering law enforcement, Catchem worked for a number of different police agencies. Just prior to being hired by Chief Patton, Sam had been a "special investigator" for the Boston Police. Before that, he had been a police officer in a department on the West Coast, a C.I.D. Agent in the U.S. Army where he qualified as a fingerprint expert, and an officer in Brooklyn, NY. He also said that he had once been a member of the Chicago Police (which would mean that his being hired as Tracy's assistant indicated either that he was returning to a department for which he had previously worked, or that the City, notwithstanding the many clues to the contrary, was, in fact, not Chicago).
Early AdventuresEditHis first case was to gather information about Big Frost's remaining gang members with the help of an old acquaintance from Boston- Sleet. Sleet's mother was on trial for having sent secret messages to Big Frost in prison. Sam had enough evidence against her to send her to jail for twenty years. Sleet and her mother turned on Sam, chloroforming him and dumping his body over an overpass leaving him for dead. Tracy's adoptive son Junior and his Crimestoppers Club managed to find Sam, and they notified Tracy and Chief Patton. Sleet was eventually caught and Sam recovered just in time to arrest her.
Later YearsEditSam remained a loyal partner to Tracy through good times and bad, and he played a significant role in The Apparatus (nationwide Crime Syndicate) investigation when dying mobster Big Boy put out a million dollar Open Contract on Tracy.
After Pat Patton was shot, Sam took over temporarily as Chief, but was replaced by Climer.
In 1987 Sam was framed for a bank robbery by an unknown criminal dubbed "The Man of a Million Faces" who impersonated Sam, as well as Ronald Reagan, Albert Einstien, David Letterman, Diet Smith, and even Dick Tracy. The criminal was eventually discovered to be Putty Puss, who was able to change his face to resemble anyone he wanted. Sam was cleared of the charges and resumed his role as Tracy's partner.
In 2006, during the incident with Dr. Figment Froid's mind reading device, Tracy was surprised to learn that he and Sam belong to different political parties.
Sam became the object of affection of the FBI Agent Fritz Ann Dietrich, who sometimes works with the Major Crimes Unit. Sam has not encouraged the agent's affections and remains faithful to his wife. This has not stopped Fritz Ann from aggressively flirting with Sam, going so far as to grab him and kiss him.
Appearances in Other MediaEdit
Live-Action TV SeriesEditSam Catchem was a recurring character in the 1950s "Dick Tracy" TV Series, starring Ralph Byrd. Sam was played by actor Joe Devlin (1894-1973). He was depicted as Tracy's regular partner.
1960s Animated SeriesEdit
Sam's face was never seen in the 1960s "Dick Tracy" cartoon show, though his silhouette was frequently observed driving the squad car. Tracy addressed him by name frequently. He speaks one line in the episode "Stamp Scamp"- "Right, Tracy."
Archie's TV FunniesEditSam Catchem was a character in the "Dick Tracy" segments of the 1971 animated television series "Archie's TV Funnies", produced by Filmation Associates. Sam's appearance closely resembled his depiction in the comic strip. He was portrayed as Dick Tracy's regular partner, but slightly more dim-witted and accident prone than in the comic strip.
Movie ContinuityEditSam was a supporting character in the 1990 feature film Dick Tracy. He was played by actor Seymour Cassel.
Sam was shown as being one of Tracy's partners, along with Pat Patton, under the command of Chief Brandon. He was well-meaning but not especially relevant to the plot, though he did participate in the new Year's Eve shootout at Club Ritz.
In the scene where The Kid is awarded a a special certificate of commendation, stated to be "temporary" until such time as chooses a name for himself, Sam can be heard saying that if could pick any name for himself, he'd pick "Sam".
- Sam is best known for his loyalty, intelligence, compassion, surprised exclamations of "Oy yi!", and the sandwiches he keeps in his pocket on his wife's homemade rye bread.
- In his debut storyline, Sam claims to have joined the police 25 years ago. The story took place in in late 1948 and into 1949, which would mean Sam became a policeman in approximately 1924, 7 years before the comic strip began.
- Sam is the one who initiated the collection and preservation of Tracy's hats that had been damaged in the line of duty, though several hats are included in this exhibit from before Sam joined Tracy's department.
- Sam is openly and proudly Jewish, and often invites the Tracys and their extended family to join his in holiday celebrations. He implied that he had relatives who died in the Holocaust.
- Sam identified his favorite comic strip as "Derby Dugan", the fictional comic strip featured in a series of novels by author Tom De Haven.
- Sam has also been shown to enjoy the works of author Terry Pratchett, enjoying his escapist fantasy.
- Sam was the only police officer character besides Dick Tracy to be made into an action figure by Playmates Toys for the movie tie-in toy line. This was also the case for the 2002 mini-figure line produced by Mezco Toys, where Sam came in a 2-pack with Flattop Jones Sr.
- In 2011, during the strip's 80th Anniversary storyline, Sam told Lizz about how Dick Tracy originally came to be a plainclothes officer. The fact that Sam was not actually present at the time may account for the various discrepancies between his story and how the events were originally presented.
- Sam is a smoker, and is often depicted with a cigarette in his mouth. This was not uncommon at the time the character was introduced, but with changing attitudes towards smoking and health it is surprising to some readers to see the habit displayed on a modern newspaper comics page.
- In Jim Doherty's prose story, "Murder Is My Hobby," which appeared in the PLAINCLOTHES website, it is stated that the West Coast department Sam worked for was the Orange County Sheriff's Office, where he had been the Assistant Sheriff for Investigations, and that, in Brooklyn, NY, he had been a DA's investigator. This has been neither confirmed nor contradicted in canon.