Greeting, fellow bastions of justice and goodness! If you weren’t aware the Wild Blue Yonder, the Tick, has returned to television! Seriously, have you not seen all the commercials telling us The Tick is back and streaming on Amazon? Has there been another Amazon original with as many commercials? Regardless, read on….
Many, many moons ago the Tick was just a simple mascot for New England Comics, a comic book store in New England (which has nothing really to do with Old England. I think). Eighteen year-old Ben Edlund turned the Tick into a comic book for the store. The comic book was hugley popular. So more issues were created and more were created after those issues. It didn’t take too long for the Tick to blow up and enter…Saturday morning cartoon land!
The Tick animated series ran for three seasons, which is two more than Fox’s first live action version. It was a fun little series with a cast of the craziest characters ever seen on a Saturday morning cartoon. There was Chairface Chippendale, Uncle Creamy, American Maid, and….Arthur? Yes, Arthur.
The voice over talent was beyond really good. Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond), Jim Cummings (The voice of Winnie the Pooh none the less), and Dan Castellaneta (The voice of Homer Simpson and like 1000 other voices on The Simpsons) did some voices. Mark Hamill, who’s done a voice over or two in his time, was the voice of Julius Pendecker. Roddy McDowall who made his name playing an ape (Playing with an ape? Whaaaa?) was the Breadmaster. Even Cathy Moriarty, who was in a little film called Raging Bull, provided some voice talent for the animated series.
Alas, the series ended.
Fox didn’t give up on The Tick and neither did the fans. In 2001, Fox debuted the live action Tick to an unsuspecting American audience. Okay, America wasn’t unsuspecting. Fox advertised the series like it did its other television series. Live action meant actors, flesh and blood people. Patrick Warburton (Seinfeld) took on the mantle of the Tick.
Fox’s live action series had the same charm and crazy characters as the animated series. New characters like Batmanuel (Nestor Carbonell, The Dark Knight) and Captain Liberty (Liz Vassey, Two and Half Men) were introduced to help Tick and Arthur clean up the City.
“Clean up” may not be absolutely totally correct. Tick and the gang really didn’t fight too many super villains, if any. The Tick was the greatest superhero series about nothing. It was the Seinfeld of superhero series. The gang even had a hang out spot like the Seinfeld crew, the Lonely Panda.
The Tick may have seemed like it was about nothing, but there was something in every episode that made you think, laugh, and sometimes even cry (Nah, not really. Maybe tears of laughter). Arthur came out to his mom and sister, Dot, as a superhero. Yes, they committed him to an insane asylum, but by the end of the episode mom and Dot learned to accept Arthur for who he was and not to judge him. The gang even faced down sexism when Captain Liberty wasn’t allowed in the League of Superheroes because she was a woman. Sexism, we learned, isn’t cool and standing with your friends is very cool.
The Tick lasted eight episodes before Fox gave it the hatchet of cancellation.
The Tick was gone, but not forgotten. Amazon debuted the pilot during its 2016 pilot season. Amazon doesn’t green light a series lightly. No, Amazon uses only the most scientific methods available to someone as rich as Jeff Bezos. Amazon relies on customer reviews to decide which pilots will get a full season. Customers really liked The Tick. Amazon ordered six full episodes.
The Tick premiered a couple of weeks ago on Amazon and it’s…*cue screeching noise*…serious?
I had a little fun writing about the past two incarnations of The Tick because The Tick was funny. It was silly (Dave Foley dacing around in Arthur’s costume?). At times it was even ridiculous. We were never sure if Tick was crazy or just naive. Warburton played the character as a gently child who had a childlike wonderment of the world.
Neither the cartoon or Fox’s live action version took itself seriously. It’s pretty difficult to take anything serious when the main character is in a life or death struggle with a toilet. Can we honestly take The Tick seriously when The Immortal dies after having sex with Captain Liberty? Can we take Nestor Carbonell’s Batmanuel seriously when his only purpose on the series was trying to have sex with Captain Liberty? No, we can’t and were never meant to take the show seriously.
The Tick premiered a year before Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and years before Marvel Studios created a commercialy successful interconnected “universe.” Since its cancellation comic book based television series have dominated both the netowrks and streaming services. Every one of these more recent series, from The Walking Dead to Arrow to Netflix’s Daredevil, is a serious take on something. On The Walking Dead, Rick and company are constantly being kicked out of their homes . The Arrow’s Seattle stand in city is attacked on an almost weekly basis and the Daredevil is now a Defender.
Amazon’s The Tick tries to fit somewhere between comedy series and serious comic book series. Peter Serafinowicz, who played Shaun’s uptight roommate in Shaun of the Dead, took over the role of the Tick. Serafinowicz captures the kookiness, almost insane quality of the character. The Tick character isn’t the problem with The Tick. The problem is everything else in the series.
Arthur, The Tick’s reluctant sidekcik, saw his father killed in a rocket shop crash. Moments later he witnesses the Terror kill his favorite superheroes. The event traumatized young Arthur for life. Arthur’s sister, Dot, moonlights as a “crime doctor” whose only patients are criminals. Overkill, an aptly named Punisher styled vigilante, lives up to his name in his first scene by killing thugs in the most brutal manner. Ms. Lint, the right hand woman of the Terror, electrocutes people to death. It’s all very un-Tick like.
The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley, Watchmen) isn’t anything like the previous incarnations of the character. Before he was mildly amusing. Now he’s just another super villain out for world domination. When he tells Ms. Lint “You don’t kill people because they call you names. You kill people because it’s fun” it comes off as creepy and doesn’t get the laughs it was intended to get. Ms. Lint constantly attracting lint and the jokes made about it aren’t funny and get old after the second or third joke.
Some people may call The Tick a reboot. Some people will call it a remake. Others may even say it was “inspired” by the cartoon and the 2001 series. Whatever you want to call The Tick ask yourself, “Do we really need another super hero series?” The answer is, “No, not if it’s like every other comic book series.” Unfortunately, the laughs never come in the series. What we have left absent laughs is an average comic book series.