Cover of The Tick: Comic Con Extravaganza #1
|Publisher||New England Comics Press|
|First appearance||New England Comics Newsletter #14 (July/August 1986)|
|Created by||Ben Edlund|
|Abilities||Superhuman strength and mass
The Tick is a fictional character created by cartoonist Ben Edlund in 1986 as a newsletter mascot for the New England Comics chain of Boston area comic stores. He is an absurdist spoof of comic book superheroes. After its creation, the character spun off into an independent comic book series in 1988, and gained mainstream popularity through an animated TV series on Fox in 1994. A short-lived live-action TV series, video game, and various merchandise have also been based on the character. IGN's list of the Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time ranked The Tick as #57.
In 1986, 18-year-old cartoonist Ben Edlund created The Tick as a mascot for a newsletter of the Norwood, Massachusetts store New England Comics where he was a customer. Edlund expanded this into stories, beginning with the three-page tale "The Tick" in New England Comics Newsletter #14–15 (July/August – September/October 1986), in which the hero escapes from a mental institution. The character became popular and the store financed a black-and-white comic book series, with the first issue released in June, 1988, and subsequently reprinted at least nine times through the next decade, including later editions with additional content. The Tick's sidekick, Arthur, was introduced in The Tick #4 (April 1989). Spin-offs followed featuring characters such as Paul the Samurai, Man-Eating Cow, and Chainsaw Vigilante. Edlund continued to write and illustrate these projects initially through his years as an undergraduate film student at the Massachusetts College of Art. The Chainsaw Vigilante spin-off, which was never completed, was written and illustrated by Zander Cannon. Other series, such as the second Paul the Samurai series and the Man-Eating Cow series, were written by North Carolina writer Clay Griffith. In 1994, the Fox network introduced The Tick as a Saturday morning cartoon series, which Edlund wrote and co-produced. Lasting three seasons, the animated series would provide The Tick's greatest mainstream fame. Townsend Coleman voiced the title character and Micky Dolenz played his sidekick Arthur, in season 1. Rob Paulsen took over the Arthur role during seasons 2 and 3. The series also featured Die Fledermaus, a shallow, self-absorbed Batman parody; Sewer Urchin, a Rain Man-like version of Aquaman; and American Maid, a more noble superheroine featuring aspects of Wonder Woman and Captain America. Reruns on Comedy Central helped make the series a cult hit with adults. The 1997 book The Tick: Mighty Blue Justice! by Greg Hyland (creator of Lethargic Lad) was published as a tie-in with the animated series. In 2001, Fox introduced a live-action TV series (produced by Columbia-TriStar Television), written and executive produced by Edlund. The series starred Patrick Warburton as The Tick, David Burke as Arthur, Nestor Carbonell as Batmanuel (a Latino version of Die Fledermaus), and Liz Vassey as Captain Liberty (a shallow and self-absorbed version of American Maid). The series was short-lived, however, and it only lasted nine episodes. Nevertheless, it was well-praised and revered by cast and crew. A DVD release of the complete series (including several unaired episodes) was released on September 30, 2003. In June 2005, the Toon Disney network began airing The Tick animated series at midnight (Eastern Time). The series also occasionally aired on ABC Family as part of the Jetix cartoon block. The following year, Buena Vista Home Entertainment released the first season of The Tick animated series on DVD. The second season was released on August 7, 2007; however, both collections were missing an episode for different reasons. In July 2016, Amazon announced that a new live-action The Tick series, starring Peter Serafinowicz and directed by Wally Pfister, would air on Amazon Video. The pilot aired on August 19, 2016.
The Tick seems to have no memory of his life before being The Tick, and indeed not much memory of anything; more than likely due to frequent head injuries. Each media adaption has a different origin of the Tick:
- In the original comic series, The Tick is apparently legally insane, having escaped from a mental institution located not too far from The City.
- In the animated series, he has passed his official superhero initiation test and was assigned to The City.
- In the first live-action series, Batmanuel suggests that The Tick may be from space. Tick was tricked into moving to (and protecting) The City after irritating the employees of a remote bus station he had sworn to protect.
A square-jawed, muscular, bright blue-costumed figure with antennae sticking up from his head, The Tick is a surreal parody of superheroes, in the vein of Dave Sim's character, The Cockroach. He is well-intentioned, friendly, childlike, good-natured, high-spirited, frequently obtuse, and prone to quipping odd, dim remarks and "inspirational" speeches filled with bizarre metaphors. The Tick is known for his nonsensical battle cry, "Spoooooon!", which he decided upon one day while eating breakfast (specifically, the cereal Drama Flakes). In an interview, actor Patrick Warburton described his perception of The Tick character, as Warburton played him:
|“||"His past is a mystery. So everything that he looks at or perceives can be brand new, and he can get really, really excited and intrigued by something that’s just a commonality for everybody else, that’s humorous. He’s like a child; everything’s new. So you just bring that attitude to him, a childlike attitude of discovering things."||”|
Originally, The Tick's costume was meant to be brown in color, but it was decided that blue looked better in print. In The Tick vs. The Tick, wherein The Tick is confronted by Barry, an unstable pseudo-hero who also calls himself "The Tick", Barry wears a brown costume similar to The Tick's. The Tick is named after an arachnid, much like Spider-Man. The logo of the series also resembles that of the 1994 Spider-Man series. According to the live-action series, The Tick is 6 feet 6 inches tall, weighs 230 pounds (6 inches and 170 pounds less than his dimensions in the comic), and has blue hair and eyes.
In the comic series, The Tick gets a job at the Weekly World Planet newspaper. He works in the same office as Clark Oppenheimer, who is also a superhero called the Caped Wonder. Oppenheimer has all the typical Superman powers, including X-ray vision ("see-through vision"), super strength, invulnerability, flight, heat-vision ("very hot vision"), and super hearing. Consequently, he looks down on The Tick as a lower form of superhero with limited powers.
Like many superheroes, The Tick has a sidekick, a rather plump former accountant named Arthur. Arthur wears a white moth suit that allows him to fly. Although he is often mistaken for a bunny due to the long ear-like antennae of his costume and the fact that his wings are often folded up. The Tick is impulsive and Arthur serves as a sort of conscience. He also figures out the schemes of villains and formulates plans to stop them. Arthur's "battle cry" (such as it is) is "Not in the face! Not in the face!"
In all of his incarnations, The Tick is surrounded by a cast of equally absurd heroes and villains, many of them parodies of popular comic book characters and character types. Few of the "superheroes" in the Tick mythos have powers that would measure up to those of DC Comics or Marvel Comics characters, but their foes are often equally silly and/or weak. The Tick lives in a city simply called "The City". In the animated series, The Tick was assigned to The City after his "Cabinet of Terror" (described by The Tick as the "deadliest engine of destruction 1974 had to offer") exploded, leaving him unharmed, during his city assignment selection trials at the National Super Institute Convention in Reno, Nevada. According to the series' companion book, The Tick: Mighty Blue Justice!, at least one of the judges was amazed by this (perhaps by The Tick's survival), awarding The Tick a score of 10 out of 10.
Powers and abilities
The Tick possesses superhuman strength and mass, which makes him capable of inflicting great damage on his surroundings if he is not careful. His full strength is never actually quantified, although he is at the very least capable of lifting whole cars with a single hand, and comfortably bending steel girders. In the pilot of the 2016 series, The Tick claims to have the strength of "ten, maybe twenty men - a crowded bus stop of men!"
The Tick is also "nigh-invulnerable", which means it is almost impossible to injure him in any serious way (although he is vulnerable to feelings of pain and his antennae are particularly sensitive). Because of this he can survive moments of extreme duress, and has demonstrated this ability on numerous occasions. In one noteworthy instance, in the animated episode "Evil Sits Down for a Moment", he fell 4,000 feet out of the sky, crashing through the concrete road below into a subway tunnel, yet before he reached a stop he was subsequently hit by an oncoming train — and he survived it all without any serious physical injury (albeit it did give him serious head trauma and left him badly disoriented for a time). Several powerful supervillains have been able to knock the Tick unconscious in several fights, but he never comes to any lasting harm. He also doesn't possess a super-powered immune system, as he has been seen sick with the common cold just like a normal person. One of the Tick's few limitations is that harming or removing his antennae will destroy his sense of balance.
Finally, The Tick possesses something referred to as "drama power", or basically a tendency for The Tick's powers to increase as the situation becomes more dramatic. He can also survive in space without a suit, and under water without oxygen for at least a long time.
A few characters have appeared throughout the three incarnations of The Tick. Apart from The Tick and Arthur, the only characters to appear in the comic book, the animated series, and the live-action show are The Terror, Arthur's sister Dot, and Fish Boy: Lost Prince of Atlantis.
Blueindicates an animated series character. Red indicates a live-action series character. White indicates a character that appeared in both, as well as the comic book series.
|Character||Notable powers||Notes||Actor/Voice actor|
|The Tick||Nigh-invulnerability, superhuman strength, and mass, "drama power", and oxygen independence.||The protagonist||Townsend Coleman (animated), Patrick Warburton (2001 live-action), Peter Serafinowicz (2016 live-action)|
|American Maid||Skilled acrobat, can throw her tiara and stilettos with extreme accuracy.||The World's Most Patriotic Domestic, a Wonder Woman/Captain America parody. Love/hate relationship with Die Fledermaus, though there are hints at a past romance. She is possibly the only competent superhero(ine) in the animated series apart from The Tick and Arthur, whom she occasionally teams up with.||Kay Lenz|
|Arthur||Flight (with moth suit)||The Tick's sidekick||Micky Dolenz (animated, Season 1), Rob Paulsen (animated, Season 2-3), David Burke (2001 live-action), Griffin Newman (2016 live-action)|
|Batmanuel||None||Spanish parody of Batman, loosely based on Die Fledermaus. Love/hate relationship with Captain Liberty.||Nestor Carbonell|
|Captain Liberty||Enhanced strength and agility, skilled acrobat and fighter.||Wonder Woman/Captain America parody and loosely based on American Maid, though more shallow and incompetent. Love/hate relationship with Batmanuel.||Liz Vassey|
|Die Fledermaus||Roof swinging grappling line gun, utility belt and exoskeleton, articulated cape are among his crime fighting gear. Charisma and great chemistry with women||Batman parody (also the name of an operetta by Johann Strauss II; die Fledermaus is German for the bat). Love/hate relationship with American Maid, though there are hints at a past romance. He is usually the first superhero to run away from danger. Is also egotistical and obsessed with beautiful women.||Cam Clarke|
|Sewer Urchin||Super stench Slime secreting spikes on suit enable him to stick on any surface. Equipped with lemon grenades, butter shooters, bars of soap and other various apparel to aid him in his underground endeavors. Oxygen tank and mask enable him to breathe in the thickest of sewer sludge||Rain Man/Aquaman parody. In the sewers he has a luxurious apartment largely furnished with salvage from the sewers; however, he has relatively few guests. The "Apotheosis of cool" in the sewer.||Jess Harnell|
While The Tick comic book series included some extras, such as trading cards, the merchandising of The Tick increased dramatically with the launch of the animated series. Action figures, stickers, pogs, T-shirts, hats, party favors, costumes, and a board game were representative. In addition, many fast food restaurant chains, such as Carl's Jr. and Taco Bell offered Tick-related giveaways.
The character of Sentinel Prime in the series Transformers Animated resembles the Tick, and is also voiced by Townsend Coleman. However, Sentinel Prime is arrogant and rude as opposed to The Tick's good-hearted, silly nature.
The Tick has been well received as a comic book character. Wizard magazine rated him as the 187th greatest comic book character of all time. Empire magazine also ranked him as the 28th greatest comic book character of all time stating that the Tick is a lovable lunk, given to overly dramatic declarations on behalf of justice. IGN ranked him as the 57th greatest comic book hero of all time stating if you like your heroes on the bizarre side, you won't find anyone more surreal than The Tick.; IGN also stated that whatever his mental state, The Tick's adventures are thoroughly enjoyable, whether they unfold on the printed page or television.
- List of Tick-related published material
- The Tick (1994 TV series), a 1994 animated television series adaptation of the Tick comic
- The Tick (2001 TV series), a 2001 live-action television series adaptation of the Tick comic
- The Tick #1 at the Grand Comics Database
- "The Tick vs. Season One". The Digital Fix. September 18, 2006.
- Gertler, Nat (November 8, 2001). "The Tick".
- Bell, Josh. "Patrick Warburton interview". About.com. Retrieved May 15, 2009.
- "Sentinel Prime". Transformers Wiki. Retrieved May 26, 2009.
- "Wizard's top 200 characters. External link consists of a forum site summing up the top 200 characters of Wizard Magazine since the real site that contains the list is broken.". Wizard magazine. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
- "The Tick is number 28". Empire magazine. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
- "The Tick is number 57". IGN. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
- Edlund, Ben (July 1996). The Tick: The Naked City. Marlowe & Company. ISBN 978-1-56924-828-7.
- Edlund, Ben (2003). The Tick: Circus Maximus Collection. New England Comics Press.
- Edlund, Ben (October 29, 2008). The Tick: The Complete Edlund. New England Comics Press.
- Hyland, Greg (May 1, 1997). The Tick: Mighty Blue Justice!. Berkley Books. ISBN 978-1-57297-250-6.
- McCulloch, Chris (2009). The Tick: Karma Tornado, The Complete Works. New England Comics Press.
- Stone, Eli (2009). The Tick: Big Blue Tick, The Complete Works. New England Comics.
- Wang, Sean (2009). The Tick and Arthur, The Complete Works. New England Comics Press.
- Wang, Sean; Stone, Eli (2009). The Tick Specials, The Complete Works. New England Comics Press.
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