Over ten years have passed since we last saw perhaps the world’s greatest hero on the small screen in a short-lived live-action TV series, but it looks like Amazon Studios is looking to breathe life back into the adventures of that incomparable do-gooder: The Tick!
Okay, I’m embellishing a little bit, but when you’re talking about a character like the Tick, that’s kind of the name of the game. With comic book superheroes seemingly at an all-time high in popularity, bringing back a character, world, and concept that cleverly pokes fun at the superhero genre while still providing interesting, irreverent, and off-the-wall character-based humor seems like a great idea. According to a piece from People, Amazon Studios seems to think so as well, as they report that Amazon’s instant video service will see the return of the live-action “Tick” series complete with original star Patrick Warburton. This is a great choice on the part of Amazon, as not only has “The Tick” garnered quite a cult following in the years since its cancellation, but it’s a unique concept that may make more sense now than at any other point in the character’s 28-year history.
The concept of the Tick as a character started, unsurprisingly, on the comics page. A young cartoonist named Ben Edlund had come up with the idea and design for the character as a mascot for the newsletter of his local, Massachusetts-based comic book store, which was later parlayed into actual stories featuring the character. In his very first narrative, it showed the Tick escaping from a mental institution, which tells you pretty much all you need to know about him right from the start. It didn’t take long for the character to catch on, and the store for which he had become the mascot eventually financed a small-press comic book series that would go on to introduce his under-achieving sidekick, Arthur, as well as characters like Paul the Samurai and Chainsaw Vigilante.
1994 saw the production of “The Tick” as an animated series for Saturday mornings on Fox, which to this day stands as the biggest mainstream success the character’s ever seen. It lasted three seasons, and while it performed decently on Fox, it was a string of re-reuns on Comedy Central that boosted its adult audience significantly. This culminated in the creation of the live-action TV series in 2001, which was unfortunately afflicted with production woes from the very beginning. Although the pilot was filmed in May of 2000, it wouldn’t see air until about 18 months later, producing nine episodes before being unceremoniously canceled by Fox. Edlund described the live-action iteration of the Tick as, “closer in tone to the comic book [than the cartoon], favoring character over action, painting a superheroic portrait of genuine human lameness.”
And that portrait that he spoke of definitely resonated with people. Barry Sonnenfeld, director of the Men in Black films and The Addams Family, directed the pilot episode of the series and later called it, “the best thing I’ve ever directed.” When reviewing the complete series on DVD, Entertainment Weekly stated, “It was too smart. Too funny. Too weird. So, of course, it failed.”
It’s easy to see that sometimes, the superhero genre may take itself a little too seriously. The truth is that superheroic tropes can be a great baseline for comedic material, as long as its approached thoughtfully. Now, more than ever, we may need the Tick, just as much as the Tick needs justice.
I’ll leave you with the words of that mysterious blue stranger, while also pointing out that you can catch the brilliance of this series right now on Netflix. Remember that destiny dresses you every morning, and we can’t let fear try to pull off our pants. If we give in, we’re gonna end up naked with fear just standing there laughing at our dangling unmentionables! Let’s welcome the Tick back with open-arms, because in a world dominated by superheroes, someone has to wear the noble pants of comedy.
I am the wild blue yonder. The front line in a never-ending battle between good and not-so-good. Together with my stalwart sidekick Arthur, and the magnanimous help of some other folks I know, we form the yin to villainy’s malevolent yang. Destiny has chosen us. Wicked men — you face the Tick!
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