Amazon has a new TV pilot based on The Tick comics. Vincent and Chris each offer their take.
So in it’s quest to lure subscribers Amazon, along with all the big streaming services, has been putting out original content. And like other streaming services they’ve attempted to cash in on nostalgia… in this case nostalgia for blue suited superhero known as The Tick.
The Tick originated in comic book form in 1988, but became much more widely known thanks to the Fox Kids cartoon that was highly enjoyable and ran from 1994 to 1996. The Tick also found life in a shortly lived live action series on Fox for just 9 episodes.
I would consider myself a Tick fan, mostly limited to my exposure to the cartoon and the live action show, with a few Free Comic Book Day issues of the comic here and there. I was excited for a new Tick pilot, though I had a bit of trepidation as we all should in these days of reboots, remakes, and re-imaginings. Still, I had some hope. Tick creator Ben Edlund wrote the pilot, so if it was going to succeed or fail at least it was in the hands of it’s original creator.
After watching this thing I can say I liked it, though I have some reservations. This Tick isn’t the laugh a minute riot of the cartoon. It’s still got the wit of old Tick with his constant exposition about things like justice and destiny, but this one gets real dark really quickly. It’s more of an exploration of a goofy superhero in a more serious world. It’s as if the Tick got plopped into a more Batman v Superman type universe. While not a straight up comedy, it made me laugh in other key scenes and through the rest I was really invested in the plot. I really didn’t expect that from a Tick tv series.
Oh, and before I forget I don’t like the Tick’s modern superhero suit with all it’s texture, but maybe that is a part of the parody.
If you don’t want spoilers, you’ll probably going to want to stop reading the next few paragraphs. If you have any interest in the show, maybe give Chris’s review a shot without reading the spoilers section of mine. Regardless, I say bring on more Tick Amazon.
In the Tick pilot Arthur’s story is a lot more personal. He’s not just some accountant that wants to be a superhero. No. Not only was his father killed in a horrific accident by a beloved superhero team, he then saw that superhero team get executed in cold blood, and then the head bad guy personally taunts him. That moment made him seek out justice as a sort of conspiracy investigator or something. This had me a lot more invested in the plot and while it does take away from the comedy, it probably could make for a more interesting TV series.
The danger of this is that now they’ve revealed a lot about Arthur they may have to reveal more about the origins of The Tick or face fan backlash. Personally, I hope they don’t do too much into Tick’s origin.
So I should mention right up front that I have a very biased view of The Tick. I’ll fill in a few personal details to explain. I grew up in Massachusetts and when I was young I had a paper route. Two, actually, plus I did lawnmowing and babysitting. Most of that went in a college fund but I also had some spending money at a pretty young age. Pre-teen. At the end of my routes, I was near a convenience store that had spinner racks. I got into reading Transformers, G.I. Joe, Spider-Man and others. Then I realized, by reading through the PHONE BOOK (this makes me feel so old) that there was a “comic book store” half an hour away. My mom agreed to take me there so I could find back issues.
This was around 1986 and I discovered all sorts of comics including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The store was called NEC, a chain of retailers that was successful enough that they printed a black and white newsprint newsletter each month. It had what was coming up, a few reviews, their back issue catalog and some comics including their mascots: Bongo the monkey and The Tick. Eventually NEC published The Tick as a comic in 1988 and I learned that it was by a guy not TOO much older than me from a couple towns over, Ben Edlund. I went to the release at the store and got Ben to sign my first couple of issues.
I loved the humor of The Tick. Satirizing superhero conventions and tropes and full of absurdity. But the most exciting part was that it was by a guy from a small town near me. It made me think anyone could become successful in art if they worked at it. I met him at a convention or two in Boston before he moved out to L.A. But he’s always been a hero for me. I liked the two previous TV adaptations and I really loved his work on Angel and Supernatural. I know this has been a long preamble but I want you to know that I’m coming from a place where I’m now predisposed to like anything by Ben Edlund, more or less (Revolution fell apart fast and I haven’t watched Gotham). On top of that, Benito Cereno is a comics writer and a real life friend and he has written many newer issues of The Tick.
With all that said, I loved this new pilot. It isn’t a total gag/joke fest though. I think Edlund probably feels that he’s done that already with comics and the cartoon. So he’s still using Tick to satirize superheroes and the personality of the Tick is the same, but the world is a bit more serious. It’s more of a look at the tropes of the superhero movies and TV shows out there. So instead of Chairface Chippendale, the main villain is The Terror and he is legit powerful and cruel. He’s played by Jackie Earle Haley who can do scary in his sleep.
But what I enjoyed most is that Tick and his sidekick Arthur are pretty much the same as they’ve always been. Arthur is meek but wants justice. His origin in the pilot is expanded to give him more personal stakes. I don’t want to spoil that. But he’s a great foil for Tick who is as bombastic and sweetly oblivious as ever. Who knows where this guy came from, where he got his powers or what motivated him to be a superhero? That’s NEVER been explained. Tick emerges fully formed. His sole identity is superhero and he wanders around rooftops looking for crime to stop, while delivering monologues about justice and destiny.
And if you’re gonna get someone that’s a talker, you could do a lot worse than Peter Serafinowicz. The guy has a deadpan delivery and a deep monotone. He voiced Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace and has been one of the Nova Corps in Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s also done a lot of comedy like Parks and Rec and Shaun of the Dead. He’s pretty tall and he pulls off a very accurate Tick. The costume has a lot more texture, again mimicking the current superhero tropes.
Did I laugh throughout? No. But it had my attention 100%. I would definitely like to understand Arthur and Terror’s back stories. Learn more about the city. See more scenes of Tick effortlessly taking out waves of henchmen. And probably see more crazy superheroes and supervillains. I certainly enjoyed this a lot and will watch it again. I hope it becomes a series.