Title: The Tick
Air Date: August 25, 2017
Network: Amazon Prime
Genre: Action, Superhero, Dark Comedy
It’s been just over a year since the pilot episode for The Tick aired on Amazon Prime Video and the big blue bug is finally back with 5 additional 30-minute episodes. I’ve been eagerly awaiting them and they are just as good as I’d hoped, if a bit fewer than I would have liked.
For those unfamiliar with The Tick, the character was created in the 1980s by Ben Edlund as a mascot for a comic shop near Boston. It was all a big goof on superheroes. He was a big, cartoonish nye invulnerable guy with little antennae that shouted things about justice. The shop funded an independent run of black and white comics, which led to a larger run of comics that introduced sidekick Arthur, which led to an animated series on FOX, a side-scrolling beat-em-up game on SNES/Sega, and eventually a poorly-received live-action series on Fox starring Patrick Warburton as the Tick. Those last two were terrible and, while the comic has continued to be published here and there over the years, the Tick as a TV property has gone cold for the last 15 years or so.
But in this era of 90s nostalgia-mining, everything old is new again and we now have ourselves a second take on a live action Tick. This time, they got it right.
The series focuses on Arthur (Griffin Newman, Vinyl), a paper-pushing office drone with a history of poor mental health. We quickly learn that the reason for Arthur’s mental fragility is that an elderly supervillain named The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley, Watchmen) dropped the flying headquarters of Arthur’s childhood heroes (after blinding them with weaponized syphilis) onto Arthur’s father during a trip to get ice cream. The terror then walks up and eats his ice cream. This, understandably, breaks Arthur’s brain a bit.
Arthur’s secret obsession with The Terror and a belief that he’s still alive brings him to a shady transaction on the docks where he meets The Tick (Peter Serafinowicz, Guardians of the Galaxy), an enormous blue warrior-poet that marches through the gang of armed thugs, swatting them through brick walls with seemingly little effort. Arthur’s sister Dot (Valorie Curry, House of Lies), seemingly Arthur’s only friend before meeting The Tick, is concerned at his Tick-related shenanigans and spends most of the first season trying to figure out if Arthur has completely lost his mind or, as The Tick would put it, gone sane in a crazy world.
What makes the Tick so special is how it treats bizarre and violent things with amazing levels of cynicism. A giant blue man with articulated antennae shows up, no big deal. A woman shoots electricity out of her hands, sure. That’s fine. A gang of thugs with eye of Ra tattoos terrorizes the city. Yeah, that’s just life in the big city. Even an irradiated man who grows 200 ft tall is treated with all the severity of a live police car chase. Everyone watches it when it’s on the news, but people generally shrug it off. There was something very 90s and sarcastic about The Tick cartoon that made it such a beloved childhood treasure for so many of my generation. It’s nice to see that classic Gen X apathy again.
Unlike the original Tick animated series that featured a pun-based super-human villain of the week (Chairface Chippendale, El Seed, Dinosaur Neil), the entire first season is one narrative arc focusing on an electricity-wielding lieutenant of the Pyramid Gang, Miss Lint (Yara Martinez). Miss Lint is a perfect example of why I love the subtle and painfully real humor of Ben Edlund. Yes, she is an elemental super-villain, but her powers also generate a static field so she is constantly attracting lint particles like a wool sweater. She also shares a condo with her kombucha-drinking ex-husband because neither will buy the other out of the lease. You see these constant frustrations in her life as they constantly break the tension of her electrocuting people at the perfect moments.
Another new addition which, like Miss Lint, does not appear in either comics or previous shows is Overkill (Scott Speiser), a Punisher-meets-Deathstroke style vigilante murder machine. Both of these villains are interested in the product of the aforementioned shady docks transaction: Arthur’s signature moth suit. Unlike the animated series, where we met Arthur already wearing the suit, Arthur has a life outside the suit and doesn’t really aspire to be a superhero. This time, The Tick acts as fate’s delivery man, bestowing greatness on Arthur who he believes to be packed with heroic destiny.
A new season of this show can’t come soon enough.
Verdict: The Tick is a fantastic look at a man coming to terms with his own sanity and shaking off societal norms to achieve greatness. The Tick is a brilliant re-imagining of a beloved 90s cult hit filled with subtle visual gags, hilarious writing, and bizarre situations.
- Brilliant Writing
- Perfect Blend of Reality, Silliness
- Subtle Background Gags in Every Scene
- Episodes are only 30 mins
- There are only 6 episodes