Despite the drudgery, constant disappointments, and painful moments that are a big part of being an adult, occasionally something beautiful comes into your life. It just so happens that for my wife and me, two such things did on September 10th. On 9/10/11 she got to marry me, and on 9/10/94 I got the debut of The Tick.
On September 10, 1994, I was about three weeks shy of my 14th birthday, and two weeks into what was going to be a very difficult Freshman year in high school (also it happened to be the day my sister turned 16). The Tick was the perfect salve for a year full of burns. It was a cartoon at a time in my life when I was ostensibly growing out of cartoons, but even though it was part of Fox Kids afternoon and featured ridiculous characters the writing clearly indicated that it was a show for more sophisticated watchers. The humor was geared towards teens and adults, something that anybody who read the Ben Edlund comics certainly already knew. While I was a comic book kid before transferring to public school in 8th grade my range of references didn’t extend much into the indies. The Tick was new and exciting to me.
It’s safe to assume that a lot of you reading this are aware of the acclaimed and sadly gone before its time Amazon version of The Tick. The show met its end following an outstanding season 2 in which the show found its footing and a lot of the anarchic fun and charm of the comic and cartoon was on display.
The first live action iteration of The Tick debuted in 2001 and was quickly forgotten. It was also a wonderful show, and I recommend for anybody who hasn’t seen it that you remedy that immediately. The whole thing is available to watch on Crackle. You can glide through the whole season in an evening, and still have time to watch a couple of episodes of The Critic on there before heading to bed. Incidentally, while I was bummed that Die Fleidermaus became Bat Manuel and American Maid was Captain Liberty, I grew to love both characters because of the strong acting performances by Nestor Carbonell (Richard on Lost) and Liz Vassey. Vassey returned to voice Lobstercules on the Amazon Tick. Plus, as much as I grew to love Peter Serafinowicz’s rendition of the Tick and as good as Townsend Coleman’s voice work is on the cartoon, Patrick Warburton is the ideal Tick. He’s perfect, and even a rubber suit with absolutely no give whatsoever cannot hold him back.
Every version of The Tick is wonderful, but today I’m here to praise the cartoon. The 1994 Tick will always be my favorite version because the medium allows for the fullest expression of Edlund’s vision outside of the comics. The heroes and villains in the comic book were much more bizarre than those that later appeared in the live action versions of the show because in animated form there are no restrictions. If you can draw it, it can exist. Dinosaur Neil, Jack Tuber: Man of a Thousand Faces, Chairface Chippendale. Technically it’s possible to have a villain with a chair for a head, but working that cost into a live action television show versus drawing an animated cell means he’s not going to make the cut. That’s obviously unfortunate but hey, we have the cartoon for that! We also have a partially written spec script I was working on that introduces Chairface in season three of the Amazon Tick that I abandoned when the announcement came down that the show wasn’t being renewed. My idea was to use a regular desk chair that communicates telepathically with Arthur, but anyway.
I probably should have done a quick summary by now of what The Tick is and what it is about but I haven’t so let me see if I can do it in a one sentence logline: “A blue-suited superhero of unknown origin passes the superhero tryouts and is assigned to The City, where he teams up to fight crime with a man in a moth suit named Arthur.” The cartoon ran three seasons, from 1994-1997, 36 episodes. I’m sorry to say that there aren’t too many legal ways to watch it, though you can still purchase DVDs of the first two seasons fairly easily (let’s just say there are a couple extra-legal methods that you can probably figure out without too much effort). However you happen to do it, I recommend that you do. It’s hilarious, full of heart, and an excellent distraction from a Freshman year full of upperclassmen bullying.
To close things out, I’m going to talk about my favorite villains on the show and one of my favorite Tick lines.
My Favorite Tick Villain, Any Show Version
Chairface Chippendale. So intelligent, so refined, so British, so ridiculous. He’s a gangster bent on world domination, and his head is a chair. Chairface is a perfect villain.
My Favorite Tick Henchman, Cartoon Version
Guy With Ears Like Little Raisins. He doesn’t get any lines. He’s ineffective. But what he does have is a pair of tiny little raisin-like ears, and nobody can take that away from him.
Greatest Line of Tick Dialogue, Cartoon Edition
I’m taking off the kid gloves, and putting on the very mad gloves.
How much do you love the Tick? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.
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