The Tick (2001 series)

Face facts: He is a bulky superhero with a 3rd grader’s understanding of the world, and is modeled after a disgusting blood-sucking insect. He wields his super-strength and out-of-control metaphors with nary a thought to the dangers they cause. And his best friend is an accoutant who (sometimes) flies.

He is… The Tick.

Wearing an ever-present blue suit with twitching antennae, The Tick fights super-crime in The City, but loves and laughs and learns a little when he’s not on patrol. He’s invincible, incredibly strong, and doesn’t quite know how people work — an indication (along with the fact that he never, ever takes off his suit) that The Tick isn’t exactly human. It’s like an after school special, if the puffy-haired teens who were learning about the dangers of drinking could also rip a wall off of a building and throw it a city block.

Created in 1986 by comics artist Ben Edlund, The Tick quickly became a popular satire on the superhero industry with its own wacky bent. Kids everywhere possessing a sense of humor rejoiced when The Tick came to Saturday morning cartoons in 1994, which ran for three seasons until 1996. His battle cry of “SPOOOOOON!” can still be heard in nerdy conventions across the globe, such as The Tick’s impact upon our life holds sway.

The fact that this bizarre concept made it to live-action television in 2001 is a complete surprise. The fact that it was cancelled after a handful of shows was not, considering that it had the unfortunate luck of being broadcast on Fox. You remember Fox? The network that comes out with incredibly awesome shows (I’d mention Firefly but then Drew might throw a hissy fit) and then goes “NO! I DON’T THINK SO!” a week later? Fox, who has earned my undying hatred for shutting down Futurama while keeping dozens of vapid, pointless reality shows chugging on?

Anyway, so live-action Tick got the axe. We’ll move past that. Even though it came on the air about the time when superheroes blossomed into a new golden age in Hollywood, it fought a nation that wanted their superheroes straight up, not poking fun at their own foibles and idiosyncracies. Employing made-up statistics that I have no energy to verify, Daredevil took in more moolah than Mystery Men, and crap like The Punisher made it to thousands of theaters while clever parodies like The Specials barely made it to DVD rental shelves. There just might not be a huge market for superhero satire, but for those of us who appreciate goofing on men in tights, The Tick is there to meet your latexy needs.

The conceit behind this 9-episode series is that superheroes are just regular working joes, like us, who don’t care very much for secret identities, and who are just as likely to hang out at a Chinese restaurant chewing the fat as fighting odd crime wherever it rears its armor-plated head.

After moving to The City, The Tick finds friendship with three other superheroes in varying degrees of social and mental breakdown. Arthur, his best friend, was a mild-mannered accountant who one day decided to break free of his stultifying life to become what he always idolized: a superhero. However, his common sense is largely absent from his costume of choice, as his pudgy frame is covered by a white spandex moth costume, with retractable wings that he barely uses. The Tick moves in with Arthur, and nightmarish roommate scenarios ensue.

The other two, Batmanuel and Captain Liberty, are on-again, off-again lovers with severe personal problems. Lacking any powers whatsoever, Batmanuel relies on his latin charm to woo women and groove off the high life of superhero fame. Captain Liberty, on the other hand, is endorsed by the government and is a certified butt-kicker, although she lives a pathetic life of a single biddy on the side.

But really, this is The Tick’s show, and veteran voice actor Patrick Warburton (The Venture Bros., Family Guy, The Emperor’s New Groove) masters The Tick’s naive enthusiasm for life, liberty, justice and incredibly odd analogies. Warburton’s low voice is funnier the less he inflects, but even when he gets all giddy it brings a smile to my face.

The 9 episodes that comprise this set are well worth your time in checking out. While the action of the show is limited, far more so than the cartoon series, the dialogue is hysterical and quotelicious. The group battle such fiends as The Terror (a very, very, very old supervillain) and a nasty toilet, but mostly go around tackling issues like death, family interventions for the superhero lifestyle, and getting a license from the DMV. Trust me, it’s funnier than it sounds.

Fans of the cartoon/comic should also note that all of the side characters did not make the transition to the live-action show, due to legal issues (alas, no Evil Midnight Bomber what bombs at midnight).

Like many shows that EVIL DEMONIC MAY YOU ROT IN HELL Fox slaughtered before its time, one wonders what The Tick would have become if it went even to a full season or two. As it stands, it’s a terrific set to laugh the afternoon away with, and pick up a few new lines to try on friends.

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