Never Fear -- the Tick Is Here to Save the Day
Friday, September 1, 2006
The Tick is finally available on DVD with "The Tick vs. Season One" ($34.99). If you're a fan of the muscle-bound, blue-suited superhero, then you know that "Spoon!" is one of his battle cries as he fights evil in the form of such villains as Mr. Mental, Chairface Chippendale and Pineapple Pokopo. If not, then you should check out this hilarious valentine to comic book lore.
This isn't the perfect release. It leaves out one episode from the first season ("The Tick vs. The Molemen"), and it has no bonus features of any kind. The latter is a shame because the show has a cult-like following that would be thrilled to hear some insider commentary or see some previously unaired bits. Then again, the shows are so twistedly funny that they're satisfyingly entertaining without extras.
The Tick is ever hopeful, a bit dense and extremely verbose with lots of florid speeches ("Don't ever try to swim against the mighty tide of justice"). His sidekick is Arthur, an accountant who can fly and who is as timid and self-aware as the Tick is unreservedly over the top. Other superheroes populating their world include American Maid, Die Fledermaus, the Civic Minded Five and Sewer Urchin.
The art and tone have a bit of a retro feel that is just right. Created by Ben Edlund, "The Tick" makes fun of superhero cliches and has its tongue firmly in cheek, but it's not a satire of the genre so much as it is a loving homage. Episodes are riddled with pop culture references and nods to the history of the comics genre.
The plots are wackily bizarre. One of the standout episodes, for instance, is "The Tick vs. The Tick" which has the Tick, Arthur, Die Fledermaus and Sewer Urchin going to a nightclub for superheroes. While there, the Tick ends up fighting a guy named Barry who thinks he's the Tick (he's not really a superhero, but he's related to the club's owner so he's allowed in). Meanwhile, Arthur is stuck in the Sidekick's Lounge around back because sidekicks aren't allowed in the main club, and he discovers the Midnight Bomber What Bombs At Midnight, a crazy villain who's planning to blow the place up. As is typical, it's packed with sight gags and verbal jokes, some subtle, some slapstick broad.
The animated series is far better than the brief live action show that had a short run a few years back. Even though it has been 10 years, it has aged well and still seems original despite pop culture having been saturated with "different takes" on the comic book genre. This is partly because the characters were fleshed out. Some of them may be idiots, but they're multidimensional idiots, not merely one-note beings. And the voice work adds to their depth. Townsend Coleman as the Tick and Micky Dolenz (yes, the one from the Monkees) as Arthur are always spot on with their routines. Others in the cast include Cam Clarke as Die Fledermaus, Kay Lenz as American Maid and Jess Harnell as Sewer Urchin. Guest stars include Roddy McDowall as the Breadmaster.