The Tick

'Tick Comic Con Extravaganza #1

The Tick is a fictional character, an absurdist spoof of comic book superheroes. Created by cartoonist Ben Edlund, the character debuted as a newsletter mascot in 1986, was spun off into an independent comic-book series in 1988, and gained mainstream popularity through an animated TV series on Fox Broadcasting in 1994. A short-lived live-action TV series, video game and various merchandise have also been based on the character. The Tick was named the twenty-eighth greatest comic book character by Empire Magazine.[1]


In 1986, 18-year-old cartoonist Ben Edlund created The Tick as a mascot for a newsletter of the Brockton, Massachusetts store, New England Comics, where he was a customer. Edlund expanded this into stories, beginning with the three-page tale "The Tick" in New England Comics Newsletter #14-15 (July-Aug. to Sept.-Oct. 1986), in which the hero escapes from a mental institution.[2] The character became popular and the store financed a black-and-white comic book series, The Tick, beginning with a first issue cover-dated June 1988 and subsequently reprinted at least nine times through the next decade, including later editions with additional content. The Tick #4 (April 1989) introduced sidekick Arthur.

Spin-offs followed featuring characters such as Paul the Samurai, Man-Eating Cow, and Chainsaw Vigilante. Edlund continued to write and illustrate these projects initially through his years as an undergraduate film student at Massachusetts College of Art. The Chainsaw Vigilante spin-off, which was never completed, was written and illustrated by Zander Cannon. Other series, such as the second Paul the Samurai series and the Man-Eating Cow series were written by North Carolina writer Clay Griffith.

In 1994, the FOX network introduced The Tick as a Saturday morning cartoon series, which Edlund wrote and co-produced. Lasting three seasons, the animated series would provide The Tick's greatest mainstream fame. The Tick was voiced by Townsend Coleman, and his sidekick Arthur by Micky Dolenz in Season 1, with Rob Paulsen taking over the Arthur voice roles during Seasons 2 and 3. The series also featured Die Fledermaus as a shallow, self-absorbed Batman parody; Sewer Urchin, a Rain Man-like version of Aquaman; and American Maid, a more noble superheroine featuring aspects of Wonder Woman and Captain America. Reruns on Comedy Central helped make the series a cult hit with adults. The 1997 book The Tick: Mighty Blue Justice! by Greg Hyland was published as a tie-in with the animated series.

In 2001, FOX introduced a live-action TV series (produced by Columbia-TriStar Television), written and executive produced by Edlund. The series starred Patrick Warburton as The Tick, David Burke as Arthur, Nestor Carbonell as Batmanuel (a Spanish version of Die Fledermaus) and Liz Vassey as Captain Liberty (a version of American Maid). The series was short-lived, however, and it only lasted 9 episodes.

In June 2005, the Toon Disney network began airing the Tick animated series. It currently airs on Midnight Eastern Time and occasionally airs on ABC Family as part of the Jetix cartoon block. The following year, Buena Vista Home Entertainment released the first season of the Tick animated series on DVD. The second season was released on August 7, 2007; however, both collections were missing an episode for different reasons.

Fictional character biographyEdit

A square-jawed, muscular, bright blue-costumed figure with antennae sticking up from his head, The Tick is a surreal parody of superheroes. He is high-spirited, frequently obtuse, and prone to quipping odd, dim remarks and "inspirational" speeches filled with bizarre metaphors. His superpowers are nigh-invulnerability, which allows him to crash and bang about without injury (though not necessarily without pain); super strength (he can bend a steel girder with ease); and something referred to as "drama power," or basically a tendency for the Tick's powers to increase as the situation becomes more dramatic. He can also survive out in space without a suit and underwater without oxygen for a long time. Despite his nigh-invulnerability, in the animated series, the Tick is portrayed as being vulnerable to blows to the head, which often cause temporary brain damage. He is known for his nonsensical battle cry, "Spoooooon!," which he decided upon one day while eating breakfast (specifically, the cereal Drama Flakes).

The Tick is named after an arachnid, much like Spider-Man. The logo of the series also resembles that of the 1994 Spider-Man series.

Originally, the Tick's costume was meant to be brown, but it was decided that blue looked better in print. In The Tick vs. The Tick, wherein Tick is confronted by Barry, an unstable hero who also calls himself "The Tick," Barry wears a brown Tick costume.

In the comic book, the Tick got a job at the Weekly World Planet newspaper. He works in the same office as Clark Oppenheimer who is also a superhero called the Caped Wonder. He has all the typical Superman powers including: X-ray vision, super strength, invulnerability, flight, heat-vision, and super hearing. Clark Oppenheimer looks down on the Tick as a lower form of super-hero with limited powers. The Tick battles ninjas in several of the comic books.

Like many superheroes, The Tick has a sidekick: a rather plump former accountant named Arthur, who wears a white moth suit that allows him to fly, although he is often mistaken for a bunny due to the long ear-like antennae of his costume and the fact that his wings are often folded up. The Tick is impulsive, and Arthur serves as a sort of conscience; he also figures out the schemes of villains and formulates plans to stop them. Arthur's "battle cry" (so to speak) is "Not in the face! Not in the face!"

The Tick and Arthur were made popular by an animated television series (1994-1996) and a live-action television series (2001-2002). Both series aired on the Fox Network. According to the live action series The Tick is 6 feet 6 inches and weighs 230 pounds (18 inches and 170 pounds less than his dimensions in the comic) and has black hair and blue eyes.

In all of his incarnations, The Tick is surrounded by a cast of equally absurd heroes and villains, many of them parodies of popular comic book characters and character types. Few of the "superheroes" in the Tick mythos have powers that would measure up to those of DC or Marvel Comics characters, but their foes are often equally silly and/or weak. The Tick lives in a city called "The City". In the animated series, The Tick was assigned to The City after his "Cabinet of Terror" (described by the Tick as the "best destruction device 1974 had to offer") exploded, leaving him unharmed, during his city assignment selection trials at the National Super Institute Convention in Reno, Nevada. According to the series' companion book, The Tick: Mighty Blue Justice!, at least one of the judges was amazed by this (perhaps by The Tick's survival), awarding The Tick a score of 10 out of 10.

In the original comic books the Tick is apparently legally insane, having escaped from a mental institution located not too far from The City. In the live-action series, however, he was tricked into moving to (and protecting) The City after irritating the employees of a remote bus station he had sworn to protect.

Characters Edit

A few characters have appeared throughout the three incarnations of The Tick. Apart from The Tick and Arthur, the only characters to appear in the comic book, the animated series, and the live-action show are The Terror, Arthur's girlfriend Dot, and Fish Boy, The Lost Prince of Atlantis.

Main characters Edit

Blue ██ indicates an animated series character, Red ██ indicates a live-action series character, and White ██ indicates a character that appeared in both as well as the comic book series.

Character Notable powers Notes Actor/Voice Actor
American Maid Skilled acrobat, can throw her tiara and stilettos with extreme accuracy The World's Most Patriotic Domestic, a Wonder Woman/Captain America parody. Love/hate relationship with Die Fledermaus, though there are hints at a past romance Kay Lenz
Arthur Flight (with moth suit) The Tick's sidekick Micky Dolenz (animated, 1st season), Rob Paulsen (animated, 2nd season), David Burke (live-action)
Batmanuel None Latin parody of Batman loosely based on Die Fledermaus. Love/hate relationship with Captain Liberty Nestor Carbonell
Captain Liberty None Wonder Woman/Captain America parody and loosely based on American Maid. Love/hate relationship with Batmanuel Liz Vassey
Die Fledermaus None Batman parody (also the name of an operetta by Johann Strauss II; die Fledermaus is German for 'the bat'). Love/hate relationship with American Maid, and there are hints at a past romance Cam Clarke
Sewer Urchin Super stench Rain Man/Aquaman parody. In the sewers he has a luxurious apartment largely furnished with salvage from the sewers; however, he has relatively few guests. Is the "Apotheosis of cool" in the sewer. Jess Harnell
The Tick Nigh-invulnerability, Superhuman strength, "Drama power" The main protagonist Townsend Coleman (animated), Patrick Warburton (live-action)

Other characters Edit

Main article: List of minor characters in The Tick


Main article: List of The Tick merchandise

While the Tick comic book series included some extras, such as trading cards, the merchandising of The Tick increased dramatically with the launch of the animated series. Action figures, stickers, pogs, T-shirts, hats, party favors, costumes, and a board game were representative. In addition, many fast food restaurant chains, such as Carl's Jr. and Taco Bell offered Tick-related giveaways.

In 1994, Fox Interactive also released a beat 'em up video game based on the animated series. The game, however, was not well received.

Footnotes Edit

  1. Empire | The 50 Greatest Comic Book Characters
  2. Grand Comics Database: The Tick #1

References Edit

  • The Tick Official Website for The Tick cartoon
  • The Tick: Circus Maximus, NEC Comics, 2004.
  • The Tick: Mighty Blue Justice!, Hyland, Greg, Berkley Boulevard Books, New York, 1997

External links Edit

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