You're not going crazy, Arthur, you're going sane in a crazy world!
August 10, 2018 10:54 PM   Subscribe

In 1986, 18-year-old cartoonist Ben Edlund created The Tick as a mock-hero mascot for a newsletter for New England Comics, where he was a customer. A few pages of The Tick were included in the New England Comics Newsletter in '86, and two years later, NEC published the first of the black-and-white comic book series, featuring wacky superheroes and bizarre super villains. From there, The Tick and his compatriots has been in a three-season cartoon series on Fox Kids, a live-action series on Fox in 2001, and again as live-action in an Amazon exclusive production. One of the many things that makes The Tick’s situation unique is that Edlund has been centrally involved with every version since the ’80s, including the most recent live-action series.

Though there are a ton of Tick comics, things really took off in 1994, when Fox added The Tick to it's Saturday morning cartoon line-up, and even made a side-scroller beat 'em up video game (walkthrough video; playable on Internet Archive) that same year. The show ran for three seasons (info from TheTick.ws, "The Ultimate Tick Fansite!" since 2001 [previously], where you can also get a ton of .WAV soundclips from the cartoon and quite a few from the first live-action version):

Season 1 (YT playlist):
  1. The Tick vs. The Idea Men (info)
  2. The Tick vs. Chairface Chippendale (info)
  3. The Tick vs. Dinosaur Neil (info)
  4. The Tick vs. Mr. Mental (info)
  5. The Tick vs. The Breadmaster (info)
  6. The Tick vs. El Seed (info)
  7. The Tick vs. The Tick (info)
  8. The Tick vs. The Uncommon Cold (info)
  9. The Tick vs. Brainchild (info)
  10. The Tick vs. Pineapple Pokopo (info)
  11. The Tick vs. The Mole-Men* (info)
  12. The Tick vs. The Proto-Clown (info)
  13. The Tick vs. Arthur's Bank Account (info)
Season 2 (incomplete playlist):
  1. The Little Wooden Boy and the Belly of Love (info)
  2. Alone Together* (info)
  3. Armless but Not Harmless (info)
  4. Coach Fussell's Lament (info)
  5. Leonardo da Vinci and His Fightin' Genius Time Commandos! (info)
  6. Bloomsday (info)
  7. Evil Sits Down for a Moment (info)
  8. Heroes (info)
  9. Ants in Pants! (info)
  10. The Tick Loves Santa! (info)
  11. Tick vs. The Big Nothing (info)
  12. Tick vs. Reno, Nevada (info)
  13. Grandpa Wore Tights (info)
Season 3 (incomplete playlist):
  1. That Mustache Feeling (info)
  2. Tick vs. Dot and Neil's Wedding (info)
  3. Sidekicks Don't Kiss (info)
  4. Tick vs. Arthur (info)
  5. Devil in Diapers** (info)
  6. Tick vs. Filth (info)
  7. Tick vs. Europe (info)
  8. Tick vs. Science (info)
  9. Tick vs. Prehistory (info)
  10. Tick vs. Education** (info)
* The Tick is mostly available on DVD in the US and UK, with the exception of these two episodes in the US.
** These two episodes premiered in the US on Comedy Central, whose distribution is credited with expanding the show's fanbase to adults.

There were some plans for a 4th season, and The Ultimate Tick Fansite! has some details for eight unproduced episodes.

Between producing Men in Black (1997) and Men In Black II (2002), Barry Sonnenfeld directed the short-lived live-action version of The Tick, which featured Patrick Warburton as the titular blue hero The Seinfeld of superhero TV, in part due to a limited budget that didn't support much action, and few villains. And due to licensing limitations, Die Fledermaus became Batmanuel, and American Maid turned into Captain Liberty. All nine episodes are streaming for free in the US on what is now Sony Crackle, and on Dailymotion as linked below.
  1. Pilot (info)
  2. The Funeral (info)
  3. Couples (info)
  4. The License (info)
  5. Arthur Needs Space (info)
  6. The Big Leagues (info)
  7. The Tick vs. Justice (info)
  8. Arthur, Interrupted (info)
  9. The Terror (info)
A year ago, Amazon announced it would take on The Tick in a San Diego Comic-Con panel, with Peter Serafinowicz starring in a beacon of bizarreness in a relatively normal superhero universe. Ben Edlund wanted to do a complete reboot, and Patrick Warburton graciously stepped aside, kept his producer role, and went into it with the show with Edlund. The first season wrapped up with 12 episodes and was renewed for another 10 episodes to start in 2019. Unfortunately, The Ultimate Tick Fansite! went dormant in 2014, so it doesn't include anything about this run, but The Tick Wiki is focused on this iteration, but also contains information on the characters and episodes in this newest version.
posted by filthy light thief (62 comments total) 121 users marked this as a favorite
 
SPOON!
posted by Catblack at 11:02 PM on August 10 [12 favorites]


He weeps, for he has but one small favorite with which to favorite this entire post.
posted by zamboni at 11:20 PM on August 10 [15 favorites]


I’ve always wanted a shirt that says “I dig Dinosaur Neil.”
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:22 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


And so he says, “I don't like the cut of your jib!” And I go, I says, “It's the only jib I got, baby!”
posted by J.K. Seazer at 11:25 PM on August 10 [30 favorites]


Jackie Earle Haley as The Terror totally made the Amazon series for me.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:58 PM on August 10 [10 favorites]


I’M FULL OF TINIER MEN!
posted by vrakatar at 12:12 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


Also, this fan site is so Web 1.0 it makes me weep.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 12:52 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


YEAH BABY YEAH! I'M MAKING GRAVY WITHOUT THE LUMPS!
posted by tzikeh at 1:43 AM on August 11 [14 favorites]


Every person and cat I have ever lived with has had to listen to this routinely.
posted by wheek wheek wheek at 3:44 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


CHA
posted by delfin at 4:00 AM on August 11 [16 favorites]


Our cat licks *everything* so we often lament "Alas, poor Nicky. He has but one small tongue with which to taste an entire world."
(My husband is Mystic Order of Arachnid Vigilance Cog #410.)
posted by cheshyre at 4:24 AM on August 11 [7 favorites]


Amazingly thorough post. I have watched all versions and I conclude that the previous live-action version was the best one. I can't imagine anyone else playing The Tick as well as Warburton. He was perfect! The cinematography and lighting were really good for a TV show from that time. And I just love Batmanuel.

I'm definitely a fan of Serafinowicz, but I didn't really get the newest version. It feels like they to make it grimdark, and I don't even know why you'd want to do that. I guess it just isn't for me, and that's okay.
posted by heatvision at 4:36 AM on August 11 [5 favorites]


I have thoroughly enjoyed every incarnation of The Tick to date. Thanks for the nostalgia boost!
posted by mystyk at 5:35 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Gravity is a harsh mistress.
posted by ovenmitt at 5:40 AM on August 11 [8 favorites]


What endeared The Tick to me wasn't the over the top antics of the Tick or the Villians, but the actual persistence of the world... 'CHA' shone down for every episode after Chairface carved it into the moon. Yes, The Tick stopped him from carving his name in the moon, but he did not stop him from starting to do so... I mean... That is way more on the nose for how life works than super heroes had been up to that point. You see this carried through even in the MCU post-'The events that happened in New York' (Avengers 1). There is persistence. It is a world... sidekicks get a second class entrance because heroes are an entitled bunch of assholes. This is routinely mimicked by DC in Teen Titans Go! - You know when they show up you are getting the B-Squad.

So yeah... SPOON!
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:58 AM on August 11 [8 favorites]


Random fact: Barmanuel was played by Nestor Carbonell, who's gone on to bigger and (dare I say) better things since.

Also, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and The Venture Brothers share the Tick's universe and were made with Ben Edlund involved.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:20 AM on August 11 [14 favorites]


It feels like they to make it grimdark, and I don't even know why you'd want to do that. I guess it just isn't for me, and that's okay.

So, not to try and convince you to enjoy something you don't, but I think the idea is that every incarnation The Tick TV show is pretty much adapted to fit in to superhero TV\Movies of the time. The original came out when during the era of Saturday morning cartoons, so that's what it is. There wasn't really as much to draw from for the first live action, so we get sitcom buddies that happen to be superhero. Right now we've got the street level heroes of MCU TV shows and a Grimdark Superman, so you get the modern live action, which does a great job of keeping the good elements of those and making fun of the bad. I do feel like this shows Grimdark elements are mostly in the second category, just like they've always been. It's just that we expect more of a longer plot arc from our superheroes than "bad guy shows up, bad guy gets beat. Next episode". I do feel like they've lost something by not including weekly smaller bads like Apocalypse Cow or El Seed, but that's just not where superhero shows are right now.

Anyway I love all the Ticks. The current is by far my favorite Dot; I like Superion from the first live action better, and The Tick Vs. The Proto-clown is without a doubt my favorite episode of any. But, I frequently quote from all three versions and love them for different reasons.
posted by Gygesringtone at 6:25 AM on August 11 [7 favorites]


I really need to watch the new Amazon series. The main reason I haven't is that I don't have an Amazon Fire stick -- because I already have a Chromecast -- and so I can't project it on my TV for dumb corporate slapfight reasons.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:28 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


All that and they STILL HAVEN’T MADE AN EBOOK OUT OF THE ORIGINAL RUN.

Not that I am bitter. Or entitled. But I have lost any self-respect at this point anyway: DROP A DIME AND MAKE THE DAMN EBOOK EDLUND!
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:46 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


I feel like any given scene with Jackie Earle Haley is enough to remedy any sense that Amazon!Tick's grimdarkness is in earnest.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:49 AM on August 11 [10 favorites]


"The Tick vs. Arthur's Bank Account" from the animated series still makes me laugh and I haven't seen it in years just watched it again.
posted by tommasz at 6:52 AM on August 11 [4 favorites]


Back when he was writing for Supernatural, I stood in a very long line to get a comic signed by Been Edlund at SDCC. He was signing as part of the group, so to get to Jared and Jensen, the fangirls had to go through him.

The ones behind me were annoyed as hell that he spent some time chatting with me about the Tick but neither of us cared. He was very sweet and seemed delighted that someone dug him and loved the Tick. After I moved on to Jared and Jenson, they both wanted to see my comic. Jared said he geeked out a bit when he found out they were hiring the guy from the Tick. And Jensen said he was trying to work ”Spoooon!” into a Supernatural episode.
posted by teleri025 at 6:57 AM on August 11 [16 favorites]


The last animated episode, "The Tick vs. Education", was probably my alltime favorite, partly for its group introduction of 'supers with combo names' (Sarcastro, Gezundtitan, Babyboomerangutan) but mostly for its perfect voice casting, with Bobcat Goldthwait as the ice cream mascot gone rogue, Jim 'the Lesser' Belushi as the evil ice cream exec and 'true villain', and Laraine Newman (who was just inducted into the Television Hall of Fame) as 'The Flying Squirrel', an embryonic version of what is now Marvel's Squirrel-Girl AND homage to cartoon classic Rocket J.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:29 AM on August 11 [6 favorites]


Here's Joss Whedon talking a bit about Edlund:

Arlington, Va.: Does The Tick live near Dr. Horrible? Moist totally gives it away.

Joss Whedon: The Tick lives IN Dr. Horrible. Ben Edlund was going to do the piece with us but had to drop out. "Bad Horse" was a character he'd pitched incessantly on "Angel" ("How could he make a radioactive device using only HOOVES?!?!?!?") so I wanted that in, and the first thing Ben pitched for this was Moist. But he had to bail right at the beginning. Much sadness, as he's also a great songwriter. (And has an amazing singing voice. On the serious. Get him to do an album.)


He also wrote and directed the Angel episode Smile Time, where Angel turns into a puppet.
posted by Huck500 at 7:44 AM on August 11 [12 favorites]


My very dear departed mutt was named SPOON after The Tick by my friends who found her abandoned, chained up to a building. Even after I adopted her from them I kept the name because it was so silly and perfect for that goofball of a dog. That’s why I will always have the softest spot in my heart for The Tick.
posted by marshmallow peep at 7:51 AM on August 11 [6 favorites]


The new Tick show is so good! Overkill and Dangerboat, François Chao's Walter (the character I'm the most interested in following up on), Jackie Earl Haley (especially the drum lessons subplot), the Weinerville-level effects on Karamazov, Dot and Arthur are perfectly cast (I may be biased on Arthur because Griffin Newman's Blank Check With Griffin and David podcast) and Serafinowicz' way of playing The Tick with even more oblivious earnestness to his every bizarre musing is just great. Just needs more hero and villain characters to flesh out the world.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:58 AM on August 11 [7 favorites]


THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH THE LINKS

I just went to try watching "The Tick Vs. The Tick", which is where you find the Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs At Midnight, and instead the link goes to "The Tick vs. El Seed". And "The Tick vs. the Uncommon Cold" link actuall goes to "The Tick Vs. Brainchild."

I may be fixated becuase those were the two episodes I wanted most to see right now and they aren't there....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:52 AM on August 11 [3 favorites]


As someone who hates both comics and superhero films, I'm impressed at how much I enjoy every version of the Tick. I love Futurama and Red Dwarf - to pick two TV shows with a similar tone - but, they were clearly written specifically for me. The Tick was written for someone very different. Someone I might not even want to hang out with. And yet, all the video versions are great fun, even for those of us who miss half the references and recognize the other half as references to references. The newest show is particularly fantastic. (I wish they'd left it ambiguous whether or not the Tick actually exists for a while longer, but that's a minor complaint.)

Today's challenge will be finishing the work I have to do rather than watching hours of The Tick cartoons.
posted by eotvos at 8:59 AM on August 11 [4 favorites]


A SECRET MESSAGE FROM MY TEETH
posted by The Whelk at 8:59 AM on August 11 [14 favorites]


Back when he was writing for Supernatural, I stood in a very long line to get a comic signed by Been Edlund at SDCC

Some of the Supernatural episodes he wrote are sublime.
posted by fshgrl at 9:01 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


"You're on a first name basis with lucidity! I have to call it Mister Lucidity and that's no good in a pinch!"
posted by biscotti at 9:29 AM on August 11 [9 favorites]


Oh no links are switched?! This sounds like a job for The Wiki!

Gimme a bit, I'm not up yet
posted by Pronoiac at 10:12 AM on August 11


I just went to try watching "The Tick Vs. The Tick", which is where you find the Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs At Midnight, and instead the link goes to "The Tick vs. El Seed". And "The Tick vs. the Uncommon Cold" link actuall goes to "The Tick Vs. Brainchild."

The DailyMotion links are wrong too :/
posted by kenko at 10:38 AM on August 11


I love the Tick and I love this post and I love all of you for being a part of it.

I feel very strongly that The Tick, along with Animaniacs, taught me something vitally important about life and the world, but I'll be damned if I can tell you what exactly.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 11:46 AM on August 11 [6 favorites]


I just want to take a moment to talk about the game. Holy shit.

Okay so you start the video and, yeah, there's a title card for "Night Of A Million Billion Zillion Ninjas", then there's the Tick fighting one ninja sprite with some palette swaps. And then another level of fighting the one ninja sprite with some palette swaps. And then another level that introduces, wait for it, some different palette swaps, and a powerup that makes Paul the Samurai appear and cover the Tick's back. Literally, like they are back to back and moving as one unit and attacking in sync. And then more ninjas. And more ninjas. I skipped ahead to about one hour before I saw anything else: the Tick had switched to fighting little dudes with guns.

Over and over again. For most of an hour. I got lucky at one point and found a place where the person playing it repeatedly dived off a roof to a Secret Boss Zone where they fought, in rapid sequence, the Chainsaw Vigilante, the Red Menace, and the Running Guy. And then it was back to fighting little dudes with guns for the rest of an hour.

Further on, he's fighting little green alien cucumber dudes. Presumably for the third hour of that playthrough's running time. Though he also seems to fight some clowns for a while, and amazingly enough there are actually two different clown sprites on screen at the same time instead of multiple palette-swapped copies of the same one.

I could argue that maybe this is a bold work of conceptual art, that goes to amazing lengths to capture the monotony the Tick feels as the strongest man in a world of generally mundane villans. Maybe. If I was really, really stoned. And really, really dedicated to trying to defend this thing.

How on earth did this happen. Who thought it would be a good idea to throw the same enemies at the player for a literal hour. Who thought it would be a good idea to hide half the lovingly-animated bosses as secrets. Did anyone ever actually try to play this damn thing?

I suspect a story of low budgets, and one dev house trying to pick up the pieces after another one went way over budget, and some crazy ideas from corporate that Had To Be Dealt With? Maybe? Who knows. Or maybe, given its context in Software Creations' output, it was just another license that they cranked out to pay the bills. It's one of seven games they finished in 1994, five of which were licenses...
posted by egypturnash at 11:52 AM on August 11 [4 favorites]


Ok, I made a wiki page for The Tick episodes. I corrected the cartoon season 1 links. I didn't look too closely at the live action yet, as the video descriptions are lacking.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:12 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]


As someone who hates both comics and superhero films, I'm impressed at how much I enjoy every version of the Tick

This is my bag, too. I don't hate comics and their ancillary media, just for whatever reason they never took root with me. HOWEVER, there was a time when I was being introduced to Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast that would have been the perfect time to segue into The Tick, and I want to say that I remember gesturing wildly in that direction, figuratively, but I didn't make the jump. Probably because the liveaction Tick had been cancelled in recent memory, because this would have been around 2002-2003.
posted by rhizome at 12:14 PM on August 11


I feel very strongly that The Tick, along with Animaniacs, taught me something vitally important about life and the world, but I'll be damned if I can tell you what exactly.

This, perhaps?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:37 PM on August 11 [5 favorites]


I'm definitely a fan of Serafinowicz, but I didn't really get the newest version. It feels like they to make it grimdark, and I don't even know why you'd want to do that. I guess it just isn't for me, and that's okay.

I wasn't too impressed at the beginning, because it was grim-dark but more importantly in a *dreary* way, and the Tick should never be dreary. But it steadily improved, and came to a very satisfying ending. Serafinowicz was good, but not the perfection that Warburton was, on the other hand I really loved the use of Dot. I haven't watched the last live-action series in a while, but from my memory that Dot was just the occasional drop by to scold or worry over Arthur. And that's where this one started but then developed into a very involved and pro-active version of the character. Not just trailing after Arthur.
posted by tavella at 1:09 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


It's very very very hard to try to write a superhero comedy and not just end up with a subpar version of The Tick. There may be better or earlier attempts at the genre, but I think it's firmly in place as the standard by which all others are judged.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:16 PM on August 11 [5 favorites]


Spoonitlan.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:24 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I think I patched up the Dailymotion links on the wiki page. (I think the episode order here matched Crackle, but the titles were from the fan site.) I'm sticking to Crackle's ordering, as the fan site noted a continuity issue that was avoided this way.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:44 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


egypturnash: I could argue that maybe this is a bold work of conceptual art, that goes to amazing lengths to capture the monotony the Tick feels as the strongest man in a world of generally mundane villans. Maybe. If I was really, really stoned. And really, really dedicated to trying to defend this thing.

I tried to play the game on Internet Archive and The Tick is surprisingly vulnerable for being "nigh invulnerable." So I quit. Thanks for providing the gameplay video summary!


Pronoiac, thanks for identifying the correct links. I was a bit loopy last night when putting this post together, and I clearly did not do my due diligence with those links :(
posted by filthy light thief at 4:47 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


* Pouts *

The "The Tick Vs. The Tick" link on the wiki goes to "The Tick vs. El Seed" still.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:00 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Here is the "Tick Vs. The Tick" episode proper.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:01 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


That's where I keep all my stuff! Fixed it.
posted by Pronoiac at 6:46 PM on August 11


I AM THE MAN OF LA MANCHA.

My dream is impossible.
posted by greenland at 6:47 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Pronoiac, thanks for identifying the correct links. I was a bit loopy last night when putting this post together, and I clearly did not do my due diligence with those links :(

Perhaps ask the mods to fix them?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:33 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


My username is a drunken attempt at a Tick reference.
posted by mad bomber what bombs at midnight at 10:06 PM on August 11 [10 favorites]


I feel a new feeling, going from my upper lip! To every other corner of my body!
It's a smooth feeling!
It's a suave feeling!
It's a...
MUSTACHE feeling!
posted by JHarris at 10:46 PM on August 11 [9 favorites]


My username is a drunken attempt at a Tick reference.
posted by mad bomber what bombs at midnight


"You'll never prove a thing, copper, I'm just a part time electrician…bad is good, baby! Down with government!"
posted by filthy light thief at 11:14 AM on August 12 [5 favorites]


Fight fire with Arthur!
posted by Marticus at 6:21 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]


Fine. Batmanuel will eat your Fondue and his Fondue. No Fondue for you. You get no Fondue! You Fondue? No can do. You Fondue? I do too…I Fondue you…
posted by ActingTheGoat at 8:02 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]


OMG, I remember some of these sites from back in the day, filling out my .wav collection to customize all of my computer's alert noises.

The video game, though, was hot garbage. I bought a copy and I'm pretty sure completed it. Its biggest offense was how dull it was. I do seem to remember that one of the side characters you could summon for help was Die Fledermaus and all he did was pose and then run away without doing anything. That was pretty ok.

I don't think I've seen anyone mention yet the Tick board game -- Hip Deep in Evil. I have a copy of this in my basement. My wife & I played it once. I forget who won, but the prize was to never have to play it again.

Anyway, the comics & cartoon are some of my absolute all time favorites.
posted by Jugwine at 8:04 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]


Amazon's latest The Tick has all sorts of triangles. Ms Lint seems to have a history with Overwatch. (Lint is an interesting super power). The Terror is fond of Ms Lint. Arthur's sister seems to have a thing for Overwatch, and Overwatch's AI boat has a crush on Arthur.

Apparently it reflects Ben Edlund's exploration of loneliness and longing within the humor.
posted by eye of newt at 11:46 PM on August 12


My very dear departed mutt was named SPOON after The Tick by my friends who found her abandoned, chained up to a building.

Not "Speak"?

"I don't know, Tick; maybe they're plums dipped in sugar; maybe they're made out of sugar; I don't know; I've never had one!"
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:56 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


My username is a drunken attempt at a Tick reference.
posted by mad bomber what bombs at midnight at 10:06 PM on August 11


Beat you to it.
posted by evilmidnightbomberwhatbombsatmidnight at 8:43 AM on August 13 [9 favorites]


"An object at rest can not be stopped!!!"
posted by Karmakaze at 9:19 AM on August 13 [4 favorites]


This is still the single greatest joke in all of Tick-dom.
posted by hanov3r at 9:44 AM on August 13 [5 favorites]


"Can you destroy the world?"

"EGAD! I hope not! That's where I keep all my stuff!"

"Of course."
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:53 AM on August 13 [4 favorites]


I have the board game and have played in many times, but no longer have a cohort who get the jokes, sadly.
posted by Riverine at 3:13 PM on August 13


The Tick is my second-favorite big blue thing to spend time with.
posted by subocoyne at 3:29 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]


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