Put simply, The Tick is the best super hero parody that was or has ever been. The original comic books have an undeniable charm to them that unfortunately was never quite captured as masterfully in any later Tick comics- at least not in my eyes. In the early 90’s, following the growing popularity of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, original writer/creator of The Tick Ben Edlund was approached to adapt his work into a Saturday morning cartoon for Fox Kids. The series was never a full-out success in terms of popularity but it did eventually gain more of a following among adults than children due to its satirical, clever, and hilarious writing.
The Tick is voiced by Townsend Coleman, who voiced Michaelangelo from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. The Tick is perfectly cast and his rants, monologues, and anecdotes are a thing of comedic beauty. In season one, The Tick’s neurotic sidekick Arthur is voiced by Micky Dolenz from The Monkees… random but he does a good job. The rest of the voice cast is made up of the most notable voice acting talent of the 90’s. You’ve got Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, Maurice LaMarche, Cam Clarke, Pat Fraley and Jim Cummings.
The first and possibly biggest change from the comic books has to do with where The Tick comes from. In the comics, he was an escapee from a mental hospital… and it summed up the character brilliantly but they had to change this aspect for the TV series as it was a bit of a darker concept for a kids’ show. Instead our series begins with The Tick crashing a ‘super hero convention’ where potential super heroes are being assigned cities to patrol and defend. The Tick is assigned to ‘The City’ (Its really referred to as ‘The City’ in every incarnation) where he meets Arthur.
Chainsaw Vigilante never stood a chance of being in the cartoon
Arthur is a neurotic accountant who dreams of being a super hero. He starts going to work in a flying suit designed to resemble a moth- which everyone constantly mistakes for a bunny costume- where the powers that be send him on psychiatric leave. Shortly after heading home from work that day, Arthur runs into The Tick who instantly sees a sidekick in him and together they become The City’s best and brightest new crime fighting duo.
Season one of the animated series begins very strong. ‘The Tick vs The Idea Men’ hits the ground running and crams a lot of gags into its first episode. Tons of satirical super heroes are introduced that become minor characters throughout the series. Die Fledermaus, the arrogant, self obsessed Batman wannabe who avoids fighting crime at all costs, American Maid, who is a combination of Captain America and Wonder Woman ‘the world’s most patriotic domestic’, and Sewer Urchin, who is basically a combination of Rain Man and Aquaman.
As if Aquaman wasn’t already funny enough
One of the best comic book stories they ever did involved a birthday party full of super villains. The birthday boy Chairface Chippendale- a Dick Tracy style villain with a chair for a head- is going to write his name across the face of the moon as a birthday gift to himself. Its animated series counterpart doesn’t miss a beat and it’s one of the best episodes of the first season. Chairface gets ‘CH’ and part of the ‘A’ before The Tick, Arthur and American Maid thwart his malevolent scheme. As a running gag, the “CHA” remains inscribed on the moon throughout the rest of the episodes of the series. Chairface Chippendale, by the way, is played to perfection by voice actor Tony Jay, who would go on to voice Judge Claude Frollo in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Like fire… Hellfire… This fire in my skin…
The other great adaptation from the comics is without a doubt ‘The Tick vs The Tick’ in which The Tick, Arthur, Die Fledermaus, and Sewer Urchin visit the local Super Hero night club which is guarded by a super hero door man called Door Man. Door Man’s job is to make sure only super heroes get into the club and so Arthur is sent around back of the club to the crap shack they call the Sidekick’s Lounge. A lot of the super heroes in The Comet Club, upon discovering The Tick’s moniker, warn him about a guy named Barry who also calls himself The Tick but is only into super heroism for the recognition and ego trip. The addition of the Evil Midnight Bomber (what bombs at midnight) to this story makes it one of the best episodes of the entire series.
The season concludes on a very strong note. ‘The Tick vs Arthur’s Bank Account’ addresses the financial woes of being The Tick’s sidekick. The Tick uses Arthur’s credit card to buy all kinds of gadgets and devices to help them be more effective super heroes. Arthur has finally had enough and makes The Tick move out and he goes to live in the ‘crime tower’ he built on the roof of their apartment building. Other stand out episodes of the season include ‘The Tick vs The Uncommon Cold’ and ‘The Tick vs Proto-Clown’ where The Tick embarks on a psychological journey of sorts which is exactly as insane and hilarious as it sounds.
The other episodes in this season are very hit and miss for the most part. ‘The Tick vs Dinosaur Neil’ and ‘The Tick vs El Seed’ both have their problems but are ultimately staples of the series that make my nostalgia levels rise unconsciously. The U.S. DVD release is missing an episode called ‘The Tick vs The Mole-men’ and if I’m honest… I’ll just say its not too strong an episode anyway so I don’t really feel the need to complain about it all that much. (As of this writing, it’s been available on youtube for years.) It was written by Tick staff writer and storyboard artist Christopher McCulloch, who co-created The Venture Brothers under the pseudonym Jackson Publick. McCulloch also authored the comic book miniseries The Tick: Karma Tornado.
The first season of The Tick animated series is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to being consistent. Although even the episodes I consider ‘misses’ are better than most Saturday morning cartoon fare in terms of its writing due in large part to the involvement of original comic book creator and writer Ben Edlund. When the writing is good, it’s sublime and although there are changes made from the comic but overall, its faithful to the tone and spirit of the humor save for some slightly darker bits. The voice cast is at the top of their game here and everyone brings something to the table. And The Tick… well, The Tick is my favorite super hero character of all time. His insane ramblings and monologues are nothing short of a joy to behold and ultimately help to flesh him out as a more developed character in the end. Nothing short of fan-fuckin’-tastic.
Take a Drink: for the theme song in every episode (Da dwee da da da dwee dow!)
Take a Drink: when The Tick rambles or monologues
Take a Drink: for ‘Spoon!’
Take a Drink: for all of the heroes and villains- every new hero/sidekick or villain character introduced
Episode specific shots
The Tick vs the Idea Men
Do a Shot: for Big Shot
The Tick vs Chairface Chippendale
Do a Shot: for Chairface Chippendale’s birthday
The Tick vs the Breadmaster
Do a Shot: for Roddy McDowall as The Breadmaster
The Tick vs the Tick
Do a Shot: for the Evil Midnight Bomber (What bombs at midnight)
The Tick vs the Uncommon Cold
Do a Shot: for Arthur’s clone (‘I Arthur!’)
The Tick vs Proto-Clown
Do a Shot: for The Tick’s strange psychological journey
The Tick vs Arthur’s Bank Account
Do a Shot: when The Tick decides on his battle cry