‘The Tick’: Twenty-Five Years, Three Series, One Great Character

The Tick

When I was in college, a friend told me about a new cartoon called The Tick. The main character’s sidekick had gone into battle yelling “Not in the face! Not in the face!,” and my friend thought it was hilarious. I watched that cartoon religiously through all three seasons and loved it. I kept all my recorded VHS episodes for years after that. I owned three different tee shirts featuring The Tick, I had The Tick Versus the Uncommon Cold CD-ROM Comic Book and the mouse cursor on my PC was The Tick’s head. I never owned Ben Edlund’s original comics featuring Paul the Samurai, who baked his katana into a loaf of bread to keep it concealed, but I did read parts of them in a Waldenbooks once.

Mitch Roush and Jake Owens of the Watching Comics Podcast have just come out with an episode in which they discuss The Tick, and I couldn’t be happier. But as I listened this morning during my commute, I found myself with so much to say that I was wishing I was in the room with them. So I could contribute. And drink some of their bourbon.

Failing that, I’ve got this post.

Let touch briefly on each of the three series that The Tick has had over the years.

Amazon’s The Tick

I’ll be brief about Amazon’s series since I’ve already written an entire post celebrating the second season of Amazon’s The Tick.

Having an adult re-imagining of a cartoon originally intended for children worked out well, in no small part due to the fact that so many who watched the original Fox Kids cartoon were now grown up. Peter Serafinowicz emulated Townsend Coleman’s original voice acting amazingly well, and that is the single largest part of what made the series great. Excellent performances by Jackie Earle Haley, Alan Tudyk, and François Chau also helped to make this a worthy remake. For the rest of my thoughts, you can go back to my earlier post.

The Patrick Warburton Series

I appreciate that the showrunners kept Die Fledermaus and American Maid from the original cartoon. I remember being all-in when I heard that Patrick Warburton had been cast for the role—he certainly had the right build to play The Tick. But the Warburton’s The Tick was lacking something that I can’t quite put my finger on. His brand of good-natured idiocy somehow lacked the original Tick’s frenetic energy. If you enjoyed it, then I will never knock that. It just wasn’t for me. I don’t recall the scene in which he saw Sesame Street‘s Grover and thought it was his father—I will grant you, that’s pretty funny. I may have to go back and give these nine episodes a second chance.

The Original Nineties Cartoon

This is the good stuff. Townsend Coleman voicing the animated Tick. The Monkees‘ Mickey Dolenz as Arthur. Yes, his superhero name is Arthur. The show was a superhero parody, and many of the analogs were very clear. The Civic Minded five were a parody of The Fantastic Four, Special Agent Jim Rage was Nick Fury, and The Decency Squad was a close approximation of The Watchmen‘s The Minutemen: a golden age squad of retired superheroes. And it was all hilarious.

In the season two finale, “Grandpa Wore Tights,” they faced off against The Terror, who unlike the Amazon series, was about 120 years old and comically decrepit, sporadically punctuating his acts of villainy with uncontrollable coughing fits. He was the biggest villain of the 20th century (and part of the 19th, I think). The Terror’s team included The Human Ton and his sidekick Handy (a hand puppet), an enigmatic alien named Tuun-La, The Man-Eating Cow (simply a cow), and Joseph Stalin. In a left turn at the episode’s conclusion, Tuun-La and Joseph Stalin declare their love for one another and escape into space. I’m repeating all this from memory. Yes, it is deeply absurd. I love it so much.

And with that, I feel a need to spend a moment just giggling about moments from the original cartoon series The Tick. Do you remember…

  • The Idea Men, whose big idea is that they could maybe steal money, be rich, and not have to work anymore
  • The Deadly Bulb and his dark (oink!) secret
  • Baby Boomerangoutang, an older hero in an ape suit who throws baby dolls that return to him
  • Chairface Chippendale, and his aborted plan to carve his name into the moon
  • The Tick, who is nigh-invulnerable, being hit so hard after falling from a great height and being run over by a subway, that he begins hallucinating and asks people to refer to him as “The Duchess”
  • The episode where a villain changes The Tick into a small blue bird who can only speak bad high school French
  • Speak, The Tick’s stand-in sidekick, who is an ordinary Capybara
  • The Mad Science fair, featuring room-temperature fire, Can-o-Man, and a giant bipedal living tongue

I could easily go on. The show has so much absurd hilarity. I highly recommend the show for those of you who’ve not seen it. It’s an old show—many of the episodes have been uploaded to YouTube and can be easily found.

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