When Ben Edlund brought The Tick to television for the first time, it was a brand new world for the comic book creator. He didn't know what he was doing, and as such, relinquished a lot of the control he had over the live-action project in 2001 to the studio and more seasoned producers on the project.
Now, in the new renaissance of comic book adaptations and a mainstream culture willing to embrace and support the most obscure characters, Edlund is confident he'll be able to make the live-action adaptation of The Tick that he wanted to make more than a decade ago. Having worked for more than a decade in television now, however, Edlund is ready to tackle the series again.
The Collider interviewed Ben about his project:
30 years ago, a young fan named Ben Edlund created a big blue parody of superheroes called The Tick for his local comic shop’s newsletter.
Needless to say, the character caught on.
Decades later, the Tick has proven to be as enduring as the many comic tropes he parodied, going from his own series (still being published by New England Comics from new creators), to a Saturday morning cartoon on Fox to a short-lived live-action version on that network with noted tall, deep-voiced comic actor Patrick Warburton.
After our initial talk about the origins of the new Amazon show and its contrast with the two previous TV series and the original source comic book, our chat with Edlund continues as he goes over how working with Joss Whedon on Firefly and Brian Michael Bendis on Powers, along others, influenced the film.
But The Tick has always been Edlund’s most personal project, and with the Amazon pilot starring Guardians of the Galaxy’s Peter Serafinowicz in the lead role, he’s hoping the now-streaming episode will expand into the boldest version of his creation yet. CBR spoke with Edlund about the show, how years in genre TV’s biggest writing rooms helped shape his vision for the series, what a comedy show like The Tick can offer in terms of superhero drama and what he has planned should he ever return to comics.
Amazon just announced a full-season pick up of the live action superhero comedy The Tick, but showrunner Ben Edlund is already thinking ahead through five full seasons of the “Big Blue Bug of Justice” and his sidekick Arthur Everest.
“After something like a four- or five-season arc, the story will be complete, and you’ll understand everything about the yin-yang elements that are the story core of The Tick and Arthur, and what The Tick is, and what The Tick is to Arthur,” Edlund told us. “They will save the world, I guarantee it.”
"For sure", Edlund revealed. "There’s a plan for the introduction of characters in to the universe. The continuity of this is going to be very real. I’ve been working largely in hour-long genre stuff for years where what happens really matters, and people want to get into storylines and characters to get a feeling of meaning. That’s something we’re trying to do in this show, which is along the lines of what we’ve done in our most radical experimentation. We’re really trying to make you care about stuff that should be ridiculous. [Laughs] I’m very intrigued to see how it’s received."
Edlund revealed at NYCC 2016: The New Tick Series Will Feature a Punisher Parody:
The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley) “is definitely going to be an important part of the first reason and how Arthur (Griffin Newman) emerges as a hero.” He also promised a lot of new characters, including one parodying the Punisher.
Other outlets covered the Comic Con appearance. Tor.com reported The Tick Makes a Keen Appearance at New York Comic-Con 2016! Polygon also reported The Tick creator says first season will be full of terror and violence.
Finally, the last question came back to the the impetus for bringing the Tick’s adventures to 2016, when a fan asked, “What is the kernel for this particular Tick?
“The most important thing is that now, The Tick is Arthur’s story. The Tick is very important, but it’s become the story of a person, a normal person, who feels that their world has gone insane, and they try to find a way to deal with it. But they earn the label of being crazy for trying to do that. Taking The Tick more seriously has turned out to be the funniest thing we could do.”
The accountant with mental issues is Arthur Everest (Griffin Newman), while that strange blue superhero is the Tick, portrayed by Peter Serafinowicz. The actor is best known as Pete in Shaun Of The Dead, the voice of Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, Garthan Saal in Guardians Of The Galaxy and a wide variety of British TV comedies.
A darker version of The Tick sounds weird, but what is The Tick if not weird? Ben Edlund deciding to use his superhero parody to better reflect modern superheroes (and more importantly perhaps, modern superhero TV Shows and films) makes a lot of sense, and this Tick is one that definitely works best when viewed next to the recent DC Comics movies or Marvel’s Netflix shows, with their dark, tortured versions of comic book characters. It’s not as hysterically funny as previous Tick stories, but the humor is still present (including at least one great line taken verbatim from The Tick’s past). Suffice to say, I would like to see where The Tick goes and hope it makes it past Amazon’s pilot stage.
What’s funny, however, is that in the issue’s “Tick Talk” question-and-answer session, Edlund answers a Q&A riffing on what’s going to happen to the Tick in the near future. He imagines 1,001 issues, with New England Comics going bankrupt on Tick #1000, which was sent to “every household in America.” Number 1001, issued in 2014, would be “extremely rare,” with only 100 copies worth $60,000 to $90,000 apiece. Edlund laughs, heartily, when I mention this, saying that “we were just fooling around”—but it was a “bold premonition.” What’s really funny, though, is that this prediction sort of came true. The spirit of that teenage goofing around survives; 30 years later, Edlund is still working on The Tick. And in the age of superhero anxiety, the big, blue hero is a necessary corrective: a guy who can both save the world and crack a legitimately funny joke at the same time.
The pilot just debuted, and oh man, it’s exactly the superhero satire that the world needs right now. One reason the 2001 Fox iteration failed was that it, much like 1999’s underrated Mystery Men, was making fun of a genre that hadn’t really taken off yet. The superhero boom was in its embryonic stages at that point, so what was there to send up? It was a punch line without a setup. But now, as the entertainment industry continues its long march toward Peak Superhero, the time is ripe for a big, blue dude armed with super-strength and an endless stock of quasi-absurd, faux-profound proclamations about heroism and destiny. He has arrived.
And for a superhero genre that's facing its own identity crisis of light against darkness, Amazon has given Hollywood a much-needed reminder that comics used to be called "funny books" for a reason.
The sensation of Edlund writing over his own past makes for great subtext, generating a sort of playfulness that augurs well for the rest of the series. This version of The Tick aims to be a show about shows about superheroes, complete with hero-centric search engines, fluff daytime talk show interviews, and YouTube videos of super-fights. We can’t avoid superheroes now, as much as some folk might want to. Too much of a good thing can do weird things to a person’s brain, superheroes included, and it feels like The Tick is going to cannonball butt-first into the weirdness that’s been welling up in the collective nerd hivemind. That is, if it gets the chance.
‘The Tick’ has latched on to Amazon’s new lineup of shows, but one thing is for sure: it definitely doesn’t suck.
That push-pull between The Tick’s old-fashioned form of superheroics and Arthur’s more modern reality creates an interesting tension. Backed by solid Edlund punchlines and a great lead duo, I hope to see that conflict explored when (not if) The Tick goes to series.
If you loved the animated The Tick series or the live-action with Patrick Warburton… pull out the DVD collections of those and skip this new version. Unless dark and gritty is your thing.
All of that makes this bizarre new take on The Big Blue Bug The Dark Knight to the 2001 show’s Batman: The Animated Series. The latter’s certainly more faithful to the original, but the former has a lot more to say.
Stream it, for sure. The Tick is an odd addition to Amazon’s roster of shows, but it’s the live action superhero parody you dreamed about. It’s fun, smart when it wants to be, dumb all the other times, and well-made enough to eliminate most of your doubts. Keep away from the kiddies.
Ultimately though, the pilot falls between two posts. The work that’s gone into making this version of The Tick’s story sustainable leaves it awkwardly close to the material it once parodied. However fondly you might feel towards the character and those involved in this revival, you’re left wondering if its purpose is still to skewer the superhero genre, or to jump on the bandwagon.
In essence, I guess I’m saying that against all 30-year-old comic book odds, The Tick is unequivocally worth your time and I can’t recommend enough you at least poke your nose into this pile of low-key dementia.
I think it’s fascinating that each new version of the character has grappled with the superhero landscape of the day—now we’ll have a Blue Avenger ready to tackle a world that has not only lived through the blimp scene in Watchmen, the back-breaking scene in The Dark Knight Rises, and the electroshock scene in Suicide Squad, but also binged Daredevil and Jessica Jones and Arrow and Flash and Legends of Tomorrow and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D…. if anyone can make superheroes fun again, it’s the Tick, and in Amazon’s version, I think we may have gotten the hero we both need and deserve.