Ben Edlund can’t seem to sit still. He keeps inching his director’s chair toward the monitors, gazing at the action on screen, leaning so far forward he could teeter over at any second.
You can’t blame the 48-year-old for being psyched. Today he’s on the Staten Island set of Amazon’s The Tick, the long-awaited small-screen return of the iconic superhero he created as a high schooler in the ’80s. This time, British comedian Peter Serafinowicz plays the not-quite-human being in the cobalt blue suit — and on this sunny April afternoon, he’s about to knock out a baddie in true spec-Tick-ular style. Spotting his enemy scampering away, he throws a tire at him and… “Steeeee-rike!” he exclaims. It’s a hit for the Tick!
And a hit with Edlund, who chuckles appreciatively at Serafinowicz’s booming ad-libbed victory cry. “The majority of my life by far has been inhabited by this creation,” he marvels. “It’s strange and cool and very exciting.”
A recent news alert may have appeared on your phone: “Ticks might add value to human life!” Apparently something in the parasitic little arachnids’ saliva helps fight a deadly heart condition. Oddly, that’s not one of the super powers Ben Edlund gave The Tick when he created the character back in 1986.
Even without super saliva, the brawny blue hero has nevertheless been contributing value in entertainment form to the lives of fans for 30 years. First as an indie comic, and later as a fondly remembered Fox Kids cartoon, the character managed to develop a devoted, if somewhat niche, following. Or, as Edlund, in characteristically vivid terms, puts it, the Tick has lodged himself “in the fatty tissue of its subculture.”
“I always refer to it as a sub-icon,” says Edlund. “It persists. Some things just roll out and they don’t stop.”
Panel moderator and radio personality Ralph Garman started things with the announcement that the session will start with the first-ever screening of the show’s second episode — we’ll check back once that wraps!
Garman remarked to Edlund that given the inundation of superhero-related material, The Tick seems more timely than ever. “I think that’s true,” Edlund said. “I think this is the time when the highest number of people will get the jokes; we’re all eating out of a huge bowl of cereal of the superhero mythos.”
A fan asked how this take on The Tick differs from the previous live-action show. “We’re taking our story very seriously, while at the same time having a lot of fun with the fabric of superhero fiction,” Edlund said. “Taking The Tick seriously was the funniest thing I could think to do, because that’s extra-absurd.” Josephson stressed that this is specifically Ben’s version of The Tick.
Fury clarified that the first six episodes of The Tick will be available in August, and the next six will debut in early 2018.
In a brief discussion before the audience Q&A session, Serafinowicz said that when he first read the script, the Tick seemed like a "super-powerful toddler." In the episode screened for the audience, that innocent and earnest quality definitely came through. Which was pretty impressive, given that he conveyed this while wearing a bright blue superhero bodysuit with antennae. There also seemed to be a touch of Adam West in there as well, and Serafinowicz cited the classic '66 Batman when asked for any influences in his portrayal.
If the second episode of The Tick is any indication, this show’s going to be a goldmine of absurd, self-aware superhero one-liners. As I watched, I saw my future self texting the snappy, goofy dialogue to friends and co-workers I know will be watching. But it already seems like The Tick’s going to do more than just be funny. Episode two continues my favorite aspect of the pilot, which is the wry self-awareness that subverts genre convention and audience expectation. After setting up the possibility that Arthur has been hallucinating the Tick—and the expectation that such a plot thread would be a slow reveal over multiple chapters—Edlund and company snakily provide an instant reversal when Dot sees and talks to the Tick. It’s the kind of thing that you do when you know that the audience is readily versed in the kinds of beats that superhero fiction uses regularly.
All in all, even with a few changes, it’s shaping up to be The Tick we all know and love. Actor Valorie Curry says we can expect a more fleshed out Dot, who still acts as the voice of reason without being cynical or judgmental.