THE team behind The Tick will be the first ones to tell you there are a lot of superhero TV and movies around.
The Tick’s creator Ben Edlund calls it a “pangea” — in other words, a supercontinent.
It can feel like that. With 19 superhero shows currently on or coming soon to TV (and that’s only the American live-action sample), plus almost half a dozen movies a year, it’s well past saturation point.
So how does a show like The Tick, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, stand out in such a crowded field?
“It’s amazing how full the menu of superhero options is,” Edlund told news.com.au while in Sydney promoting his show. “There’s a natural fatigue and we’re trying to engage with that fatigue. I think its value is The Tick doesn’t have to support some ages-old, completely entrenched and very serious canon.
“The value of a Marvel or DC universe is it’s a serious reality that you take part in. Ours is serious in its own way but we’re something new. We’re not bound to those rules. We take you on a ride that’s kind of meta in terms of what we’re doing in relation to the superhero culture we’ve grown up in.
“We have innate comedy inside our universe because it’s a funhouse reflection of that immovable universe, not necessarily Marvel or DC but the massive pangea we’re facing culturally. We get to be the dumbarse version of it because we never had any other pretensions.”
One of two leads on The Tick, Griffin Newman pointed out that The Tick has another advantage over other superhero shows.
“We’re the only superhero thing right now that isn’t tied into another cinematic or television universe. We’re a completely standalone show,” he said. “When I tell people it’s not a Marvel thing, you see they are immediately five per cent more interested. Not because they don’t like Marvel stuff, but because it’s got to a point where the price of entry feels really high for people. Am I going to sit there and not know what’s going on because I didn’t read this comic book 30 years ago or I didn’t see these six other movies that are tangentially connected? I love that we can tell just one story.”
Arthur is not your average superhero sidekick, precisely because of his averageness.Source:Supplied
Of course The Tick isn’t completely new. Edlund created the character in 1986 when he was 18 years old, originally as a mascot for a Boston comic book chain’s newsletter before getting his own run.
The comic was adapted as an animated series in the mid-nineties before getting a live-action cult remake in 2001 with Patrick Warburton in the blue suit but that was cancelled after nine episodes.
Now, Edlund gets a third go at it.
The superhero parody is based on the relationship between The Tick, a blue superhero played by British comedian Peter Serafinowicz (Fraaaaan!) and Arthur (Newman), a dweeby everyman whose own past tragedy spurs his obsession with taking down The Terror (Jackie Earle Healey). The show even has a Superman pastiche called Superian.
The first six of its 12-episode season dropped on Amazon’s streaming platform last Friday with the back half due to be released sometime next year.
The show was developed out of Amazon’s “pilot program” which differs from traditional models in that prospective new series make the first episode and then is voted on by viewers as to whether it gets picked up for the full season. The Tick’s existing fanbase over the last 30 years gave the show an advantage and, in the words of Edlund, it “blew the doors off that Amazon voting process”.
Since creating The Tick in the 1980s, Edlund has carved out a career as a writer in episodic television. After the 2001 incarnation of The Tick was cancelled, he found himself on the writing staff of short-lived but beloved cult show Firefly, having previously worked with Joss Whedon on the screenplay for Titan A.E. After Fireflywas canned, Edlund moved over to the final season of Angel, where he wrote the well-received puppet episode “Smile Time”. He’s also worked on Supernatural, Point Pleasant and two other comics-based shows, Powers and Gotham.
It was with a fellow Whedonverse alum, David Fury, that he co-created and executive produced this iteration of The Tick.
Chief villain, The Terror — apparently an “ancient narcissist who likes to put giant Ts everywhere”. Sound like anyone we know?Source:Supplied
Satirical humour is laced throughout the entire series but, in a feat for a parody, it’s not cynical. There’s something charmingly innocent about the endeavour, as embodied by The Tick, a hero so pure he doesn’t appear to have any emotional baggage or agenda other than to do good. It’s refreshing.
“What’s strange about superhero fiction is the trend is moving away from saving people,” Edlund said. “There’s not a lot of the superhero being on the beat and saving people in trouble. Now, in one form or another, it’s about factionalism. Those people are against my faction, we fought for centuries and now we’re going to express this battle in the time of today and I have my special hammer.”
Newman, a lifelong The Tick and superhero fan, agreed.
He added: “The fundamental thing is I really like the idea that people who have power choose to do the right thing. Every time I’m doing a scene where Arthur and The Tick are helping people, interacting with civilians, Peter and I look at each other and go, ‘isn’t this great?’. That’s what superheroes are supposed to be.”