Revisit: The Tick Omnibus

Tick: The Complete Edlund

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The Tick was my first indie comic.

Back in the early ’90s, I had a couple of letters published in a couple of issues of a title I will not name, and this being the era when they would actually include your home address (it was before the Internet reached saturation, OK?), some people wrote me back. One became a very good friend. And he, among other things, sent me The Tick Omnibus and a few issues (I think I had at least through issue #9, if not through issue #12).

All of this was before the cartoon, before the live-action TV show, before creator Ben Edlund was writing and producing alongside Joss Whedon (all of which I’ll get to in a bit).

Edlund’s broad parody of superheroes, following an insane asylum escapee in a blue suit calling himself the Tick, still works pretty well. The Clark Oppenheimer bits in the earlier issues are a little obvious (who hasn’t made fun of Superman’s secret identity? Before or since?) but The Tick’s utter cluelessness is still fun.

Some of the references are a little dated — Oedipus serving as a stand-in for Frank Miller-era Elektra, the obsession with ninjas — but it’s still self-consciously delightful (and probably no more dated than Watchmen is now and people still love that). This was what comics were like in the 1980s and early ’90s. There was a lot to laugh at.

I was honestly surprised to see how well-paced this was. It’s not a gag-a-minute but it actually does tell a story (what it is, of course) and The Tick is fun to watch. Oedipus, even as a broad parody, is a likable heroine, and the ninjas are so goofy that they’re not much of a threat. The final issue in this volume, “Villians, Inc.” where superheroes hire bad guys to fight to create a reputation for themselves, does point to the preposterous nature of most comics and lets Edlund play with some bigger ideas.

It may not necessarily be the most relevant comic now, but it still works. It’s still fun. I was greatly entertained.

So back to all the other things.

Yes, in 1994, The Tick became a Saturday morning cartoon on Fox. At the time, I thought this was really cool but I don’t think it quite registered how bizarre it was to have this happen. I’d known about The Tick for a couple of years, after all, and it felt pretty much like common knowledge to me, even if it wasn’t.

In some ways, I think the cartoon worked better than the comic series. It was pretty faithful to the spirit of the series but it removed some of the darkness and just allowed the goofiness to shine through. It still had characters like Chairface Chippendale (and the Man-Eating Cow. I never got my Man-Eating Cow action figure, though, and I am still sad about that) but took away characters like the Chainsaw Vigilante, who always felt a little out of place to me. It gave us such villains like The Evil Midnight Bomber and awesome Galactus parody Omnipotus. The Tick cartoon was good stuff.

Here’s the opening:

The Tick live-action series started in November 2001 and ran for 8 episodes. People didn’t watch it because I don’t think too many people were in the mood to laugh then. I was one of the 10 people who liked it. Patrick Warburton was born to be The Tick and I liked that the series focused more on the mundane issues of every day life than the whole fighting crime aspect (because, after all, part of the point of The Tick was that none of the characters was really that good at being a superhero). It’s available on DVD or you can watch the entire series on Hulu.

This is my favorite episode, mostly because of the always-awesome Ron Perlman, but because of the hilarious gracefulness they handle the innuendo of superheroes and their sidekicks:

Like I mentioned, Ben Edlund went on to produce a few episodes of Firefly (and wrote one of my favorite episodes of the series, “Jaynestown”). He also co-wrote and directed the “Smile Time” episode of “Angel,” where our title character turns into a puppet. Sadly, neither are online. But I love that Edlund was able to take his sense of humor and translate it into these shows. He’s also worked on some episodes of The Venture Bros., which is highly appropriate.

I suppose none of that has much to do with The Tick as a comic, though, but I’ve loved following Edlund as a creator over the years. I still enjoy The Tick in all of its incarnations, sure, but I think it’s cool the diversity of projects Edlund is doing now.

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