Men call him... The Tick! The unlikely but enduringly popular arachnid-based superhero debuted in a brand new series on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, August 25th. How did such a strange creation by an unknown Massachusetts art student intended as a mascot for the newsletter of a chain of New England comic book stores grow into a cult phenomenon that spawned his own comic book series, a Saturday morning animated show on FOX Kids, and not one but two live action adaptations, the first a short-lived but well-loved by those who watched it series on the FOX Network?
The Tick was created in the mid-1980s by writer-artist Ben Edlund. Today, Edlund is a highly successful producer and screenwriter with a bevy of impressive genre credits - Angel, Firefly, Supernatural, Gotham, The Venture Bros., and Powers - but back then, as a student at the Massachusetts College of Art, Edlund was merely a customer at Norwood, Massaschusetts-based New England Comics. Edlund designed the big blue (originally brown) superhero as a mascot for the New England Comics Newsletter. NEC financed turning The Tick into an ongoing black and white comic book series, which debuted in 1988 and it was a cult smash.
THE TICK COMICS
In Edlund's original concept, The Tick was a mysterious, superpowered escaped mental patient who charged himself with the mission to protect "The City" from evil. The Tick is as strong as "ten, perhaps twenty men... a crowded bus stop full of men," nigh-invulnerable, and single-minded in his pursuit of justice. In no time at all, The Tick acquired a sidekick named Arthur, a former accountant with delusions of heroism who built a flying suit and named himself The Moth (though his suit makes him look like a big white bunny), and he fought bizarre evildoers like Chairface Chippendale and the Man-Eating Cow.
The Tick was a subversive and hilarious parody of many of the most prevalent comic book tropes of the 1980s, with special focus on Frank Miller's work on Daredevil. The Tick regularly ran afoul of ninjas, would occasionally benefit from the help of a stern Japanese warrior named Paul the Samurai, and would come to the aid of Oedipus, a female ninja who quite resembled Daredevil's sometimes lover/sometimes enemy Elektra.
Soon, The Tick got a job as a reporter for the Weekly World Planet newspaper, where he met and discovered the secret identity of not-so-mild-mannered reporter Clark Oppenheimer, who was really the superhero known as the Caped Wonder. The Tick's 'disguise' in his secret identity consisted of glasses and a 'hypnotic' tie, which would fool people into not seeing him as the superhero he truly was. However, The Tick had no trouble seeing through and inadvertently exposing Clark Oppenheimer's true identity, drawing his ire. The Tick also met his opposite number - The Tick - an evil brown version of the hero named Barry Hubris.
New issues of The Tick written and drawn by Edlund were released sporadically in the late 1980s/early 1990s, but the series was reprinted nine times, originally in black and white and eventually in full color. The Tick was collected as complete volumes and remains available today. In addition, The Tick spawned spinoffs for Paul the Samurai, Chainsaw Vigilante, and Man-Eating Cow, though Edlund turned over creative duties for those series to other writers and artists. By the mid-1990s, Hollywood came calling for The Tick, and he was ready to answer the summons.