The Tick is a beloved cult comic and TV series, and for good reason. It’s a franchise that successfully lampooned the latent silliness of 90’s comic books while still showing admiration for them. From the gaudy costumes to the absurdity of a superhero-filled world, it poked loving fun at comics with a sharp tack while remaining just as compellingly goofy. Over a decade later, Amazon hopes to recapture that success with the debut of a pilot written by original creator Ben Edlund.
In this The Tick pilot, we meet Arthur (Griffin Newman), a disturbed young man who’s never quite gotten over watching a flying superhero craft crash into his dad. Oh, or seeing superheroes get infected with syphilis, then shot in the head execution-style. He’s a “poor, broken man,” in the words of a side character. This experience with superheroes has left him scarred, and forever in pursuit of Terror (a delightfully nasty Jackie Earle Haley,) who society thinks is long dead. A chance encounter with an unknown superhero named The Tick (the pure dynamite Peter Serafinowicz) makes him think he might not be so crazy after all.
While perhaps nothing can catch the lightning in a jar of the original show or cartoon, The Tick is nevertheless an impressive debut. The atmosphere exudes a sort of grim, gritty energy that the original never had. Some might balk at this, but I think it fits. It feels like a very deliberate lampooning of edgy, dark superhero adaptations, like Daredevil or pretty much anything Zack Snyder touches. Based on this pilot, it seems like Edlund has his finger on the pulse of modern superhero products and is making a concentrated effort to spoof them. Bonus brownie points for the fantastic score, which is jazzy and noir-ish in all the right ways.
The Tick doesn’t get too lost in replicating modern superhero adaptations. The spoofing definitely does happen, and it’s pretty funny across the board. The Tick himself is an absolute riot, going on giant rants about destiny and speaking in almost total alliteration at times. That’s not to mention the gut busting one-liners, including Tick comparing his strength to a “a crowded bus stop of men.” There are also hysterical one-off moments, like syphilis missiles or a superhero getting interviewed by Whoopi Goldberg on her talk show. A clear streak of silliness runs through the whole thing, which is pretty crucial for any Tick media to succeed.
Ultimately, this pilot really left me wanting more, in a good way. The performances were all compelling, and Arthur as a protagonist is pretty engrossing and damaged in a captivating way. Plus, the cliffhanger ending definitely made me want to see where the whole thing is headed. While some cheap CGI took me out of the action at times, I have no doubt that will get solved if this series gets picked up for a full run.
I hope it does, because as it stands, this new Tick is the superhero spoof we deserve.