OK, it’s true that the Tick, the goofy blue-clad protagonist of Amazon Prime’s original action-comedy series, probably won’t be winning Final Jeopardy on the basis of his wits anytime soon. But as the show drops its second pod of six episodes on Friday to wrap up its first season, the brains behind the operation are obvious to anyone who’s been watching, from the casually curious to the longtime fans. I had a chance to talk to two stars of the current production, Peter Serafinowicz (“The Tick”) and Griffin Newman (“Arthur”) about the show’s evolution, its quirky humor, and its surprising depth.
The Sony/Amazon production is based on a cult-favorite property that rose from humble beginnings as an independently-published comic book in the 1980s, to a well-loved cartoon in the 90s, followed a brief live action series in 2001 starring Patrick Warburton, before being revived as part of Amazon’s original programming last year. Every Tick project has been helmed by Ben Edlund, who created the Tick when he was still a teenager in New England. Since then, the one-time comics wunderkind became a respected television writer and showrunner for genre series including Angel, Firefly, Supernatural, Revolution and Gotham.
The Tick comic series rapidly evolved from a series of gags busting on comics of the day into a self-contained universe populated by zany characters and plots that operated like a funhouse mirror, calling attention to the weirdness baked into the foundations of the entire superhero genre. Edlund wasn’t the only one poking at this target, but even in his youth, his satire was more pointed and his jokes were better.
Thirty years later, the once-nerdy trappings of superheroes have moved from the edges of popular culture to its center. Even non-superhero entertainment shows employ concepts like story arcs, continuity and worldbuilding that were first used to good effect in superhero comics like The X-Men in the 1980s. In other words, all the stuff that the Tick made gentle fun of in the 1980s, to the amusement of the comparatively tiny subculture of comics fans, has enlarged to gargantuan size, and takes itself oh-so-seriously. And that’s why we need this 30 year-old property now more than ever.
In every incarnation, the character of the Tick carries the biggest comic payload. He’s a bluff, barrel-chested hero who pursues his do-gooding mission without stopping to question the ridiculousness of the situation – which is usually pretty ridiculous – or inquire too deeply into his own bug-based origins or powers.