Superhero cartoons are usually place a heavy emphasis on action with little bits of characterization and humor thrown in for good measure, but from Batman: The Animated Series to X-men to Spider-man, it’s pretty clear that the emphasis is on melodrama.
And while Batman: TAS was the greatest cartoon of all time, The Tick was a very very very close second.
Why do I love The Tick so much? Let me count the ways.
1) The Tick and Arthur – Little is known about the Tick himself except that he is a blue superhero. Nothing else needs to be known, though. He’s passionate about justice, a little dumb, but that’s what makes him charming. He’s the kid that never grew up; lovable and with a childish idea of what constitutes justice.
His sidekick Arthur is loyal, and faithful. He was once an accountant, but was soon fired for wearing his costume to work too often. Arthur is what all of us would be if we were superheroes – nervous, and unsure of the best course of action, but committed to being a hero.
2) The Supporting Cast – The heroes who fight alongside the Tick are ridiculous and amazing. What makes The Tick so compelling is how clever the writing was. Most characters could rise above generic copies of other heroes to have a life of their own.
Perhaps the most clever of all supporting characters was American Maid. She’s dressed in a French Maid costume, but it’s is designed to look like the American flag. Unfortunately, when the live action show debuted, her name was changed to Liberty Bell and she was longer dressed like a maid.
Captain Chameleon is a hero who’s costume blends in with his surroundings, but his weakness is plaid.
Sewer Urchin talks like Rain Man. I never understand that. Definitely, definitely didn’t understand that.
And of course, everyone’s favorite hero, Die Fledermaus – a hero who thinks he is as cool as Batman, named after an operetta, but ultimately a coward. In Sega Genesis game of The Tick, there was a special item that would allow the Tick to fight back to back with other heroes. I’ll never forget when I finally got Die Fledermaus to fight back to back with me. As soon as villains appeared on screen, he ran away without throwing a punch.
3) The Villains – I suppose by now, you’ve picked up on the fact that The Tick had some very memorable characters. All of the heroes were great, but the villains were equally as amazing.
Dinosaur Neil wasn’t so much a villain as a guy who accidentally ate radioactive material that turned him into a monster. After he is cured with by the magic of penicillin, he dates Artur’s sister.
Sarcastro looked like Fidel Castro and spoke in a sarcastic tone.
The Terror had been operating as a villain for decades (he had apparently been in a fist fight with Teddy Roosevelt) and at the ripe old age of 115, decided to attack again.
Stalingrad looks like Joseph Stalin but is actually just a grad student.
Then there was Barry, a wannabe hero who also called himself the Tick, but he was mostly just a jerk.
My favorite villain of all was Chairface Chippendale. A suave and brilliant mastermind with a chair for a head, Chairface’s first master plan was to carve his name into the moon and he of course had a pit of Man-eating cows.
4) Continuity – Outside of characters, the continuity was absolutely epic. Every single episode after Chairface Chippendale carved his name on the moon, the letters “CHA” were there on the moon. That is some admirable continuity right there.
5) SPOON! – Of all the catchphrases in comics, “Spoon!” might be the best battle cry of them all.
7) The Human Bullet – A secondary hero so amazing that he deserves his own mention, the Human Bullet is fired out of a giant cannon by his son . . . and then he has to take a cab home. He’s utterly useless and ineffective, but desperately serious about fighting crime – in short, he is the prototypical hero for The Tick.
The Tick Live Action Show – Even though Patrick Warburton was a perfect casting choice for the Tick himself, the show itself was abysmal. The cartoon had imagination that a live action show just couldn’t match, but furthermore, all of the cleverness was gone. In addition to American Maid being renamed, Die Fledermaus became the less exciting Batmanuel (he’s Hispanic and dressed like Batman . . . geddit?) and none of the villains were particularly memorable. After all, it’s not as if they could have Chairface Chippendale in a live action show.
There was a sense of whimsy and insanity within the cartoon that the live action show couldn’t replicate. Most importantly, it was a show that had a lot of thought behind it. It was brilliant, witty, and hilarious. I wish I had some brilliant commentary about the Tick, but none is necessary in my mind. It was simply perfect and if you’ve never watched it, then let this be your introduction.