The City... it never rests. It never forgets, and never, under any circumstances... attempts to explain itself. She's full of mystery, our City... like a cup of cocoa with too many marshmallows, there's always a dribble down one side. There's always someone who wants to take a big squishy bite outta the City too. Fortunately for us ordinary citizens, there's always someone else willing to slap the braces of justice on their villainous teeth!
American Maid, who brings down criminals with a keen mind hidden under her sparkling tiara, Olympic quality combative acrobatics, and, of course, her stilettos flung with deadly accuracy. The Caped Chameleon who uses his amazing chameleonic abilities to take out the bad guys... provided he doesn't have to blend in with plaid or brick. The Sewer Urchin who rules with kingly honor all the denizens of The City's sewers; bending his will, his overpowering stench, and the might of his followers to the defense of his beloved City.
Die Fledermaus, who... well, let's face it, isn't the best example. Even the Mayor knows that if they turn on the Die Fledermaus signal, he'll probably just turn off his phone and leave town for a few days. Honestly, even Bi-Polar Bear is swifter to respond in an emergency, and most days he can't seem to make himself get outta bed!
Standing head and shoulders above the rest, literally... The Tick! Nigh invulnerable, this mighty blue foot of justice is always ready to stomp out some evil. With the help of Arthur and his moth suit, The Tick tirelessly patrols his beloved City in search of villainy in progress. In his own words, "I am mighty! I have a glow you cannot see. I have a heart as big as the moon. As warm as bathwater. We are superheroes, man, we don't have time to be charming! The boots of evil were made for walkin'. We're watching the big picture, friend. We know the score. We are a public service, not glamor boys. Not captains of industry. Keep your vulgar moneys. We are a justice sandwich. No toppings necessary. Living rooms of America, do you catch my drift? Do you dig?" Well... do ya, punk?
Behind the Scenes:
In 1986 a young cartoonist created the Tick as a mascot for the New England Comics store newsletter, which employed him at the time. Ben Edlund probably had no idea how the Tick would live up to his name and latch himself instantly onto the heart's blood of cartoon-viewers everywhere; faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and just as hard to steer! Edlund's delightful and skilled superhero parodies swiftly became a comic, which led to a cartoon aired by FOX in 1994. The Tick ran for three amazing seasons as an animated show in which Edlund pitted his big blue purveyor of justice against various unique villains, history, education, time and even the Tick himself!
Mickey Dolenz did an excellent job voicing Tick's sidekick for the first season. Arthur, a former accountant who was let go after finding his super moth suit because his "rampant individuality" made the other accountants nervous, does his best to be the voice of reason for Tick. Mickey Dolenz lent a wonderfully uncertain and passive outraged humor to the role, that was never quite the same after Rob Paulsen took over as the voice of Arthur. Paulsen brought his own unique flavor to the role though, and became the voice of a more confident, more extroverted, fully blossomed Arthur.
It's interesting how an established character can change with the voice. Paulsen is no stranger to voice work though and can be found credited as both Snow Job and Tripwire in several animated productions of "G.I. Joe". Paulsen also voiced Raphael from "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", Gusto Gummi from "Adventures of the Gummi Bears", Steelbeak in "Darkwing Duck", P.J from "Gooftroop", Spike from the Land Before Time films, Pinky from "Pinky and the Brain", Bucky McBadbat from "The Fairly Odd Parents", and Major Glory from "Dexter's Laboratory". He is probably best known as the voice of Yakko Warner from the fabulous "Animaniacs"!
The Tick was voiced by Townsend Coleman, whose name or face may not ring any bells, but whose voice has graced an amazing array of beloved animated works. Corporal Capeman from "Inspector Gadget", Michelangelo from "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", Knotty from "FernGully: The Last Rainforest" (1992), Silvermane from two episodes of the animated "Spiderman", and Sentinel Prime from "Transformers" were all performed by Mr. Coleman. In all likelihood, I will always remember him best as The Tick though.
Animation gives form to a character, but people, for the most part, still provide the voice that breathes life into that form. Nothing is quite so delightful as great animation that is well voiced... and this series has oodles of well-voiced characters peopling a quirky, yet oddly familiar world! Paulsen and Coleman confidently lead a motley but fascinating crew through two hilarious seasons. Ben Edlund, Richard Liebmann-Smith, Christopher McCulloch, Pippin Parker, Andy Yerkes, Ralph Soll, Henry Gilroy, Randolph Heard, and Lee Shapiro have all been given credit for writing the various episodes that make up the three seasons of The Tick. Great writing is essential in any good piece of entertainment, and I was consistently amazed at how incredibly entertaining The Tick is for audiences of all ages.
While the details have never been clear, I always assumed that the predictable showdown between "creativity" and "marketing" is what eventually brought this fantastic work of animation to a grinding halt with a fourth season planned, but never created. When a cartoon appeals to both adults and children, it is almost always a marketing dream and creative nightmare. Animanics is one notable exception that seemed to beat the odds and continue to entertain for five full seasons. Edlund did briefly revive The Tick as a live action work, but many changes were made and it simply didn't catch on with fans. Only 8 episodes were ever created, and they too are available on DVD.
Warburton, no stranger to voice work either, would be a great choice to voice this beloved superhero should the animated series ever be revived and Townsend not be interested in returning to the role. "The Tick" is a marvelous stress-buster, brimming with wry humor, hilarious superhero parodies, and general good pokes at popular culture.
In The Beginning:
The Tick vs The Idea Men
We meet the Tick during an interview and learn of his arrival in The City, where he was assigned during the annual superhero competition in Reno. In The City, Tick meets Arthur, just another faceless accountant in a moth suit, but destined to be the greatest sidekick ever, chum!
In the comic, Tick was actually committed to an insane asylum outside of The City for his belief in his superhero status. Fortunately for us, he escaped! When the mysterious Idea Men come up with a plan to hold The City hostage by threatening the dam, Tick and Arthur pair up for the first time, and the stage is set for return engagements.
Favorite line: "Gravity is a harsh Mistress!" ~ Tick
The Tick vs Chairface Chippendale
Tick and Arthur inadvertently interrupt American Maid's surveillance, but make up for their faux pax by providing her with back up after finding an ominous invitation.
"Happy Birthday to Me! You are cordially invited to a birthday party for the world's greatest criminal mastermind. Gift required. Come see me commit the most daring spectacular crime of this or any other century." Almost guarantees there's gonna be trouble, even without an RSVP, doesn't it?
Chairface Chippendale has reached the age where he wants to leave his mark to be remembered by future generations. In the ultimate act of vandalism, he plans to use his new birthday toy to carve his name on the face of the moon! Can Tick, Arthur and American Maid thwart his nefarious plans? Along the way, we are also introduced to the Sewer Urchin whose speech patterns are reminiscent of Rainman.
Already we are able to spot certain running gags like Arthur continually being mistaken for a bunny, or incidentally placed over-the-top commercials like the one for a favored breakfast cereal known as "Drama Flakes" are all part of what makes The Tick so amusing to adult and child alike.
Favorite line: "You can thank my dental hygienist for our untimely aliveness!" ~ Tick
The Tick vs Dinosaur Neil
The Tick, sensing Arthur's intense stress over his sister's disapproval of his new lifestyle, declares a day off and takes Arthur out to a local Dinosaur World fossil tour. There they meet Dinosaur Neil, a paleontologist and tour guide for the uber-commercialized attraction. Delighted with their enthusiasm, Neil invites them into his lab to show off his current pet project in which he hopes to grow a living dinosaur from fossilized tissue.
Neil mindlessly munches on his pasta salad ala petri dish as he enlightens our heroes. We can see by a sign clearly posted on the metal door oddly placed in the lab tent behind them that Neil is definitely violating at least two of the three posted rules... DO NOT 1. Eat in lab 2. Set lab on fire 3. Innovate unnecessarily So, when he inadvertently devours the bit of dinosaur tissue he's been cultivating, we aren't taken completely by surprise by the rather monstrous results!
Arthur's plans for a nice normal dinner with his sister are sure to be ruined by a 70 foot mutated paleontologist on an official rampage through The City. I found one scientist's certainty that all Neil required was an enormous pair of pants to wear quite amusing. He eagerly awaits Neil's arrival just outside The City to no avail as all the action is happening at the Must-go Shopping Plaza downtown though.
Equally entertaining are Tick's efforts to "tone it down" for Dot's benefit. His attempt at appropriate small talk are astounding. Complimenting Dot on her hair which is like "a halo of mouse-brown fire" may have been a tad much though. We are introduced to Die Fledermaus here during an on the street interview in which he declares that The City's superheroes are planning to "probably sit this one out and wait for the National Guard to handle it".
Favorite line: "Well, once again we find that science is a two-headed beast. One head is nice. It gives us aspirin and other modern conveniences. But the other head of science is bad. Oh Beware the other head of science, Arthur! It bites! ... And it can really ruin a good day off." ~ Tick
The Tick vs Mr. Mental
Tick assumes that the free tickets they received to a show at the Evil Eye Cafe are from a grateful citizen. Taking a look around at the unwholesome atmosphere, Arthur is less certain and far more on edge. Tick looks forward to enjoying the show of a good mentalist, but it's gonna be Arthur who has to set things straight when Mr. Mental reveals just how bad a mentalist he really is!
Mr. Mental is tired of peddling his act with his lovely assistant Mind-a, and has formed a cunning plan to use the Tick as his nigh indestructible puppet to acquire a fabulous new chapeau from a local weapons lab (conveniently labeled "very dangerous" in parenthesis). With the Thinking Cap to boost his already awesome mental powers, and the Tick more mindless than usual, can Arthur round up enough help to prevent Mental's plans for world domination?
One of the many hilarious bits in this episode involves Mr. Mental's invasion of the Tick's mind. Once in, we see a small bare room decorated only by a chair, a crudely drawn pig framed and labeled "Cow?", and the item of potential control Mr. Mental seeks... a tattered cardboard box marked "My Worst Nightmare". I was shocked that Mr. Mental dared to challenge such awesome defenses!
Favorite line: "You know what I miss? I miss the old days when I would think up a sinister scheme for world domination and you'd show a little emotional support!" ~ Mr. Mental
The Tick vs the Breadmaster
While shopping for the weekly groceries, Arthur and the ever-vigilant Tick find themselves on hand to thwart a self-detonating bread bomb of tasty but evil design that threatens to overwhelm shoppers and store alike. The Breadmaster and his slippery assistant, Buttery Pat, have begun a baking revolution and are aiming all their best diabolical baked goods at local baking companies who just don't meet the Breadmaster's standards.
Baffled by these doomsday "baked bads", Tick and Arthur inquire at The City Baking College about any baking oddities or baker's known to have developed a taste for crime. As luck would have it, they find their lead and learn a great deal about the talented but vengeful Breadmaster who was expelled from the Baking College for perverse baking experiments. Can Tick and Arthur thwart the Breadmaster before his self-baking vengeance engulfs The City?
The Breadmaster was wonderfully voiced by Roddy McDowell, who understood perfectly how to project comedic inflection into this villain. Such guest appearances were never a regular event in the course of this series, but they were always a special treat... the icing on the cake so to speak.
Favorite line: "Egad! A crumb? An errant particle? I am besmirched!" ~ Tick
The Tick vs El Seed
The City's plant life begins exhibiting aggressive and anti-social behavior. After an encounter with an unlicensed crop-duster over The City park, piloted by an individual with a sunflower-like head and a heavy accent, our heroes suspect foul play. Leave it to Tick and Arthur to pick up on those subtle clues like roughhousing cacti and joy riding saplings.
El Seed and his beloved Bee Twins have begun a leafy uprising to herald the fall of gross plant-dominating humans and usher in a new Plant Kingdom ripe for the ruling. Tick's stake in the matter becomes even more compelling when El Seed sprays him with some of his special formula. Tick must deal with his body producing spontaneous growths like leaves, potatoes, dandelion fluff, and random ears of corn. Working against a deadline to find an antidote before he becomes a vegetable permanently.
Disguising themselves as kernels in El Seed's new corn army, Tick and Arthur are weeding out this vegetative villain with the mighty spade of Justice! In this episode we also meet the members of the Civic-Minded Five (Four-legged Man, Captain Mucilage, Carpeted Man, Jungle Janet, and Feral Boy), whose battle cry, "Let's make a difference" doesn't exactly strike down the enemy with uncontrollable fear.
El Seeds overly enthusiastic interjections like, "I'm on a big power trip and you're coming with me!", and "Please print clearly!!" seem far more effective. I don't know what they are teaching at agricultural colleges these days, but World Domination must have been at the top of El Seed's course list!
Favorite line: "I didn't even want to be involved. I got jumped by a hedge! Where are the cops in this town?! Ahhh!" ~ Die Fledermaus
The Tick vs The Tick
Like the first episode in the season, this one begins with another amusing television interview with The Tick and his beloved sidekick. As usual, The Tick's responses are childlike, startled and overly enthusiasistic. While being queried about the particulars of super abilities, the Tick is asked if he is capable of destroying the Earth. Aghast, he responds naively with, "Egad! I hope not! That's where I keep all my stuff!"
Interview aside, the real story happens at the Comet Club, the newest trendy superhero nightclub. Borrowing his sister's car, Arthur reluctantly drives Tick, Sewer Urchin and Die Fledermaus to the Comet Club only to find that he isn't allowed in! Banished to the "sidekick lounge" around back (basically a spartan storage room with some leftover furniture), Arthur combats the unique prejudices of the superhero/sidekick world to call attention to the dubious activity of a hyper beetle-like individual who calls himself... The Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs at Midnight.
As if finding a way pass the onerous Doorman isn't daunting enough, Arthur's mission is made more difficult by The Tick's unexpected encounter with... The Tick. Otherwise known as Barry, the son of the club's owner is obsessed with his chosen superhero persona and is prepared to fight to the death to defend his right to be the one and only Tick in The City. This amusing look at off hours of The City's superheroes is utterly priceless!
Perhaps my favorite episode of all three seasons, The Tick vs The Tick is just bursting at the seams with comedic parody to tickle the fancy. When the Tick moved from newsletter mascot to comic book hero, his original uniform was brown, but blue was selected when he moved to television as a better color choice. So, Barry is actually wearing the original Tick costume as they battle for the right to the title!
The Midnight Bomber almost steals the show and is wonderfully voiced by Maurice LaMarche, yet another major talent in the world of animated voicing, LaMarche contributed many voices to The Tick over three seasons. His work can be found on Futurama, The Simpsons, Tripping the Rift (Gus), Pinky and the Brain (as Brain), Animaniacs, Tiny Toons, The Real Ghostbusters, and Inspector Gadget (as Chief Quimby)
Favorite line: oh so many!
"Hey, sweetheart! Whatcha got in that poodle gun? Anything for me?" ~ Die Fledermaus or
"An object at rest cannot be stopped!" ~ Evil Midnight Bomber
or "So she says to me, do you wanna be a BAD boy? And I say YEAH baby YEAH! Surf's up space ponies! I'm makin' gravy... Without the lumps. HAAA-ha-ha-ha!" ~ Midnight Bomber
The Tick vs The Uncommon Cold
Nigh invulnerable, but still susceptible to the common cold, The Tick uncovers villainy hidden in their own apartment building! Their neighbor across the hall has taken in a new roommate, who lures Arthur away from his nursemaid duties. An inter-dimensional alien bent on galactic domination, Thrakkorzog creates an evil clone of Arthur to gather genetic material from the Tick. From this he can produce a vast, nigh invulnerable army, with brains the size of cherry pits, to do his bidding. Clones made from mucus don't make the best of soldiers though... not enough backbone and no guts!
The gross-out factor in this episode is fairly high, but the trademark Tick humor is well worth the disgusting elements that are sure to delight all the boys of a certain age, physical or emotional, in the audience. Tick's battle of wits with Thrakkorzog, abundant inventive name calling, and Arthur's developing ability to take charge in emergencies offset the Tick's up close and personal battle with the mucal invader and it's alien creator.
Favorite line: "Brace yourself while corporate America tries to sell us it's wretched things." ~ Tick
The Tick vs Brainchild
Tick and Arthur get into a scuffle with a large robotic dog at Angry Hank's Technorama. They just want to replace their broken microwave, but the last one on the shelf is the only component missing from the plans of The City's villainous child prodigy, Charles, who prefers to be known as Brainchild. Skippy is his obedient, if dim-witted, pet, and the only lead they have to follow. Fortunately for our heroes, Skippy leads them right to Brainchild's lair.
Being a minor, Charles still lives at home, but the lair he shares with his sister is a perfectly adequate tree-house complete with it's own mega-multi devastator cannon. Brainchild's progressive intellectual parents are sure this evil thing is just a phase Charles is going through, like the clear dome he installed on his own head so everyone could see his impressive brain. Tick and Arthur aren't very well equipped to deal with an under-aged super villain, but watching them make the attempt is highly amusing!
The parents of this super villain are perfect parodies of some of the worst parenting attitudes out there, and this family's dynamics in general are extremely entertaining. Charles' little sister Amelia appears to be the most well adjusted, reality based individual in the family, although her brother's constant need to explain everything might just drive her over the edge. In the end, when crime needs a spanking, The Tick is always willing to lend a disciplining hand!
Favorite line: "Arthur, is this a warm moment, or should we be disturbed?"
The Tick vs Pineapple Pokopo
During a routine space experiment with a monkey-guided shuttle, cosmic rays increase the pilot's intelligence to dangerous levels. Brought back down to earth by island dictator Pineapple Pokopo, NASA's plans to promote the super-monkey to director are postponed until three elite superheros can smuggle their way in and rescue Earth's newest genius.
Thrilled with the arrival of what appear to Pokoponesia's first tourists ever, Pokopo soon realizes that he is playing host to none other than American Maid, The Tick and Arthur. Pokoponesia is not a hot vacation spot, much to Pokopo's frustration. Of course, they really only have two things to promote on this island; pineapples and sharks. Making the monkey an official member of his cabinet, Pokopo demands that he find a way to steal Hawaii and add it to Pokopenesia so they can finally attract their first tourists.
Monkey realizes he has to work fast because the effects of his cosmic encounter appear to be fading fast! The Tick appears too delighted with his new spy toys to be of much help. Can American Maid and Arthur rescue NASA's new director from this pineapple-faced villain without The Tick's help?
Favorite line: "What is this unbounded middle you speak of, oh genius monkey mind?"
The Tick vs the Mole Men
Considered by some to be one of the weakest episode in season one, This episode does not appear on any current DVD available due to legal reasons. Season Two is also missing an episode for the same reasons. I think it is a crying shame to miss even one installment of this delightful series! As I recall, this episode featured Mole Men surfacing in The City in search of a Queen for their King.
Favorite line: victim to poor memory and too many years
The Tick vs Proto Clown
The Tick and Arthur return to The City after a trip to Wheatland. Who new a grain-based theme park could be such fun? They find their beloved The City in trouble once again as an enormous overly aggressive clown rampages and The City is evacuated. They soon learn that Proto Clown is an escaped clowning experiment.
This inadvertently destructive clown is the angry brainchild of Dr. Bud who just loves clowns and figured a bigger clown could provide everyone with even more laughter. Shame he never thought this laughter might upset his creation! Proto Clown cleans the Tick's clock in their first encounter, and hurls Tick into space. Leaving the atmosphere doesn't implode our unsquishable blue bug of Justice, although it does have some unexpected side effects.
Tick's mind separates from his body and acts as a guide through some pretty bizarre self-exploration as we wait for Tick to return to his rightful mind... and earth. Meanwhile, Arthur leads the usual motley crew in an effort to subdue Proto Clown and save The City. Tick's mind is represented as simply his head with six tiny wings along the sides to keep it mobile. I love the mind's introduction to Tick. "Hello, Tick... I'm your mind. Sorry I haven't been around much lately. I'm easily distracted by shiny things", pretty much sums the Tick up!
Speaking of shiny things, Tick learns in his cosmic journey of inner-exploration that his pleasure center is marked by a giant glowing smiley face in the middle of the desert that represents his mental landscape.
Favorite line: "Once again we learn that clowning and anarchy don't mix." ~ Tick
The Tick vs Arthur's Bank Account
Arthur is beginning to feel the strain The Tick has been putting on his finances as he, apparently, does not feel the need to maintain an alter ego with an actual paying job. The Terror, an elderly but infamous villain, lives in a spider-like mobile home that has been recently sited near The City.
These unconfirmed reports inspire Tick to purchase all new crime-busting equipment... with Arthur's credit card. Beginning with their newly chosen battle cries, Tick is sure all the usual superhero trimmings are all they need to inflict some much needed justice. While Tick's battle cry of "Spoon!" is rather enigmatic, Arthur's choice is very sensible and self-explanatory... "Not in the face! Not in the face!".
Tick and Arthur end up at complete odds, and must find a way to work past the differences that brought on this fight. The Tick hides away in his new DIY crime tower, nursing his hurt feelings when Arthur kicks him out of his apartment. We're given a glimpse of Mayor Blank's impressive collection of superhero signals, as well as meeting the Terror's chosen evil cohorts; Stalingrad, Tuun-la Not of This Earth, the Man Eating Cow, The Human Ton and his puppet voice of reason, Handy. Do Tick and Arthur stand a chance against such an experienced group and bizarre collection of villains? Can these super friends reconcile their differences and save The City once again?
Favorite line: "You know, evil comes in many forms. Be it a man-eating cow or Joesph Stalin, but you can't let the package hide the pudding. Evil is just plain bad! You don't cotton to it! You gotta smack it in the nose with the rolled up newspaper of goodness! Bad dog! Bad dog! And you don't do it for money, No! You do it for love. You know, I've learned something this week... On justice and on friendship there is no price... but there are established credit limits!"
In Season One we are introduced to our heroes, their compatriots, their enemies, and their world in general. The focus being primarily on the Tick's typical foe, which seldom conforms to any specific type! Filled with charming colors, many shiny moments of laughter to distract viewers, and even the occasional food for thought... nothing too substantial though, just a yummy snack to tide you over... The Tick is an excellent stress buster.
I've often felt that the overall flavor of the show was toned down for kids. While this does not detract from the charm of The Tick, I've wondered just how hilarious things might get in their world if Edlund and the other writer's were given an arena to create a Tick designed just to appeal to adults. In the meantime, we have three amazing season's where we can imagine to our heart's content. Spoon!!
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for Groups
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children up to Age 4
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