US animated tv series (1994-1996). Sunbow Productions, Graz Entertainment, Fox Children's Productions. Based on the Comic book character created by Ben Edlund. Directors include John Kafka, Russel Mooney, Sue Peters, Hank Tucker and Art Vitello. Writers include Ben Edlund and Richard Liebmann-Smith. Voice cast includes Cam Clarke, Townsend Coleman, Micky Dolenz, Ron Feinberg, Jess Harnell, Tony Jay, Kay Lenz, John Mariano and Rob Paulsen. 36 20-minute episodes. Colour.
The Tick (Coleman) is assigned to "The City": though it already has plenty of Superheroes, their measure might be taken by The Tick being the second most competent. Dressing in skin-tight blue lycra, with few brains but a passion for declamation ("Evil has been rousted and the babysitter has been paid; come heroes, our work here is done."), his main powers are durability and strength, being usually able to leap from building to building; if not, well, "Gravity is a harsh mistress." His sidekick is Arthur (Dolenz season one, then Paulsen), a former accountant fired because he dresses as a moth: his small apartment becomes their HQ.
Adventures include a Scientist's attempt to Genetically Engineer the perfect clown: unfortunately, it doesn't like to be laughed at ("Clown smash!") and hits The Tick with a bus – physically sending him into outer space, mentally into his psyche (see Inner Space). A Villain complains that in the realm of Invention, "all the easy stuff has been done" so – having built a Time Machine – he plans to blow up the Renaissance and then claim 600 years of inventions as his own. Time Travel also sends our heroes millions of years into the past, where a hotel for tourists from 101,996 CE (see Far Future) kidnaps australopithecines (see Origin of Man) to be waiters. The Sewer Czar (Mariano), a corrupt sanitation commissioner, raises an army of filth creatures to take over the surface, though the creatures themselves decide he is being unreasonable. Nihilist Aliens want to end the Universe by inserting a Black Hole into another Black Hole: fortunately The Tick grabs the first Black Hole in time ("Must ... defy ... the laws ... of Physics."). At the Mad Science Fair the misuse of an Identity Transfer device causes predictable chaos.
The Heroes and villains are suitably ridiculous – of the heroes, only American Maid (Lenz) possesses competence and common sense; though Sewer Urchin (Harnell), ineffective on the surface, is proficient within his domain. However, more typical is Die Fledermaus (Clarke) – essentially Batman if he were a cowardly lecher. Like the heroes, the villains often echo existing Comics characters, such as Omnipotus (Feinberg), a literal devourer of worlds who resembles Marvel Comics' Galactus (see also Stan Lee); another, Chairface Chippendale (Jay), whose head is a wooden chair, is a Dick Tracy style villain.
The Tick is an amusing absurdist Parody of superhero Clichés. It was critically acclaimed and reasonably popular, but – like the not dissimilar Freakazoid! (1995-1997) – perhaps more with adults than its target audience of children, resulting in poor merchandise sales and thus cancellation. There have been two subsequent series, both live action: The Tick (2001-2002) with nine episodes and The Tick (2016-2019) with 22 episodes, featuring Patrick Warburton and Peter Serafinowicz in the title roles. Both were well received, though were not major ratings successes. [SP]