"The Tick" is the Antivenom to Marvel's Toothlessness and DC's Grimdarkness

I didn't read a single comic that starred The Tick until I was in college in the mid-2000s. I watched the cartoon in the '90s, but since it was a Fox Kids cartoon, I had no notion of what the original author (Ben Edlund) had in mind for the series, that was meant to parody comics at the time. Whether it be a gun-mad Punisher joke of a hero, of which the Tick himself quips, "I think superheroes and guns DON'T mix..." or the absurdity of someone like the Human Bullet ("FIRE ME, BOY!"), the joke was well over my head. I thought all comics were weak and/or trying too hard simultaneously somehow. To be fair, it WAS the '90s and many mainstream comics WERE doing both those things.

I loved the 90s cartoon for various reasons, it was legitimately hilarious whether or not you understood what it was parodying, and when Patrick Warburton was tapped to bring The Tick to live-action, that seemed...like a natural role for him. He was a big fella and great at playing over-the-top caricatures of characters and ya know what? It worked. It was hilarious. It was also during the time that Fox was cycling through shows like toilet paper, so it fell by the wayside faster than nu-metal. But having gone back to it in the last year or so, it holds up shockingly well. Bat Manuel might be one of the funniest characters to ever grace a TV series.

Recently we got this new Tick. Played by Edgar Wright mainstay Peter Serafinowitz (who voiced the male Dark Souls 2 protagonist because he loved the franchise JUST THAT MUCH, and also starred as the baritone roommate in Shaun of the Dead, as well as Tim's romantic rival in Spaced), it seemed like a step in the right direction, but was The Tick, of all things, really worth bringing back so much that Amazon would risk building a franchise around it? The answer...appropriately, is YES. A thousand times YES.

Let's get this out of the way: I love modern comics (when they're not retconning pillars of American idealism into literal nazis). I love modern comic movies. I think most of them succeed on the vision of their creative team or fail on...well, the same. Or lack thereof. The first episode of The Tick, I didn't quite know what to think. It felt like it was going to be a simple, bog-standard parody of superhero stuff. Something like The Boys, a comic that wants VERY badly to let you know JUST HOW MUCH IT GETS superhero tropes and wants to subvert them (and wouldn't it be CRAZY if Superman was a thrill-killing RAPIST?! ISN'T THAT SUCH AN EDGY THOUGHT?!?!), only without the darkness that book contains. But then it interrupts its potential first storyline to take us on a trip into Flashback Land where our protagonist (Arthur) sees his father crushed by the falling ship of a superhero team...who are then executed in BRUTAL fashion by a supervillain who has used weaponized syphilis to melt their eyes. And this is the fulcrum upon which the series turns: ordinary tropes brought into harsh reality. To put this another way: imagine if Doctor Doom used concentrated jalapeno peppers to melt the Fantastic 4's eyes and then SHOT THEM IN THE HEAD. It's incredibly real darkness bookended by actual hilarious absurdity. The Terror, by the way, is played by the ever-creepy and always effective Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach from Watchmen, Freddy in the remade Nightmare on Elm Street, two roles that wasted him as an actor).

But then you have The Tick himself. And it would have been easy to have him be a grimdark, gritty version of the goofball hero that made him famous, but they save that for another character. Instead: you have the equivalent of Golden Age Superman falling into a SPAWN comic from the 90s: The Tick is perfect. He is indestructible and ultra-strong, but also pontificates to villains on their own motives and might as well be telling them to take their vitamins and say their prayers. All while the villains use guns and commit murder. Except when they try to shoot The Tick, the bullets bounce off him and almost always wind up maiming or killing them. A more perfect metaphor for the series as a whole, I could not imagine.

There's a lot more to the series, but it's hard to get into it without spoiling anything, so I just leave it at this: not since James Gunn's SUPER have I seen the genre so thoroughly and effectively parodied, and I don't see NEARLY enough people talking about it, so...here we are.

Edit: I've been corrected accurately that Serafinowitz voices a Dark Souls 2 character, not the protagonist.

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