Quality film news, reviews and features
18th September 2006 12:00:00
Posted by Kevin Gilvear

The Tick Vs. Season One

DVD Video Review
“Ah, destiny! Destiny’s powerful hand has made the bed of my future. And it’s up to me to lie in it. I am destined to be a superhero, to right wrongs and pound two-fisted justice into the hearts of evildoers everywhere. You don’t fight destiny, no sir! And you don’t eat crackers in the bed of your future, or you get all…scratchy.”

Ben Edlund was just seventeen years of age when he put The Tick to paper in 1986. A lucky break saw him contribute the 300lb mighty blue justice to a comic book for New England Comics – a local comic store situated in Boston. When plans suddenly changed Edlund was given the chance to realise his latest creation in a fully fledged comic, which he worked on whilst attending film studies before it eventually surfaced in 1988. Issue one of The Tick was enough of a hit to ensure future volumes, where it soon gained a cult following. 1994 saw Fox Television - the kids division being taken over by Disney - take on The Tick in animated form for a thirteen episode first season run in which Edlund’s endearing characters would then be able to reach a wider audience. While The Tick animated series did fairly well on the air, still to this day enjoying reruns, it’s pretty much maintained a cult following, with a high percentage of adult viewers enjoying it on a far greater level than their children.



When The Tick passes the National Super Institute Convention trials he’s assigned as protector of “The City”. Catching the coach into town he finds himself without money and a place to stay. As luck would have it accountant Arthur has just been fired from his menial day job and dreams of doing something more with his life, to be the hero he’s always wanted to be. Destiny’s hand introduces Arthur to The Tick and they soon become good friends. Tick moves in with Arthur, where they turn his apartment into their superhero headquarters, though you couldn’t tell from looking at it. All they need to do now is sit back and wait for crime to come knocking, and sure enough it does. Throughout their adventures Tick and Arthur are joined by a crazy assortment of heroes such as womanising coward Die Fledermaus, American Maid, The Caped Chameleon (who doesn’t do plaid), Captain Lemming, Sewer Urchin (parodying Rain Man), The Civic Minded Five and many more as they go up against the likes of Chairface Chippendale, Breadmaster, El Seed, Mr. Mental and The Evil Midnight Bomber (What Bombs at Midnight).


While Edlund was writing his own take on the superhero genre Bob Burden had just unleashed The Mysterymen in Flaming Carrot Comics. Much like The Tick these comics featured dysfunctional heroes, but they were different enough to set them apart from one another; one a surreal collection being about the average working man trying to make the world a better place while dealing with his own daily flaws and family life, and the other featuring outlandishly named and costumed heroes - with flaws that they didn’t care about - where the name of the game was to downright spoof every superhero ever known. So while The Tick certainly shares familiarities with this, and more famously Cerebus’s “Cockroach”, it’s certainly unique unto itself. The Tick is a madcap ride where comedy prevails above all; not one to be taken the least bit seriously, and as you’ll find out it offers plenty of weird and wonderful characters who try to maintain some sort of balance in a superhero congested city that only the maddest of villains torment.

The Tick’s first season is a light and breezy affair. There’s no real sense of progression past the first couple of episodes; these characters are just left to get on with things, with The Tick and Arthur adapting to one another’s lifestyle rather swiftly, while tertiary characters are given the smallest hints of back-story (such as an old relationship between American Maid and Fledermaus); there’s not even a real origin of how The Tick came to be, just that he went and applied to take care of some city. But that’s no bad thing at all. The Tick is simply a show that doesn’t require anyone to have any prior knowledge about it. Each episode is a simple stand-alone offering in which The Tick faces a new foe, one that is usually a few more times bizarre than he is. And that’s it: take one crazed loon and pit him against a bunch of bumbling do-gooders and there you have a solid twenty minutes of entertainment. What makes The Tick extra unique in this department is that you never see anyone’s alter ego, nor do they have other jobs; as far as the show is concerned the superheroes are just superheroes, who eat, sleep and breath in their “costumes” 24/7. And of course that’s the main pull. The Tick himself is a brilliant creation, a guy that inadvertently destroys more than he saves (cruising rooftops and taking them out along the way). Voiced marvellously by Townsend Coleman he lends Tick that perfect blend of naivety and instilled heroism that sees Tick spouting all kinds of whacky and surreal monologues, while Micky Dolenz provides Arthur with a nice, milder than mild-mannered persona as the big blue’s trusty sidekick. As the series goes on and more characters are introduced we see plenty of comradery and bickering in equal measure, which is usually at its funniest with four muscle-bound heroes cramped in Arthur’s sister’s tiny car. As for those bad guys, well I really don’t need to explain them after reading the names; they’re exactly as they say on the tin. Expect to find criminals with world domination plans, and some who’ll just be happy with their name etched on the moon’s surface.


The Tick is a series that’s always managed to look great. Animated by Sunbow, who are perhaps most famed for G.I. Joe and Transformers, it’s certainly one of their most polished shows, and interestingly enough it was the only one that really gained popularity during their nineties spell, aside from Bucky O’Hare which preceded it by three years. In comparison The Tick feels quite toned down. While it’s often pacey and action packed it has a simplified quality; characters are suitably defined without being overly detailed and likewise most of the backdrops are simple but elegant. I can’t help but think noir-ish thoughts when viewing The Tick and what struck me immediately when watching it again after all these years is how the series can establish itself in a nineties period and pull off a forties vibe. Take the scenes whenever we see our heroes grab a quick coffee for instance, with angles that almost perfectly replicate Edward Hopper’s painting “Nighthawks”, with also nice nods going to gangster figures Peter Lorre and James Cagney, not to mention Doug Katsaros’s (also of Bucky O’Hare fame) brilliant jazz score that livens up events no end. Season One of The Tick got off to a great start, establishing its characters easily and setting a perfect tone that wasn’t difficult to maintain. Good ol’ undemanding fun.

Twelve episodes of the thirteen produced for season one are spread across two dual-layered discs. The missing episode in question is “The Tick vs. The Mole Men”. There has been much speculation as to why it has been shelved for now; some say Cindy Crawford isn’t happy with the Mindy Moleford character, which has been completely written off as being untrue and I believe it because the episode isn’t offensive in the slightest The only statement released by Buena Vista is as follows:

“Due to creative considerations episode 11 (“The Tick vs. The Mole Men”) is not included. However, we hope to include it in future Tick releases.”

It’s likely that we’re looking at a rights issue and at this point I can only imagine that it has something to do with Superman and the Mole-Men. Of course I could be totally wrong, it might not be a name issue at all. Whatever the case it may just make its way onto future sets.

The episode list for season one is as follows:

Disc 1:

1) The Tick vs. The Idea Men
The Tick is finally assigned a city - “The City” in fact. Upon arriving he soon meets a young accountant by the name of Arthur. He learns that Arthur wishes to be a superhero and so he asks him to become his sidekick. The Tick then moves in with Arthur and they await crime. Soon enough a group calling themselves The Idea Men start to rob banks because they don’t want to work anymore, but no one can understand the demands that they’re issuing because of their stupid helmets.

2) The Tick vs. Chairface Chippendale
Aided by Professor Chromedome, criminal mastermind Chairface Chippendale has invited The City’s most notorious criminals to bear witness to his latest genial plan. The Tick, Arthur and American Maid go undercover and crash his party in the hopes of stopping him from doing a little D.I.Y. on the moon.

3) The Tick vs. Dinosaur Neil
Even superheroes need a day off and Tick decides to take Arthur on a trip to learn about dinosaurs. There they meet a scientist named Dinosaur Neil who informs them that he’s able to create dinosaurs from cells that have been recently discovered, but these cells must be kept protected in a special liquid. Unbeknownst to Neil at the time he mistakes this substance for his salad and soon he grows into a hundred foot tall dinosaur who goes on a wide-spread rampage.

4) The Tick vs. Mr. Mental
When Tick and Arthur go to see Mr. Mental perform his mind tricks on stage Mr. Mental seizes the opportunity to invade Tick’s tiny mind and hypnotise him into doing his bidding. His plan is to have Tick steal a device that he may use to enhance his powers even further. With Tick out of it Arthur and the gang must race to save their friend.

5) The Tick vs. The Breadmaster
The Breadmaster and his loyal sidekick Buttery Pat have been placing bread bombs throughout the city, but Tick and Arthur soon learn that it’s all leading up to one potentially devastating attack on The City.

6) The Tick vs. El Seed
El Seed, a Spanish sunflower-headed man, emerges to take revenge on all humans for their mistreatment of flowers. Trees and flowers everywhere begin to attack the citizens of The City and it’s up to Tick and Arthur, with some help from The Civic Minded Five, to put an end to this tirade.

7) The Tick vs. The Tick
Arthur borrows his sister Dot’s car for the evening as he drives his superhero friends to a superhero club. Unfortunately for Arthur The Doorman sends him to the Sidekicks Lounge, while Tick, Die Fledermaus and Sewer Urchin check out the main room. There they mingle with fellow heroes, but soon a man calling himself The Tick kicks up a fuss and demands that Tick loses his name. As a battle between Ticks rages on The Evil Midnight Bomber begins to place bombs all around the joint.

8) The Tick vs. The Uncommon Cold
Even superheroes get colds. Arthur tends to Tick’s needs as he lays on the sofa begging for more chicken soup. When Arthur goes next door he’s taken hostage by Thrakkorzog, an evil ruler from Dimension 14B, who plans to rule the world with a clone army of Tick soldiers. Of course he needs a tissue sample from Tick first. He clones Arthur and sends the clone next door to capture a “tissue sample”. Mucus mayhem ensues.


Disc 2:

9) The Tick vs. Brainchild
Tick and Arthur go shopping when their microwave oven breaks. When they arrive they find that only one oven is left on the shelf, but as Tick grabs it a mechanical dog snatches it from his hands. The dog Skippy belongs to an adolescent boy named Charles, who is planning to pull the moon into the earth, just because he can.

10) The Tick vs. Pineapple Pokopo
The Tick, Arthur and American Maid are called into action once more when a space capsule containing a monkey that’s just been subjected to certain rays crash lands on a Pokoponesian island. The monkey, Yank, has suddenly become super smart and he’s quickly grabbed by the island’s governor Pineapple Pokopo and forced into doing his bidding.

11) N/A

12) The Tick vs. Proto-Clown
A giant clown is causing havoc throughout The City. An experiment gone wrong he was only meant to entertain, but now when people laugh at him he’s thrown into fits of rage. When Tick confronts him the clown sends him reeling into space, where he goes on a journey of self-discovery, while down below Arthur and The Civic Minded Five attempt to put a stop to Proto-Clown’s madness.

13) The Tick vs. Arthur’s Bank Account
Arthur is left fuming when Tick uses his credit cards to fix up the apartment and build a crime tower. With The Tick keeping himself busy an elderly villain known as The Terror resurfaces with his companions Stalin, The Man-eating Cow, Tuun-la and The Human Ton and Handy.


The DVD

The Tick is a series that had long been on my most wanted shows on DVD list. Over the past couple of years I’ve seen some personal faves get releases and with this one finally hitting the retail market I was quite pleased. However, if like me you consider yourself a fan of the series, as well as being an A/V enthusiast then prepare yourself for immense disappointment. Not only is The Tick’s first season baron of any extras but it’s also been given one of the most disrespectful transfers I’ve ever had the misfortune to gaze upon. Hell, they put more effort into the animated menus. Included in the amaray case is a collector’s card, complete with Tick fact.

A/V

The Tick is presented in its original 1.33:1 ratio. Right, so that’s the good out of the way. The bad news is that the source material is a poor analogue master. I have some old BBC2 recordings still on tape and even those, while being understandably soft, don’t exhibit the sheer amount of crap that litters this release. First up is the worst case of dot crawl perhaps on any DVD ever; it’s far too distracting, showing up on character outlines throughout the entire two discs. In addition colour bleeds across the board and there’s severe ringing, along with unsightly compression artefacts, aliasing and cross colourisation. The disc is also interlaced. As for colour it’s reasonably sound. The show pretty much looked the same a few years back, with even The Tick’s blue costume oddly changing from a deep blue to turquoise from scene to scene. I never did understand what the cause of that was, but otherwise tones and levels aren’t too shabby and had they not been blighted by such severe authoring problems they’d be perfectly acceptable. Likewise detail is fine and appears to be as sharp as we could expect. It’s watchable, but that’s not enough to forgive such huge oversights. Honestly, how can you get almost every possible deterrent on one disc? And why does it say “Digitally Mastered” on the back of the box?

As for sound this fares better, presenting the original Dolby Digital track. Though it lists surround sound it’s really a faux 5.1 track. The action and dialogue takes place centrally and for the most part it sounds fine, with quieter moments revealing a little noise; this isn’t too bothersome due to the rapid and boisterous nature of the show.

Optional English subtitles are included, so there’s a bonus for some.


Overall

“What do we do now?”
“Well, we find the vegetable villain that did this to me and get the antidote.”
“There’s an antidote?”
“Villains always have an antidote. They’re funny that way.”

The Tick is a damn fine comedy series that both kids and adults will enjoy; It’s a lot of fun spotting dozens of references and laughing along with the wealth of crazy and dysfunctional heroes and villains that crop up throughout. Sadly the release that all Tick fans have been waiting for for so long has been given zero care. So let me understand this Disney, if there’s no Michael Mouse in the contents then it isn’t worth bothering with? I’m just sorry that I can’t recommend this release to enthusiasts who have been clamouring for this release. Absolutely disgraceful. For me, the single biggest DVD disappointment of the year.
Details and Specifications
DVD Video Review

Region: 1

Certificate: Not Rated

Distributor:
Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Running Time:
252 mins approx
Soundtracks:
English Dolby Digital
French Dolby Digital

Subtitles:
English

Director:
Henry Tucker
Art Vitello

Main cast:
Townsend Coleman
Micky Dolenz
Cam Clarke
Kay Lenz
Jess Harnel
Rob Paulson
Tony Jay
Jim Cummings
Roddy McDowall
Susan Silo
Kevin Schon
Roger Rose
Ed Gilbert
Pat Fraley
Pat Musick
Maurice LaMarche

-- more --
Ratings
Film
8
Video
3
Audio
6
Extras
0
5
About Kevin Gilvear
Kev joined The Digital Fix team in 2004, specializing in Asian cinema and cult film and television. During that time he’s also worked on various features, including bringing exclusive interviews to the site. Today he divides his time between covering movies for The Movie Fix (where he watches far too many Japanese pink films) and writing about music, with a spot of photography, for The Music Fix.


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