The Tick: The Animated Series is an American animated television series adaptation of the New England Comics superhero, The Tick. The series debuted September 10, 1994 on the Fox network's Fox Kids block and was responsible for introducing the satirical comic book character to a mainstream audience. Lasting three seasons, the final episode aired on November 24, 1996. Since then, The Tick has been syndicated by various networks, further increasing the show's cult following, and has been released on both VHS and DVD. A live-action series was created in 2001.
While still in college, Tick creator Ben Edlund was producing his independent comic book series based on the character. He was eventually approached by Kiscom, a small, New Jersey-based toy licensing and design company. Kiscom wanted to create successful merchandising off The Tick similar to that experienced by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, then a fellow independent comic series, the year prior. However, major TV networks and studios were reluctant to take on an animated series based on the absurd character. Kiscom stayed in touch with Edlund and finally Sunbow Entertainment, a small animation company based out of New York, paired him up with writer Richard Libmann-Smith. The two had virtually no experience in animation or television but for two months worked vigorously on the first episode of The Tick. Neither man held high esteem over their final script, and their feelings were validated when FOX turned down the first pitch. They were given one more chance to refine it within five days. Over the following weekend, the two worked "instinctively" with little sleep and ended up satisfying FOX. Edlund later reflected, "We kind of defined in one weekend exactly where the show went for that first season, which was cool."
While some darker characters and sexual innuendo seen in the comic series would be removed for its animated counterpart, Sunbow's Tick series would hold to its satirical roots. Writing duties were also given to Christopher McCulloch who had met Edlund prior to their television work and wrote several issues of the Tick comic book series. The two would much later work together on McCulloch's Adult Swim series, The Venture Bros.. Edlund, a co-producer of The Tick, remained very hands-on during the production of episodes and delayed the series. According to Edlund:
|“||There was a period where I was extremely attentive to everything that had to be solved, and these efforts ultimately made the show a year late. I saw the storyboards that were being done and realized that if The Tick were animated off of those, it would fall apart. It would be a shadow of what it is now, which is something that isn't massively successful, but has this real staying power. So now instead of looking like bad '90s animation, it kind of looks like bad '70s superhero animation, which definitely has a unique style about it.||”|
The Tick finally premiered on September 10, 1994 and met with success. Edlund later expressed his view that, because the series did not reach the commercial heights of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, its merchandising success deteriorated by the end of its first season. However, he gave a positive view, stating "That's essentially good as far as I'm concerned; although, I would be much more wealthy at this point. That failure, to me, makes The Tick a much more sincere proposal."
Rather than being an asylum escapee, as portrayed in the Tick comic book series, the animated version of The Tick crashes a superhero convention to win the "protectorship" of The City. With its emphasis on superhero parody, The Tick became a Saturday morning staple during the Fox Kids block. Its title character was voiced by Townsend Coleman and his sidekick, Arthur, by Micky Dolenz for Season 1. Rob Paulsen would take over the Arthur voice roles during Seasons 2 and 3. The series also features Die Fledermaus as a shallow, self-absorbed Batman parody; Sewer Urchin, a Rain Man-like version of Aquaman; and American Maid, a more noble superheroine featuring aspects of Wonder Woman and Captain America.
The show's opening theme, written by Doug Katsaros, who also composed the scores for every episode, consists of big band music and campy scat singing. A typical episode plot would have The Tick battling a villain until Arthur devises a solution that saves the day. The Tick then declares an absurd moral regarding the previous conflict before the story comes to a close. Although the series was initially aimed primarily at children, it features an absurdist, parody style that appeals to an older audience as well.
By November 1996, after three seasons, The Tick had come to an end. The following year, FOX began talks with Sunbow Entertainment about producing a prime time Tick special, but this never came to fruition. Comedy Central syndicated The Tick during this time and subsequently helped make it a cult hit with adults. In May 2000, the pilot episode for a live action series of The Tick was completed. FOX attempted to capitalize on the growing adult fan base by introducing this new incarnation in November 2001, but due to its major time slot, the series couldn't match the success of its animated predecessor.
On August 29, 2006, Buena Vista Home Entertainment released the first season of The Tick on DVD as The Tick vs. Season One. This collection contains only 12 of the 13 episodes. On May 31, 2006, Disney released the following statement regarding the missing episode: "Due to licensing problems, episode #11 ("The Tick vs. The Mole Men") is not included. However, we hope to include it in future DVD releases of The Tick". The UK edition of the first season, released the following year by Liberation Entertainment Ltd., presented all 13 episodes.
The second season of The Tick, entitled The Tick vs. Season Two, was released on August 7, 2007. This DVD release is not the complete set, however, as it is missing the episode "Alone Together." This episode features Omnipotus, a parody of Galactus (though earlier episodes used similar comic book parodies, and are available on the DVD releases). In the August 6, 2006 entry of his blog, Christopher McCulloch, the writer for all of the omitted episodes, states that he does not know the reason for the exclusion of episode #11 from the Season 1 DVD.
In the UK the complete Seasons 1–3 have been released as a box set. The UK versions of seasons 1–3 are uncut unlike the US versions of seasons 1 and 2, which are syndicated edits and not the original broadcast versions.
During its original run, The Tick was nominated for several Annie Awards as well as Emmys and, in 1995, won two of the former. In March 2008, Wizard magazine ranked The Tick #16 on its Top 100 Greatest Cartoons. In January 2009, IGN ranked The Tick #6 on its Top 100 Animated Series list. IGN went on to regard it "the first great lampooning of the superhero genre" and compared the series to Mel Brooks and Monty Python.
The character Sentinel Prime from Transformers Animated was voiced by Townsend Coleman and, thus, intentionally designed to look like The Tick with his heavy jaw and enormous chest. This was confirmed by Transformers: Animated writers at BotCon '08.