The Tick in hot pursuit of a villain. Artist: Ben Edlund.


Original medium: Comic books
Published by: New England Comics
First Appeared: 1986
Creator: Ben Edlund
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He may not be as fast as a speeding bullet or as smart as a locomotive, but The Tick excels at falling off tall buildings at a single bound. Fortunately, he's …

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… nigh-invulnerable. And if you don't know what "nigh-invulnerable" means, that's okay — neither do most of the characters.

The Tick is the creation of cartoonist Ben Edlund of New England Comics, a comic book retail outlet located in Quincy, Massachusetts. He first appeared in the 14th issue (July-Aug 1986) of the store's newsletter, which depicted his escape from Evanston Asylum. Taking refuge in The City (which, like the character himself, appears to have no other name), he embarked on a superhero's typical never-ending battle against crime and/or evil.

The customers liked Edlund's character so much, in March, 1988 the company published a limited edition comic book about him, available through the store or by mail order. It quickly sold out. Another came out in June. That same month, the first comic was reprinted in a nationally circulated edition. Edlund wrote and drew 12 issues between 1988 and '93, and there have been numerous specials, mini-series, etc. in the years since. In addition, supporting characters such as Man-eating Cow and Paul the Samurai have held down titles of their own for a half-dozen or more issues.

The Tick was a solitary character at first, occasionally running into fellow super folks like Paul or Oedipus the Assassin, but mostly foiling deadly menaces on his own. But in the fourth issue (March, 1989), he met Arthur, a short, pudgy, somewhat shy accountant who had recently decided to become a superhero, using a moth motif that somehow made him look like a large bunny rabbit. Arthur admired The Tick's style, and applied for a job as the larger and less employable superhero's sidekick. Since then, The Tick and Arthur have been an inseparable team. The adventurous arthropods went on to eclipse Megaton Man, Wonder Warthog, The Inferior Five and all the rest, to become the most successful superhero parody ever.

By the mid 1990s, the comic books were being handled by writers and artists other than Edlund, while the characters' creator concentrated on bringing The Tick to other media. On Sept. 10, 1994, the animated version debuted on Fox Kids Network, bringing with it all the toys, T-shirts, etc. that inevitably accompany Saturday morning cartoons. Townsend Coleman (Where's Waldo?) did the title character's voice, with Micky Dolenz (Skip in The Funky Phantom, to say nothing of his role in The Monkees) as Arthur. In the second season, Dolenz was replaced by Rob Paulsen, of Animaniacs fame. In 1996, the series was picked up by the cable TV network Comedy Central. Fox continued to air the show in rerun form even while Comedy Central was showing new episodes. A total of 36 half-hours were made.

The Tick's most recent foray into the media was a live-action TV show, with Patrick Warburton (voice of Buzz Lightyear) as the nigh-invulnerable arachnid and David Burke (God in Testament: The Bible in Animation) as Arthur (aka Mothman, no relation). In the tradition of live-action versions of Li'l Abner, Popeye and Dick Tracy, no effort was spared to make it look and feel exactly like the cartoon. This incarnation of The Tick debuted on Fox as a regular program for grown-ups, on November 8, 2001. This, however, was the version that put the "nigh" in "nigh-invulnerable". It was the first in which The Tick failed to win throngs of new fans. It lasted less than three months. The final episode aired Jan. 24, 2002.

But the animated version is still seen in rerun form. And books collecting The Tick's myriad of comic book adventures can still be seen at comic book stores.


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Text ©2001-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Benjamin Edlund.