I'll admit, The Tick is one of my absolute favorite comics of all time for one reason: the creator, Ben Edlund, has got to be nuts. Although I didn't exactly follow the book since its creation in the latter half of the 1980s, one of the first trade paperbacks (phone-book sized comic book compilations) I purchased was The Tick Omnibus, a collection of the first eight issues. The Tick himself was a strange concoction of superhero: part Superman, part Spider-Man, part escaped lunatic from a nearby mental institution (no really, he was). However, the real standouts were the supporting cast: after all, no other comic book at the time featured characters as wonderfully odd as "Chairface Chippendale," "The Civic-Minded Five," and "Paul the Samurai". Ben Edlund had done what only a few independent comic creators had ever done before: he created one of the most colorful back-and-white comics ever seen. For me, The Tick was rivaled in creator-owned heart only by Dave Sim's epic Cerebus, Jeff Smith's wonderful book Bone, Evan Schmidt's electrifying Surge, and Erik Larsen's over-the-top The Savage Dragon. Needless to say, I read the whole thing front to back many times over, and rabidly searched for more Tick stuff. Luckily, my timing was pretty good.
This was right around the time of The Tick's animated series premiere in 1994, and the madcap feel of the show fit right in with the rest of the Saturday morning lineup. A few things were noticeably different than the book, though: the title character's origin as an escaped mental patient was gone, as well as some of the more risqué subject matter and dialogue. The comic books themselves would have never earned more than a PG or PG-13 rating, but I guess things had to be slightly sanitized for "the kids" (see also: Ren & Stimpy). Much to my delight, however, was the look of the show itself: it stayed very true to the comic, and many of the stories were adapted into episodes themselves. Even though the animated series ran for only three years, it was one of the brighter spots on Saturday morning, and still remains one of my favorites growing up.
Although the flagship comic was still being printed (and reprinted) well after the end of the animated series, The Tick's twenty-three minutes of fame (in between commercial breaks) looked to be over. That is, until I heard the announcement only a few short years ago: "FOX is airing The Tick as a live-action show to be seen in prime-time."
I was happy, surprised, and confused at the same time.
I've generally harbored bad thoughts about cartoons and comics being brought to live action, and for good reason: they usually suck big-time. The reasons? Comics and cartoons are rooted in imagination: an anvil can appear out of nowhere, a big green guy can jump for miles, or a man can fly…and nobody questions it. Well, some people do, but they need to get a life. The point is, live action (apart from CGI) is the real world personified, and most comics and cartoons are just the opposite. Still, it was The Tick, so I had to check it out anyway.
Upon the initial viewing of the series premiere, I really liked it. It was totally unlike any other show I'd seen up until that point, as was almost as refreshing as the animated series itself. Don't get me wrong…I think The Tick's heart will always be hand-drawn, but the feel of the show was right on! It brought back the "edge" of the comic (most notably due to the prime-time slot), and was even slightly more adult than the comic itself. The cast itself was also a great call: Patrick Waterburn was an excellent choice for The Tick himself, while his faithful sidekick Arthur was played to a "T" by David Burke. The supporting cast was also top-notch, and each really helped to populate a truly unique world. Sure, some die-hard fans probably cried foul because some of the names were changed, or The Tick's costume was a little too blue. To me, though, it was a dead ringer for the original's spirit and deserved more respect than it got from FOX (and the general public, but that's another story).
This leads us to the only major problem of the series itself: it ran for eight episodes, and was promptly cancelled. Ouch. Some may argue it was a victim of bad timing, or simply mishandled by a company who didn't know what they had (anyone remember Clerks: The Animated Series?), but maybe the public just didn't get it. Another added disadvantage (besides for the generally low budget) was the fact that a majority of episodes were aired out of order. All excuses aside though, this show really wasn't for everyone…heck, the comic itself wasn't exactly a best seller, but it had a tremendous cult following. In the end, though, the live-action series looked to be a commercial failure.
However, all is not lost, faithful chum! Lo, a powerful new weapon has been crafted to increase the numbers of the ever-growing Tick Army! To combat the villainous forces of boring, bland TV! To stand up to the face of the general public and boldly say, "In your face, Jack!" Citizens of the planet Earth, I give you The Tick: The Entire Series!
(Come on, you knew I had to say it!)
This new release preserves all eight episodes of the series, as well as a bonus episode which never saw the light of day. I was lucky enough to have seen these episodes many times over---even the unaired one---through the magic of VCD (shhh!), but they didn't look or sound that great. Basically, it was a VHS dub on a shiny disc, but I loved every minute of it. Thankfully, Columbia Tri-Star has seen fit to release these on DVD for the first time, so you could say I was looking forward to this one. Before I (finally) get on to the juicy details, here's a quick rundown of the nine episodes included on the set.
CAUTION: Some of these may contain spoilers, so consider yourselves warned:
Episode 1: The Tick vs. The Red Scare: This was the pilot of the series originally aired on November 1st, 2001. It introduces the main characters of The Tick, Arthur, Batmanuel (AKA Die Fledermaus) and Captain Liberty (AKA American Maid). A few villains are also introduced: The Red Scare (a Russian experimental soldier from WWII) and Apocalypse Cow (AKA Man-Eating Cow). Guest stars include Christopher Lloyd, producer/director Barry Sonnenfeld, and Tick creator Ben Edlund. If all that doesn't immediately sell you, I don't know what else to say.
Episode 2: The Tick vs. The Terror! (unaired episode): This episode was originally planned to be aired after the pilot, but was given the axe and rewritten. It appears here in its completed form, and turned out to be one of the better episodes. Armin Shimerman (better known as the Ferengi "Quark" from Star Trek) guest stars as "The Terror!," a villain straight from the pages of the original comic book. It was great to see this episode included, and gives fans of the show another reason to pick this one up.
Episode 3: Arthur, Interrupted: In this episode, Arthur finally confronts his family about himself and The Tick's relationship as superhero/sidekick. In a great subplot, Arthur is taken to a "superhero psychologist" who tries to get his mind back in the real world (such as it is). Strangely, this was originally the last show aired, but thankfully appears here in the correct continuity.
Episode 4: The License: The Tick needs to obtain his Superhero License (hey, I've got mine), but he doesn't know his real name or whereabouts. Will we learn the secret identity of the big man in blue? Tune in and see, true believers!
Episode 5: Arthur Needs Space: A great episode that shows just how child-like The Tick really is. Arthur meets an old crush who is suddenly attracted by his new and heroic career, and they begin dating. The Tick has no concept of love or sex, so he convinces himself that she has other, villainous motives. Hilarity most certainly ensues on this one, folks.
Episode 6: Couples: This episode, like a few of the others, was more character driven and did not feature a major villain or event. It focused mostly on the relationship between The Tick and Arthur, and also introduced a few new faces to the already packed group of supporting characters.
Episode 7: The Funeral: A very important superhero visiting the city winds up dead, and The Tick and Arthur have to find a way to cover for the poor guy's upcoming book signing. This was a great episode overall. and featured some nice interplay between the main and supporting characters.
Episode 8: The Tick vs. Justice: This was a great episode, and my personal favorite of the series. The Tick is faced with the threat of a new supervillain (Destroyo), but ends up fighting most of the battle in court. Through the magic of the legal system, The Tick ends up in the slammer. Bummer.
Episode 9: The Big Leagues: In the (unkown-at-the-time) final episode of the series, The Tick and Arthur are formally invited to join 'The League of Superheroes.' However, this elite group turns out to be a bunch of snobs. Hmmph...they didn't need those losers anyway!
Overall, this wasn't the most groundbreaking TV series in history, but it sure gets points for trying. While some episodes work better than others, there's really not a complete dud in the bunch. It would have been great to see where this series could have headed, but at least we get what's available. Fans of the comic are sure to get some good laughs here, and curious parties are most definitely encouraged to check this out. But enough chit-chat...let's get down to business, chums!
As mentioned before, the video really took me by surprise. Not only do these episodes look virtually flawless, but they are all presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1)! Originally aired in full screen, these look much better in their correct aspect ratio, and were great to "see again for the first time". The colors really pop when needed, and this is a show where it's needed often. The picture is very bold and the overall image looks great…this is a definite step up from the original television broadcast. The Tick was a low-budget affair, but it looks like a million bucks here!
The audio is also well-rendered and comes through very clear in Dolby Surround. The quality is crystal clear and allows for clean dialogue, but really opens up dramatically during musical cues and scenes of action. It's a great presentation, and like the video, really takes the viewing experience up a notch. While this won't wake the neighbors like a DTS track, it's more than enough for what's needed.
The only aspect of this release that left a little to be desired was the extras. I'll offer my own suggestions later, but let's focus on what's here for the time being:
Commentary with Producer Barry Sonnenfeld and Creator Ben Edlund: These run during Episodes 1, 3, 6, and 8, with Sonnenfeld handling the first and Edlund covering the other three. Barry Sonnenfeld was pretty talkative during his commentary, and is obviously a big fan of The Tick. He had some interesting tales to tell, and covered a lot of ground in just over twenty minutes. It was nice to hear a new perspective on the show, and definitely worth your time. However, I was really eager to hear Ben Edlund's commentary, and I was glad he took the time to participate. While a little more low-key than Sonnenfeld, he handled the time well and spilled his guts with the best of 'em. It's not often you get to hear a comic creator on a TV commentary, but this was a nice listen and definitely recommended for Tick lovers. It would have been nice to hear more (or perhaps a joint track with the two), but these were a welcome addition.
DVD-Rom Content: I could not access the weblink provided on the disc (the site will probably be launched closer to the release date), but I'll update this section when the time comes. The packaging promises "additional added value" and a "surpise guest," but I guess we'll have to wait and see...
Also included are trailers for other current or upcoming Columbia Tri-star releases, including Men in Black I and II, Bad Boys II, and other stuff with Roman numerals after it.
Menu design, presentation, and packaging:
The menus are great and really capture the feel of the show, but the navigation could have been better (considering the slim contents). For example, chapter breaks are present in each episode, but no selection screen is present. Also, the commentaries were a little hard to find...episodes with this feature were only made known via the sub-menus. For a minute or two, I thought they had forgotten about them entirely! There were also no subtitles present...these should always be included.
The packaging itself was pretty cool...the cover artwork was great, as well as the disc designs. Bonus points for the keen blue slimline keep-case. However, these bonus points were quickly taken away for the lack of an insert booklet. Instead, we get some advertisements for other Columbia stuff.
Should anything else have been included?
Honestly, I always hate having to type stuff here. For starters, a cast commentary or behind-the-scenes featurette would have been awesome, not to mention some storyboard artwork or original scripts. Some in-character interviews or even mock biographies would also have been a nice inclusion as well...this looked like a fun show to work on, so why not have more fun with the DVD? The commentaries are great and all, but it seems really strange that nothing else was offered to loyal Tick fans. The second disc had plenty of space left over too, as it was single-layered. While I know this short-lived show probably didn't have mountains of extra stuff available, I felt a little more could have been included to really make this a definitive release.
This was really close to being an absolutely stellar release, but the lack of more meaty extras holds it back a bit. Regardless, this is definitely a great addition to your collection, if only for the excellent presentation of the show itself. Fans of the show are chomping at the bit for this one already...you guys are obviously urged to scoop this one up. For those that missed the boat, jump on now! And do yourselves a favor and pick up some Tick back issues while you're at it. Highly Recommended.