• Tick, The – The Complete Series

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Released on: February 4th, 2014.
    Director: Barry Sonnenfeld, Various
    Cast: Patrick Warburton, David Burke, Nestor Carbonell, Liz Vassey
    Year: 2001
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    The Movie:

    The Tick began as a small press black and white comic by writer and illustrator Ben Edlund (who would later go on to work on The Venture Brothers, various Joss Whedon projects and the WB’s Supernatural) published by NEC Comics back in the eighties after beginning life as the mascot for New England Comics’ store newsletter. Comic fans will remember it, if for no other reason than it was printed ‘golden age size’ and therefore wouldn’t fit properly in standard size comic bags!

    The series quickly found a cult audience, however, and Edlund’s hilarious superhero parody eventually transitioned into an animated series in 1994. It lasted three seasons and featured Townsend Coleman (the same guy who voiced Michelangelo in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon) as the voice of the titular hero. A merchandising boom ensued and we got more comics, a line of toys, and even a video game.

    All of this did well enough that a live action series was developed. Sony bankrolled the pilot with none other than Barry Sonnenfeld spearheading it and Fox broadcast the pilot episode on November 8, 2001. A few weeks later in January of 2002, the series would air its ninth and final episode, laying to rest a series that was not only genuinely hilarious, but also very much ahead of its time.

    The nine episodes that make up the complete series of The Tick are laid on the DVD as follows:

    Pilot (A.K.A. The Tick Vs. The Red Scare) – a big goofy guy with antennas and a form fitting blue outfit has been righting wrongs at a bus station for long enough that when he finds a bus ticket, he heads into the city. He arrives and meets a meek accountant named Arthur (David Burke) who is just launching his own career as a superhero. He announces himself as The Tick (Patrick Warburton) and he and Arthur team up to stop a Soviet era robot programmed in 1979 from murdering Jimmy Carter in a hotel.

    The Funeral – One of the most famous superheroes of all time, The Immortal (Sam McMurray), is in town to sign copies of his new book. A romantic encounter with Captain Liberty (Liz Vassey) gives the man a heart attack, however, and The Tick and Arthur must deal with The Immortal’s corpse while Bat Manuel (Nestor Carbonell) impersonates the iconic figure at the book store.

    Couples – The Tick and Arthur are impressed when they meet the more seasoned crime fighting duo of Fiery Blaze (Rob Perlman) and his sidekick Friendly Fire (Patrick Breen). They make a dinner date for later that night where Arthur can’t help but notice how Friendly Fire is treated by Blaze. When The Tick starts treating Arthur in the same subservient manner, he and Friendly Fire leave to check out a sidekicks’ support group.

    The License – When The Tick is busted for superheroing without a license, he and Arthur set out to get authorized by the city but soon learn that this is no easy task because no one knows The Tick’s origin or background. When a woman claiming to be the Tick's wife appears, The Tick latches onto her and leaves Arthur hanging. But of course, married life is not what The Tick wants from the world, and this soon starts to fray just as Arthur and Captain Liberty dig up the real dirt on his supposed wife and her true motives.

    Arthur Needs Space (A.K.A. Arthur Needs His Space) – Arthur is shy and often bashful around girls but when things start going his way, he finds the courage to seek the love he craves. This is all well and good, except there’s the not insignificant matter of the Big Blue Bug Of Justice getting his mitts into matters he should play no part in, causing Arthur to need a break from his crime-fighting partner for a while.

    The Big Leagues - The Tick, Arthur, Captain Liberty and Bat Manuel are dinner when the Tick and they find a letter from the League of Superheroes inviting all of them to join… except Captain Liberty. Batmanuel gets her a lawyer to sue for discrimination completely unaware that he’s actually The Champion (Jonathan Penner), a member of the League. The Champion then leans on Arthur and The Tick to try and get Captain Liberty to drop her case as the new recruits soon learn that maybe the League isn’t all its cut out to be after all.

    The Tick Vs. Justice - The Tick, Arthur and Batmanuel get into a fight with Destroyo (Kurt Fuller) and wind up in court when the authorities discover nuclear weapons in the villain’s trunk. The Tick turns out to be a horrible witness, however, and he winds up in contempt of court and sentenced to a night in jail where he befriends while Arthur and Batmanuel do everything that they can to find the evidence that they need to put Destroyo away, even if that means battling ninja, possibly to the death.

    Arthur, Interrupted – Arthur’s friends all know he’s a closeted superhero and pressure him to come out to his family. When he does, they try to convince him he’s made a horrible mistake and when they fail, they wind up having him taken off to an insane asylum where he can’t hurt anyone or himself. Meanwhile the Tick can’t find his friend and sets out trying to figure out what happened to him just as the doctor in charge of the asylum’s own secret life is revealed.

    The Terror (A.K.A. The Tick Vs. The Terror) – As The Tick and Arthur prepare to celebrate the first anniversary of their partnership, we learn how Captain Liberty recruited a centuries old supervillain named The Terror (Armin Shimerman) to take down The Tick. Why? Because he keeps managing to somehow prove himself a better superhero than she.

    Each of the nine twenty plus minute long episodes that make up the series is colorful, quirky, clever and hilarious. The series plays all of this just straight enough to work as a parody, but the humor comes quickly and often times with some pretty worthy jabs at the ridiculousness inherent in the superhero genre. At the same time, you get the impression that everyone is having a great time, it’s never mean spirited – just funny! Little bits, like Bat Manuel’s reaction to the cops towing his car for unpaid parking tickets or The Tick’s deadpan reaction when he steps in some gum puzzlingly left on the top of a roof give the series a good bit of replay while the costumes and effects suit the material just fine, balancing the artificial nicely with the live action.

    Of course, none of this would work as well as it does if the cast weren’t game and the four principals are perfectly in their respective roles. Liz Vassey is great as the attractive female crime fighter fast approaching her thirtieth birthday and stressing out about her aging. An episode in which she tries to compensate by buying a dog adds a layer of comedic humanity to her character. Nestor Carbonell as Bat Manuel, the Spanish playboy superhero more interested in tail than in truth, frequently steals most of the scenes he’s in while David Burke as the straight laced Arthur is a blast to watch. In the opening episode he tries to stand up to his boss (Christopher Lloyd) about his intentions of becoming a superhero only to be reminded about an employee who cashed out his 401k, bought a jetpack and now needs a machine to live. His reaction to Lloyd’s over the top delivery is a high point in the series genesis. Patrick Warburton though, he’s the man. He plays The Tick PERFECTLY as he not only has exactly the right voice for the character but he looks the part too. His completely serious, dead pan delivery of the character’s lines really sets the bar pretty high and he’s consistently excellent in the show.

    This series aired a few years before the superhero explosion set Hollywood box offices on fire with the success of various Marvel and DC properties. Had it been broadcast later in the 2000’s it probably would have done better in the ratings department as critical reception was deservedly quite good. Regardless, it’s better to burn out than fade away and while these nine episodes go by way too quickly, the plus side is that the series never got the chance to drop in quality.


    Mill Creek presents all nine episodes of The Tick on DVD in its proper 1.33.1 fullframe aspect ratio, just as it was originally broadcast and it looks like the transfers here are the same as those found on the Sony release from 2003. That release was a two disc set, this release is a single disc and some compression artifacts do pop up in the image. Aside from that, the picture quality is fine. Colors look very well defined, The Tick’s blue outfit really standing out against the various backgrounds used. Though there’s a softness to some of the episodes, it looks like that’s got more to do with effects and photography than the transfer itself. For the most part, the video quality here is perfectly fine.

    The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track on the disc is fine. Sound effects have nice punch to them and the music used throughout the series has decent range and presence. Dialogue stays clean and clear and there are no issues with hiss or distortion.

    Aside from menus and chapter stops, there are no extras on the DVD.

    The Final Word:

    The Tick was a series very much ahead of its time and it’s a shame that it didn’t last longer than the nine episode run it was given. Warburton really nails the character and brings the spirit of the original comic to life while the supporting cast turns in equally enjoyable work. Mill Creek’s DVD is a no frills affair but you can’t beat it for the price. If you missed out on the original set years back, no is the time to get caught up.