10 Things That Must Be in a Live-Action The Tick Relaunch

By Matthew Catania in Comics, Daily Lists, TV
Friday, September 5, 2014 at 6:00 am

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SPOON! Rumors abound that Amazon will resurrect the the prematurely cancelled live action The Tick! Ben Edlund, creator of The Tick, confirms the project "is being pursued with vigor!" Patrick Warburton is expected to reprise his starring role! His perfect live action Tick costume should return with him!

What's not clear so far is whether it'll be a brand new reboot (aside from Warburton as the Tick) or a continuation of the last live-action show. Does anybody remember 2001's The Tick? It was a mixed bag of great and not so great. It was canceled after nine episodes before it had a chance to iron out its kinks, and I'd like to see the new The Tick flourish where its predecessor failed. So here's a list of things it should work on to help it stand up to today's competition. It can be mighty!



10. Nestor Carbonell as Batmanuel

When I first saw Die Fledermaus was being replaced by Batmanuel (for legal reasons that also changed American Maid to Captain Liberty), I was disappointed because Die Fledermaus's costume rivals even Batman's for coolness. (I also had my heart set on Bruce Campbell playing him.) My opinion changed once I saw Nestor Carbonell in the role. Batmanuel may be little more than a one note character, but Carbonell played that note really well! He's the almost the opposite of the Tick, but the actor imbued him with enough charisma that you root for him instead of loathing him.

If it weren't for Patrick Warburton perfectly embodying the Tick (he'd get his own entry on this list if he weren't already onboard), Carbonell would be the show's MVP. (You can also check out their voicework together in select episodes of Kim Possible.) He's spoken well of The Tick during interviews, so hopefully Amazon can lure him back too. Watching Carbonell reprise his Batmanuel role would be even funnier now that he's played Gotham City's Mayor in Christopher Nolan's ultra-serious Dark Knight trilogy.

9. Villains, Inc.

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When fledgling superheroes want to make names for themselves, they call up Villains, Inc. It's a business that rents out fake supervillains that pretend to be beaten by superhero clients in front of news crews. Its "supervillain" employees even spout pre-fab threats before taking a fall. This is such a funny and cynical concept that I'm shocked it hasn't been stolen more often. (Decoy villains for the benefit of the real supervillains in Batman Begins, Iron Man 3, and earlier versions of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aren't the same deal.)

The Tick first encountered them when he mistook the Red Scare for a real supervillain before his client, the Running Guy (he's faster than ten really fast guys!), made it to the scene. The Red Scare already appeared as a badass robot programmed to kill Jimmy Carter on the last version of the show, but if they don't want to reuse that name and costume there are plenty of wacky supervillains they could substitute, like Whirling Scottish Devil.

Villains, Inc. could even be an excuse to save money on casting by having most of the villains throughout the series be played by the same actor. In-between the Tick accidentally beating up villains that somebody else paid for, the rest of the cast could get involved in workplace hijinks at Villains, Inc. Its bickering owners, Mort and Terry, are already characters in the comics. Watching wannabe superheroes argue with Villains, Inc. customer service about refunds due to the Tick's intervenion would match perfectly with the live-action show's tone.

8. Chainsaw Vigilante

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The Chainsaw Vigilante never made it onto the cartoon, likely because he was too violent for Broadcast Standards & Practices. That, or chainsaws are hard to animate. But he'd be a perfect fit for an edgy live action show. All that's needed is a mask and a chainsaw. His deal is that he attacks superheroes with his chainsaw (but not killing them) to stop them from endangering society while dressed in ridiculous costumes. He's a deconstructionist character, so the upside-down Smiley Face pin on his jacket evocative of Watchmen's Comedian is no accident. Since he targets heroes wearing silly costumes (which is pretty much all of them in The Tick), the show could go even more meta by using him to poke fun at the "grounded in realism" trend.

The Chainsaw Vigilante would add an interesting dynamic to the show since he's somewhere in between a villain and a hero. (My other suggestion for a morally ambiguous anti-hero is the mysterious Red Eye, who is the Ghost Rider of hitch-hikers.) He does have a point that most of the heroes in The City are too self-absorbed to really help people, but he's a hypocrite for putting on his own costume to harass them instead of directly combating society's ills. The Tick can turn his life around by demonstrating that some superheroes really are genuinely noble. This teaching moment would follow the Chainsaw Vigilante discovering that not only does the Tick not wear a costume - he's also impervious to chainsaws.

7. Experienced The Tick Writers

Trying to get new writers to understand The Tick's unqiue brand of humor is effort that could be better spent corralling writers who already have experience writing for The Tick. Obviously creator Ben Edlund should be involved as showrunner. He's racked up enough writing and producing credits on shows like Angel, Firefly, The Venture Brothers, Revolution, and Supernatural to qualify. Next to him, it'd be amazing if Chris McCulloch (the secret identity of Jackson Publick) had time off from The Venture Brothers to work on this. Not only does The Venture Brothers excel at mixing the mundane with the bizarre, but he's also written for both of the prior The Tick TV shows and the comic books. In fact, everyone who's written for the cartoon is welcome back. Eli Stone's and Benito Cereno's stints on The Tick comics should also earn them seats in the writers' room. (Did you know that a legal dramedy and a Herman Melville novella became sentient enough to write comic books?) They'll all nail the Tick's patented rambling monologues right out of the gate.

Picking the right behind the scenes people for the job seems like a no-brainer, but it's still worth demanding. At this point, it's unclear how much creative freedom Amazon will give Edlund. There's a long history of the wrong screenwriters being assigned to genre projects: Akiva Goldsman was allowed to miss the entire points of I, Robot and I Am Legend after Batman & Robin - just because he got an Oscar for A Beautiful Mind. After he co-wrote the disastrous X-Men: The Last Stand, Simon Kinberg still got to write Bryan Singer's X-Men prequels. Alex Kurtzman's and Roberto Orci's intentionally comedic episodes of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess are far less embarrassing than their serious screenplays for Transformers, Star Trek Into Darkness and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. David Goyer made Superman as dour as Batman and thinks Martian Manhunter is too goofy to use as-is in a Justice League movie. So let's not Monkey's Paw The Tick up again by saddling it with writers that don't get its jokes.

6. Lighthearted Madness

Neither the cartoon nor the live-action show has touched on the Tick being an escapee from the Evanston Asylum. (He left because he was bored.) In the early issues there was a mysterious van labeled "Please ignore this van ... we are not spies!" that led some readers to wonder whether they were manifestations of the Tick's paranoia or if they really were spy vans sent by the Evanston Asylum to observe him. It was the latter, but a van like this would be easier on this show's budget than the Tick's hallucination of The City's edifices transforming into mocking visages. While it would be a mistake to dwell too much on this aspect of his background, since mental health care is a delicate issue, exploring the Tick's dubious sanity could spice up the less dynamic episodes.

A less controversial way to reference the Tick's madness beyond his zany dialogue is how he relates to inanimate objects. He used to wield a "Secret Crime Viewfinder," which looked like a regular View-Master but allowed him to detect where evil was afoot. By wearing a "hypnotic" tie, he was hired as the Weekly World Planet's crossword puzzle editor despite not having a resume or understanding how crossword puzzles work. Is this proof of his insanity, or does he really possess the ability to imbue ordinary objects with unusual powers? The best example of this on the cartoon was probably Little Wooden Boy. He was the greatest sidekick ever! Why is there suddenly fluid leaking from my eyes?

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