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.
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
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?
5. Man-Eating Cow
The live-action relaunch is the perfect place to re-educate the world about the majesty that is the Man-Eating Cow, but this time she can be closer to her comic book inspiration than she was on the cartoon. (In my head canon, is she only joined The Terror’s crew to destroy them from the inside because she’s no supervillainess.) The show could really use more female characters like her. (Sprinkle in Carmelita, Oedipus, Oedipus’s step-mother, Bumbling Bee, the Ottoman, the Bee Twins, Eclair, Blitzen, Jungle Janet, Crested Grebe, Babe the Blue Ox, Desperadoe, and Scarf Ace as well so Captain Liberty won’t have to represent an entire gender by herself.)
The Man-Eating Cow (not to be confused with Apocalypse Cow) does exactly what it says on the tin. She’s a cow that eats men, providing they’re criminals. (I’m not sure if she has a double standard towards lady lawbreakers.) She spits out any leather items on them because she’s no cannibal. Her ability to hone in on evildovers is so precise that the Tick even entrusted The City to her while he went on a roadtrip. Including Man-Eating Cow would show audiences that The Tick isn’t just a one-trick pony parody of familiar superhero tropes.
The show doesn’t need to worry about how difficult it would be to film a cow eating a person in graphic detail and how much gore it can show. Just have a criminal run down an alley pursued by the Man-Eating Cow, have a reaction shot of the main cast as terrified screams echo forth, and then have her saunter out from the alleyway with some kayro syrup on her snout. If Fringe can have a Holstein as a recurring character, The Tick can have a Jersey guest star. It’d be cheaper than renting a capybara.
4. Ninjas. LOTS Of Ninjas
When The Tick comic debuted in the ’80s, it lampooned the sudden ubiquity of ninjas in comics like Daredevil, X-Men, Batman, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There was one ninja in the previous attempt, and it lead to one of its funniest quotes: “Another urban legend dispelled. Ninjas don’t bounce.” That’s a good start, but the revival can do better. After all, comics has a story entitled “Night of a Million-Zillion Ninja.”
The ninjas were imported to the The City by Sagin to work at his Ninja World theme park and help him obtain the Thorn of Oblivion, which looks like a giant candy corn. That story (featuring Elektra parody Oedipus, and Paul the Samurai with his katana sheathed in a baguette in a failed attempt to sneak it past customs) probably won’t work on a limited budget and with the tone they’ve had, but it could be casually referenced in conversation. What’s important is that the ninjas stuck around in The City after their master was vanquished. Under the conservation of ninjutsu principle, they were ridiculously inept even by typical cannon fodder standards. So it’s not even necessary to hire any stuntmen with superlative karate skills. They only need to be able to impersonate a hedge and complain about their union benefits.
The ninjas have even started integrating into The City and getting everyday jobs. I want as many extras dressed in black ninja uniforms as possible, regardless of the context of a scene. It’d be hilarious to see the cast go for fast food or the DMV and see ninjas working there. Ninjas could walk down the street in broad daylight carrying groceries. It’d be even funnier if they didn’t explain why ninjas make up a quarter of The City’s population. Just don’t neglect to give them one crowning moment of awesome as a ninja hedge.
3. The Comet Club
To liven things up, why not have the Tick and pals take an evening off at the Comet Club? It’s the premiere nightclub for the superhero scene. It even has a Sidekick Lounge! This could be an easy way to introduce a bunch of goofy superheroes that wouldn’t fit in other episodes. It’d actually be preferable not to spend a ton of money on their costumes because they’re supposed to be gag characters. Fishboy the Lost Prince of Atlantis, Firey Blaze (Ron Perlman!), Friendly Fire, the Champion, and other heroes from the previous non-cartoon series could also return.
Which superheroes appear isn’t so important so long as it includes the “original” Tick, Barry Hubris. Having Barry challenge our protagonist for the right call himself the Tick would be a great opportunity to include a fight scene that also skewers superhero clich?s. Barry’s costume and shield would need a little money invested in them since he’s a billionaire, albeit one who foams at the mouth. If they can nab Charlie Day for The Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs At Midnight too, that’d be spectacular.
So yeah, I want a live-action version of The Tick #11 and “The Tick vs. The Tick.” Not everything needs to reinvent the wheel. It has all the potential to be a great episode. It’d combine an activity that most people can relate to (clubbing) with superhero politics and memorable antagonists.
2. Chairface Chippendale
Every superhero needs an arch-nemesis, and the Tick’s is definitely Chairface Chippendale. He’s the antithesis of our hero: devious, suave, wealthy, vain, frail, immoral, and, most importantly, he has a chair for a head. It was a massive oversight not to have included him in the original run of the live-action show. After all, he to planned to write his name on the Moon with a flashlight-powered laser as the ultimate act of cosmic vandalism!
His introductory story from The Tick #6 where he throws himself a birthday party attended by criminals so ugly even Dick Tracy would gag at the sight of them (although this time it’s okay for his guests to look normal so the show can spend the money elsewhere) would work just as well as it did in the comics and cartoon. To fit the non-cartoon’s tone, the Tick and Arthur could accidentally crash his birthday party when they get the wrong directions to Batmanuel’s party. Surely this show can afford to Photoshop “CHA” on every shot of the Moon from this episode onward.
But how could the show afford to bring Chairface Chippendale to life? All that’s needed is one of those false shoulder pieces used for Headless Horsemen costumes with a balsa wood chair fastened to it. They don’t even need to animate the chair when he talks. What’s necessary is that they get someone with an aristocratic voice to dub him. Get Stephen Fry on the phone! He wants how much?! Get Robin Atkin Downes on the phone!
1. Decent Action Scenes
My biggest gripe with the original live action The Tick was its lack of action scenes. 95% of all the superheroics happened off-screen. This may have been less galling if I hadn’t already been spoiled by the superlative The Tick cartoon, but only marginally so. It’s tough to get invested in watching a TV show that cuts out all the exciting bits. The resurrected The Tick live action show needs a massive improvement in this area.
Now I understand that the live-action show has bigger budgetary constraints than the freewheeling cartoon. I’m not expecting to see Patrick Warburton’s Tick battle a morphing clone made from his own mucous, wrestle Dinosaur Neil’s titanic tongue, or be dragged across the sky by Skippy the propellerized robot dog. I do expect SOMETHING that isn’t just dialogue. I’m not looking for top of the line realistic fights like on (Green) Arrow. The criminally underrated Mystery Men movie showed that it was possible to have comedic fight scenes where the superheroes still feel like lovable losers.
The action scenes don’t even need to be that long provided they’re memorable. Let’s see Chainsaw Vigilante cut a swath of destruction with his powr tool until the blade shatters on the Tick’s skin. Have the Tick strain against the crushing power of Barry’s shield until the most dramatic moment. The action scenes don’t all need to be fight scenes, either, so long as they’re visually dynamic. An extended sequence of the Tick bounding across rooftops while Arthur soars above during a banter-filled patrol would be very welcome.
The original run of the liv- action The Tick felt like it only got it half right by focusing on the minutiae of the superheroes’ lives over their thrilling exploits. It doesn’t need to be an either/or situation. The relaunch of the show is going to have a much harder time hooking viewers now than it did in 2001 now that there’s more competition for its niche. If viewers want a comic-book show that airs next year, they’ll be able to choose from (Green) Arrow, The Flash, iZombie, Gotham, Constantine, Agents of SHIELD, Agent Carter, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones,The Walking Dead, and Powers. If they want a comedy, they can choose from every sitcom ever. The Tick needs to bridge them both. Television is a visual medium. The Tick shouldn’t feel like it would work better as a radio play.
Grok my mouth music, Amazon!
You may remember Matthew Catania from such Daily Lists as
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