Tick (comics)

Tick (comics)
The Tick
The Tick: Comic Con Extravaganza #1
Publication information
Publisher New England Comics Press
First appearance New England Comics Newsletter #14 (July/August 1986)
Created by Ben Edlund
In-story information
Abilities Nigh-invulnerability, superhuman strength, "drama power," oxygen independence

The Tick is a fictional character created by cartoonist Ben Edlund in 1986 as a newsletter mascot for the New England Comics chain of Boston area comic stores. He is an absurdist spoof of comic book superheroes. After its creation, the character spun off into an independent comic book series in 1988, and gained mainstream popularity through an animated TV series on Fox in 1994. A short-lived live-action TV series, video game, and various merchandise have also been based on the character. The Tick has been well received as a comic book character.



In 1986, 18-year-old cartoonist Ben Edlund created The Tick as a mascot for a newsletter of the Brockton, Massachusetts store New England Comics, where he was a customer. Edlund expanded this into stories, beginning with the three-page tale "The Tick" in New England Comics Newsletter #14-15 (July/August – September/October 1986), in which the hero escapes from a mental institution.[1] The character became popular and the store financed a black-and-white comic book series, with the first issue released in June, 1988, and subsequently reprinted at least nine times through the next decade, including later editions with additional content. The Tick's sidekick, Arthur, was introduced in The Tick #4 (April 1989).

Spin-offs followed featuring characters such as Paul the Samurai, Man-Eating Cow, and Chainsaw Vigilante. Edlund continued to write and illustrate these projects initially through his years as an undergraduate film student at the Massachusetts College of Art. The Chainsaw Vigilante spin-off, which was never completed, was written and illustrated by Zander Cannon. Other series, such as the second Paul the Samurai series and the Man-Eating Cow series, were written by North Carolina writer Clay Griffith.

In 1994, the FOX network introduced The Tick as a Saturday morning cartoon series, which Edlund wrote and co-produced. Lasting three seasons, the animated series would provide The Tick's greatest mainstream fame. Townsend Coleman voiced the title character, and Micky Dolenz played his sidekick, Arthur, in Season 1. Rob Paulsen took over the Arthur role during Seasons 2 and 3. The series also featured Die Fledermaus as a shallow, self-absorbed Batman parody; Sewer Urchin, a Rain Man-like version of Aquaman; and American Maid, a more noble superheroine featuring aspects of Wonder Woman and Captain America. Reruns on Comedy Central helped make the series a cult hit with adults. The 1997 book The Tick: Mighty Blue Justice! by Greg Hyland (creator of Lethargic Lad) was published as a tie-in with the animated series.

In 2001, FOX introduced a live-action TV series (produced by Columbia-TriStar Television), written and executive produced by Edlund. The series starred Patrick Warburton as The Tick, David Burke as Arthur, Nestor Carbonell as Batmanuel (a Latino version of Die Fledermaus), and Liz Vassey as Captain Liberty (a shallow and self-absorbed version of American Maid). The series was short-lived, however, and it only lasted nine episodes. Nevertheless, it was well-praised and revered by cast and crew. A DVD release of the complete series (including several unaired episodes) was released on September 30, 2003.

In June, 2005, the Toon Disney network began airing The Tick animated series at midnight (Eastern Time). The series also occasionally aired on ABC Family as part of the Jetix cartoon block. The following year, Buena Vista Home Entertainment released the first season of The Tick animated series on DVD. The second season was released on August 7, 2007; however, both collections were missing an episode for different reasons.

Character biography

The Tick seems to have no memory of his life before being The Tick, and indeed not much memory of anything; more than likely due to frequent head injuries. In the live-action series, Batmanuel suggests that The Tick may be from space. In the original comic series, The Tick is apparently legally insane, having escaped from a mental institution located not too far from The City. In the live-action series, however, he was tricked into moving to (and protecting) The City after irritating the employees of a remote bus station he had sworn to protect.

A square-jawed, muscular, bright blue-costumed figure with antennae sticking up from his head, The Tick is a surreal parody of superheroes, in the vein of Dave Sim's character, The Cockroach.[2][3] He is well-intentioned, friendly, good-natured, high-spirited, frequently obtuse, and prone to quipping odd, dim remarks and "inspirational" speeches filled with bizarre metaphors. The Tick is known for his nonsensical battle cry, "Spoooooon!", which he decided upon one day while eating breakfast (specifically, the cereal Drama Flakes). In an interview, actor Patrick Warburton described his perception of The Tick character, as Warburton played him: "His past is a mystery. So everything that he looks at or perceives can be brand new, and he can get really, really excited and intrigued by something that’s just a commonality for everybody else, that’s humorous. He’s like a child; everything’s new. So you just bring that attitude to him, a childlike attitude of discovering things."[4]

Originally, The Tick's costume was meant to be brown in color, but it was decided that blue looked better in print. In The Tick vs. The Tick, wherein The Tick is confronted by Barry, an unstable pseudo-hero who also calls himself "The Tick," Barry wears a brown costume similar to The Tick's. The Tick is named after an arachnid, much like Spider-Man. The logo of the series also resembles that of the 1994 Spider-Man series. According to the live-action series, The Tick is 6 feet 6 inches tall, weighs 230 pounds (6 inches and 170 pounds less than his dimensions in the comic), and has blue hair and eyes.

In the comic series, The Tick gets a job at the Weekly World Planet newspaper. He works in the same office as Clark Oppenheimer, who is also a superhero called the Caped Wonder. Oppenheimer has all the typical Superman powers, including X-ray vision ("see-through vision"), super strength, invulnerability, flight, heat-vision ("very hot vision"), and super hearing. Consequently, he looks down on The Tick as a lower form of superhero with limited powers.

Like many superheroes, The Tick has a sidekick, a rather plump former accountant named Arthur. Arthur wears a white moth suit that allows him to fly; although he is often mistaken for a bunny due to the long ear-like antennae of his costume and the fact that his wings are often folded up. The Tick is impulsive, and Arthur serves as a sort of conscience; he also figures out the schemes of villains and formulates plans to stop them. Arthur's "battle cry" (such as it is) is "Not in the face! Not in the face!"

In all of his incarnations, The Tick is surrounded by a cast of equally absurd heroes and villains, many of them parodies of popular comic book characters and character types. Few of the "superheroes" in the Tick mythos have powers that would measure up to those of DC Comics or Marvel Comics characters, but their foes are often equally silly and/or weak. The Tick lives in a city simply called "The City." In the animated series, The Tick was assigned to The City after his "Cabinet of Terror" (described by The Tick as the "deadliest engine of destruction 1974 had to offer") exploded, leaving him unharmed, during his city assignment selection trials at the National Super Institute Convention in Reno, Nevada. According to the series' companion book, The Tick: Mighty Blue Justice!, at least one of the judges was amazed by this (perhaps by The Tick's survival), awarding The Tick a score of 10 out of 10.

Powers and abilities

The Tick possesses superhuman strength and mass, which makes him capable of inflicting great damage on his surroundings if he is not careful. His full strength is never actually quantified, although he is at the very least capable of lifting whole cars with a single hand. Tick is also "nigh-invulnerable", which means it is almost impossible to injure him in any serious way. Because of this he can survive moments of extreme duress, and demonstrated this ability on numerous occasions; once by falling 4000 feet, crashing through the concrete into a subway tunnel and subsequently being hit by an oncoming train, surviving without incident ("Evil Sits Down for a Moment", November 4, 1995). While he cannot be injured, he is not necessarily immune to pain or even temporary brain damage.

Finally, Tick possesses something referred to as "drama power," or basically a tendency for The Tick's powers to increase as the situation becomes more dramatic. He can also survive in space without a suit, and under water without oxygen for a long time. Despite his nigh-invulnerability, he is still susceptible to injuries. One of his only weaknesses is that he cannot keep his balance if his antennae are removed.


A few characters have appeared throughout the three incarnations of The Tick. Apart from The Tick and Arthur, the only characters to appear in the comic book, the animated series, and the live-action show are The Terror, Arthur's sister Dot, and Fish Boy, the Lost Prince of Atlantis.

Main characters

Blue ██ indicates an animated series character. Red ██ indicates a live-action series character. White ██ indicates a character that appeared in both, as well as the comic book series.

Character Notable powers Notes Actor/Voice actor
American Maid Skilled acrobat, can throw her tiara and stilettos with extreme accuracy. The World's Most Patriotic Domestic, a Wonder Woman/Captain America parody. Love/hate relationship with Die Fledermaus, though there are hints at a past romance. She is possibly the only competent superhero(ine) in the animated series. She occasionally teams up with The Tick and Arthur. Kay Lenz
Arthur Flight (with moth suit) The Tick's sidekick Micky Dolenz (animated, Season 1), Rob Paulsen (animated, Season 2-3), David Burke (live-action)
Batmanuel None Latino parody of Batman, loosely based on Die Fledermaus. Love/hate relationship with Captain Liberty. Nestor Carbonell
Captain Liberty Enhanced strength and agility, skilled acrobat and fighting ability. Wonder Woman/Captain America parody and loosely based on American Maid, though more shallow & incompetent. Love/hate relationship with Batmanuel. Liz Vassey
Die Fledermaus None Batman parody (also the name of an operetta by Johann Strauss II; die Fledermaus is German for the bat). Love/hate relationship with American Maid, though there are hints at a past romance. He is usually the first superhero to run away from danger. Cam Clarke
Sewer Urchin Super stench Rain Man/Aquaman parody. In the sewers he has a luxurious apartment largely furnished with salvage from the sewers; however, he has relatively few guests. The "Apotheosis of cool" in the sewer. Jess Harnell
The Tick Nigh-invulnerability, superhuman strength, super speed, "drama power" The protagonist Townsend Coleman (animated), Patrick Warburton (live-action)

Other characters


While The Tick comic book series included some extras, such as trading cards, the merchandising of The Tick increased dramatically with the launch of the animated series. Action figures, stickers, pogs, T-shirts, hats, party favors, costumes, and a board game were representative. In addition, many fast food restaurant chains, such as Carl's Jr. and Taco Bell offered Tick-related giveaways.

In 1994, Fox Interactive also released a beat 'em up video game based on the animated series. The game, however, was not well received.

Tick-inspired characters

The character of Sentinel Prime in the Transformers Animated television series is not only voiced by the same actor as The Tick, but his physical form is highly inspired by The Tick, as well.[5] However, Sentinel Prime is arrogant and rude, as opposed to The Tick's good-hearted, silly nature.

Also, the fictional superhero Crimson Chin from The Fairly OddParents animated series is based on the Tick. As well as Captain Qwark from the video game series, Ratchet and Clank.


  • Edlund, Ben (July 1996). The Tick: The Naked City. Marlowe & Company. ISBN 978-1569248287. 
  • Edlund, Ben (2003). The Tick: Circus Maximus Collection. New England Comics Press. 
  • Edlund, Ben (October 29, 2008). The Tick: The Complete Edlund. New England Comics Press. 
  • Hyland, Greg (May 1, 1997). The Tick: Mighty Blue Justice!. Berkley Books. ISBN 978-1572972506. 
  • McCulloch, Chris (2009). The Tick: Karma Tornado, The Complete Works. New England Comics Press. 
  • Stone, Eli (2009). The Tick: Big Blue Destiny, The Complete Works. New England Comics. 
  • Wang, Sean (2009). The Tick and Arthur, The Complete Works. New England Comics Press. 
  • Wang, Sean; Stone, Eli (2009). The Tick Specials, The Complete Works. New England Comics Press. 


The Tick has been well received as a comic book character. Wizard magazine rated him as the 187th greatest comic book character of all time.[6] Empire magazine also ranked him as the 28th greatest comic book character of all time stating that the Tick is a lovable lunk, given to overly dramatic declarations on behalf of justice.[7] IGN ranked him as the 57th greatest comic book hero of all time stating if you like your heroes on the bizarre side, you won't find anyone more surreal than The Tick.; IGN also stated that whatever his mental state, The Tick's adventures are thoroughly enjoyable, whether they unfold on the printed page or television. [8]


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