Comic Book / The Tick

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In 1986, eighteen year old cartoonist Ben Edlund created The Tick as a mascot for a newsletter of the Norwood, Massachusetts store New England Comics. Edlund expanded this into stories, beginning with the three-page Origin Story The Tick in New England Comics Newsletter #1415 (July/August September/October 1986), in which the eccentric hero escaped from a mental institution.

In June 1988, it was released in an independent, recurring black-and-white comic series. Arthur was introduced in The Tick #4 (April 1989). It transitioned to colour in 2001.

The comic became popular enough to spin off three TV series, one animated and two live-action.


The comic series provides examples of the following:

  • Adaptation Displacement: The animated series was such a hit that few people even know that the comic series existed, a similar case of what happened with the TMNT comics.
  • Art Evolution: MASSIVE case, since the comic began life as the amatur work of a teenager. The original shorts arent unreadably bad or anything, but they're notably rougher than the comic series itself, and the lettering was done via typewriter.
  • Bad Santa: Multiple Santa, an evil Mall Santa who can clone himself.
  • Baguette Beatdown: Paul the Samurai in the comics. A ever-so-slightly more realistic take, because he hid a sword in it to sneak it past customs.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: What happens when The Tick sees Oedipus stabbed. He violently, quietly, swiftly, and possibly lethally takes out the two ninjas who did it, and he proceeds to completely destroy their lair, which was the size of an amusement park.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Arthur attempted this prior to meeting The Tick; he wore his moth suit at his old job at an accounting firm. He was "encouraged" to take a medical leave of absence.
  • The Cameo: The 10th anniversary re-release of Tick issue #1 has a bonus segment showing Tick's escape from an insane asylum. It turns out Dr. Bunsen and his assistant Beaker ran the place.
  • Chainsaw Good: The Chainsaw Vigilante, a chainsaw-wielding vigilante who views the heroes as self-interested meddlers. He cuts off their clothes with his chainsaw to humiliate them into quitting, but has never actually killed anyone; he's just that good. Wears a yellow smiley face mask. At worst he's an Anti-Villain.
  • City of Adventure: The City, though it's rather boring for superheroes, or at least before Tick arrives. New York, however, is full of superheroes (which has unfortunatly but predictably put a sizable dent in the supervillain population).
  • Clark Kenting: Clark Oppenheimer's glasses and The Tick's hypnotic tie.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: It's pretty obvious that many of the heroes are looking at reality just a bit differently than everyone else, but The Tick by far is the strongest example. Several comics focus on Arthur and how he tries his best to reconcile his superhero and mundane worlds, which frequently results in coming off as a cloudcuckoolander to both.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: In the comics. The third issue is titled appropriately "Night of a Million Zillion Ninjas" and they're every bit as ineffective as you'd expect with such large numbers. Justified in part by the revelation that Ninja has become a cheap franchise.
  • Crimefighting with Cash: This was Barry's MO when he was using the name The Tick. When the title character beats Barry for the right to the name, The Tick acquires all of the crimefighting-specific gear Barry owned (most of which Tick broke during the course of testing the gear).
  • Cyanide Pill: Angus Mcguire (a Dick Tracy expy) once reveals he has a tooth filled with poison, only he can't remember which one.
    I try to avoid crunchy foods.
  • Deface of the Moon: Chairface tries to carve his name into the moon, but only manages "CHA" before he's stopped. Later, just to tweak his ego, this is blamed on Charo.
  • Draw Sword, Draw Blood: In one comic issue, Paul the Samurai has an overly dramatic monologue to himself, which he ends by pulling out his sword and striking a pose. He then remembers that his sword can only be sheathed when it has tasted blood. He then looks at his hand, which is covered in band-aids. Apparently, it was a bad habit of his.
  • Early-Bird Cameo:
    • While properly introduced in the fourth issue, Arthur can be seen flying in background shots in the first three books.
    • In one issue of the comic book, a mysterious female figure wearing a flying suit identical to Arthur's appears in a few panels. The comic ended before her story was revealed, but she later appeared in the animated series as Carmelita Vatos, daughter of the suit's inventor and (eventually) Arthur's love interest.
  • Everything's Better with Cows: The Man-Eating Cow, possibly-heroic scourge of the criminal underworld and star of her own spin-off comic.
  • Evil Knockoff: Tina, the robot version of The Tick that Toy De Force builds to take out the original.
  • Flight, Strength, Heart: The Tick is Nigh Invulnerable, has Super Strength... and he apparently has an unlimited supply of two-dollar bills in his pockets. Also, HE HAS POCKETS!
  • God Guise: Of sorts, as other inmates of the Evanston Asylum that escaped when The Tick did start worshiping him, forming the Mystic Order of Arachnid Vigilance. Which then underwent Defictionalization as The Tick's fanclub.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Just to tweak Chairface Chippendale, his attempt to carve his name in the moon is hushed up and subsequently blamed on Charo.
  • Happy Fun Ball: One villain, Toy De Force, incapacitates The Tick at one point with the Happy Apple - a sparkling apple toy that is nearly impossible to look away from. He stares at it at the end.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: In the comic story "The Night of a Million Zillion Ninjas," The Tick's ally Oedipus gets stabbed by two of the ninjas, and she ends up needing medical attention. The Tick completely drops his usual demeanor- he silently (and ruthlessly) defeats the two ninjas and forlornly carries her unconscious body, while whispering "This isn't supposed to happen." After handing Oedipus to paramedics, The Tick goes into a full-blown psychotic breakdown, complete with delusions of buildings questioning his worth, and he tries to deal with it by single-handedly destroying the theme park base that the ninjas built. Eventually, he is snapped out of by Arthur, who reminds him that superheroes do not kill.
  • Hesitation Equals Dishonesty: In the first issue, The Tick is asked if he's the guy who just escaped from an insane aslyum (he is). It takes about half a page of ums and ers for him to think up the answer "no".
  • Highly Visible Ninja: In one issue, several ninja hold leaves and call themselves a hedge. Provides the page image. Also Oedipus, who wears a yellow costume.
  • Identity Amnesia: The Tick doesn't remember anything about his life before becoming The Tick. This may be from frequent head trauma, or he may be legally insane.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Keith "Crime Cannibal" Donner, superhero with the power to eat human beings incredibly quickly.
    • An odd inversion is The Indigestible Man. His super power is he can't be digested.
  • Just Keep Driving: Apparently, running over a ninja is less important than running over a dog or being late.
  • Left Hanging: The comic ended on a cliffhanger in #12, showing The Terror and his henchmen spying on The Tick, with the next story titled "Tora Tora Tora!", which was never finished.
  • Limited Wardrobe: The Tick and Arthur (most superheroes and villains in general, actually) are never seen without their costumes.
    • This is referenced in the Free Comic Book Day story Ghosts Of Sidekicks Past where Arthur mentions that he does change clothes fairly often. We just never see it.
  • Macguffin: The Thorn, which supposedly has the power to destroy all ninja if it's destroyed. Control of The Thorn is the focus of the first major arc of the comic.
  • Mad Artist: The Impressionist. His roommate calls him crazy for eating a plain omelet.
    Inpressionist: "I am not crazy! I am an artist! Was Michelangelo crazy? Was Renoir crazy? Was Van Gogh crazy? OK, bad example, but still.."
  • Meganekko: Arthur's sister Dot.
  • The Monolith: A Monolith upgrades a town full of farmers into full-blown mad scientists.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The Tick nearly goes comatose with shock when he discovers that he has pockets in his outfit.
  • Mysterious Past: The Tick. Before The Tick's Loony Bin, all that was known was his escape from Evanston Asylum. Loony Bin revealed he was married, but separated, though nothing more is currently known.
  • Nigh Invulnerable: The Tick names the trope in the very first issue. He apparently doesn't quite have the Required Secondary Powers of the trope to the extent that most do - while burying himself up to his waist in concrete didn't do any appreciable damage to The Tick, he screamed in pain from it.
  • One Steve Limit: The premise driving "The Tick vs. The Tick". Tick encounters a superhero at the Comet Club named Barry, who also goes by "The Tick", and has to fight him for the privilege of keeping his name. This is even a bigger deal in the comics; the winner also gets all of the loser's superhero-related stuff.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: The fourth issue, "The Night Of A Million Zillion Ninjas" seems much like the previous chapters, until The Tick's friend and partner Oedipus gets stabbed by two ninjas, seriously enough that she falls unconscious and starts losing blood. At this, the wheels come off — rather than his usual bombast and style, The Tick quickly, silently, and violently dispatches the two ninjas, and all he can say as he carries Oedipus is "This isn't supposed to happen." He barely registers the paramedics who come to help Oedipus, and is later seen with paranoid delusions of the various buildings taunting him over his failures. Unlike most Cloudcuckoolanders, he doesn't suddenly become sane... he just stops being the "fun" kind of insane.
  • Orphaned Series: The original comic never recieved any proper conclusion, as it simply ended after #12, with Ben Edlund graduating college and moving on to work in television.
  • Planet Eater: Omnipotus, an obvious parody of Galactus.
  • Robot Me: Tina, the robot Toy De Force builds to fight The Tick. Unlike most cases, De Force knows that Tina isn't powerful enough to beat The Tick on its own, so he gives it some backup in the form of the Happy Apple.
  • Road Trip Plot: The Tick and Arthur decide to pull up roots from The City and head to New York to fully embrace being superheroes. Thanks to Tick's atrocious navigational abilities and the outdated road map he brought, they're lost before getting outside the state. Several issues is dedicated to them searching for the right road.
  • This Is Reality: The Thorn is a legendary artifact that supposedly will result in the destruction of the ninja. Its actual destruction is fairly mundane, although the steps taken to prevent its destruction by the bad guys does decimate the ninja. The Tick and Paul the Samurai expected something more metaphysical to destroy the ninja, and Arthur notes how unrealistic this was of them.
  • We Will Not Have Pockets in the Future: Parodied. The Tick is amazed to find his costume has them, even overlooking the wad of cash he found in them.

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