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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). Edlund would ultimately pen 12 issues, with the last one ending on a Cliffhanger. New England Comics Press went on to publish several comic series featuring the characters with varying creative teams. They transitioned to color 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:

  • '90s Anti-Hero: Several of the heroes hanging out in the Comet Club are parodies of this trope, including Big Shot who became a minor character in the cartoon.
  • Art Evolution: MASSIVE case, since the comic began life as the amateur work of a teenager. The original shorts aren't 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 (and technically was) an amusement park.
    • During issue 100, the crossover with Invincible, the book starts off silly and fun mostly to contrast the Tick's universe with Invincible's. Then Arthur is seemingly killed by Martin of Mars's Martian Vision and both sides experience this trope (Invincible through Martin killing Arthur and Martin when he realizes he just killed the Tick's best friend)
      Invincible: That... that wasn't funny at all.
      The Tick: You- YOU KILLED ARTHUR.
      Martin of Mars: This... was a huge mistake.
  • Boring, but Practical: One of the "heroes" at the Comet Club is a guy who's entire power is that he has a grenade that he carries around everywhere. He says there's not a lot you can't get away with if you have a grenade.
  • 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 unfortunately 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.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Issue 2 is dedicated to the Tick unintentionally tormenting Clark Oppoenheimer into a psychotic rage. This does not justify the first page of the issue, where Clark fantasizes about torturing Tick for 'ruining his life' when all he'd done at this point was refuse to be saved from an oncoming train.
  • 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.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Initially, the comic wasn't so much a superhero comic as much as it was a comic that happened to star a superhero. Tick doesn't meet (what he thinks is) a proper supervillain until issue #6, and a bulk of his adventures concern other oddities such as super intelligent hillbillies, pulp villains inexplicably coming to life, and an eventful road trip.
    • The City itself was depicted as boring and almost devoid of crime (after the defeat of the ninjas). New York, on the other hand, was literally overflowing with superheroes, who collectively swarm at the first sign of villainy. Later series' would depict it more in line with the cartoon.
  • Evil Knockoff: Tina, the robot version of The Tick that Toy De Force builds to take out the original.
  • Fake Danger Gambit: There is a professional service that sets up engineered fights so fledgling superheroes can build up their reputation. The Tick stumbles into one of these fights and tries to help, never realizing that the villain is just an actor.
  • 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 BSoD: 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 asylum (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.
    • The Praying Mantis, a Big Beautiful Woman and alleged martial artist claims to devour men as part of her villainous theme - but only after they've had sex. At least one such man can attest to her trying.
    • An odd inversion is The Indigestible Man. His super power is he can't be digested.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: Issue 100 is a crossover with Image Comics' Invincible.
  • 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.."
  • Mistaken for Gay: There's a rather risque scene when Arthur brings Tick to his apartment, where Tick gets weirded out because the place is Arthurs actual home and not a secret superhero HQ, and asks if he's "funny". Cue much stammering and correcting from both of them. For obvious reasons, this was not included in the cartoon, despite the rest of the scene being included almost verbatim.
  • The Monolith: A Monolith upgrades a town full of farmers into full-blown mad scientists.
  • Mood Whiplash: The comic buzzes along as a pretty silly send-up of superhero comics... up until one of The Tick's allies gets stabbed and is sent to the hospital. It's then that the reader is reminded that The Tick is a recent escapee from a mental hospital, and he proceeds to have the kind of breakdown (fortunately focused on the bad guys' lair) that only a mental patient with Super-Strength could have- he spends at most a couple of hours to completely destroy an entire theme park, single-handedly. It's about a full issue before The Tick (character, not the comic) manages to stop being so serious.
  • 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 Tick: Luny Bin, all that was known was his escape from Evanston Asylum. Luny 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 received 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. Later on, after Barry reassembles it, it is revealed that the Thorn does have powers - Barry is able to use it to open a portal in time and space. Unfortunately, before he can do anything with it, Tick knocks it out of his hand into a portal, sending it back in time to their first fight at the Comet Club, resulting in the Thorn getting smashed again in the chaos, this time without anyone in a position to find the pieces and glue them together again.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: The Tick is actually a Grade-A asshole in the first few issues, mostly getting into petty spats, bullying a Jimmy Olsen stand-in, and simply being a Nigh-Invulnerable nuisance. He finally turns his violent tendencies on crime after Oedipus gets stabbed, and then softens into the All-Loving Hero fans love in turn after moving in with Arthur.
  • 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.