The Tick has been with writer Ben Edlund for more than 30 years, starting out as a logo for his local comic book shop’s newsletter. That turned into a comic book which turned into a cartoon on Fox which turned into a lighthearted and clever live action TV show in 2001 and then… nothing, unless you count years of longing by fans for the show to come back after finding a cult following online.
In the space between that last incarnation of The Tick‘s quick cancellation and the premiere of the pilot episode for a new, notably less lighthearted but still clever live action version in 2016 on Amazon as a part of its pilot season, Edlund moved on. He worked on Angel, Supernatural, Gotham, and other projects. But the Tick was still with him. As the first half of the The Tick‘s first season launches on Amazon Prime, Uproxx spoke with Edlund about that decades-old attachment, what it was that made him want to bring The Tick back, the show’s shifting tone, cast, and visuals, and why it was time for Arthur to take center stage.
Take me through the process of bringing this back. When did it heat up and how did it click with Amazon?
Ben Edlund: It was a long time coming. I think it was about four years ago now that we started to work on the idea of bringing it back. It started with [executive producer] Barry Josephson and as I understand it, Sony was also… they just started to kind of talk about The Tick, and whether or not it would be time to give that another try. Barry came to me and asked me about it. I started to think about how and why it would be useful to do that again. As I was thinking about it, I ended up working on one, and then another superhero show. The profusion of superhero shows was growing even more immense and sort of pervasive than I had ever expected it could. It seemed like it was almost a needful thing — a show [that] was having fun with those worlds, but sort of making fun of them at the same time.
From that point, we got a basic kernel of emotion going. We began to pitch it around and found a very enthusiastic patron in Amazon. And that was working with [Amazon executives] Joe Lewis, Jill Arthur, Patrick Callan and everyone there. [We] started to kind of build this new version that really does those things that The Tick had yet to do up to that point. Among the most important things was to find a psychological truth for Arthur as a character, kind of a real grown-up narrative, and also build a tone that allowed for real dramatic stakes. Things like, blood being really shed and for life and death to be considered. The impact of violence, which was really never anything too much investigated in the prior iterations.
There’s the bloodshed, but it’s still got a lot of comedy at its heart. Is there any concern that the audience is still not ready for that mix of things?
I’d say that’s the highwire act here. To me, it’s a dangerous, but I think an exciting and interesting, move to take things seriously while still having fun with them. It creates a strange, interesting kind of crisp new air in it. I think for someone who cannot allow The Tick to grow or stretch, or find new territory, it might feel wrong, and that’d be okay. But I feel like what’s happened is, a lot of the people I was worried about — the people The Tick‘s grown up around, and I’ve worked with, and fans that have weighed in so far — a very good number of them are feeling this new signal, which to me is the open gateway to a lot of good fun as long as people get on the bus and come with us. And I think that’s been primarily the case, which I feel really fortunate about.
What is it about this character that has allowed you to stay with it, and keep wanting to come back to it?
I don’t know. It’s not part of an actual plan, it’s just that the character and the world of it has had… This last iteration was kind of, yell loud enough into a grotto, and an echo comes back. And the echo came back and said, “Did you want to do that again?” And I said, “Okay, sure!” It’s a very interesting engagement for me, because this is a 30-year-old character. So this character has its own center of gravity, and I’ve spent a lot of time with it. When I was thinking about whether or not I wanted to do this again, I actually had a moment where it was very easy to picture The Tick sitting in the passenger seat of the car I was driving. (I don’t think I was putting anyone in danger.) But like, I could picture this invisible almost Harvey kind of entity of my own making, that was sort of saying, “Look, I want to be again. It is fun.” So, that’s a weird thing, I’ve got this blue golem that keeps chugging.