Comic book fans have a clearly defined view of what a sidekick is and isn’t. But those notions get tossed out the window when it comes to Arthur (Griffin Newman) on The Tick, a character who has, in past iterations of the concept, fallen in line with the trope more often than not. Season one of the rebooted show, however, has been as much about Arthur’s journey, his grief over his dead father, his quest for revenge, and his rise as a hero in his own right as it has been about the title character’s quest for his origins. More so, probably. It’s an interesting switch that’s given the show soul and allowed it to stand out in a media landscape where superhero worlds are abundant.
In a conversation with Newman, we discussed the evolution of Arthur, what it was like to realize that this sidekick role had a lot more meat to it, his pursuit of an Arthur action figure, and how he deals with his own dual life as a TV star and a podcast host with ample opinions about the industry he’s trying to make his way through.
Did you get the sense that this was going to develop into a lead role for you when you auditioned? Because it really feels like you and Peter [Serafinowicz] share the lead.
When I got the email and saw it was Arthur, I knew it was a big part. And then when I read the script for the pilot… the first draft I read when I started auditioning, the Tick didn’t even enter until page 22, I think. So it was kind of… I just was going page by page, and going, “So, Arthur’s like, the only character in these scenes.” And then they re-wrote it so that Tick enters a little earlier because he is the titular character.
It was less of a thing of it developing into me realizing that I was a lead, and more a thing of… I kept on waiting for them to demote me. [Laughs.] If that makes sense? I was like, “I think this is the lead, but at some point, they’re going to water that down, right?” And just as the season went on, I kept on having that much to do, which is very bizarre.
How does the show stand out from other comic book shows?
The Tick is so unique because Ben [Edlund] has been the guy. He’s retained creative control over it. Through the years, which hasn’t really happened before. Usually, the creator of the source material is forced to let go at some point, or maybe they have an advisory role on something. But he’s always kind of been the guy. I think The Tick‘s main function as a piece of art, if I can say that, is to be a funhouse mirror to whatever’s going on in superhero culture at the time, you know? And maybe even pop culture or Broadway. And so every time Ben has gotten the chance to bring The Tick back to a new era or a new format or whatever it is, he doesn’t just reboot the last thing he did. He kind of holds the mirror up to whatever is going on at that time. And this is just an insanely rich time. It’s more of a question of “How much can you fit into that mirror?
The biggest difference is, when the [Patrick] Warburton version of The Tick happened [in 2001], there weren’t live-action superhero shows. There were barely live-action superhero movies, you know? It was kind of in a period where we had the run of Batman movies that had kind of ended, and the run of Superman movies that had ended, and that was pretty much it. And the Warburton Tick came out in between the first X-Men and the first Spider-Man, and before we had live-action superhero shows before there was a language for how half-hour or hour-long superhero shows looked, and moved, and were written and performed. And so it’s really fertile territory to try to reflect all of that stuff [now].