Amazon’s wacky, ham-handed “The Tick” is exactly the superhero we deserve

“Must maintain finesse.”
“Must maintain finesse.”
Image: Amazon Video
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Netflix has three shows featuring dark, wounded, brooding superheroes: DaredevilJessica Jones, and Luke Cage, with three more on the way. Amazon Video, meanwhile, has only The Tick—a ham-handed blue doofus. At this point, that doofus is all Amazon wants.

Amazon previewed several of its upcoming shows during a panel at New York Comic Con yesterday afternoon (Oct. 6), and the highlight was The Tick, the latest TV adaptation of the comic book character created by Ben Edlund in 1986.

An absurdist satire of the self-seriousness of the burgeoning superhero genre, The Tick arrives just in the nick of time. The character might not be new, but in this era of superhero saturation, he feels more fresh than any other hero currently on television. The Tick, in all his bumbling glory, is exactly who we deserve.

For those unfamiliar, Edlund’s character is a hulking blue mass with bouncy antennae and an immunity to bullets. He has no backstory to speak of. He just exists. Already super strong, the Tick possesses a very special ability called “drama power” that boosts his powers as the drama of any situation heightens.

In the Amazon series, the Tick is played with hilarious vacuity by English actor Peter Serafinowicz, whose hero voice is histrionic and urgent, a cross between that of Adam West’s Batman and Donald Trump. He speaks in inscrutable aphorisms: During the show’s pilot (available online now), he nervously paces while repeating the phrase, “must maintain finesse,” before attacking a group of criminals. The Tick materializes in the show’s nameless city (called only “The City”) just as its previous heroes are blinded by “weaponized syphillis,” leaving the people without a protector.

At the Comic Con panel, Edlund, who also created the Amazon series, noted that while his character has been explored on screen before (in a 1994 animated series and a short-lived live-action comedy in 2001), things are different now given the deluge of super-powered crime fighters across TV and film.

“There’s never been a public more educated to the things that define superheroes,” he said. ”It’s perfect hunting ground for a character like the Tick to find things to have fun with.”

In order to set this series apart from other versions of the Tick, Edlund said the Amazon show will have more of a human element, exemplified by the character of Arthur, an unassuming, possibly mentally ill man who becomes the Tick’s sidekick (in a moth suit).

Still, it’s clear from the first 30-minute episode that we’re watching a satire. In the pilot’s intro, Whoopi Goldberg interviews Superian, the “world’s first superhero”—a handsome, arrogant spoof of Superman with pristine hair. The show will likely parody other well-known comic book characters, including Marvel’s Punisher, Edlund said.

Perhaps sensing a crowd-pleaser, Amazon last week ordered a full, 10-episode season of The Tick, to debut next year. Its absurdist humor may not be for everyone, but if you’re tired of the same superhero tropes proliferating across TV, then the Tick could be the perfect antidote.