Every time you turn on a screened device these days, there's a superhero staring back at you. For comic book fans this is a golden time, but — and there's always a but — is this really gold or is it some cheap gilded metal? The superhero genre is so plentiful that some are rightfully asking if things have gone too far. How many comic titles need a live-action show or movie? How many reboots can we stand? When is enough enough, already?
Amazon answered with yet another superhero franchise, The Tick.
(Translation: We ride this wave smack into a rocky cliff face.)
Superhero franchises are making money as if they're mints with endless paper and ink. From a purely financial standpoint, Amazon is just doing the smart thing by getting in on the action. Still, that is a rather weak excuse for pumping out one more show. But (see, there it is again) if The Tick is done right, it just might do something fresh with the genre.
Right now most comic movies and television shows are of the gritty-reality variety. Taking things seriously helped to elevate comic book stories from the idiocy they had fallen into back in the '90s. Now there is such a glut of this serious storytelling that the pendulum needs to swing back the other way. The genre could stand to have some levity, to get a bit silly and laugh at the tropes, clichés and story lines that have become a golden calf.
So, if we follow age-old wisdom — fight fire with fire — what we need is another superhero to save us from all these superheroes. As torturously circular as that may be, there is a blue, nigh-invulnerable, lawful good giant who is perfect for the job: The Tick. And he is as sharp as Homer Simpson, so the logic that got us here makes perfect sense.
One look at his bold stance and wriggling antennae, and the whole majestic superhero image deflates. What's more, he is clearly off. He describes himself as having the "reflexes of an Olympic-level jungle cat" and the power of "a crowded bus stop of men" (because he cannot settle on a specific number). And to go back to my comparison him to Homer Simpson, consider this sage advice: "We'll cross that bridge after we've burned it." The Tick is more Zapp Brannigan than Superman.
I can see the eyes rolling. I can hear the incredulous thought, Really? I'm supposed to get excited over some doofus superhero? If that were all there was to The Tick, I would agree that this is just more of the same old thing. But the difference is Arthur, The Tick's sidekick.
Like most other sidekicks, Arthur is relegated to the sidelines — as far as the limelight is concerned. And while he is severely lacking in the hero skills department, he is so much more than a lackey. Don't get me wrong, Arthur has it bad. He is so unremarkable that he doesn't even get a superhero name. He does have a super-suit, but it makes him look like a bunny/butterfly hybrid — so perhaps not having a name isn't so bad.
Yet there is an up side. Arthur is the foundation from which the Tick can reach great heights. Because he is such a goofball, The Tick gets into a lot of trouble, making situations worse. Without Arthur, he would be more of a menace that the villains.
Now, while it would be easy to simply make Arthur a one-dimensional, little-guy-who-could character, show creator and writer Ben Edlund has made Arthur much more. As a child, Arthur witnessed his father's death and the death of his heroes, the superhero team Flag Five. Now he is a broken man dealing with severe mental illness. This is a significant part of who he is and adds layers to his character. His weakness helps us relate to Arthur — the feeling of powerlessness, of being lost and swept up in the absurdity of a seemingly chaotic world. And yet, even though he is just another regular mortal dragged through life, he finds a way to make a contribution, a way to make things better not only for himself, but for the world. And isn't that something we all aspire to do? Well, at least for ourselves, that is.
So Tick gives us the levity, Arthur the reality. A nice balance in a skewed landscape.
So does this mean we need another superhero show? In response, I hear my father saying, "Boy, you need it like you need a hole in your head." I know this will make me lose geek cred, but honestly, we probably don't.
Actually, there's not much we "need" when it comes to television programming. What entertainment we need is a fatuous First World problem. A better question is, will another show put television over its banks, flooding an already saturated market? Possibly. Though with this caveat: If it is The Tick, and they continue with what they have started, then no, one more show won't drown us. In fact, The Tick could go a long way toward making things right. We will know for sure August 25, 2017. In the meantime, Amazon Prime members can watch the pilot on Prime Videos.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.