clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Tick creator on taking his iconic funny superhero to a darker place

Arthur's back and more human than ever

When Ben Edlund brought The Tick to television for the first time, it was a brand new world for the comic book creator. He didn't know what he was doing, and as such, relinquished a lot of the control he had over the live-action project in 2001 to the studio and more seasoned producers on the project.

Now, in the new renaissance of comic book adaptations and a mainstream culture willing to embrace and support the most obscure characters, Edlund is confident he'll be able to make the live-action adaptation of The Tick that he wanted to make more than a decade ago. Having worked for more than a decade in television now, however, Edlund is ready to tackle the series again.

"The experience that I gained from working on these other projects became crucial," Edlund told Polygon. "Before, I was inspired but I didn't have the skills to make a TV show on my own terms. Now I'm just as inspired and I have the skills too."

The Tick production stills

Edlund created the comic book character in 1986 as a newsletter mascot for a chain of comic book stores in the Boston area. The character — a spoof on more traditional superheroes — eventually garnered enough love that Edlund turned the concept into an independent comic in 1988, but it wasn't until Edlund scored a deal with Fox to turn the comic into an animated series that people outside of the Boston area tuned into what was happening.

That show only lasted four episodes, but in 2001, Edlund tried again at Fox, this time with a live-action adaptation. The series only lasted nine episodes before it was canceled due to poor ratings, but that didn't deter Edlund from a career in television. The writer would go to work on some of the most popular genre shows in TV, including Firefly, Supernatural, Angel and Revolution. When he was approached by Amazon with the idea to bring The Tick back one more time, he couldn't resist. The new series stars Guardian of the Galaxy's Peter Serafinowicz in the lead role, playing The Tick, with Griffin Newman playing sidekick Arthur Everest. Edlund said having them on board was integral to the show's development.

"This time, I had full control over the process and that was important to me," Edlund said. "That was the only way I was going to do it. But we sat down, deconstructed it, and figured out how we wanted to make this version of the show different from the last one."

'I want the audience to support and root for Arthur and his dreams"

For Edlund, that meant giving up certain aspects of the show that he was a fan of, but that couldn't be kept going for a 10-episode season. The show would need more depth than it's ever had, and would have to focus on the relationships that the Tick had with other characters on the series. Edlund said that what the previous shows lacked was a dramatic element, a human element, that this version of the series definitely made up for. Most noticeable, perhaps, according to Edlund, would be the lack of puns.

"I love puns," Edlund said. "I love puns a lot. Nothing makes me laugh like a good pun. Cartoons are an ode to puns, but this isn't a cartoon. You can't have too much of the old with the new."

Edlund compared the process of making the Amazon show to rebuilding a car, trying to figure out how to fit the new, upgraded engine into the chassis and making adjustments where needed. One of the biggest differences that fans of the original comic will notice is just how forlorn the series can get and how in touch with its emotional side the show is willing to get.

"I don't think we ever had someone die in The Tick," Edlund said. "In the pilot, someone dies and it leaves a couple of people reeling. It's a difficult scene, but it's the kind of change that needed to happen."

Edlund said one of their goals going into the show was making the series accessible to everyone. He knew that there were diehard fans of the comics that were going to tune in no matter what, but he wanted it to be more than just a superhero comedy on Amazon.

Edlund said he wanted it to be a show that his mother could tune into, watch and enjoy, giving the audience a hero that they wanted to root for even when he was at his worst. Not too unlike another popular cartoon character, BoJack Horseman, or in Edlund's opinion, Sylvester Stallone's iconic Rocky.

"This show is intended to sweep the hardcore fans along with the new crowd that the series will hopefully attract," Edlund said. "Ideally, it's going to connect with a larger group because it's a cast of misfit characters that you can't help but root for. Like Rocky! Rocky created a crowd of boxing enthusiasts for a couple of hours because as much as you could hate him at times, you always wanted him to win.

"I want the audience to support and root for Arthur and his dreams. I want them to feel connected to Arthur and be there with him on his journey."

Edlund said that despite Amazon's contest-like process for picking up a series — pilots are put online for free and viewers have to vote on the ones they like the most — he's not too worried about attracting an audience. According to Edlund, "geeks have computers and if I signal to geeks, they'll signal back," but he wants the series to be an intimate experience for viewers in the same way creating it was for him. If they got picked up for a full series and got to the end of it having provided a journey for the audience, Edlund will consider it a success.

"I can't promise you much, but I promise this will be a really, really, really interesting journey," Edlund said. "One that absolutely no one else will ever do."

The Tick's pilot will be available to stream as of Aug. 19 on Amazon.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon