EP0086: The Tick 2017-18 #1-4 and Tick 2018 Free Comic Book Day

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The Tick is mighty! So mighty that he got me to break my rule of only reviewing trades as we look at New England Comics latest Tick comics including Issues 1-4 of the new series and the Free Comic Book Day issue.


The Tick is Mighty. Join us as we take a look at the latest comic book adventures of The Tick.

The Tick is a much-beloved character, probably best remembered for his 1990s Fox animated TV series; and there’d been two subsequent live-action series, one of which will have new episodes. I believe in February 2019 we’ll get Season Two of the Tick for Amazon Prime. Now most people know that the Tick began as a comic book but the Tick’s relationship to a regular publishing schedule is a bit strange. The first issue of the Tick appeared thirty years ago, and in those thirty years there have been 100-odd issues of the Tick. Some of those actually were very odd but, be that as it may, that averages out to just about three to four comics per year. There have been quite a few ongoing Tick series as well as years where there haven’t been any Tick comics published at all. During the last five years all we’d gotten were free comic day books.

The Tick is not owned by Marvel or DC, nor is it published by a comic book company that publishes multiple titles like Dark Horse, Dynamite, IDW or Boom. Rather, the Tick continues to be published by New England Comics, a chain of comic book shops in New England, thus the name. I’ve actually read either in trade paperback or in some other form every previous Tick Issue, so I was excited that we were finally going to get some new Tick comics with a new series starting in late 2017 and written by Cullen Bunn who has written a lot of work for Marvel Comics. We’ll be discussing Issues One through Four of this Tick series that were published in 2017 and 2018, as well as the 2008 Tick free Comic Book Day comic.

Well first, on to the ongoing series and we’ll talk about these four Issues and we’ll talk about the ongoing main story written by Cullen Bunn with art by JimmyZ, and then there are backup stories in each comic and we’ll talk about them as well. The story opens with the Tick and Arthur riding on a bus to Canada and the Tick recalling how they got there, which was the Tick was trying to stop a robbery by some ninjas and finds out that it’s all a trap – that the ninjas and their arch-nemesis, the Murder Clowns, have teamed up to battle against the Tick. And what happens in the course of the battle is that a crate falls on the Tick’s head. Now that would kill you or me, but being this is the Tick and he’s nigh invulnerable, when the crate lands on his head he starts speaking French, and then really goes after both Murder Clown and ninja alike with a vengeance, easily winning the battle.

It’s important to note that in this book Cullen Bunn is doing some callbacks to Ben Edlunds first work on the Tick. Edlund drew the Tick comic as a bit of a joke, kind of playing around with superheroes and got published in the New England Comics newsletter, and the idea was so popular that they decided that there needed to be a Tick comic book. As part of the newsletter Edlund drew up a list of facts about the Tick, describing his background, his weight, etc. and just really was just being absolutely silly and almost nonsensical about it. And the folks who wrote the newsletter didn’t bother to proofread it, thus having some very odd misspellings passed on for posterity whenever the piece is reprinted. Among the Tick’s abilities Edlund listed: can floss all his teeth, speaks fluent French, concert pianist, knows all the Presidents in order. And so the idea of the Tick starting to speak French by Bunn is a callback to Edlund’s original work.

After Tick thrashes both Murder Clown and ninja alike, he begins to wander and dream about his origin. He also orders a piano because, remember, according to Edlund’s 1986 list the Tick is a concert pianist. At any rate this sets the Tick on a trip to Canada to find out his origins, and it ends up being tied into a place call L’Chambre Rougeor The Red Room. And you get kind of a picture of the Tick’s origins, that the Tick started out in Canada, first fought evil in Canada, played hockey in Canada for his school team, and was trained at a school that was supposed to train superheroes but secretly also trained super villains.

In many ways the Tick’s origin story borrows from the whole Weapon-X part of Wolverine’s origin, and it also borrows from some ideas from the X-Men, and I think that’s perfectly fine because the first Tick comics parodied Superman and the Daredevil stories of the Frank Miller in the 1980s. So it’s in that tradition and the Tick meets his old flame, the Spotted Fever, and also picks up a boatload of fun-looking superheroes and takes them back with him to the city. And the first epilogue shows the Tick returning to the city and manages to really feature, I think, nearly every superhero they’ve ever had in the Tick, and it shows them getting together to welcome the Tick and the new Canadian superheroes imported meeting with the Ticks. And so, it also shows Spotted Fever who the Tick didn’t know was coming back kind of watching from a distance. So, it leaves some plot lines open for that.

Then there’s a second epilogue that has the leader of Murder Clowns and the leader of the ninja getting together with the bad guy from the book to make some plans. And then we cut to yet another epilogue which shows Barry AKA the guy who wants the name of the Tick and had claimed the name of the Tick, but ultimately lost the battle for that name, planning to come back to the city and to wreak his vengeance. And so, you’ve got some really interesting ways where Cullen Bunn continues to write the Tick that these stories could go, and I hope it goes with some of those ways. It really did leave me curious as to what he would do, though having followed Tick books I also know it’s possible that he could end up not writing any further, and there being no continuation or follow up on any of this. Still, I remain optimistic that if it does go forward that there’s going to be some interesting and fun things happening.

Now we’re going to turn to the backup stories which were mostly written by Jeff McClelland and then with art by a variety of artists. The first Issue has a story called The Box where the Tick is pursuing a ninja along with Arthur. The art in this by Dwayne Redhead is just great. It’s really fun and it stands out, it’s probably the best art either in the main story or backup stories in the entire four Issues. As for the story, the ninja being chased by the Tick and Arthur has a box in his hands, and they want to know what’s in the box. And it’s a pretty funny answer, good pay off. It does take a while to build up but I was satisfied with the way it ended.

Hostage Situation is in Issue Two and that one I didn’t much care for, because in Issue One Arthur went into a diner where Running Guy and Rubber Ducky, two superhero associates of the Tick, and members of Tick’s superhero team, were eating and the diner was actually run by Thrakkorzog. Thrakkorzog is actually one of those characters that’s appeared not only in the comics but also in the cartoon series, and I don’t know why he was running this diner. But as it happens, once Arthur leaves, what we learn in Hostage Situation is that Running Guy was apparently trying to give Arthur clues that they were being held captive by the supervillain. And, it’s kind of something where I rather expected, OK, well this is going to be a thing, and we’re going to have more stories about Rubber Ducky and Running Guy held hostage by this alien villain, but no. Issue Three doesn’t follow up with it and the only resolution we get in Issue Four is that it’s said in one panel that Thrakkorzog’s tongue had a dentist appointment and it couldn’t be rescheduled. And so, apparently Thrakkorzog had to stop holding them hostage so his tongue with teeth could get cared for and, yeah… This story was just pointless. It wasn’t really funny and I don’t think there was really a payoff at all.

Roadside Assistance in Issue Three…Issue Three had two…Roadside Assistance was a two-page story and it had a funny concept where Arthur was calling Roadside Assistance after a worm attacked his car when the Tick, Arthur and Cape Cod were all traveling in the car, while the Tick in the background is fighting this giant worm creature. Like I said it’s a funny idea. I don’t think the punchline’s really good. It was kind of like, OK, what? Did not make any sense.

Learning to Fly is just a one-page story. It finds Arthur hanging onto a cliff and the Tick urging him to fly, and it’s a really basic concept and it just has a pretty funny payoff. It doesn’t go on too long, it’s only a page and then you just get this perfect, “Oh, the Tick thinks like that.” So, I liked that one.

Then the final Issue, Issue Four’s got a story and I can’t find a title for the life of me. And it begins with the Tick declaring Arthur’s sandwich evil and just berating this sandwich nonsensically. And then we get to a punchline which is just kind of a pun. This one I didn’t like. I mean, the art wasn’t great, and then you also have the idea of the Tick attacking a sandwich as evil, and I could see that happening because the Tick can do some random things, but you really have got to…not just that random, just calling a sandwich evil out of nowhere, with really no explanation or reason for it. That was just a little too random for me.

But overall I will give the four Issues of The Tick comic series, Issues One through Four, a rating of Somewhat Classy. I don’t think this rises to the heights which Tick comics have reached when Edlund was writing it or Susan and Clay Griffiths. It was really funny when they were writing it. But it is an intriguing start, it’s got lots of fun stuff if you’re a longtime fan of the Tick. Nice Easter eggs if you’ve read a lot of the Tick comics. If not it may seem a little more random than it is, even though understanding it, it is still a bit random but I found it enjoyable and there’s a lot of great stuff if you’re a fan of the Tick.

Alright, now we move on to The Tick, Free Comic Book Date 2018, and we get three stories in here. The first is Prophecy of Peril which is a bit of an epic fantasy peril where the Tick is kind of in a swords and sorcery’s world without explanation, and is sent on this quest. And it has some fun art, some fun fight scenes – I don’t think really funny and the way it ends is kind of weird as you’re kind of like it was this all a dream, was this just the Tick goofing off, and yeah… It was an odd ending.

The next one is Thirty Minutes or Less, which is a story where a pizza guy is injured during the course of a robbery that the Tick stopped, and the Tick is determined to make the guy’s delivery within the set time of thirty minutes or less because he insisted on it because there’s nothing more important than a hot pizza on a cold night. How very true. And just a really Tick-like thing to say – it’s a pretty short story but it does have a lot of fun and is true to the character and just has a nice tale.

And that brings us to our third story, May the Best Man Win – and two members of the superhero team Tick belongs to, Rubber Ducky and the Bumbling Bee. Tick is selected as the best man and is taking his duties in the way that you would expect that the Tick to do. However, Rubber Ducky takes the Tick aside and reveals why he made him the best man, and that’s because the people who he got his powers from, and who he actually sent to jail are getting out and he’s afraid of them. And so the Tick sets out to confront these villains.

Overall I really enjoyed this story, it was just a very solid Tick story with some great action, some good humor. I’ll also will give writer Jeff McClelland some credit. I’m not a huge fan of the superhero team that’s attached to the Tick because most of them are simply one-note characters like jokes that…it’s just the same joke every time and there’s no real depth to them. And they’re not particularly likeable. I give Jeff McClelland some credit for being the first writer to take one of these characters and to develop them a bit and get into their backstory. That said, Rubber Ducky is still not a likeable character but at least he’s better defined and he’s not at the center of the action. Overall I give the 2018 Tick Free Comic Book Day comic a rating of Classy. This is probably the best free Comic Book Day offering for the Tick to date, and is also a really solid free Comic Book Day book – particularly as many of them tend to just focus on reprints and teasers. You get three pretty good stories for a comic that’s actually free to purchase, and it’s worth reading even if you have to pay for a copy online. I think they did a lot of good work on this, so I really enjoyed this particular comic.

Alright, well that’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed this special look at The Tick Comics. We’ll be back on Sunday with an Issue looking at actual graphic novels and trades. In the meantime send your comments to classycomicsguy@gmail.com. Check out the website: classycomicsguy.com and follow us on Twitter @classycomicsguy. From Boise, Idaho this is your host, Adam Graham, signing off.

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