The Tick: The Animated Series is an American animated television series adaptation of the New England Comics satirical superhero, The Tick. The series aired for three seasons from 1994 to 1996 on the Fox network's Fox Kids block, which introduced the character to a mainstream audience. The Tick has been syndicated by various networks, further increasing the show's cult following, and has been released on both VHS and DVD. A live-action series aired in 2001. The Tick was also shown on Teletoon in Canada as part of its Toonaholics Anonymous block in 2001 and on Jetix in the United States.
The Tick is a superhero who underwent the tryouts at the National Super Institute in Reno, Nevada where superheroes who pass will be assigned to the best cities to protect from crime. Upon passing the tryouts, he is assigned to The City where he befriends a former accountant named Arthur whom he takes on as a sidekick. With the aid of Die Fledermaus, American Maid, Sewer Urchin, and other superheroes, the Tick and Arthur protect The City from bad guys like Chairface Chippendale, Breadmaster, El Seed, The Terror, and others who would harm it.
While still in college, Tick creator Ben Edlund was producing his independent comic book series The Tick based on the character. He was eventually approached by Kiscom, a small, New Jersey-based toy licensing and design company. Kiscom wanted to merchandise The Tick, much in the way that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a rival independent comic series, had been merchandised the previous year. Major TV networks and studios were reluctant to take on an animated series based on the absurd character. Kiscom stayed in touch with Edlund and finally Sunbow Entertainment, the small, New York-based animation company that created The Transformers, G.I. Joe, and The Mask, paired him up with writer Richard Liebmann-Smith. Neither had any experience in animation or television, but for two months they worked vigorously on the first episode of The Tick. Neither man held high esteem for their final script, and their feelings were validated when FOX turned down the first pitch. They were given one more chance to refine it in five days. Over one weekend, they worked "instinctively" with little sleep and ended up satisfying FOX. Edlund later reflected, "We kind of defined in one weekend exactly where the show went for that first season, which was cool."
While some darker characters and sexual innuendo seen in the comic series would be removed for its animated counterpart, Sunbow's Tick series would hold to its satirical roots. Writing duties were also given to Christopher McCulloch who had met Edlund prior to their television work and wrote several issues of the Tick comic book series. They would much later work together on McCulloch's Adult Swim series, The Venture Bros.. Edlund, a co-producer of The Tick, remained very hands-on during production, causing delays. According to Edlund: "There was a period where I was extremely attentive to everything that had to be solved, and these efforts ultimately made the show a year late. I saw the storyboards that were being done and realized that if The Tick were animated off of those, it would fall apart. It would be a shadow of what it is now, which is something that isn't massively successful, but has this real staying power. So now instead of looking like bad '90s animation, it kind of looks like bad '70s superhero animation, which definitely has a unique style about it."
Rather than being an asylum escapee, as portrayed in the Tick comic book series, the animated version of The Tick crashes a superhero convention to win the "protectorship" of The City. With its emphasis on superhero parody, The Tick became a Saturday morning staple during the Fox Kids block. Its title character was voiced by Townsend Coleman and his sidekick, Arthur, by Micky Dolenz for Season 1. Rob Paulsen took over the latter role for Seasons 2 and 3. The series also features Die Fledermaus as a shallow, self-absorbed Batman parody; Sewer Urchin, an Aquaman parody who resembles Dustin Hoffman's character in Rain Man; and American Maid, a more noble superheroine featuring aspects of Wonder Woman and Captain America.
The show's opening theme, written by Doug Katsaros, who also composed the scores for every episode, consists of big band music and campy scat singing. A
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