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The Tick: The Entire Series

"The Tick is a work in stupid," creator Ben Edlund told the website Slashdot in 2001. "Just as others may choose clay or stone or paint, I and my compatriots have chosen stupidity as our medium." Edlund first created his big blue superhero in graphic form while still a student studying film at the Massachusetts College of Art. The story of a "big, dumb do-gooder" and his hapless sidekick, Arthur (who dresses as a moth but is often mistaken for a bunny), "The Tick" skewered the conventions of traditional tights-and-cape comics, most notably in its portrayal of The Tick himself. With his hugely disproportionate body and exaggerated musculature, Tick is the embodiment of every freakish DC/Marvel superhero to come down the pike. In the comics, he's introduced in a straight-jacket before escaping a mental institution so he can go forth and fulfill his destiny: "Destiny is a funny thing. Once I thought I was destined to become Emperor of Greenland, sole monarch over its 52,000 inhabitants. Then I thought I was destined to build a Polynesian longship in my garage. I was wrong then, but I've got it now — I'm destined protector of this place. I'm the city's superhero." The detail-intensive, interconnected storylines were so beautifully rendered and hilariously written that the comic was an enormous hit for its publisher, tiny New England Comics. Then Hollywood came knocking, in the form of Sunbow Entertainment and Fox Children's Network — in the fall of 1994, a sanitized Saturday morning version of The Tick was born, keeping the spirit of the comic surprisingly intact.

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In 2001, a diverse group of interests including Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black, Addams Family Values) Larry Charles (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm) and David Sacks (Murphy Brown, 3rd Rock From the Sun) joined forces with Edlund to create a live-action series. In a stroke of casting genius, Patrick Warburton (best known as Puddy from Seinfeld) was cast to play Tick, with David Burke as Arthur. With the cartoon rights falling into other hands, new superhero characters had to be invented to replace the animated show's Der Fleidermaus and American Maid — so they were mutated slightly into the vain Eurotrash crimefighter Batmanuel (Nestor Carbonell) and the earnest, insecure, CIA-connected Captain Liberty (Liz Vassey). Whether it was simply the time and expense involved in bringing The Tick to the screen, Fox's inability to appropriately market the oddball comedy, or Ben Edlund's own rather notorious inability to maintain the pace of TV deadlines, the show never really stood a chance at success. Originally slated to premiere midseason 2001 following The Simpsons on Sundays, Fox instead held on to the show until after the fall season as insurance against the Screen Actors Guild strike, then dumped it with little promotion in a sure-to-lose slot on Thursdays opposite Friends and Survivor. The eight episodes that aired between November 2001 and January 2002 were haphazardly shuttled between four different nights, challenging Tick fans to seek the show out before it disappeared entirely, with one episode never making it onto the air at all.

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Columbia TriStar's DVD release of The Tick: The Entire Series offers all nine existing episodes in pristine anamorphic transfers (1.78:1) with sparkling DD 5.1 audio. Much of the show's humor comes from the very idea of superheroes having to live in the same world as everyone else — Tick invades Arthur's apartment, creating a swath of destruction as he looks for secret passages and crime-busting equipment (Arthur: "I've got nothing — this is just an apartment!"), the duo have to cadge rides in the Batmanuelmobile because they don't own a car, and Captain Liberty obsesses over dating issues. Clever casting of guest-stars complements the wicked writing — in "Couples," Ron Perlman plays Fiery Blaze, who first impresses The Tick and Arthur with his relationship with his sidekick, Friendly Fire (Tick: "Oh my — a secret handshake! Lordy, gents, your banter is immaculate and a pleasure to witness!") but soon appalls Arthur when he sees how abusive their relationship really is. In "Arthur, Interrupted," Captain Liberty encourages Arthur to "come out" to his family as a superhero — but Arthur's mom sets up an intervention with a therapist named Arthur Peacock (Dave Foley) who lectures, "Oh, it starts out innocently enough ... you find yourself hanging out at costume shops. Maybe you try on a cape — maybe a mask. Maybe even gauntlets. And the next thing you know, you're trying on your first pair of tights." In "The Funeral," Captain Liberty is assigned to escort legendary superhero The Immortal (Sam McMurray) when he comes to town for a book-signing — only to have the legend drop dead in her bed. The unaired ninth episode, "The Terror," was originally set to be the show's second outing, then re-shot as a flashback episode with framing scenes showing the quartet of heroes celebrating Tick and Arthur's one-year anniversary. In the ep, Captain Liberty's jealousy of Tick leads her to set him against the most evil villain she can find — The Terror (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Armin Shimerman), who turns out to be 112 years old. Several of the episodes feature optional, tech-heavy commentary by Ben Edlund and Barry Sonnenfeld. Also on board are trailers for other Columbia TriStar DVD releases. It all comes in a Tick-blue, dual-DVD slimline keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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