Plus: The original producers discuss bringing their character into a darker world
In 2001, Ben Edlund’s The Tick debuted years before The Avengers passed the billion-dollar mark and the superhero genre was dominating television. The Fox live-action comedy was an outlier that was canceled, ending after a nine-episode run. Now, 15 years later, the minds behind the show and the character are hoping that the new landscape is friendlier to their strange, blue hero.
On Friday, the newest iteration of The Tick will hit Amazon with its pilot, and EW has your first look at the hero back in action with two exclusive clips. The Fox version was a silly spoof on superheroes, but the reincarnation looks to bring the character into the darker environment in which most superheroes seem to live nowadays, such as on Daredevil and Jessica Jones.
For Edlund, who first created the character over 30 years ago when he was still in high school, moving his eccentric character into a new reality without losing what makes him unique was a big challenge.
“It’s a tremendous balancing act because it had to have stakes, it had to have blood, it had to have certain things that are part of the living language of superheroes in the popular culture today,” he tells EW. “It has a responsibility if it wants to play in that pool to have life and death, to have a relationship to violence that none of the other iterations did. And so how do you have The Tick slip in a pool of blood and have it be funny? You have to find a very specific tone.”
With a new tone and series comes a new Tick. Stepping into the iconic blue suit left behind by Patrick Warburton is British actor-comedian Peter Serafinowicz, who has experience in the superhero world due to a small role in Guardians of the Galaxy. After only one episode, Edlund says that his new Tick has already fully embodied the character in his mind.
“His voice is The Tick’s voice — it’s what I hear in my head now,” he says. “And to kind of have that take place when combating the very, very large shadow that is cast by Patrick Warburton and his way of characterizing this creature, that is a tremendous relief to feel like there is a new authoritative take on this character in live-action.”
Edlund adds that this new Tick is quite different from past versions, as he’s weirder and could be even more dangerous — especially when it comes to his fascination with Arthur, his human sidekick. The new pilot of The Tick does what Edlund admits the last show didn’t and puts a greater emphasis on following Arthur’s journey into this world.
“He’s the main character. He’s the one who has the arc. He’s the one who gives us the shoes you wear to pass through this universe,” says Edlund. “In the previous live-action, there really wasn’t the time taken to build what is usually a compelling main character story. So I mean The Tick is no less an important character than Arthur — he’s titular — but it was really important to take this human character seriously and give us a chance to really bond with him and be with him emotionally and then have him encounter the strangest entity in his universe.”
Barry Josephson, an executive producer on both live-action series, is just glad that they are finally getting to make the show that they’ve always envisioned. Josephson told EW in March that the Fox series wasn’t exactly the right version. “My dream of this version of The Tick was to be able to go back to Ben and get his original voice, and now that he’s such an evolved television writer, have him have the opportunity to make his version of The Tick,” he says. “That’s what we both wanted out of this and we have that now.’
Even if Josephson and Edlund are happy to have done the show their way this time, its future is out of their hands. As is typical with the Amazon pilot processs, the streaming service will gather feedback from viewers before giving a series the greenlight. While The Tick has become a cult-following over the years, Edlund realizes that the series will need to gain greater appeal in order to survive.
“The fans are only a portion of an audience that we are going to need to maintain this,” he says. “I think we can’t move forward without that dedicated core, but I think also the hope is that other people see it for what it is, which is a freestanding story that benefits from the history it has, but doesn’t rely on it.”