“Destiny’s powerful hand has made the bed of my future, and it’s up to me to lie in it.  I am destined to be a superhero.  To right wrongs, and to pound two-fisted justice into the hearts of evildoers everywhere.  And you don’t fight destiny, No sir!  And, you don’t eat crackers in the bed of your future, or you get all… scratchy!”

Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of The Tick #1 awaits!

Tick1CoverjTHE TICK #1
Writer: Ben Edlund
Penciler: Ben Edlund
Inker: Ben Edlnund
Letterer: Bob Polio
Editor: George Suarez
Publisher: New England Press
Cover Price: $1.75
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $80.00

Previously in The Tick:  What can one say about the Tick that the man himself hasn’t said better (and louder?)  “I am mighty!  I have a glow you cannot see.  I have a heart as big as the moon.  As warm as bath water.  We are superheroes, men, we don’t have time to be charming!  The boots of evil were made for walkin’!  We’re watching the big picture, friend.  We know the score.  We are a public service, not glamour boys!  Not captains of industry…  Keep your vulgar moneys!   We are a justice sandwich.  No toppings necessary.  Living rooms of America, do you catch my drift? Do you dig??”

Based on that mission statement, it should be no surprise where we first meet our big blue hero…

Tick11“The city calls to me!”  Given that cry for justice (not THAT ‘Cry For Justice’, this one is actually worth reading), what else can our top-heavy hero do but heed the incessant voice of his destiny?


For a publication that was done on an amateur basis, this issue has some really impressive artwork in it, as Tick bounds across the rooftops of the city (smashing brick and mortar as he goes, one of my favorite running gags in the series, and one which carried over into the cartoon version as well.)  “Sometimes I forget things… Who I am, where I am… Unimportant things,” intones our hero as he executes a perfect dismount from a rooftop…


Crashing to yet another rooftop, he uses his special crime-viewer (younger readers might want to ask someone in their forties exactly what that particular device actually is) to scope out evil before literally tumbling into an adventure…


While we don’t meet the mysterious Oedipus in this issue, she is a familiar looking ninja in a colorful uniform, and these ninjas are meant to parody the use of ninjas in many notable 80s comics (specifically Frank Miller’s ‘Daredevil,’ Frank Miller’s ‘Ronin,’ Frank Miller’s ‘Elektra,’ and probably books not by Frank Miller as well) but their kicks and swords and whirling shurikens are relatively useless against the Tick’s massive, nigh-invulnerable carcass…


I am a huge fan of the moment where Tick tires of being spin-kicked, and backhands several ninjas away with an annoyed “Quit it!” before leaping once again into action.  Edlund does a great job with the dialogue, even though it’s mostly a series of excited non-sequiturs, but you can’t help but smile a little as Tick tries to ricochet of a flagpole, fails and declares “I’ll bounce of that broad, flat surface and be in a lot of pain!”  To add insult to injury, a panhandler immediately begins accosting him with demands that he explain himself…


Poor ninjas.  You almost feel bad for ’em.  Meanwhile, Tick and his new friend continue their discussion of his distinctive attire, with the man finally sneering, “What are you suppose t’be?  You some kinda roach or something?”


Soon after, the stranger realizes that Tick is clearly the man who escaped from the asylum, just in time for more ninjas to attack.  I’ll be honest here, Spoilerite friends and family, it’s truly hard to review any Tick story, much less these earliest ones, due to their stream-of-consciousness storytelling.  Tick shrugs off the ninja attacks, deciding he needs a secret identity, and setting out to get a cup of coffee…


The Edward Hopper joke may be my favorite reference in this entire issue (made more wonderful by a complete lack of lampshading, something which I’ve just ruined, so… sorry?) leading to more discussion and defense of Tick’s nom de guerre.  It’s clear that even a young Ben Edlund has a lot going for him, as seen in the careful line work of the Tick, and even though it doesn’t seem like they’re expecting a long-term narrative to erupt out of these shenanigans, there are still great moments of character and dialogue to be had in the meandering story…


The barman quickly defuses the situation by pointing out that at least he’s not walking dead or a talking fish-man (the first inkling that the world of The City isn’t quite the world outside our window) while Tick continues sucking air through the straw.  A discussion about Alice Roosevelt breaks out before things once again get weird…


I will say, even as I like this comic book (I actually have a couple of versions of it, as different printings have additional material, and the book went back to press something like ten times), the suddenness and strangeness of the transitions do tend to be a little bit wearying, as Tick blacks out in the cafe and wakes up in complete darkness, jumping to a characteristic conclusion…


Remember what I said about the hints of strange stuff already in play?  Realizing that there’s someone lying on the tracks (and pokin’ the third rail to see what happens) a mild-mannered reporter leaps into action to save him.  Of course, that sort of rescue only works if the victim isn’t a super-strong nutbar who thinks he’s being digested by a blue whale…


“Oh, it’s a train!” cries Tick, as the two men are rocketed out of the subway tunnel, down the tracks and down into the filthy streets of The City.  Realization dawns slowly for our hero, as his skin isn’t the only thing that thick…


Clark, like Oedipus, will play a larger role in coming issues (and the jokes about who he represents continue apace), but this issue ends with Tick figuring out how to craft his own secret identity, based on seeing Clark in action.  All in all, there are dozens of comics that strive for “wacky” at the expense of story and character, but Edlund manages to strike a delicate balance here, making the Tick’s weird stream-of-consciousness adventures entertaining and at least coherent enough to keep watching.  The seeds of what everyone loves about the Tick in his various incarnations are clearly in evidence here and The Tick #1 manages to actually be funny, even 25 years after the fact, earning a well-deserved (and well-preserved) 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  If only the Adolescent Radioactive Blackbelt Hamsters could have aged this well…

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About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. WitchRolina on

    That was rather interesting! I remember the TV show when growing up and how my whole family loved it. Even my parents, who normally don’t care for Saturday morning shows. I might check to see if this is available digitally, I’d love to see the source of the show.

    …Off chance you guys do retro reviews of old shows? I’d love to see a review of the first episode of the animated series to act as a pair with this review.

    • What a great cartoon! My favorite part was the soft continuity of the series. If something happened to the moon, it stayed happened to the moon!

  2. Matticus_Finch on

    Like many people, I first discovered “The Tick” from his amazing Saturday morning iteration. When I got a little bit older I managed to track down the first trade of this series and eventually others. Even some of the later books where different writer’s have taken a hand at Big Blue and his plucky sidekick always manage to hit me in exactly the right place to make me laugh at their absurdism before flipping back to read them again to find what I’d missed the first time through. I would still love it if the MSP would review one of these trades on the podcast… although I know how difficult they can be to find. My copies hold a coveted place in my own Nerd Room of Doom.

    Very fun review to read!

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