THE TICK: An Interview With Ben Edlund
So the Tick is back! Seriously. The big blue guy with antenna is ready for a full-blown return to television, and whether or not he makes it is up to you. Amazon will unveil the pilot for a new version of the character beginning August 19th and, as with all their pilots, viewer response will determine whether or not it spawns a series.
The Tick is back, and Amazon has him in a pilot for a series that has gone live. In this excerpt from an exclusive interview, writer/creator Ben Edlund discusses this new take on the character...
“In a world where superheroes have been real for decades,” offers Amazon, “an underdog accountant with zero powers comes to realize his city is owned by a global super villain long-thought dead. As he struggles to uncover the conspiracy, he falls in league with a strange blue superhero.” That hero (previously voiced by Townsend Coleman in a 1994-96 animated series, and played by Patrick Warburton in the 2001 live action version) is portrayed by Peter Serafinowicz. Griffin Newman is the aforementioned accountant, Arthur Everest; Jackie Earle Haley is The Terror, the also afored super villain; Valorie Curry is Arthur’s sister, Dot; Yara Martinez is superheroine Ms. Lint; and Brendan Hines is the troubled hero Superian.
Ben Edlund, who created the character 30 years ago as a sort of mascot for comic book stores New England Comics, and who has overseen all previous incarnations of the character, is back guiding this version. He has written (and repeatedly rewritten) the pilot to give it a modern sensibility and a hoped-for built-in longevity by making this take far different from anything that’s come before. In this exclusive interview from Empire, Edlund reflects on the evolution of this version of the Tick.
Let’s start with the 200lb big blue guy in the room: obviously when people heard that there was going to be a new version of the Tick, they assumed Patrick Warburton would be back in the role. Why was the decision made for that not to be the case?
It was a desire to try and do a complete reboot and have some new face be the Tick. I love Patrick and he loves me. Ultimately, we were seeking a new expression of that character to try and sort of set ourselves apart from every other iteration that took place. I basically had been in an ongoing battle with them going through many drafts of he Tick script. We got to a place where they were finally ready to green light it and then we started to talk about the real nuts and bolts of what they wanted to see as an expression of the pilot. That's where we came to find their dedication to do a new incarnation of this thing. It's at that point that Patrick graciously stepped aside, kept his producer role, and went into this together with me.
Are you worried about fan backlash? People love the 2001 show, though presumably as far as Amazon is concerned that's, relatively speaking, a very small number of people.
Yeah, I think there will be some. But there's always fan backlash. If we took Patrick again, we'd get some kind of fan backlash from somebody. Maybe Dwayne Johnson's fans would be mad at us for some reason. There are always very dedicated, very passionate people who find themselves in love with whatever cultural object they choose to fall in love with. Tick's now a 30-year-old cultural object. There are fans of every kind stretching backward, and we are looking to scoop them all up and embrace them and keep them in a warm hug [laughs]. What I really want is for this this new expression to be the best it can be. We have to kind of build a bridge and embrace all of it.
Has the Tick changed since the last incarnation?
He’s changed in every one of these iterations or these various expressions. In the [New England Comics] newsletter, he was extremely dangerous and spoke French, was mean to people and beat up a bunch of Muppets. In the comic book, he was a different version of this kind of character, still on the edge of danger. But then he started to warm up a little bit in the cartoon; it was about the most robust he's ever been in any of the versions and had a certain kind of air about him that was changed when we came to live action. Patrick embodied him in a way that embraced the earlier versions, but made it his own. This new version is, I think, in some ways closer to the comic book and that world. Not as “funny” in terms of making jokes about superheroes that were very pun based or very far away galaxy, that sort of come from a lighter world. It was a requirement of this piece to somehow bridge the world of legitimate superheroes that are really having battles between good and evil and having dramatic stakes.
One of the ways of looking at it for me is Robert Altman's MASH. There’s very sharp, very funny humor in that movie, but it also happens to be one of the earliest movies that applied dirt to Army movies and really made everything grubby, worn out and spent. Anyway, we're looking to make a very funny comedy that also treats heroes with as much reality as we can possibly treat them. That applies to the Tick to some degree as well, which means to me that he can't really be as sort of full on verbose and scene-stoppingly wordplayish as he has been in the cartoon and the prior live-action. The prior live action existed a little bit in the world of, let's say, Police Squad, or something with a similar run.
Police Squad was a series that had six episodes and was done. It was also a kind of humor that couldn’t really sustain itself due to the repetition of the jokes.
Because there's no real arc. There's no sense of an investment in the mission or an investment in the hero’s quest that's being established. You keep coming back to square one, which is, let's have fun with superheroes. That cannot be the operating philosophy of an ongoing series that gets renewed and builds on it's own arc and is our first TV offering in fifteen years. I've gotten to a place where I want to do a real continuity and really have the viewer feel like they're being cradled in a variety of storytelling, where things happen for a reason and when things happen they're not forgotten. That's where you bring the reality that the characters exist in. The continuity is tight and you don’t feel like you’re watching a free improvisation. I want there to be a feeling that as much as we're laughing, it's because we're in kind of a weirdly real world of superheroes that just happens to be told with a skewed voice — and not mugging for laughs. That's affects how the Tick is characterized to a degree, but still with that funny element inside that world. Then everybody else will probably be, in lighter ways, reacting to him while maintaining character traits.
For much more with Ben Edlund on The Tick, click HERE.
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