For Ben Edlund, creator of The Tick, there are certain elements that go into creating the right kind of superhero or villain to fit into the satirical world he’s built over the last 30-plus years. Of the various incarnations the Tick has taken — comic books, an animated series, and two live-action television shows among them — one thing has remained consistent aside from the big blue lug having an unquenchable thirst for justice: he’s always surrounded by a number of charmingly mundane supporting characters, both like and unlike his stalwart sidekick Arthur.
Fans of the series likely remember American Maid, Deflatermouse, Sewer Urchin, and Batmanuel. They’re all vaguely reminiscent of other popular superheroes, but they are also immediately recognizable for how they fit in with the Tick and the rest of the costumed crime fighters in the City. And though these characters haven’t yet seen the light of day in Amazon’s The Tick, the newest series isn’t exactly experiencing a shortage of idiosyncratic heroes and villains, like Superian (Brendan Hines), Overkill (Scott Speiser), Tinfoil Kevin (Devin Ratray), Ms. Lint (Yara Martinez), and in season 2, Ty Rathbone (Marc Kudisch), Lobstercules (Niko Nedyalkov), and Flexon (Steven Ogg).
In a recent interview with Screen Rant. Edlund discussed the nature of The Tick’s characters and what goes in to creating a hero or villain that fits into the irreverent world he’s created. As Edlund sees it, part of what makes the characters work is how flawed they often times are, and how the mundanity of everyday life creeps into their superpowered personas:
“I think that it’s sort of like applying certain forces that don’t normally get applied to super humans, unless they do so in operatic levels. Getting across town or trying to make money, or trying to stay away from the forces of your depression and get out of the bed in the morning, and just try to have a working relationship with the ex-wife or with the parole board.
All these things, those are the mundane kind of feelings we understand. The fun of, and maybe some of the enduring quality of this version of superhero fun, is we really look to just get these little moments that are very, very familiar. They happen frequently because we’re making jokes of these familiar human moments that take place in the lives of people with capes and boots. There’s a lot of … For me, I like it. It’s very low grade, low to the ground humor. Quiet humor.”
Edlund went on to explain how characters new to season 2, like Flexon and Ty Rathbone (and to a larger extent, A.E.G.I.S.) have to be grounded in some way, because if the show goes too far in making them seem overtly ridiculous, some of the humor winds up being lost.
“It’s weird, because there a lot of characters that are just too over the top, or they’re not funny enough. A lot of them that don’t quite make it are actually really great, but what they lack is what we were just talking about. It’s a kind of reliable through-line of vulnerability and humanity. When that’s familiar, then we have a real thing going, in general.
I think, for example, the formulation of Ms. Lint was a good example, last season, and continues to be. There’s a part of her that couldn’t be more basic, in terms of ‘Oh, I know. Give her a scar, give her that scar,’ you know, ‘with the eye that’s white!’ I just wanted to make her look a little different, and then I also didn’t want to make her look too different, so she has that scar, that so many bad guys have, right? She’s an electric lady. That’s not a very interesting power. So she could walk right out of any Marvel or Image comic, or anything like that, and just be one of those enforcers from one of those things. It’s not a humor thing, and it’s not in essence really even original. That’s almost part of what needs to take place, it shouldn’t be too original or we’re not making fun of anything.
The humor comes from the fact that her base charge draws lint to her, that’s created her whole outlook on life. Villains are supposed to be wearing black, and she can’t control that part of her power … She meets the Terror, and that creates a dependency. Then she ends up just living in this co-op thing with her ex-husband, who is maddeningly nice. I mean, it’s a mess. Her life’s a mess.”
Superheroes and super-villains with messy lives is part of what makes The Tick so much fun to watch, and certainly a big part of why the character and his ever-evolving cast of supporting players has been such an enduring part of superhero culture.
The Tick season 2 is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.