Comics / Back Issues

The Tick: The Complete Edlund

By Zak Edwards
December 26, 2009 - 23:26

Remember the Tick, possibly from the TV shows, animated or very short lived live action?  To be honest, I only knew The Tick from the animated show which played when I was fairly young so a chance to encounter the original material in one convenient package was very tempting for me.  I must say, this genre of satire has the tendency to be just plain stupid rather than absurd, but the pull of The Tick when it came out must have been how blatant it is while satirizing the whole superhero genre and conventions.  In a word, Spoon!, but that may just be the fact I have consumed a significant amount of Tick  recently without proper supervision.

The Tick doesn’t pull any punches about what it is making fun of, and its obviousness is actually quite welcoming.  These original issues were created and published in the fallout from Watchmen, before the inner perspective of the superhero became the sort of cliche it is now, but The Tick takes the similar conventions of those comics in the eighties, like Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns and Arkham Asylum, and pulls them apart using comedy as a method.  Some of the many obvious references to comic heroes, such as Oedipus as a counterpart to Elektra (get it?  Cause of Freud?  Just one of the many jabs at the superhero as a character, parent issues), or Clark Oppenheimer, aka the Caped Wonder as Superman.  The latter proves to be a very funny and brutal dissection of the Superman character in a similar vein to what Dr. Manhattan did to the character in Watchmen (and survives in The Tick with the last name Oppenheimer referencing the Manhattan Project).  But there are more subtle jabs at comic books and the comic book industry which prove to be really entertaining.  One panel depicts the famous globe atop Clark Kent’s paper, The Daily Planet, getting knocked over by a wrecking ball.  In an age where Superman has largely lost his relevancy, the Tick has come to destroy him, and the character of Clark Oppenheimer was certainly made a fool of in the earlier issues to continue in the heavy handed disection.  One of my favourite moments in the omnibus, however, has got to be the ninja gang, who have been taken over by a fat business man more interested in looks than actual ninja talent and putting the ninja name on every piece of merchandise possible.  The reference to how the industry now conducts business, with a focus on merchandising and collecting royalties on outsourcing rights of characters, survives today and Ben Edlund, who has since moved on to such projects as Angel, Supernatural, and the Jaynestown episode of Firefly, saw this around his eighteenth birthday.  That’s another thing to remember when reading this omnibus, this creator is young and fresh, creating a very successful comic book before his twentieth birthday.

But the Tick is not limited solely to satirizing superheroes, Edlund also makes use of many other pieces of pop culture.  For example, the road trip issues are sheer brilliance, combining the buddy comedy and superhero antics with a dash of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles for good measure.  The famous Playstation 2 shaped black box from 2001: A Space Odyssey allows for an intoxicated Arthur to have his ‘dawning’ in another laugh out loud moment, the hard-boiled detective and samurai story are also all given their time to be poked and prodded, which makes the stories even farther reaching and ambitious.  Edlund’s satire and comedy comes from so many different places and works on different levels, even within the art itself, that it can be reengaged with and thought about multiple times.  Basically the entire book is a giant laugh, from start to finish, even if the finish isn’t even done by Edlund.  My sole complaint about this collection is the cost.  Thirty-Five dollars US is a lot for thirteen black and white issues considering X-Men collections of the same amount of issues are the same price and they are in colour and on better quality paper.

As for Edlund’s art, it plays with the stereotype as much as every other aspect of the book.  The Tick, of course, is the stereotypical over muscled man who is more brawn than brain and characters like him are constantly encountered, including the other Tick, who cannot compete with the original Tick’s impenetrable shield of ignorance and stupidity.  As I mentioned earlier, the comedy can appear in different places physically within the frame, with Edlund maximizing space through silent pieces of humour in the background, like the destruction of the Daily Planet globe.  While The Tick has since moved to colour, the black-and-white used here, probably being more of a financial choice than anything else, is still very well done.  It’s crisp and clear, doing exactly what it needs to without any sort of indulgence.  No panel feels quickly gone through in any way, with each one looking as if Edlund seriously considered it important and worthy of attention.  Too often less important panels are sort of washed over in order to focus on big spreads, but none of this sort of ethic appears in these issues.  In fact, there are no giant spreads in the entire book, all 400 pages, which is also refreshing in itself.

9/10    What a great buy, if but a little pricey.

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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