When Ben Edlund was a child living in Massachusetts, he had some pretty hideous experiences with ticks, but those hideous experiences would lead to creativity – drawings turned into a comic book, and the comic book turned into a cartoon and then a series. Amazon Prime Video is about to launch the latest incarnation of Edlund’s superhero – The Tick.
The show stars comedian Peter Serafinowicz as Tick and Griffin Newman as his sidekick, Arthur. If you haven’t already discovered this superhero, the first season is completely binge-worthy as The Tick isn’t quite sure of his own origins and so tries to do good while answering his call of duty as a superhero. Filled with challenges, the show straddles between emotion and pure superhero satire. I caught up with Edlund to talk about The Tick‘s origins and what’s in store for our blue superhero this season.
This started for you as a child and ticks on the dogs, where did The Tick first begin for you?
I grew up in Massachusetts in a fairly rural suburb. My encounters with actual ticks started early and they were pretty hideous. But, I also grew up in an artistic family and there was a grotesque fascination with grotesque things. It remained something to me.
As I grew up, I was always drawing and writing stories, and I started to get influenced by superhero comic books. I wanted to contribute and make a fanciful and funny character. Initially, it was just a joke, I was partly making fun of my brother – Nick the tick. It was just fooling around. I started to develop a personality for this drawing that I was doing and I brought the character to a comic book company store not far from where I grew up and I began publishing comic books.
It all began when I was young. I was 17 when it started and it went through a series of iterations from a comic book and it went on to become a Saturday cartoon series that I got to be deeply involved in and it ended up being a calling card for me to move forward into other entertainment opportunities.
To my surprise, it’s just kept coming back and something got lodged in the public imagination and there’s just enough affection that he keeps coming back.
We’ve got season two a few weeks away.
With season one done and season two, how do you feel it went in terms of the character and what can we expect in season two?
The way that this story is unfolding, I wanted to take it oddly seriously when we approached it this time and that started last season when we made Arthur the main character or brought him up to be a co-main character and we really made his story of his emergence as a hero a very important one. That put us in the position of the first season being a hero’s quest with one villain and a binary relationship to the terror and everything was in service to that. To me, that was important for people who hadn’t seen The Tick and to get behind the paradigm and the family. That was step one.
I really wanted to get to step two, and that’s on the job. They went through the first season. Arthur met the challenges that he needed to meet. He accepts his destiny and he wants to be a superhero. That’s a ticket to have more fun. It’s a ticket to move faster. The Tick can do what he does best, and that is to sample more than one thing.
In this season, it’s more about this rich feast of different things of all things coming in at them and structurally it’s a lot more fulfilling because the support characters get storylines that they can really bite into and all of those things contribute to the main story and I’m very happy with where it’s heading.
This season features lobsters. What – without spoiling can you tell us about that storyline?
New villains rise and one of them is this strange crustacean bank robbing monstrosity with this supporting New England lobstermen. It starts often with small things and then mutation. It starts like a monster movie and a monster bank robber and that’s the thing that the youngest version of me would really want. I’m so happy to see this creature in the trailers and that to me is some of the fun that you should really be having with this show. And true to form with all of these storylines, it’s about a series of expectations and reversals of expectations.
One of the themes and the larger themes that we’re all dealing with is truth and what is true? The Tick himself has to deal with truth and untruths and everything is sort of new to him. One of his big struggles this season – some of which stem from his relationship with this lobster monster – he ends up needing to learn how to lie and he ends up needing to understand why we all need a lifeline to the truth. Lobstercules is another vehicle by which we get to examine that thematic material.
Through the different incarnations of the Tick, you’ve managed to keep content so fresh and not recycle. How do you keep that so original rather than just reboot?
There’s so much happening. The Tick is a reflection of Superhero culture. Superhero culture is growing and it gives so much new inspiration because it keeps developing. When I first started to do The Tick, I was looking across the canvas of superhero comic books and taking my cues from that level of entertainment and it was a small theater comparatively. When I went on to do the cartoon, that was drawing from a different base of culture but it was still in the superhero world.
It naturally draws in, like a breath, the stuff of its time and that creates a lot of things. So, Overkill is a character that needed to be. We were in a vigilante-type place and that asserted itself. Building off themes that we’ve had in The Tick since the comic book, there was a character called Big Shot who was a Punisher type dude.
This should be the work of someone else and someone should take over, but I have such a relationship with him that I just have to reinvent.
There’s also a costume change this season.
It’s a meta-type show and that lends itself and it’s consistent with who I think of as the Tick. He’s evolving as we go through the seasons. That is part of a story that I’m happy to be telling. It also happens to be the actual real-life story of engineering evolution as we improve both the aesthetics and the corporate level for Peter and being in this suit.
The shift in costume is The Tick saying “I’m going to change and we’re going to deal with it.”
The Tick Season two streams on Amazon Prime video from April 5