Saturday, October 18, 2014

He Doesn't Get A Spoon Until Issue 7

I picked up The Tick: The Complete Edlund collection a month or so ago. There are a lot of Tick comics, I was curious, and starting at the beginning seemed like the best idea.

I'm pretty sure I'd read some older collection of some of this in a bookstore in the '90s, because I remembered the Tick fighting lots of ninjas and being very confused by that (my only experience with the character having been the cartoon up to that point). Early on, Edlund pokes at Superman a little bit by having the Tick meet a Clark Kent analogue called the Caped Wonder (from the planet Otter Creek) who believes himself the protector of The City. Shortly after that, it shifts to more of a Frank Miller Daredevil pastiche with "Night of a Million Zillion Ninjas" (also, "Early Morning of a Million Zillion Ninjas". Complete with a lady ninja in a familiar (albeit color-swapped to yellow) outfit named Oedipus. Oedipus Ashley Stevens.

Arthur, the Tick's sidekick, doesn't appear until near the end of that story, and he asks to work with the Tick because he wants an extraordinary life and was finding that difficult to manage on his own, even with the flying suit. They leave the City shortly thereafter (because there's very little crime), get into a few hijinks on the road, and eventually reach New York City, where there are so many superheroes they have to reserve a section of street ahead of time to patrol, and there's still almost no super-villains to fight. By the end of all that, Tick and Arthur decide they want to go back to the City, though the next collection was Karma Tornado, and they didn't do it there. Because that was sort of a placeholder while people waited to see if Edlund came back to work on the characters some more. I wasn't as enamored with that one, maybe because it felt a little too obvious it was spinning its wheels.

It's interesting how different Tick is initially. Maybe it's due to the story opening with him escaping from a mental institute, but at times he's almost sinister. While he's working at the newspaper (as Mr. Nedd, the new crossword editor) he seems to delight in tormenting the Jimmy Olsen analogue, and in making life difficult for the Caped Wonder. I'm not sure how much of it is meant to be purposeful, and how much is the Tick unwittingly using his power of dramatics. Apparently his presence will make any situation more dramatic. So maybe he's behaving that way to try and spark a hero versus hero brawl. But when it nearly happens, he immediately breaks Clark's glasses, and here comes the Olsen analogue, so Clark has to stop fighting and come up with some ludicrous way to maintain his secret identity. It's like Tick's genre savvy without realizing it.

Some of the Tick's more ominous air is probably the inking. The book is all in black and white, and for the first half of it, the Tick's costume is basically presented as black. Which makes him this huge dark presence on the page. In the latter half, after he and Arthur have teamed up, he's mostly presented as being lighter, with occasional shadows where appropriate. He's a brighter presence at that point. In general, I think Edlund's linework gets stronger in the second half, and he cuts down on the hatching and some of the excess little lines, relies on shading more. I think it works better. The Tick plays out as kind of an old-style superhero, and so the more solid look, with fewer lines fits him well, as a square-jawed do-gooder.

Though the Tick's do-gooding is mostly incidental. As he remarks at one point, he doesn't want to stop crime, he wants to fight it. He's really excited when he gets a super-villain to fight. When an innocent person gets hurt, he responds by getting depressed, questioning his purpose, and then destroying stuff.

There was one sequence in the book I couldn't quite decide on. When Tick first accompanies Arthur back to his apartment, there's a moment where Tick becomes concerned Arthur is. . . funny. Arthur responds that no, he isn't. . . funny. They both agree heroes shouldn't be. . . funny. Then decide they need beers. Manly beers. So is Edlund commenting on the people who makes jokes about two guys in spandex living together, or on the writers and fans who are so eager to assert that no, there's nothing like that about it all, or is he making the "hurr, hurr, two guys in spandex living together" joke himself? The fact that it's Tick and Arthur each getting very eager to prove they aren't. . . funny, by getting beers makes me think it's the second one, but I'm not sure. I just could not decide what Edlund was going for there.

That brief bit aside, it's an interesting book for watching the shift in the Tick over time, and the second half of the book provides the kinds of Tick stories I was expecting. It also introduces a lot of characters and plotlines that made it into the cartoon (though they were often recombined in new ways on TV), as well as some that didn't, but that I would very much like to see followed up on. The first half of the book, while not what I was expecting, was still pretty cool just for seeing the Tick in a story where he seemed so out of place. A battle to preserve or destroy the soul of ninjutsu is perhaps more deep (or attempting to be deep) than what you'd expect for him. Bad guy tries to carve his name into the moon with a laser? Sure, that sounds like something for the Tick. A story about whether opening up something to any schmoe with a few bucks cheapens it, and whether that gives someone who truly loves it the right to destroy it, that's a little more heavy. So it's neat in that it's unusual, and it does give the Tick the opportunity to fight a whole lot of guys all at once, which is something that suits him.

1 comment:

SallyP said...

I do believe that I have this, although I haven't read it in quite some time. But it really is a hoot.