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The Tick Omnibus

In yet another example of working through my backlog, I went and found myself a copy of The Tick Omnibus that collects the first six issues of the hilarious superhero send up written and drawn by Ben Edlund.

If you are like me, the better part of your pre-adolescent (and, being honest, plenty of my adolescent) Saturdays was spent watching cartoons. My first introduction to The Tick was actually the Saturday morning cartoon of the same name. My weekends were filled with oxygen depriving belly-laughs, thanks mainly to this show. I even got dear old dad, a man who has never been a fan of cartoons, to laugh like a madman while watching an overly muscular arachnid in a blue suit fight crime and jump off buildings.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that The Tick was the star of not only the small screen, but also the small press. Did I buy it? Well, of course I did. You're reading a review on it. Geeez. Let's move on….

The comic has several distinct differences from the cartoon: one of which being that The Tick of the comic books is an escaped mental patient (who just happens to be nigh-invulnerable and super strong, so how did they get that straight jacket on him?). As one would guess, the padded rubber room is quite boring, so Tick decides to go off and defend the world from the scummy underbelly of crime.

The next five chapters involve The Tick getting embroiled in one comic superhero parody after another, and it never disappoints. The Tick stumbles across someone who he believes might help him learn a thing or two about secret identities: Clark Oppenheimer, mild-mannered reporter. Edlund does the best satire of the Superman mythos I have ever read. The joke between the Perry White and Jimmy Olsen clones is one that turned me purple and almost made me reach for my medic alert pendant. Watch as The Tick tries to ape Clark's style and watch further for Clark go totally insane and murderous. An excerpt:

Tick after rendering Clark's car into basin-like shape:
Clark! Hi! Look! I made you and ashtray!
I'm…I'm going to kill you!

Further adventures include The Tick running into an Edlund-esque Elektra clone, a samurai named Paul, and his future sidekick Arthur (though the Arthur of the comics seems to favor the late night drive through window at Wendy's a touch more than TV Arthur). And oh my great aunt Macy, there's a "Billion Zillion Ninjas" in this story.

There may be something funnier than a group of ninjas standing around, holding twigs, and telling passerby that they are, in fact a hedge and not a group of ninja warriors, and that they should "move along." I have yet to find such a thing.

Every superhero and comic book cliché Edlund satirizes he makes funny as hell, but he also pokes fun at other mediums: Japanese martial arts films, detective shows, and even classic American artwork. Edlund is a fine writer and has almost accomplished a voiding-of-my-bladder with his tight humor and damn excellent visual comedy. Edlund has found several different jobs since he stopped production on The Tick comics (most notably, Edlund reworked The Tick as short-lived live action TV show, as well as having written episodes for Joss Whedon's Angel and wonderful-but-cancelled Firefly).

That the comic is different from the cartoon is a benefit, as the comic features entirely new stories, characters and situations for Tick to THRASH MIGHTILY while still making it accessible for those of us who met the Tick by way of the idiot box. I'm not sure of the availability of this comic.

While New England Comics Press is still up and running (and selling a glut of Tick related comics and items) I don't see the first omnibus listed on the site. This may be a bargain bin diver or an e-bay treasure, but its list price is $13.95 for anyone hoping to pay full price. (Who are these sick and twisted people?)

I recommend this comic, if for no other reason to balance out all the deconstructionist superhero material on your bookshelf. Nothing evens the scales against angst and reconstituted comic book origins than an old fashioned parody.

Robert Sparling

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