On Amazon’s The Tick, comic creator Ben Edlund has resurrected his big blue hero in an incarnation that’s more grounded than the ’90s cartoon series or the 2001 Patrick Warburton sitcom. The pilot unleashed last year teased a grittier take, which had the nervous sidekick Arthur not as a pudgy office assistant or an eye-rolling supporting character, but as the center of the series. More than that, he’s a protagonist grappling with demons and self-doubt.
The pilot revealed a grim backstory for the popular sidekick, where Arthur (Griffin Newman) witnessed not only the end of his favorite team of superheroes, but also the death of his father in one crushing moment. Then the shellshocked boy was heckled by The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley). Ever since, Arthur has battled mental illness, hallucinations, and been considered crazy when he proposed a theory that The Terror faked his own death and secretly pulls the strings of organized crime in the city.
By folding a discussion of mental illness and its stigmas into the series, The Tick has proven a powerful source of representation. At Comic-Con International in San Diego, Newman told CBR how he’s already seen the impact of this. “I read this piece that a fan wrote after the pilot came out, that really meant a lot to me,” Newman said. “It was about how it was the first show they’d ever seen that presented the ‘crazy’ character as the ‘normal.’ You know? That I’m sort of this straight man in this world, despite the fact that I’ve been diagnosed, that I’ve been medicated, that I’ve been institutionalized, and the fact that these aren’t mutually exclusive things.”
The show’s inclusion of mental illness in such a thoughtful manner leads to the question: Do you have to be a little “crazy” to be a hero? “I always tracked it onto my process as a struggling actor and comedian for years, where there is some degree of mental illness that I think goes hand-in-hand with creativity,” Newman answered, “but also with constantly tilting at windmills and hoping this time it’s going to work. I base a lot of Arthur on just auditioning for stuff again and again, and just like, ‘Some day this is going to work out!’ Even though there’s no evidence that it will.”
At its core, Newman believes The Tick is “a show about weaponizing your weaknesses.” In Season 1, Arthur will have to learn to accept himself and his experiences to become the hero he’s always dreamed to be. Newman then turned his character’s arc into a life lesson worth remembering.
“Everything you go through in your life is a process to lead you to where you’re ultimately going to be best at doing,” he said. “They’re not hindrances. If you own everything that you are, it’ll make you better when you finally get there.”
Starring Peter Serafinowicz as The Tick, Griffin Newman as Arthur Everest, Valorie Curry as Dot Everest, Brendan Hines as Superian, Jackie Earle Haley as The Terror and Yara Martinez as Ms. Lint, the first part of The Tick‘s debut season arrives Aug. 25 on Amazon Prime.