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The Tick

Indie Spotlight
by Poe Ghostal

I love the Tick. For one thing, he was invented just a few towns over from where I grew up. In 1986, teenager Ben Edlund created the Tick as a mascot for New England Comics, the chain of comicshops I frequented as a kid (and still patronize today). His appearances expanded into stories in eventually, in 1988, a comicbook, which has been published at odd intervals ever since and inspired a number of spinoffs including the Chainsaw Vigilante, Paul the Samurai, and the Man-Eating Cow.

The Tick is an overly dramatic satire of superheroes such as Superman. Tick is known to rant incessantly about the nature of justice using absurd metaphors. He protects The City. He is the wild blue yonder. The frontline in the never-ending battle between good and not-so-good. Together with his stalwart sidekick, Arthur, and the magnanimous helping of some other folks he knows they attempt to bring about Justice. Destiny has chosen him, wicked men, you face The Tick! If his strength is not super, then it is certainly impressive. Arthur says that the Tick is stronger than anyone! Though not necessarily a power, The Tick's battle-cry is said to baffle, or stun, his opponents. Before battle, he yells out, "SPOON!"

Like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Tick was an independent comicbook character whose black-and-white comics were later turned into a popular cartoon in the mid-1990s. The cartoon was largely faithful to the look and spirit of the comics and would become a cult classic in its own right. Finally, in 2001 there was a short-lived live-action series starring the ubiquitous Patrick Warburton as the title character. Ben Edlund, by the way, would go on to work on such geek-beloved projects as Firefly, Angel and Supernatural, and had a hand in the creation of The Venture Bros.

As you'd imagine with a Saturday morning cartoon character, there have been plenty of Tick toys. Most of them were created in Bandai in the mid-1990s, and while the toys were fun, they were also fairly under-articulated, even for the time. Years later, N2 toys squandered the success they'd had with their mediocre Matrix line by sinking it into an even-worse line of live-action Tick figures (one of our worst-reviewed toys ever). Legend has it the line bombed so bad, it's why N2 changed their name to Mirage Toys before disappearing entirely.

In the meantime, Marvel Legends appeared and changed the game for superhero action figures. Marvel Toys' Legendary Comic Book Heroes brought the ML aesthetic to independent comic characters, and when LCBH ended abruptly, Shocker Toys moved forward with their similar Indie Spotlight line. The Tick was first announced for the line at SDCC 2008, and the first "preview" figures came out this past February (for those who ordering directly through Shocker's website). Indie Spotlight takes Marvel Legends as its inspiration, so this is an ML-style Tick. I'm not sure it matters whether you say he's based on the comic or cartoon version, since aesthetically they were nigh-identical, but something about the sculpting style and color choices make me think they had the cartoon in mind when they were creating it.

Obviously the Tick benefits from a fairly simple design, without the many intricate details that can ruin a figure's sculpt. While there's not a lot of detail to get wrong, what there is - the V-shaped torso, the stocking feet and most important, the heads' sculpts - is done right. I'm not an artist and I haven't studied anatomy, so it's possible there's something about him that's off, but I don't get that vibe when I look at him. All that said, the sculpt is sharply broken up in places by the articulation, particularly the shoulders. That's not something that particularly bothers me, but as they say, your mileage may vary. The Tick isn't a standout, but he's not that bad, either - just average.

The Tick is molded entirely in blue plastic, which gives him something of a "toyish" look and feel. It's particularly noticeable in the head, where the blue has a certain translucent quality when compared to the painted parts. The black paints used to separate the teeth are too thick and dark. The paint around his nose is a bit uneven.

The articulation is as follows: a balljoint head and neck; swivel/hinge shoulders with swivel biceps; double-hinged elbows; balljointed wrists; balljointed abdomen; balljointed waist; T-crotch/swivel/hinge hips; double-hinged knees; and balljointed ankles. The joints are all quite tight, and Tick has no problem standing on his own. As you'd expect, this gives the figure tons of posing options. The only thing they could have added is some tiny balljoints to the base of the antennae, but that might have been to much of a QC risk. It's odd the shoulders are so large and ugly when it's clear some imagination went into creating full hip articulation that didn't look awful (cf. Savage Dragon).

The Tick comes with two sets of interchangeable hands, an interchangeable "angry" head, and a stop sign. The second head is a nice addition, though I know I'll be keeping the goofier head on most of the time. The eyes are slightly different shape, due to the furrowed brow, as is the upper lip and the edge of the mask around his face. Small changes that add up to make an angry Tick, but how often does he ever really look angry?

The hands are a bit of a letdown, though. Both sets are fists, but one set has a hole through each hand so he can hold the stop sign. Since they're otherwise identical, it would have been better to skip the hole-less fists and give us some expressive open hands. I spent some time trying to figure out what the stop sign was a reference to. Apparently the Tick threw it in a specific issue of the comic, but it's worth noting that the Hurling Tick figure from Bandai also came with it. The Tick tends to throw a lot of municipal property at villains, so the stop sign isn't a bad accessory; that said, I would have preferred a flagpole and a Viewmaster myself.

The stop sign comes with instructions to take it apart, slide the pole through the Tick's hand and re-assemble it; however, both the sign and the dirt divot are very tightly attached, and though I finally got the dirt divot off, I had the impression I was pulling off something that was glued. I definitely wouldn't try to get the sign part off the pole. The sign itself is fine except for the terrible attempt at a "rusty" wash. It's amateurish. I think it would have been more appealing to just leave the sign clean.

The Tick's packaging is a curious mix of pros and cons. On the pro side, the graphics are bright and colorful. More importantly, it's designed so that you can easily slit the tape on the back and remove the card and figure, then easily replace them if desired. That also means if the figures are similarly packaged at retail, they'll be ideal Toy Aisle Troll bait.

Then there's the bio. The text is strange. It seems to have been taken almost directly from the Comic Vine character bio (which itself cribs liberally from the opening credits of the live-action show), and has odd errors of grammar and structure. It also directly mentions Superman, which seems like a needless legal risk... but I digress.

The Tick has some minor quality control issues, all to do with the plastic and paint. There's some scratching to various parts of his body, particularly his crotch, and some black smudges on his thighs. I've presented a pic and am otherwise not going to touch this one with a ten-inch pole.

I had no idea what to expect when I opened this figure, but it's safe to say I was pleasantly surprised. This is just about exactly what I would have wanted out of a Marvel Legends-style Tick figure. While there are some minor issues here and there, the sculpting is good, the articulation is excellent, the joints are tight, and the figure is solid and doesn't fall apart upon being played with. He'll fit in well next to Marvel Legends, or even more so, Legendary Comic Book Heroes (which emphasized the artistic styles of characters' creators rather than attempting a more uniform look for the line, as Marvel Legends did).

-- 07/09/11


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