"The Tick vs. Season 2:" Laughs Still Can't Beat the Lawyers
Last year, The Tick Season 1 was released on a two-disc DVD set with no small number of deficiencies. One episode was missing—tied up in legal limbo. It had no special features to speak of, and it lacked chapter stops within episodes. In August, The Tick vs. Season 2 was released. Buena Vista Home Entertainment has added chapter stops, but that’s about all that’s been improved from last year’s release. Not only is that missing season 1 episode still AWOL, this set is missing another episode and still comes with no special features.
That’s the bad news. Fortunately, it’s balanced out by the episodes themselves. The series’ production crew had found their footing by the latter part of season one, so the 12 episodes on this disc show the series at its surreal, hilarious best. The show still focuses on the title character, a giant, nigh-invulnerable, and endearingly thick superhero who defends the City with his fearful, moth-suited sidekick Arthur. They get the occasional hand from the City’s other largely ineffectual heroes, which have been narrowed down from season 1 to the womanizing and cowardly Die Fledermaus, the autistic Sewer Urchin, and the patriotic designated straight-woman American Maid. Other supporting heroes from the earlier season are placed firmly in the background, while a number of oddball allies come out of the woodwork, including superhero shrink Dr. Sanity and his physical therapist Taft (who pays tribute to 70’s blaxploitation icon Shaft); the strange space alien Whats, who were bungling alien abductions a decade before Pixar mined the gag so memorably in “Lifted;” the Decency Squad, a superhero team from World War II relegated to a nursing home; and Leonardo da Vinci and his Fighting Time Commandos.
These would-be heroes face off against brilliant and completely insane challenges. The Tick and Arthur have to face down a mysterious woman wearing a duplicate of Arthur’s moth suit, a sperm whale named Blowhole jogging across the country, a replacement sidekick that’s a puppet carved out of a block of wood, and a quartet of Swiss industrial spies armed with giant Victorinox knives—and that’s all just in the first episode. That episode sets a high-water mark of hilarity that the most of the rest of the season doesn’t have a problem meeting or surpassing.
Sometimes, the jokes are blatant—the Ottoman Empress seeks to conquer the world through her control of furniture and a sinister plan for the Most Comfortable Chair in the World. Seemingly boring villains, such as the unjustifiably vain Venus and her sniveling enabler-husband Milo, are nicely balanced by a wonderfully madcap scheme that involves a machine that detaches the Tick and Arthur’s arms. In a parody of the early reality show Cops, we are introduced to the Deadly Bulb, who brings a truly strange and mystifying twist to the whole “supervillain with a deformity” gimmick that Dick Tracy and Batman turned into cliches of the genre. And who could fail to love Multiple Santa, a two-bit hood who creates duplicates of himself when electrocuted and then “Ho Ho Ho”s his way through a massive crime wave, possible only because the Tick just can’t punch out Santa Claus no matter how larcenous he may be.
Not many first season villains return for more than cameo roles, and only three episodes of the dozen here center on them. The return of El Seed is probably one of the weakest episodes of the season, which means that it’s just funny instead of laugh-until-you-wet-your-pants hilarious. The episode with Brainchild involves a killer cyborg nanny and the Tick turning into a two-headed chicken who speaks high-school French, which is just about the definition of awesome. Just as with season 1, the season finale is one of the funniest episodes of the season, at least partially due to the return of the octogenarian Terror and the terrifying duo of the Human Ton and Handy the Hand-Puppet.
In the missing episode, “Alone Together,” the Tick becomes assistant to Omnipotus, a gigantic, planet-eating space being, while Arthur tries becoming a sidekick to other superheroes in the wake of the Tick’s seeming demise. It is not only one of the more better episodes of the season, but also continues one of the running gags of the show that started in season 1 with Chairface Chippendale’s attempt at interstellar graffitti. It’s a throwaway gag that many people may not even notice, but its absence is rightly bemoaned by old time Tick fans.
Make no mistake, The Tick vs. Season 2 is a dozen episodes of one of the most consistently funny cartoons ever made. As with Northern Exposure, having a so-so DVD release is better than having no release at all. However, the low episode count, new missing episode, and lack of special features can make this DVD a bit of a tough sell. Still, a good dose of Mighty Blue Justice is sure to cure whatever ails you, and we can always hope that the proceeds from these DVD sets are going into a ledger at Disney labeled “Tick Legal and Super-Keen DVD Bonus Feature Fund for the Season 3 Set.”