Following the pilot that premiered on Amazon Video last year, Ben Edlund’s superhero satire The Tick returns to live-action with its first season debuting on Aug. 25. But before that, the show made a stop at Comic-Con International in San Diego, for a panel on late Friday afternoon.
In attendance: franchise creator and executive producer Ben Edlund; cast members Peter Serafinowicz (The Tick), Griffin Newman (Arthur), Jackie Earle Haley (The Terror), Valorie Curry (Dot), Yara Martinez (Miss Lint), Brendan Hines (Superian), Scott Speiser (Overkill) and Michael Cerveris (Ramses); and executive producers Barry Josephson and David Fury.
Panel moderator and radio personality Ralph Garman started things with the announcement that the session will start with the first-ever screening of the show’s second episode — we’ll check back once that wraps!
Episode over! We won’t spoil much, but it’s centered on Arthur (Griffin Newman) continuing to struggle with embracing his destiny — as The Tick sees it — as a superhero (or superhero sidekick).
Garman remarked to Edlund that given the inundation of superhero-related material, The Tick seems more timely than ever. “I think that’s true,” Edlund said. “I think this is the time when the highest number of people will get the jokes; we’re all eating out of a huge bowl of cereal of the superhero mythos.”
Arthur is much more the emotional center of this story than in previous Tick stories, Garman noted. “We really needed to find our psychological origin point for [Arthur],” Edlund said. “Because in other versions he was kind of a cypher.”
Newman said it’s a “pretty short walk” between him and Arthur, so he was grateful that the franchise has been rebooted. Serafinowicz “vulnerability is this loneliness.”
Serafinowicz described the Tick as a “superpowered toddler.” “That really I found quite emotional and sentimental, without being mawkish,” Serafinowicz continued. “The show’s got quite a lot of sentimentality, but not in a syrupy way — just in the normal, regular flavor of sentimentality.”
Newman said the show was like “an arranged marriage,” since they had not met each other before they were cast.
First question from the audience, from a fan in American Maid cosplay: “Will old-school characters appear on the show?” (Beyond the ones already mentioned.) “Yes,” Edlund said. “I think over time, we’ll get to see some of the characters who have appeared before. Each thing that we translate to another version into this gets its own treatment.”
“The characters from the cartoon are still in a difficult space, because they’re owned by a separate entity,” Edlund noted. “But if we ever figure that out, we’d like to get back to our roots.”
Garman asked Hines about the Superman-archetype superhero he’s playing, Superian. “He’s been saving humanity for about a hundred years, basically out of pure benevolence, and the kindness of his… let’s say heart,” Hines said, noting that his character saves people, but he doesn’t necessarily want to interact with them. “I thought that aloofness and that seeming arrogance could actually be loneliness and isolation.”
“I think loneliness is a big quotient on the show,” Edlund said. “So funny, loneliness!”
Curry on Dot: “She is a very complex beast, and part of why I was so excited to play Dot is, this is the most fleshed-out version of her that’s existed. While she’s the voice of reason, per se, it’s not coming from a cynical or judgmental place you get from a lot of ‘straight’ characters.”
Next fan up at the microphone asked about the producer credit for Patrick Warburton, the star of the 2001 Tick live-action series. “He was part of the nucleus that brought it into Amazon’s arms, and has been a kind of godparent for all of this,” Edlund answered. “He was such a big fan of the last iteration of the show, that he just wanted to see Ben be successful and able to do it again,” Josephson added.
How big of a role will the non-Tick characters have? “The Terror’s going to be a big part of the first season,” Edlund said. “We have new characters that we’re going to introduce like Overkill and Miss Lint. I think the more classic characters are things we’re looking to translate if we move forward in the future.” Fury pointed out that The City, in this version of the franchise, hasn’t had a superhero for 15 years. “Next season, a lot more superheroes will be gravitating towards The City,” Fury said.
Cerveris discussed his role of Ramses. “It’s great fun to finally lose the constraints of a character I loved very much [September/The Observer from Fringe], and finally get to play myself, really,” Cerveris said to laughs. “A maniacal villain. What’s terrific is, because of the writing of the show, you can play it pretty straight and it comes out funny. We pretty much just play what’s on the page, and it’s a great acting challenge just to be able to do that.”
Fury clarified that the first six episodes of The Tick will be available in August, and the next six will debut in early 2018.
Serafinowicz named the recently passed Adam West’s Batman was a major inspiration for his performance as The Tick. “A big part of what I love about this show is, particularly The Tick’s character is the embodiment of the pure essence of what it is to be a superhero,” Serafinowicz said. “People don’t do it anymore. He has simple values. He wants to save people, he wants to eradicate evil. Anything beyond that, he kind of is confused with. I love that about him.”
Garman asked if Serafinowicz, an English actor, ever struggles with performing an American accent. “It is a little bit of a challenge sometimes,” Serafinowicz said, adding that he and Edlund were on the same page for the vocal take on The Tick — one reminiscent of a 1960s American radio announcers.
A fan asked how this take on The Tick differs from the previous live-action show. “We’re taking our story very seriously, while at the same time having a lot of fun with the fabric of superhero fiction,” Edlund said. “Taking The Tick seriously was the funniest thing I could think to do, because that’s extra-absurd.” Josephson stressed that this is specifically Ben’s version of The Tick.
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