The Tick's 25th Anniversary Panel At SDCC, Surprise Guests and More

Devin T. Quin writes for Bleeding Cool:

The Tick redefined superhero comedy for the modern reader, and Saturday at the San Diego Comic Con it celebrated its 25th Anniversary…again, I think. If a marketing gimmick is good once, it's good twice, right?

On hand for discussion were Ben Edlund, the creator of the Tick, Chris "Jackson Publick" McCulloch who was a worked on the comic, cartoon and live action TV show with Ben, as well as Bob Polio, one of the heads of New England Comics and an inker/colorist/letterer on most of the comics run.

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Ben is a disarmed rock star, slouchy yet present and always ready to have a good natured laugh at anything. After the Tick cartoon and TV shows, Ben Edlund has become synonymous with successful TV writing though work on shows such as "Supernatural" and "Angel." Chris, affable, supportive and clearly along for the ride is one half of the power duo behind "The Venture Brothers." The other half being Ben's college friend, Doc Hammer.

Bob Polio still runs New England Comics, both the publishing house and the chain of comic retail businesses in Massachusetts. He does his best to keep the torch of the Tick aflame. Full of passion, but also guarding of the Tick's legacy, Bob is a wild card. Acting as the mediator of the panel, The afternoons presentation comes off as a Sunday School teacher trying to preach the good book while the kids goof off. Ben and Chris fire off jokes and poke good natured fun at themselves while Bob tries to cram every piece of nuanced minutia from the Tick's long publishing history into a 30 minute powerpoint presentation.

New details surrounding the Tick's origin started the proceedings, which was a startling treat for fans as I didn't know there WERE any stones left unturned. Ben states that The Tick started as a joke character for the 80's Marvel Superheroes Role Playing game created solely to make fun of his older brother, Nick Edlund.

Get it? Nick, Tick? Plus, Bob adds, "you know, Massachusetts, lots of ticks."

"He was taller than me," explains Edlund about his brother, "I only had certain advantages over him, those being propaganda and the media."

Aged 16, Ben takes these drawing to his local comic shop, the New England Comics in Brockton MA where owner and soon to be publisher George Suarez sees untapped talent. "And you have to give him credit," states Ben, "looking back, I don't know that I would have given it a chance."

With great art, surreal humor and an incredible talent for off-kilter one-liners, The Tick builds into a huge success. Chis asks how much the initial sell-out print run was. " 5,000 books?" recons Edlund."

"That number is a secret," says Bob Polio.

"WHAT?!" blurts McCulloch.

"Ok, I don't REMEMBER!" squeaks Bob.

The 80s was a time when independents ruled the market. Thanks to the success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, everybody was looking to the black and white comics market for the next big thing. Even if the run was 5,000, that is a print run few independent comic could easily achieve today.

Other early 80's indies, Bob Burden's Flaming Carrot and Dave Sim's Cerberus, were listed by Ben as early influences. When a recent reprint cover for a Tick comic was shown, with art by zombie master Arthur Suydam, Ben said he used to try and draw like Arthur off of his comic strip Chollie and Flytrap, and how much of an honor it was to get him to do a cover.

dq_tick02Bob showed of two color proofs for the original comic cover, one with the Tick in blue and one with him in brown. Ben had preferred brown at the time, figuring that's what color ticks were. Bob resoned that "Superman was blue, Batman was blue," and the Tick should be, too.

Fans today would have a hard time imagining the Big Blue Bug of Justice as the Burly Brown Bludgeoner of Baddies. Bob needles Ben with the wisdom of overriding Ben's color choice with an in house vote at NEC.

Chris jokes "25 Years of Grudge."

Family was a focal point of the panel. Funny photos were shown of Ben's father, a graphic designer in MA who redesigned the pep boys logo as well as designing the logos for the Tick properties. He has attached a giant red rake onto the sleeve of a red parka and is pictured cleaning the yard like a demented lobster. "That's normal to him," says Ben.

The audience is peppered with members of the Tick's creative family. Townsend Coleman, voice of the Tick from the cartoon is in the attendance, and is only too happy to jump up to the mike and yell "Spoon!" Writers from the cartoon and comic, such as Ben Robbins, Liz Robbins, and cartoon writer Randolph Heard (Now a writer on Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) are seated next to fans in attendance, and receive warm applause when asked to stand up. During the panel Bob's phone rings, and strangely he answers it. "I'm in the middle of a Panel, I'll call you back later." he barks.

"Oh, Is that Carol?!" Asks Ben. "Tell her 'Hi!"

The Tick comics were inspired, sensational and wildly popular. They stand still as one of the funnies titles in the modern age. The Tick TV shows helped the book find new audiences, and launched the creative careers of many amazing talents.  In 2012, Ben was a special guest of the Con for his many contributions to all things geek. The Venture Brothers panel was standing room only, and Supernatural ads are plastered all around the con. New England Comics occupies the same booth it has for years, off to the side of Hollywood next to the small press tables.

The panel wrapped quietly, with several questions for super-fans, some of them in costume. I'd like to write that everybody in that room loved The Tick, and the day was a highlight for all. During the slide presentation, when Bob was showing off the alternative variant covers for Tick issue 12, I heard the unmistakable snoring of the kid next to me, asleep on his fathers arm. Dad, however, was wrapped in attention, wearing his Tick T-shirt.

To each their own. I certainly hope they have a several 30th reunion panel down the road! SPOON!

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About Dan Wickline

Has quietly been working at Bleeding Cool for over three years. He has written comics for Image, Top Cow, Shadowline, Avatar, IDW, Dynamite, Moonstone, Humanoids and Zenescope. He is the author of the Lucius Fogg series of novels and a published photographer.
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