About Christmas TV History

Saturday, July 2, 2011

1990s Christmas: The Tick

To begin our Christmas in July celebration, let's welcome guest blogger Ken Reid. He is a Boston based stand up comedian.  Please check him out: www.ikenreid.com.

The Tick
“The Tick Loves Santa!” aka “The Tick Vs. Multiple Santa”
Original airdate: 11/25/95 Fox TV

The Holidays, and more specifically the Holiday special, often belong to those who are children at heart.  To paraphrase John Hughes, “When you grow up, your heart dies” and logic would dictate that with this inevitable age induced heart-death a big part of the magic of Christmas dies with it.  As the adult world’s emphasis on logic, what is “real” and financial worries encroach on the carefree magic of snow covered bliss it is left to the child-like sincerity of the heroic idiot to remind us all of the true spirit of the season. There is no bigger, more child-like, more sincere or more heroically idiotic character to remind us of this, than the big blue bastion of justice that is simply known as, The Tick. 
Created by a teenage Ben Edlund for the appropriately named (and my local comic shop growing up) New England comic book chain New England Comics’ newsletter in 1986, the Tick spun off into his own comic in 1988.  We can probably thank the success of the  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but strangely this bizarre, comics parody heavy, black and white indie comic spawned a 1994 animated Saturday Morning series on Fox during the death throes of Saturday Morning. 

The one and only holiday episode (a rare treat for a Saturday Morning show, especially airing during the normal run and not as a prime time special) is a true unheralded classic.  The episode opens with the Tick and Arthur (his Moth themed ex-accountant sidekick) doing some last minute shopping for their Christmas Party, wandering the snow covered streets of “The City” in which they protect.  They are deep in conversation as the Tick cannot quite comprehend exactly what a sugar plum is, despite the fact that they are presently dancing in his head (there seems to be plenty of room for them in there).  They are interrupted by an on the lam bank robber who has stolen a Salvation Army Santa’s costume and is currently being pursued by the police.  The Tick, convinced it’s the real Santa (I mentioned he was a sincerely lovable heroic idiot, right?) assumes there must be some mistake and attempts to intervene.  In the ensuing mayhem our criminal imposter is accidentally electrocuted on the neon “Mmmmm….” tagline of a beer billboard.   A distraught Tick goes home with Arthur, convinced he has been responsible for vaporizing Santa. 

However, that is not the end of our story.  Criminal imposter Santa was not vaporized, he rises from the snow bank, an “M” from the sign burned onto his chest. Things get more bizarre when the jolt of electricity seems to have granted him the power to copy himself and he multiplies before our eyes, we’ve witnessed the birth of a new villain, The Multiple Santa.

 Meanwhile as the Tick and his superhero pals sip egg nog back at their party, the Tick is convinced there will be no Christmas. His super friends all attempt to convince him that not only did they not vaporize Santa, there IS no Santa, and despite all that there will be a Christmas.  They don’t manage to do much convincing but decide to cut their losses and head out for some caroling, as superheroes are want to do.

While on their musical Christmas jaunt they encounter the now super powered Multiple Santa and in the ensuing battle accidentally throw him into the power transformer of the City’s giant Christmas Tree. The surge creates more Santas and the heroes retreat, the Tick still not convinced they have not been fighting the real Santa.   The Tick just couldn’t bring himself to hit Santa, much to the enragement of the other heroes. 

“Odds are it wasn’t the real Santa, but how can you ever be sure?” – The Tick
“If he jumps up and kicks you in the stomach its probably not Santa” – Die Fladermaus, fellow superhero.

It seems the only way to convince the Tick that the real Santa is not the multiple culprit would be a visit from the real Santa, and that’s exactly what happens.  After the Tick and Arthur’s apartment is swept by the elves that comprise “Santa’s Little Secret Service”  old Kris Kringle himself appears and informs the Tick, who Santa says has kept the faith his faith in Christmas longer than any sane adult could, that there is an imposter, he is dangerous and needs to be stopped.  Multiple Santa has hatched a plan to hijack the City’s Hydro-electric plant, and absorb all of the electricity, using the power to make an endless supply of copies and to take over the city.   With this newly revealed information thanks to the St. Nick, the Tick and Arthur head to the plan for a final battle.

 Once the Tick squares off with the newly energized Multiple Santa he still can’t quite bring himself to hit him, so he goes for the only logical option left to him, he dishes out a noogie, a noogie of justice. To everyone’s surprise the release of static electricity from the heroic noogie negate the Multiple Santas powers, destroying all the clones, and the city, and Christmas is saved.
The final scene is summed up by the Tick’s new lessons about Santa as he states:
“Santa is real. He is a compulsive gift giver, and merry all over”

As the audience is shows that now not only does the Tick have sugar plums dancing in his head, but Arthur does as well. All is right in the world again.

Back when network animated shows were falling into the so-overly-a commercial-for-a-mediocre-toy-it-borders-on-the-surreal or so-blandly-compliant-with-educational-content-guidelines-we-may-as-well-be-
reading-a-textbook categories, the Tick was a shining light of entertaining, well crafted, hilarious strangeness.   All of the hallmarks of a good Christmas special are here, the child-like belief in the beauty and magic of Christmas by a seven foot tall, 400lbs probably clinically insane man in a blue leotard, the attempts by the adult world to rid themselves of that belief, an appearance by the real Santa and that tired old cliché of a noogie that heralds the Christmas Miracle.

A genuine 90s Christmas classic.

Thanks Ken!  This fun holiday episode of The Tick can be watched on my Youtube channel, TistheSeasonTV, located under the 1990s playlist.


  1. Never caught this episode, but it sounds like a hoot and a half! Great post!

  2. Love 'The Tick', and love this episode!