Doc Hammer, Jackson Publick and the Cult of 'The Venture Bros.'
The Venture Bros., which begins the second half of its fourth season Sunday night at 11:30 on Adult Swim, is a curious show. It hasn't won the awards that Robot Chicken and The Boondocks have. It didn't spawn a rock band with a Billboard top 20 album like Metalocalypse did. It doesn't have the super hip love-it-or-hate-it buzz of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! What they do have, though, is an extremely loyal, and vocal, fanbase. You can see it online, in the forms of fan sites, fan art (some of which we've covered before on Style Council) and, of course, fan fiction.
You can catch glimpses of the fandom at San Diego Comic-Con International, where cosplayers dressed as the superscientists, spies and supervillains that comprise the action-adventure comedy roam through the Gaslamp Quarter. Mostly, though, you'll see it at convention panels. This year at Comic-Con, Venture Bros. masterminds Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick, known to fans simply as Doc and Jackson, sat on two panels, one for Adult Swim and another dedicated to the show. At both, there was a wild, almost concert-like vibe within the crowd, a sense that very little that could be said might be considered out-of-line.
Shannon Cottrell Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick with cosplayers at San DIego Comic-Con International, 2010
"I think why [the panels] are kind of refreshing is because we don't have stuff planned and we aren't doing a big presentation and selling something. We're honestly just going there and talking to people," Doc said in a phone interview. "They work best when people just ask us questions."
We were inside Adult Swim's Comic-Con panel, which also featured the people behind Robot Chicken and Metalocalypse, listening to a slew of run-of-the-mill convention questions when a girl we could not see pointedly asked if either brother for whom the cult hit series is named will get laid. The crowd erupted with laughter, but it didn't stop there.
"I would tap Dean so fast your head would spin around," the girl added in response to a comment made by one of the panelists.
In a lot of situations, a statement like this would be considered completely inappropriate, but if you were in the room and heard the handful of screams in agreement, you would know that people don't necessarily frown upon inappropriateness here. Instead of avoiding the question, Doc proceeded to give a short lecture on the perils of deflowering the sweet, but astoundingly naive character.
"The responsibility of popping Dean Venture's cherry is way more than you've even considered," he said.
"It's safer in Hank country," Jackson added, referencing Dean's twin brother with the occasional rebellious streak.
A short exchange followed (Adult Swim has a video, start watching at the three-minute mark) with Doc concluding, "Nobody wants to have sex with the boys and that's why the show has legs."
Shannon Cottrell Cosplaying The Venture Bros. at Comic-Con, 2010
There's a lot of romantic and sexual frustration in The Venture Bros. It wasn't until the first half of the fourth season that Dean finally gave up pining for the goth-next-door, Triana Orpheus. His father, Dr. Venture, began reciting the lyrics to "Jessie's Girl," while standing as best man to The Monarch when the series' primary supervillain wed Dr. Girlfriend. Even Brock Samson, bodyguard, secret agent and resident stud on the show, can't get together with one woman he really wants, Molotov Cocktease, thanks to her chastity belt.
The show isn't about sex, though, the frustration is more of a metaphor for the rest of life. The Venture Bros. started out, seemingly, as a spoof of mid-20th century adventure cartoons, but quickly evolved into a complex world surrounding the titular duo where the difference between heroes and villains is always blurrier than one would think. Old sayings like "you can't always get what you want" definitely apply when watching the series. No major character is left without flaws, without suffering some miserable embarrassment. Take away the comic book, science fiction and music references, the occasional dorm room humor and the sly satirical elements and you still have a show that's incredibly relatable.