With season six premiering tonight, get up-to-speed with Idle Time’s two biggest Venture Bros. aficionados.
BC: The Venture Bros. to me has always been a crown jewel of serialized storytelling and detailed character development. When creators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer premiered the show in 2004, it already felt like something special but I had no idea of the creative depths the show would reach. Within the past 12 years (holy shit), a show that caught my attention due to being a parody of Jonny Quest has grown into the universe I am the most emotionally involved in and feel the most compelled to watch as these characters grow.
As it began, the show was simply about Doctor Thaddeus “Rusty” Venture whose childhood as a boy adventurer alongside his world famous father Jonas Venture, a Doc Savage/Benton Quest mashup, left Rusty a pill-popping, PTSD-filled sack of sad. Left in the shadow of his legendary father, Rusty tries to rise from failure with his killing machine bodyguard Brock Samson and his constantly killed/cloned twin sons, Hank and Dean. Doc Venture is tormented by his archenemy The Monarch and his soulmate Dr. Girlfriend (now Dr. Mrs. The Monarch) but ultimately Rusty causes his own failures.
Most characters on this show are held back by these invisible ties to the past as well. The amount of story that goes in between now and then would take a series of articles to explain so I will leave with where the show left off. By the time of the 6th season, Doc Venture has inherited a billion dollar corporation from the death of his twin brother, and with it, the opportunity to finally let himself and his family succeed. The Monarch and Dr. Mrs. The Monarch are poised to take huge new positions in the super villain organization, The Guild of Calamitous Intent. The real question is will these new chances to improve be squandered by characters’ own inability to move on? Are these characters truly ready to be successful?
RF: It’s amazing how organic this show’s progression feels. The way we experience the development of the characters is almost like what Linklater does in Boyhood, except less so, because this is a cartoon.
Jackson Publick (Chris McCullough) and Doc Hammer are the show’s creators, and they are deeply involved in several aspects of the show’s production. Not only do they write all of the episodes, but Doc provides additional animation (mainly title sequences), and both provide voices for roughly two-thirds of the characters. Because of this, each character offers a representation of the creative duo, each scene often driven by a pair of characters with Jackson and Doc’s voices.
If you listen to the DVD commentary or watch Comic-con panels on YouTube (Yes, BC and I like this show so much that we do both), you can hear how meticulous they are about every detail of the show, even the animation. It’s gone from simple renderings in Flash to being produced at one of the best 2D animation studios in the U.S, Titmouse. In terms of character and background design, this cartoon is the closest thing we have to the craftsmanship of golden age animation in contemporary primetime.
The show not only looks great, but it has the wittiest reference-based humor of any sitcom I’ve seen. Pop culture is woven throughout the story, as historical figures, both fictional and real, have influenced key events in the Ventureverse. Every bit of pop trivia Jackson and Doc enjoy seems to get reinterpreted into the show, but they don’t announce their jokes. For example, Dr. Mrs. the Monarch used to dress like Jaqueline O’Nassis, but looked like Saffron from the band Republica. These guys can get really creative with their obscure references, but the delivery is more nuanced than other shows. There is no “Remember this, Remember that,” cutaway scene joke format. Venture Bros. is a show that rewards the culturally savvy with obscure quotes and visual references, but it offers even more as a cool adventure story with a well-textured sandbox where characters have to deal with the consequences of their actions.
With so many characters and storylines, there are a lot of secrets and history that have yet to be explained in the show. Last season was the most revealing yet, giving more insight into the circumstances that led to the Ventures’ lives being entrenched in super science, espionage, and supervillains. However, as more of the Ventureverse is explored, more questions arise. BC and I have compiled a list of the biggest questions we hope will get answered this year as Venture Bros. Season 6 premieres tonight on Adult Swim. If you’re a fan, check out our well-researched theories; and if you don’t care about the Venture Bros, then IGNORE ME!
The Mystery of Monarch’s lineage
BC: For being one of the show’s main characters, The Monarch has never really gotten too much backstory. We don’t even know even know why exactly he hates Doc so much or even his real name. In the first episode, he tells Dr. Girlfriend that his parents died in a plane crash that left him to be raised by butterflies and it was left at that. In last season’s episode “Sphinx Rising,” we got a bit more of a closer look at the Monarch as he uncovers a photo of a young him and Rusty playing while his parents talk to Jonas Venture. His mother seems to also be flirting with Jonas while his father looks on. The Monarch has no recollection of this moment and is visibly shaken up.
While this may seem like the main reveal, another one quietly happened in “Bot Seeks Bot” when Council of Thirteen cyborg member Vendata origin is explained. Apparently Jonas Venture made the cyborg and called it Venturion. The cyborg attempted to strangle a boy Rusty and the project was decommissioned. Eventually he was rebooted and became a criminal/key figure in the guild.
What makes this even more interesting is when Vendata is on the fritz and his more humanoid side is revealed he claims, “the plane is going down, where is my wife, where is my son.” From all evidence on the show, it is very obvious Jonas Venture was (is? see below) an awful human being and lothario. Jonas seems like the kind of guy who would make a guy he didn’t like his robotic slave.
The reason behind these cruel actions becomes even more evident if you consider what the picture and Vendata reveal: the Monarch may actually be a Venture. Ever wonder why he looks kind of like Rusty and both share so much in common? The photo shows the Monarch’s mother flirting with Jonas and if he found a way to get rid of his competition, I have no doubt Jonas would go through with it.
The most interesting thing is that technically the show is called The Venture Bros. and is about Hank and Dean; however, Doc and the Monarch’s relationship has been just as important and highlighted. What if they are really the Venture Brothers? This season can really tie a bunch of themes together if they bring forth that reveal.
Is Jonas Venture still alive?
RF: The fate of the original patriarch of the Venture family, Dr. Jonas Venture, is one of the show’s most enduring mysteries. Each season has offered us a piece of the puzzle, but the facts surrounding his death don’t directly connect.
In Past Tense, we learn Jonas died while Rusty was away at college. Rusty had to leave school for the funeral, and never came back. In Twenty Years to Midnight, an interdimensional squid creature adopts the visage of Jonas in order to stop a Watcher-like alien from destroying the Earth, after it spent a day with the Ventures and deemed humanity unfit to survive. Though this sort of alludes to Jonas being alive, the next bit of info from season three suggests Jonas did indeed die, and he was slain by his close friend and bodyguard, Kano.
Brock suggests Kano was mandated by a secret oath to kill Jonas to prevent him from using a device of infinite power, the Orb. We now know that the Orb was broken years ago by strongman-bodyguard, Sandow, who opted to destroy the device rather than follow through with his oath to kill Jonas’s father. Kano neither confirms nor denies this, but if it is true, then he kind of killed Jonas for nothing.
In last season’s unofficial finale, “The Devil’s Grip,” Dr. Entemann (the Ventureverse’s Ant Man/Giant Man) died, accidently crushed to death by the Action Man’s rocking chair. At his funeral, Action Man laments that Entemann is the first member of the original Team Venture to pass on. If what he’s saying is true, then Action Man may have subtly revealed that Jonas is still alive, and that he knows what happened to him. A definitive explanation has yet to be given, and this season may provide more questions than answers, but Jonas is essentially the catalyst of the whole show, so I’m excited to see what role he’ll play this season.
What is the true Nature of Dr. Henry Killinger? (and his magic murder bag)
BC: Dr. Henry Killinger is a true mystery on the show. His motivations are largely unknown sans for the fact he gets people to be where he feels they have the most potential. This can be for good, like when he gets The Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend to reconcile their differences in “I Know Why the Caged Bird Kills.” Or it can be for evil like when he shows Rusty he would be much more suited to be a super villain committed to killing his brother Jonas Jr. in “The Doctor is Sin.”
Killinger has yet to ever truly do anything for himself but with “All This and Gargantua-2,” he seems to have taken a more active role by killing his supposed brothers, The Investors, and forming a new Council of Thirteen. With their elimination, he is by far the most powerful character on the show. He can see into the future somewhat and at least determine the best course for humans.
The frightening aspect is if he decides to run this council, what does this say about all the characters’ futures? What exactly is his endgame? Is his supposed idea to turn Doc into a super villain a way to show how closely related to the Monarch he is? Does he have further plans for his prodigal projects of Dr. Mrs. The Monarch and Phantom Limb? Killinger may be the the only person able to tie up and reveal all the secrets left in the Ventureverse. He is definitely someone to keep your eye on.
Where do Venture Bros. come from?
RF: So the boys now know they’re clones, and both Dean and Hank are cool with it.
BUT WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?
I recall a rumor that Hank was a clone of Brock, and Dean is a clone of Doc, but Doc is already growing clones when Brock is assigned to protect him in “Perchance to Dean.” Could the boys be a clone of Jonas? We learned decisively that Rusty’s nutjob ex-girlfriend and former bodyguard, Myra, is not Hank and Dean’s real mother in last season’s “Momma’s Boys.” So, who is really the boys’ mom? Do they have one?
What about Rusty’s mom? We never hear anything about her. Jonas has been portrayed as a Bond-level Casanova, so there are plenty of possibilities. Or could it be that Doc was a test-tube baby, or maybe even a clone of Jonas? There is a daytime level of baby mama drama in this show, but I don’t think Jackson and Doc will explain all of it any time soon, but maybe we’ll get more clues we can use this season.
There are 13 Seats.
RF: The Council of 13 is the governing body of The Guild of Calamitous Intent, a bureaucratic organization for super villainy. During “All this and Gargantua-2,” the leader of the Guild, the Sovereign (a shapeshifter usually in the form of David Bowie), starts killing off members of the Council of 13 out of fear that they were traitors.
This sets off a chain of events that leaves most of the original council dead, resulting in a huge power shift in the villainy sphere. The episode ends with the mysterious Dr. Henry Killinger bringing a group of villains together in the Meteor Majeure satellite base, including Dr. Mrs. the Monarch, The Monarch, Henchman 21 (Gary? Viceroy?), Phantom Limb (invisible deathtouch appendages), Fat Chance (fat guy, transspacial bellybutton) and Radical Left, a Two-Face-inspired villainous pundit (“I’m Radical Left! I want anarchy…and maybe a nice house and a family.”), and the pop culture junky dispatchers from the old guild, Watch and Ward. Killinger has made way for a new council to inherit the Guild, and he invites the assembled villains to join it. Well, everyone except for the Monarch, which is good because being on the council would probably interfere with his whole “arching Dr. Venture” obsession.
Assuming that everyone else has a seat, and that Killinger won’t actually run the Guild, that leaves eight spots open. Dr. Impossible (a more callous and depressed Reed Richards) leaves Gargantua-2 with his ex-wife, Sally. Since Stephen Colbert voices that character, we may not be seeing him again anytime soon because of scheduling conflicts. Baron Underbheit (exiled, cyborg dictator of an independent nation in the U.S. Midwest) was a part of the Revenge Society’s plot on Gargantua-2, but whether or not he will be brought onboard to help lead the Guild is unclear.
Former Council of 13 members, Doctor Z (a Doctor Zin parody) and The Dragoon-Red Mantle hybrid (No joke: Dragoon is The Big Bopper, whose body was destroyed by Phantom Limb and his head grafted on to the body of Red Mantle who is Buddy Holly, and a dark sorcerer), made a deal for their lives with the O.S.I (Office of Secret Intelligence, an organization of elite military forces a la G.I. Joe), but as of the formation of the new council, their status is unknown. Whoever ends up on the Council, it will be fun to see how the power dynamic works, especially since Dr. Mrs. the Monarch now in charge.
If you haven’t seen any of the Venture Bros., or you just want to rewatch some of your favorites, Seasons 1-5 are currently available on Hulu. Season 6 of The Venture Bros. premieres this Sunday at midnight (EST) on Adult Swim.