US animated tv series (2003-current). Adult Swim/Cartoon Network. Created by Jackson Publick (Christopher McCulloch). Executive producers include Eric "Doc" Hammer and Jackson Publick. Writers: Ben Edlund, Hammer and Publick. Directors include Ki-Yong Bai, Publick and Jon Schnepp. Voice cast includes Doc Hammer, Christopher McCulloch, Jackson Publick, Michael Sinterniklaas, James Urbaniak, Patrick Warburton. 71 22-minute episodes, plus a pilot and four specials. Colour.
An adventure comedy centred on Dr Thaddeus "Rusty" Venture (Urbaniak), son of Dr Jonas Venture – scientist, adventurer, playboy and leader of Team Venture in the 1960s and 1970s – who took his son adventuring from the age of three. Rusty has two sons, Hank (Publick) and Dean (Sinterniklaas), who go on quests with their father: they have died fifteen times (to be fair, this has not always been a result of their father's questing; on one occasion it was due to running with scissors). This is not too distressing for Rusty as he has a stock of back-up Clones awaiting the Upload of their recorded memories. For most of the series father and sons have been protected by Brock Samson (Warburton), described as a "walking Swedish murder machine". He is usually protecting them from Rusty's arch-enemy, the Monarch (Publick) – after the butterfly – who is more than ably assisted by Dr Girlfriend (Hammer), later to become Dr Mrs the Monarch – intelligent, glamorous and speaking with a deep masculine voice – and less than ably assisted by his henchmen, who are disposable Red Shirts save for numbers 21 (Hammer) and 24 (McCulloch), who are survivors and are aware they are (until 24 finds he is not).
Despite the title, the show focuses largely on Rusty, the Monarch, Dr Girlfriend/Dr Mrs the Monarch and henchman 21. However, they are but a fraction of the characters in the series: Superheroes and super-Villains abound, and there is a complex infrastructure that supports them – such as the Guild of Calamitous Intent, the organization of supervillains which makes sure the right level of villain and hero are matched together (though they find those terms offensive and prefer "antagonist" and "protagonist"). Stories frequently centre on bickering and power struggles within the Guild.
Not unsurprisingly, many of the characters are Parodies of well-known (and obscure) superheroes, supervillains and real-world celebrities – for example, Rusty's adventures as a child are a reference to the animated television series Jonny Quest (1964-1965) – but the phrase "too many to mention" is applicable here.
The creators have commented that The Venture Bros is about failure: both generally, with the failure of the super-science of the twentieth century to deliver a better world ("the death of the jet-age promises") and individually, such as the failure of Rusty Venture to emulate his father or be a good father himself. This is not meant entirely negatively: "failure isn't the catastrophic end of people – failure is how people learn." The show is built on absurdity (see Absurdist SF), but the characters are drawn with enough depth to allow the viewer to engage with them. [SP]