The Venture Bros, an irreverent homage-filled, animation series, which upon first glance parodies the Hanna Barbera production, Jonny Quest, but eventually reveals itself to be so much more, was canceled after 17 years, seven seasons and eighty-one episodes.
Series creator @jacksonpublick confirmed that Adult Swim had pulled the plug on The Venture Bros ahead of its eighth season.
“We got the highly disappointing news a few months ago, while we were writing what would have been Season 8,” Publick said in a statement. The show’s pilot first aired in 2003.
This series was not for everyone. Few adults are willing to admit they watch this show. I believe it was written originally with a tiny subset of fans in mind. To those fans, it succeed far beyond their original expectations. I have had the rare distinction of hating the idea of the show only to later consume every episode laughing harder with every season.
If you were nostalgic for the adventures of Johnny Quest and other Hanna Barbera animated series which were featured around the same time, Space Ghost, Bird-Man and the like, this show took the feel of those episodic shows and turned them on their head, subverting the serious nature of those adventure heroes and revealing the hidden lives of such heroes. Focusing on a single family who would have languished unseen in a corner of the heroic Hanna Barbera Universe, their misadventures little more than a footnote. Its a good thing this series didn’t happen there.
In the Venture Brothers Universe, said family was the core of this retelling and the cast of characters was as colorful and completely insane as anything imagined in that era.
Former child adventurer, Dr. Thaddeus S. “Rusty” Venture is the son of the late super-scientist Dr. Jonas Venture Sr. one of the last real heroes of the Venture Brothers Universe. Think Doctor Benton Quest, heroic, muscular, and pompous as all hell. Larger than life, Jonas Venture’s family history and legacy of super-science permeates the series world, on both sides of the fence, heroes and villains alike. For much of the series, Jonas Venture’s shadow firmly anchors every failure his son is responsible for.
Like any father whose accomplishments are legion and world-shaking, it has an affect on the son. Dr. Thaddeus Venture, one of the central protagonists of the series, who remains a psychological wreck who never recovered from his comparative lack of physical or scientific talent and as such becomes obsessed with making his own legend and being his own man.
Unfortunately, he is a pill-popping, shallow, self-centered, egocentric maniac, whose lack of discipline, poor taste in friends, and his inability to recognize his limitations, leads to a series fraught with characters who are struggling to comprehend a world which has stopped making sense decades ago.
Strangely enough, his only redeeming quality, if you can call it that, is his devotion to his two boys, Hank and Dean, the titular Venture brothers. The series often revolves around their introduction to their father’s world of bumbling and often incomprehensible villains who engage in a world of organize heroic and villainy orchestrated by The Guild of Calamitous Intent.
No quick summary can be considered complete without mentioning the “walking Swedish murder machine” that is Brock Sampson. Samson is an O.S.I. agent and bodyguard of Dr. Thaddeus Venture. He is a parody of pro-wrestler Psycho Sid Vicious. He refuses to use firearms but is no less capable for the handicap. In fact, he probably racks more kills than anyone in the series, as the senior Jonas Venture’s exploits have made Dr. Thaddeus Venture more than a number of enemies, as the good doctor struggles to conceive of a technology which will remove him from his father’s outsized shadow. Despite his murderous capacities, Brock is often the soul of reason and the only sensible person in the entire franchise. Brock lives life to the fullest and never wavers in his devotion to the family.
Brock’s mysterious past is rarely revealed to us, beyond his relationship to the Office of Secret Intelligence, the counter to the villainous Guild of Calamitous Intent, which issued him his ‘License to Kill’ and created the most talented killing machine in the series. Brock has only one true love, a counterspy named Molotov Cocktease, as deadly as she is brilliant and his only equal. Their love affair can never be, but they are always willing to fornicate at a moment’s notice should they be anywhere on assignment together. Usually after they’ve tried to kill each other first. Ah, true love.
Anyway, The Venture Brothers is not for everyone. It’s dark, irreverent tone, its capacity for casual violence, the humorous take on modern superheroic and political themes and its complete disdain it has for taking itself seriously will likely not appeal to many but its loyal fandom – a fandom willing to endlessly deconstruct the family dynamics, analyse the myriad of psychologically-unstable villains such as the Monarch, Doctor Girlfriend and the mysterious Sovereign as well as its truly pathetic heroes like Master Billy Quizboy and Peter White, tolerate the socially-incorrect jokes, mine the many Easter eggs and who are willing to figure out who the writers were lambasting this week, the end of this seventeen year adventure is a blow which won’t be eased any time soon. I am not sure anything could.
There has never been anything quite like the Venture Bros on television. The Venture Brothers is a dark cultural icon, every bit as important as the superhero shows it parodies. In my opinion, its every bit as good.
Before you send me email asking me if I know about Rick and Morty, the answer is Yes. However the two shows, while sharing overlapping themes of science heroes, casually delivered death, mindless and tasteless destruction and varying degrees of ethical responsibility for the use of science, are told from different perspectives.
Rick is nearly an omnipotent being who can’t get out of his own way psychologically; so successful, his parallel reality versions of himself, hate him for his hubris. Dr. Venture is a failed scientist whose desire for success drives him into a deep psychosis from which he isn’t able to let go of and find a way to be happy with what he has. Okay, they are more alike than I first thought.
It doesn’t take away from the thought that the Venture Bros, inhabited a separate place, a unique place in the firmament of superheroic adventure. A self-aware place where the difference between being a hero and a villain wasn’t quite as wide as one might like to think. I think the show was routinely wonderful and to it’s target audience an absolute treat. And like most smart humor, it couldn’t last.
Dr. Thaddeus Venture, “speed-suits” are not a thing. Maybe you’ll get your revenge in the next life, Monarch. Try not to kill everyone until you return, Brock Sampson. Hank, Dean, try not to die, again.
I’m gonna miss you, guys.
“Go Team Venture!”
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.