The Venture Bros. may dress itself up as a silly cartoon about costumed heroes, villains, super scientists, and all sorts of ridiculous magic, but over the course of its seven seasons it’s grown into one of the most mature animated programs on television.
The series’ sense of storytelling and its cast of characters has grown larger and more ambitious with each new season, but The Venture Bros.’ latest season is arguably its best yet. It finds a way to pay respect to many of the show’s longest running mysteries, while also re-inventing the show and its dynamics in new and exciting ways. It’s a rare, exciting quality when a show can hit a stride and find new life seven seasons into its run, but The Venture Bros. has never felt fresher.
With the show’s seventh season set to hit Blu-Ray and DVD on June 4, we chat with the show’s creators, Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick, about the big changes that have happened to these characters, if Scare Bear is actually important, and how far along things are for The Venture Bros. Season 8.
DEN OF GEEK: First of all, was it fun to do a season where everyone got to grow up in a lot of ways, deal with their baggage, and come to terms with who they are?
DOC HAMMER: It’s a double-edged sword. Jackson and I, every once in awhile, we go back to that old Venture playbook. We’ll dig in and do some crappy Johnny Quest-style adventure and have everything go wrong. Then there are other times when we realize what a rich universe we—how many characters do we have Jackson? 200?—it’s a crazy amount of rich characters who all have very rich relationships with each other. Sometimes that’s really exciting and at other times it can hurt, so it’s a bit of both.
JACKSON PUBLICK: We’re constantly kind of expanding and contracting. We used to save that for finales and bigger occasions, but our continuity has gotten built up so much that it’s just exciting to pay service to all of that and make sure the relationships all stay intact. Then we inevitably end up with some massively complicated big finale and then when we’re starting the next season the last thing that I want to do is do that. You know?
It’s like, “Let’s do a one-off episode!” But every time that we try to do an episode that feels more like seasons one or two, at least in terms of plot conventions, it’s kind of more exciting than it used to be because we have seven seasons worth of development. So to be able to hit simpler stories, but still keep in mind everything that we’ve learned about the writing and the characters in the mean time and explore these ideas in a new context have become really satisfying to me. What’s the season seven version of a one-off episode? And it turns out it’s a better show than season one was.
I really loved how a lot of last season reinforces how strong a team The Monarch and Gary have become. Did it feel important to pay that relationship service and is there more growth in that department in season eight?
DH: It’s so important to the finale! The Monarch flips out and delivers that big “fuck you” speech, but in that he announces that Gary is his “best friend.” He actually uses that terminology. That felt really important to us. I don’t know if anybody caught it or they understood the gravity of the moment where a guy who basically can’t remember Gary’s actual name still undergoes enough honesty in that moment to announce he’s his best friend.
It felt important to say and important for Gary to hear it. It’s no longer the Monarch and his whipping boy, but the Monarch and his best friend. Now, he’s still a dick head that will treat his best friend like a whipping boy, so you don’t lose that relationship, but you do gain the richness of the honesty that’s come out of it.
Hank and Dean also go through some major growing pains during the show’s seventh season. Was it exciting to put them at odds in that respect and really get to explore how they’re becoming different from each other?
JP:It’s something we talk about constantly and we’ve been pushing them apart for a long time now. They don’t really come to blows because Hank is still delirious when he catches Dean in that situation. We put them on this different course, originally in a plot sense because we thought Dean should go off to college we knew that Hank would never want to do that. So we tried to figure out what Hank would do alone in the house now, which made us realize the impact that would have on their relationship. Now it’s gotten to the point where we can actually talk about that and get into it.
What’s so great about the two of them growing apart is that there are so many parallels there between them and the Monarch and Dr. Venture’s journey. People are already starting to think that they’ll go down a similar path.
DH: You know, our show deals with superheroes and supervillains, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about how people get along. That’s it. Now, the relationship between protagonists and antagonists is one way people get along. Marriages, friendships, siblings, those are all different explorations of how people get along with each other. But this large aspect of the show where people professionally hate each other, is just another way to explore that.
JP: I mean, it becomes a marriage.
DH: It’s an entirely bureaucratic marriage. It’s like a divorce that never ends. It’s almost like in this world these people are forced into these arranged marriages, but in the case of the Monarch and Dr. Venture, there’s actual love. The Monarch even gets slapped on the wrist a bunch for being toointo this and not treating it like a business relationship.
JP: It’s like how a lot of people wonder how someone as confident as Dr. Girlfriend could be in love with someone like the Monarch—I mean the Monarch is a kind of villain that doesn’t really exist. He abuses the Guild of Calamitous Intent to sustain a hate relationship. Other people are just playingsupervillains, but the Monarch is really a petty jackass who dresses up in a costume to hate someone professionally.
DH: Ahhhh, no! Don’t reduce him to that! I like to think of him as a “hate artist” in a world of “hate office workers.”
JP: I mean, of course! That’s part of professional hate! He really does the dramatic speech and when he screams, “I’ll get you Dr. Venture!” he means it in full sincerity. It’s real.
DH: We had a scene early in the show where Dr. Z does his whole shtick and then ends it with, “I’ve still got it.” The Monarch would neverdo that! He can’t help himself. If he was behind Dr. Venture in line somewhere, he wouldn’t be able to control himself from screaming, “I’ll get you, Dr. Venture!”
Sgt. Hatred, for example, can turn it on and off. He was OSI, who then became Guild, who then went back to the private sector. It’s a job for him, but for the Monarch he really, really lives this. To get back to what I was originally saying though, Dr. Girlfriend can’t help but love that. If you’re involved with organized villainy, it doesn’t get more legit than him. He may be a shmuck that ruins everything, but he trulyis a villain.
JP: They’re also probably that kind of couple that were drawn together by a mutual disdain for other people. They probably got together as like an art school couple where no one else is hating things the right way that they are, so they suck. But they’re growing apart and together too now, which is something that we have to deal with. There’s a changing power dynamic there.
DH: She’s now officially his boss.
JP: She’s perhaps growing up a little more than he is at the moment.
Can you speak at all to whether we’ll get any more answers this season on Scare Bear, or if that will remain a mystery?
DH: I love this Scare Bear thing.
JP: He really seems to have captured people’s imaginations.
DH: Clearly the key to success is just putting more people in ambiguous costumes. It’s alluring. But yeah, we honestly don’t know about Scare Bear. The problem with him is that we started to use him as a magical creature. In the final two episodes of the season, you’re like, “Does he actually exist? Is he really there?” So he’s a bit of a magical creature, but we were begging for people to guess what Scare Bear is. It’s just so funny because we didn’t think people would give a crap, but it turns out that they really do. And when they do, we start to care. One day we’ll become obsessed with Scare Bear and give you way too much information on him. When that’ll happen? I can’t tell you. Not sure we even know. Then again, we never thought people would care about Kim either…
JP: With her, we put out foot down. We said, “No, Kim is not important. Stop thinking about her.”
DH: We got explicit with that. Our problem is that we’re as big of fans as the show as the audience is—probably bigger. So the fact that a character who’s going through records at a garage sale in season one can turn up yearslater and play a major role is how our heads work. So we do the same thing with minor characters, too.
It’s nuts though because this is exactly the kind of show where I’ve seen theories that Scare Bear is Hank from the future and crazy stuff like that. It’s beautiful that people will dig so deep into stuff that just start as one-off gags for you.
DH: It’s the best and it’s the worst. I love that we have this weird show that lives under the radar, has such passionate fans, and has remained pure and uncompromised the entire time. That leads to fans who devote all of their brain power to figuring out the events of a season of a cartoon. It’s so beautiful to be a part of that, but at the same time Jackson and I will have some idea, stumble across it as a fan theory, and then we have to include that or negotiate around it. That’s part of the problem with the Internet.
JP: Certain things can be received with more weight than we ever intended and you either feel obligated to do something about it, or tell people, “No! No, that doesn’t matter!”
DH: It’s a weird responsibility to see what resonates with people. Like man, there are things that you tryto get people to care about and you have jokes that you pat yourself on the back over and nobodygives a shit about them. Or we’ll just make some silly joke and people will think it’s an obscure reference, go really deep on it, and then be upset next season when we don’t readdress it!
JP:I f you let your camera linger on something for too long, you apparently have a responsibility to follow it up.
DH: I’m flattered that people care about Scare Bear, but now I guess I’m obligated to care about him, too.
JP: Our one “get out of jail free” card is that the show is so ridiculous that we can kind of meta call stuff out. We can be like, “No, this doesn’t matter!” We play around with those “disappointing on purpose” endings quite a bit, which can be a saving grace sometimes.
Well, since you mention that kind of conclusion. I really love the “Unicorn in Captivity” episode for that very reason. That big twist at the end is great.
JP: That was one of the rare times when that was actually my intention going into the episode. Usually an ending like that is just the result of one of us panicking. “I’m running out of pages. How can I get out of this?”
DH: “How muchdo I need people to care about the ORB? We need to spend two episodes on it for people to care! Then on episode three we show you it’s broken and that you shouldn’t care.”
JPU: “Stop caring! This is The Venture Bros.! Of course somebody broke it.”
Finally guys, can you say anything about how far along in season eight you are at the moment?
JP: We’re pretty far into discussions on season eight and a little bit into the writing.
DH: We’re still trying to figure out how many pieces of our puzzle we have to fit together. It’s the fitting them together that’s the hard part–to figure out what corner of the puzzle to start working on and figure out the mechanics for this season. We want to try something different, but that takes a lot of planning, which we’re trying to do right now.
The Venture Bros.’ Complete Seventh Season is available on Blu-Ray and DVD on June 4th
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, Bloody Disgusting, and ScreenRant. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and he’s always game to discuss Space Dandy. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.