It's incredibly difficult to avoid being sucked into the cult of The Venture Bros. From its overt homage to Johnny Quest and comic book culture to its subtle references to post-punk music to JG Thirlwell's driving score, the Adult Swim show is a witty commentary on geek culture.
For those who haven't seen the show, The Venture Bros. centers around twins Hank and Dean Venture, their mad scientist father, Dr. Thaddeus Venture and bodyguard Brock Samson as they battle against various villains, most notably The Monarch and his companion Dr. Girlfriend, best known for looking like Jacqueline Kennedy and has the voice of an 80-year-old with a five pack a day cigarette habit.
Last weekend at Comic-Con, we had the chance to interview and photograph the masterminds behind the weird and wild Team Venture, Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer. The duo not only writes the series, but voices several of the major characters. Publick handles Hank Venture and The Monarch while Hammer is known for Dr. Girlfriend, Henchman #21 and Master Billy Quizboy.
Doc Hammer: Speed suits. Uniforms.
Did you make them?
DH: Do you want the embarrassing truth? We bought them through a catalog and sewed crap on them, painted them like a regular guy. But, in the lore, these were issued to us when we decided to buy the Astrobase.
What's it like manning the Astrobase?
DH: The Soulbots [note: Soulbot is credited with voicing Team Venture's robot H.E.L.P.eR] do most of the work. It's a rarified oxygen, so you're always a little high from the effect of this very pure oxygen. The Soulbots do most of the work now, tend to all of our needs, except for the sexual ones, which we as astronauts put on the back burner. It's unnecessary. It's unscientific. It's unsanitary, to be honest with you. It might be morally incorrect.
Jackson Publick: Until we're married.
DH: We made a promise to ourselves that we would not touch ourselves until we find our inner child and then it becomes spiritual pedophilia and that's kind of wrong, so we're stuck in a corner with that. I apologize.
How long do you suspect that it will take to find your inner child?
DH: If you've watched The Venture Bros., we have found our inner child. We've put him up against a wall and we've made him scream out all the horrors of his youth. And then jump up and down and make The Monarch crap about it. There's so much of our childhood.
JP: Locked in a paneled room in a basement with women's underwear. You lose weight! You have to lose weight!
Which character is most like your inner child?
DH: Every one of them. Every one of them, except for Brock. Brock is the character that you kind of want your inner child.
JP: You wished your inner child was.
DH: You want your inner child to somehow have a portion of.
But instead you're Dean in a Slave Leia outfit.
DH: To this day.
What are you working on right now with the show?
DH: We're editing.
JP: Season four. We're editing the first eight while we write the next eight and we go into production on the back eight next week, on Wednesday.
Is it difficult when you're editing one and writing the other at the same time?
JP: It is.
DH: It's not because you have information and you need to create information. It's difficult because one takes a lot of time and the other takes a lot of time. They're very different kinds of time. Writing is a very introspective time. Editing, you have to physically be there and make smart, quick decisions. It's like being an athlete and then you stop and you have to become a scholar. It's weird.
JP: It helps that we get to watch things work and not work.
DH: It's more hit than miss this year.
When you have something kind of major, like when the Monarch marries Dr. Girlfriend, does it change the way you write?
DH: Well, we had them courting for such a long time that, I used that exact example because we probably knew for a long time that they had that kind of destiny, it didn't change anything. We already knew that this was there? We kind of know these things are coming up. But we usually throw some stuff down at the end of the season that we gotta figure out. Everything we did at the end of last year we have to figure out.
What's an example of that?
DH: Killing Henchman 24. Brock quit. There are some shows where they'll make a sweeping end of season gesture, someone dies and stuff, then when they come back, they're going to hurry up and reset it and get it back to the show that everybody has hoped for. We're in no hurry to reset anything. We're now living in a world where a guy is dead, a guy quits and a robot broke. We're taking on the responsibility of dealing with it. The boys are no longer clones, we know it. We're not going to just drop it. We're taking it seriously. We're taking responsibility.
What happens now that the boys are no longer clones?
DH: They're very fragile.
You can't really have them...
JP: Kill them or whatever.
DH: Now you're bodyguarding an actual person, so it's a hell of a job. That's something we have to deal with.
The show is really popular now. What do you think contributes to that?
JP: It's a good show. I think we can say that.
DH: It's very different from what's on television. It has things that you can't find on Adult Swim. Also word of mouth. Nobody watched us the first year, but the people who did told ten other friends. It was a huge word of mouth thing that happened. Our DVDs actually sell better every time, which apparently is unheard of. Usually, second season sells worse than the first. A lot of it is actually our fans. We have amazingly cool and dedicated fans. It's also the moment. Since we came on, there have been twenty superhero movies and Lost and Battlestar Gallactica and all of this geek stuff that has risen to the surface. We were told we were too geeky when we started.
DH: Throwing down super-geeky comic book stuff, like we would have White and Billy or 21 and 24 having nerd arguments. Hey, you're getting a little geeky insider guys. Don't worry about it, Brock pees on somebody ten minutes later.
Do you think people relate to the pop culture references like going to Danceteria or being a college DJ and playing "the Bauhaus"?
DH: There's a lot of stuff we throw out for eight people. We say Stiv Bators and one person.
JP: And it's just for us.
DH: And it's just for them.
JP: And it's their favorite TV show, because we made a joke just for them and, again, Brock pees on a mummy in the next scene.
DH: I waited a long time until my childhood resonated on TV and it never happened, so we decided to do it ourselves. I guess I didn't totally nap through my youth, I connected with something that is culturally, mildly relevant.
Since we're at Comic-Con, what's the geekiest thing you've ever done?
DH: When I was a kid, I made a hand phaser, you know the original Star Trek phasers, one of those hand phasers that clipped into the larger body, so there's type one and type two and made the top half out of wood and it's beautiful and I carried it around in my back pocket. That is the geekiest fucking thing, to craft from wood a hand phaser and then carry it around and at any time I could pull out the hand phaser. When I was a kid, they had Star Trek conventions, but you couldn't find hand phasers and I needed a hand phaser. I had the technical manual. I got a rippler, my dad would come in every once in a while and ask "How is the hand phaser going?" bring me some paint. I found it recently and it's huge. I think I made it a little big. I was picturing a little me. I'm not huge, I'm a slight fellow, and it must have been a little kid with this huge phaser. That is so wretchedly geeky. I was like 20, I guess. It was when I was a really little kid, I wore my mom's rain boots and black dress pants.
I don't want to jeopardize geek, but I was a freaky little geek. I also posed for pictures. We went to a crafts fair and there's a million kids in our family. We all sat there to get our portrait done and I tried to look like the Six Million Dollar Man. The picture, my mom finally gave it to me, and I'm this really little kid doing this [makes face] doing the eyebrow arch. The arch, it looks like a little kid with crap in his eyes.
JP: And a bad haircut.
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DH: So there's this little kid with a Buster Brown bowl haircut kind of think going like [makes the Six Million Dollar Man face again]. It's so embarrassing. That was hung up in the stairwell for the longest time and every time I saw it, I was like, you're so Lee Majors, you rotten little moron. It's pretty geeky.
JP: I would wear a lot of costumes publicly.
DH: That's true.
JP: I would wear my Spider-Man costume as much as I could and just, you know, making ballpoint pen comic books on the back of your mom's Citibank stationary instead of going out and playing with the other kids. I admit it's pretty geeky. I dressed as the Riddler once, when I was little too heavy to do. I would wear tights. My brother was in a hair metal band and he had Riddler tights made. My brother's a geek, but he was in a heavy metal band, so I'm a chubby fifteen-year-old and I borrow his Riddler tights and wear them to school with the package. That wasn't a good idea. A wretched idea. Hey, Riddler! Chubby Riddler!