Universal Options "The Wicked + The Divine" for TV Adaptation
Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick, the twisted minds behind the cult-favorite animated series The Venture Bros., turned up at New York Comic Con to face their fans – several of whom dressed in stunning cosplay creations — and one would assume to share details of Season 6. But after they took to the stage, strutting like gods of geekdom in special-edition speed suits, Hammer and Publick were quick to dash our hopes of that score. As they’re writing the next season, they were being tight-lipped. “It’s not like sex, where you say what you’re going to do the entire time, and then do it very badly,” Hammer said, earning laughs from the crowd.
The Adult Swim series that began as a sort-of spoof of Jonny Quest has grown into a rich web of pop-culture references, intricately woven in-jokes and a fast-expanding universe that tangles around its own mythos from every angle. The story of a former boy adventurer grown into a bitter, pill-popping super-scientist who takes his gung-ho sons and burly body guard on wild adventures has followed so many tangents and spun off so many threads that Hammer and Publick had to create a fanboy rant video as a “previously on” intro for their last season.
Season 5 saw Dean grow moody, Sergeant Hatred grow boobs and Molotov Cocktease become an unexpected ally to Brock and the O.S.I. (the Office of Secret Intelligence). While Publick wouldn’t dare reveal what comes next, he did share that the entire sixth season is mapped out on the “big board” — named because it is a giant dry-erase board. Also, he teased an hour or so should be ready by fall 2014, and that Dark Horse is working on a Venture Bros. book. But as production on the show’s sixth season won’t begin until next week, they aren’t eager to share what they’ve scrawled, as details are subject to change.
Instead, Hammer and Publick opted to take fan questions, which ranged for suggested spinoffs to pleas for confirmation of the return of beloved side-boob-showing characters. One fan reprimanded them for taking so damn long to make a new season! Sparks flew, some from a towering Transformer cosplayer.
Asked if their religious continuity, which turns one-liner jokes into full-fledged characters, is a point of pride, both admitted it is. But they agreed it can be a hindrance. As Doc said, “It’s hard to be funny, when you have a plot to do.”
Wondering what books moody Dean was reading in Season 5? One title was Judy Blume’s Wifey, which Publick noted was a key character point, as it’s the author’s more mature novel. There was also Shogun, the James Clavell novel, and a title the duo made up called The Cathode Ray Tube for Boys. Asked whether it was a book Dean found in Sergeant Hatred’s basement, they said it was more likely an old book from Rusty’s childhood.
For those wondering boxers or briefs, both of the creators were sporting boxer-briefs, although Hammer was quick to point out their differences. “Jackson’s wearing $60 underpants!” Hammer shouted, allowing, “Your genitals are worth $60 of caressing.” Hammer then insisted his own were far less fancy, but did have white-piping, which he appreciates, and otherwise have a look that reminds him of Milli Vanilla and SeaQuest DSV because they’re cut so long in the leg. Yet, Hammer declined to show us what lies under his speed suit, saying, “I’d fucking show you but I have the ugliest ass in like history. … My legs stop at my back. … It’s horrible.”
Fans repeatedly pushed to learn which characters, old and new, would be in Season 6. Publick teased the new season will have “Lots of Monarch, there’s going to be a lot of Monarch.” The guys flat-out refused to comment specifically on what new characters are forthcoming, although they admitted there should be new villains added to the mix as well as lots of “weird shit.” On a show where men getting breasts is a recurring theme, the definition of sex slang is hotly debated, and Hitler was re-incarnated as an evil dog, the sky is really the limit when it comes to weird shit. But here’s a hint: The new baddies are based on old toys that Publick and Hammer have been ogling online. “It’s like the best job ever,” Publick said of this research.
Rejecting further discussion of new additions to the show, Hammer said, “We have so many characters that we are excited about those guys.” Still, he wouldn’t tell a Molotov cosplayer whether the Russian vixen will return. However, he did marvel at her impressive — and gravity-defying — costume recreation, saying, “That is a costume never meant to be cosplayed. […] If she comes back, we’ll give her something a little more demure to wear.”
Other Venture Bros-inspired cosplay included several pairings of Billy Quizboy and Pete White, an Augustus St. Cloud (which inspired Hammer to cuss at her in the shrill voice of his nemesis Billy), a couple of Mrs. The Monarch (nee Dr. Girlfriend), twins Nancy and Drew Quymn, Shore Leave, Truckulese and a Season 5 Sergeant Hatred so close to the real thing that Publick said, “(It’s) like Sergeant Hatred is a real guy now.”
In response, the cosplayer, who had clearly appeared before the guys at several past conventions, asked if they’d like to touch his heaving man-breasts. “No,” Hammer said firmly, but later amended, “I will crawl in your bosom, and I’ll just sleep in them like a little mouse. Thank you for dressing like that. It’s perfect.” Publick, however, declined. “If it’s not part of your real body, I don’t want to touch them,” he said.
When confronted by a Carmen Sandiego cosplayer, Hammer cried out, “Where in the world have you been? We’ve been looking for you everywhere. Let me tell you this, if you see Waldo, we’ve been looking for him.”
But the biggest crowd reaction to cosplay was given to one brave fan who appeared in a lit-up Transformer costume that must have involved stilts it was so big. When he got to the mic, Hammer confessed he wanted to rush him and knock him down, knowing full well the costume would keep him there. “Every bone in my body wants me to leap over this table and knock you the fuck over,” Hammer yelled. “It’s unbelievable. It’s at the base of my spine working its way up. … I move like lightning, and I am greased!”
Asked what shaped Dean’s dark arc last season, Hammer said, “Dean created himself. You write a guy for that long, you just follow his own edict. … It’s just Dean.” Publick echoed this sentiment, and acknowledged fan speculation that brooding Dean was based on Peter Park’s Venom-makeover in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. Both laughed at that film’s depiction of bangs equaling evil, but reject it as a source of inspiration.
Asked who they’d like to get as a voice actor in the next season, they said David Bowie, an answer they’ve given before. Then Publick added Pete Holmes to his wish list, explaining he and Hammer are fans of the comedian’s Vines. The crowd shouted back he was at the convention, and Publick joked someone should bring him to the Main Stage immediately.
There was also bad news for fans of Hank and Dermot’s band Shallow Gravy: No album is forthcoming. “That would be ridiculous,” Publick said. Hammer agreed, saying audiences already got “too much” Shallow Gravy. “Their EP is the same song five times. Extrapolate an album! What would that be? A lot of spoken word, I assume. It wouldn’t be good. Not a talented bunch of kids. Every once in a while they hit on a good riff.”
Asked for an “epic origin story” on how they came up with the show, Hammer answered, “Jackson was in Tangier. What were you doing in Tangier, by the way?”
“Colonel Gentleman!” cried out someone from the crowd, which got a laugh.
“He was. He was Colonel Gentlemaning,” Hammer continued. “You were doing research for something, and I was living there. You know, there’s a lot of things you can do in Tangier that you cannot do here. I’m just going to say that. And I was walking down one of the Tangier streets, Tangerine streets. And there I see this man all huddled up. He had a dyed-red hair at the time. And then I realized it was blood. He was curled up in a pool of his own blood and I mended his wounds with a shoelace. … And then I saved his life. Next thing I know he calls me Doc, and says that he has this idea for Venture Bros., I’m like, ‘Jesus Christ, I got to get you to a hospital, shut up about TV!'”
Publick cut him off, saying, “There is no great story. ” Hammer concurred, saying the two met through Ben Edlund, creator of The Tick. “So we started a Dark Team,” Publick explained. In creating their logo, they forged this “great friendship,” Hammer added.
“On the Season 5 thing: Now I realize it looked like you didn’t get a big finale, which is because [leans in and lowers voice] … you didn’t get a big final,” Hammer said. “That doesn’t mean we’re not going to do one. It’s just not going to be as timely as a finale that actually ends a season, which I hear is why everyone else is doing it.” Instead, Hammer said they’ll start of Season 6 “with a finale. And then run the penultimate episode as the ultimate episode. We are mixing it up. We are kicking ass and then writing down who it was. Which is a form of taking names, but it’s more about being polite and reminding them that ‘we kicked your ass but we did it only because that’s our job. Signed the Venture Bros, Doc and Jackson.’ And we chewed gum. And we weren’t out of gum, but we more asses to kick.”
Next, an audience member wondered, as nicely as possible, how fans might make Hammer and Publick more money so they could hire more people and work faster. Hammer didn’t take this well, saying, “Did we miss something? … Did Adult Swim run a bumper that said, ‘The Venture Bros. are your bitches and they are going to make 25 episodes. If they don’t this season, be pissed’?” He went onto to say making the show essentially takes over their lives when it’s in production. “That is all we did is make you Venture Bros.” Using a metaphor about Christmas presents to say whatever they do doesn’t seem to be enough, Hammer continued, “We give you a bike and you’re like, ‘I wanted a BMX bike.’ We gave you a fucking pony! You know it wasn’t like an apple in the toe of your sock or anything. Solid Christmas gifts were given out — really good stuff. And yeah, maybe we threw in a pair of underwear, but you needed it! …Trust me, it was a good gift … and toys … there were riding vehicles … and there may have been one of those very dangerous Nerf things that shot and looked cool.”
Pressed for what they learned from the production of Season 5 that might be applied to the next season, Hammer replied, “Yes! We learned that you’re ungrateful.” He then added, “I’m kidding.”
He said he understands that when people love the show, they get “pissed off” about the long spans in between new episodes and “want more.” “You should be pissed off,”hHe allowed, “but say it to each other. Don’t say it to us! We worked our butts off! You know, say to each other, ‘Yeah, Doc Hammer is a douchebag.’ You can say that all you want. But to us, just say, ‘I really appreciate it and how much work you put into it.'”
One fan, dressed as Truckules, asked how they record the show. Hammer and Publick explained that while they do most of the show’s voices, it’s not like they do them in table-read form. Instead, one of them stands in the recording booth, giving various line readings for one character at a time. The schedule is often based around what the voice demands. For instance, Hammer said he’ll do The Monarch before Hatred because the former blows out his voice, which helps for the latter. Henchman 21 is exhausting because he is always speaking at the top of his register and in half-breaths. “Shore Leave is, of course, a breeze,” Hammer said, “because it’s just me being sassier!”
Finally, will HELPeR ever get a spinoff? “Every once in a while we talk about a HELPeR spinoff that would be like this quiet 1960s (thing) with bad jazz music … HELPeR is in an old den with flowers, and he gives them to a robot and she rejects him, all with no dialogue. And then he’s got the flowers or something. It would be awful. The only idea that we have is terrible, terrible. Awful.”
Before the panel broke up, one young woman went to the mic in a dress screenprinted with various Venture Bros. scenes, and confessed she was too nervous to ask a question. Without missing a beat, Hammer responded, “Are you too nervous to dance with me?”She raced to the front as he leapt from the stage and joined her in a spin for “Greased Lightning.” Watch the video below.