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Film, Comic Books
It’s been a year since “The Venture Bros.” left fans hanging with the explosive special “All This and Gargantua-2,” which blew up several of the show’s key elements, including the Venture Compound, the Guild of Calamitous Intent and, quite literally, the pesky parasite turned sibling rival Jonas Venture Jr. Yes, it’s been a long year.
Wondering what’s in store for Rusty, Hank and Dean now that they’ve inherited Jonas’ fortune and moved to New York City, SPINOFF spoke with “The Venture Bros.” creators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer about Season 6, which debuts Sunday on Adult Swim.
We previously published a portion of the conversation, addressing the death of David Bowie, but here the two not only tease the upcoming episodes but also discuss superhero movies, and why Hammer hasn’t seen “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
SPINOFF: You guys have described Season 6 as an unofficial reboot of the show. Can you expand on that?
Jackson Publick: Well, every old story ended and everything about it is new. So, it wasn’t a self-conscious [decision], like “We need to reboot the show to get younger viewers!” or anything like that. But we did just change everything, except who the characters are. So the show still feels like the show, it’s just in a different [place].
To that end, this year Rusty — having inherited Jonas Jr.’s fortune — is as wealthy as he could have ever dreamed. What can go wrong for him now?
Publick: [Laughs]. Everything can go wrong for poor Rusty. I think he was always rich in his head. He was that classic kind of rich where you inherit some money, and you don’t realize that when you inherit money you can’t spend it. He spent it. And now that he has inherited more money, I think he thinks in his head, “This is how it’s always been. This is how it goes. I am just a super-millionaire. This is how it’s meant to be. I am the son of Jonas Venture!”
Doc Hammer: He has no idea what to do with money.
Publick: He is his own worst enemy. And a whole bunch of new people officially hate him because he’s in a different league that attracts a different class of enemies. So, a lot can go wrong. It doesn’t actually go too wrong for him this season — you know, other than in the normal, small ways. It goes wrong for everybody else. It’s worse on the Monarch.
You mentioned new villains. It seems one of those is going to have more of a problem with the Monarch than he may with Rusty. Can you talk about White Whale?
Publick and Hammer: Wide Wale.
Publick: Like corduroy. It’s a pun! [Both laugh.]
Hammer: It’s a pun about pants!
Publick: Finally after six seasons we were able to accomplish some semblance of corduroy onscreen. What can we say about him? He’s just one of many [new villains]. A lot of people come knocking on the Ventures’ door, but he’s kind of the Big Bad. He’s our first New York-styled villain. He’s like Kingpin, sort of mafia-influenced. They do villainy, they do heroism, they do everything a little bit differently in New York. It’s a little more corrupt. It’s a little more “I’ll scratch your back you scratch mine.”
Hammer: It’s a little more serious. It’s an older institution in New York. It’s the seat of comic books, so they’ve been doing it for so long that it has more corruption and it has less tolerance for stupidity. Which makes the Monarch have to change his game utterly, because he is stupid. So he does the dumbest thing you could possibly imagine.
In “Hostile Makeover” you parody the Avengers and call out Justin Bieber. What other targets have you set up in Season 6?
Hammer: We don’t really have a hit list. Like, when write something and there’s a hole to make a little comment, we’ll make a little comment. But I can’t think of anything else. I’m sure if I rewatched the season I would have this big list of what we actually did do. So, it’s not like we have a hit list and no targets.
Publick: I think one thing we did — without having specific targets in mind — we have so many new villains that we really wanted to make sure that we checked off certain archetypes that we hadn’t hit before. Like, we wanted a brainy guy, we wanted a badass guy, we wanted a villain team. We’d never done that. We wanted a brute, a big muscly guy like a Bane type. So I think we wanted to show in these New York-level villains a wider variety of classic types. We pull references from all over, but most of them just end of being amalgams of cool shit we really like. It’s pretty rare that we have a really specific target.
Hammer: I think in that first episode you have more specific targets. Later, we’re just like, “You know, a guy with Doc Ock appendages!” But he has nothing to do with Doc Ock. We’re just taking from comic books and that world. Almost everybody understands now. There’s been so many parodies and so many straightforward tellings of it, that it’s all shorthand to us. You take advantage of the fact that it’s shorthand. All these things you’ve seen before, so if we pluck this and put it on a villain, you get it, right? Let’s move on and show you who he really is.
You guys have managed to add a lot of layers to the show through allusions. Has their ever been an allusion so obscure that you’ve been disappointed fans didn’t pick it out?
Publick: [Laughs] No.
Hammer: There have been jokes that I’ve been sad that I haven’t had said to me. But I’m positive somebody must have gotten it.
Publick: I don’t think we’re capable of doing anything people don’t get. It’s just we’re only disappointed when it isn’t everyone’s favorite joke. I don’t think there’s anything in the show that hasn’t been called back to us at some point. If anything, fans are so busy looking for allusions and parodies and references that they see them where there aren’t any a lot of times. They’re like, “Oh, this is a reference to the ‘Star Trek’ episode–,” and we’re like, “No! We just used the same word. It’s a word in the English language.” You know?
Yeah. Everybody wants to unlock a mystery of “The Venture Bros.”
Publick: Yeah! We’re not trying to play “Guess the Reference.”
Hammer: And if we do play “Guess the Reference,” it’s because we just assume that everybody knows it, and it was deeper than we thought. And people think, “Wow, they were really trying to bury it.” And we’re like, “No! We thought it would be a huge big joke. We’re just idiots and we didn’t realize that everybody didn’t grow up clicking on that one thing.”
Speaking of the show’s mysteries, are we going to learn more about that snapshot of baby Rusty and baby Monarch?
Publick: Not really.
Hammer: About as much as we wanted you to.
Publick: Well, I guess you see a little bit into the Monarch’s history. You do get a sense that his parents had a relationship with Jonas, which is already clear from the photograph. You find out a little more about that, but we don’t go deep into that.
Hammer: We don’t solve the photo, but what we do is give you a world in which that photo can be taken.
Publick: Without telling you too much.
So you two have been making this show for 12 years now. And a couple of times you’d talked about maybe bringing it to an end. Have you started outlining what the end of “The Venture Bros.” could look like?
Hammer: We’re more trying to figure out the end of every season than we are the end of the show.
I’m relieved to hear that.
Publick: Over our history, and over the years, we’ve probably had some loose ideas of how to end it, that we then throw out in favor of a new season.
Speaking to a franchise “The Venture Bros.” alludes to a lot, I’m really curious what you two think of the new “Star Wars” movie, “The Force Awakens.”
Hammer: I haven’t seen it yet!
Hammer: I haven’t seen it yet! I might go into that weird thing, like I didn’t see “Titanic” until a year ago. [Publick chuckles.] That might happen to me. I might just go, “You know what! It’s such a big cultural event that I might have to avoid it while it’s still part of the sticky zeitgeist and go investigate it when it’s a little more –”
Publick: He wants to stand in the corner at the dance and make fun of everybody else. That’s what he wants.
Hammer: I do! But at the end of the dance the floor is peopled with nothing but the available. The ones who will actually talk to me
Publick: Yeah. [Laughs.]
Hammer: When everybody’s gone out for pizza.
But, Jackson, you’ve seen it?
Publick: Yeah. I liked it a lot. I saw it twice, and I enjoyed sitting there and watching it thoroughly. It’s only afterwards when I think about it that I have any issues with it. But it was a lot of fun. And I find myself — I didn’t like that Huffington Post “Here’s 40 Things That Are Wrong With It” article. [Hammer laughs.] And I can refute 38 of them. You know, it’s not perfect, but I’m really looking forward to what Rian Johnson does with [“Episode VIII”], because I’ve always liked him. I think all the familiarity and the rehashing of the “Star Wars” tropes that you know is hopefully a setup for upending them, and taking everything in a place where you don’t expect it to go. I don’t think they plan to be in the business of just dressing up “A New Hope” in new clothes. I have high hopes for it. I think people who really care about “Star Wars” are making it well.
I agree completely, but I don’t want to spoil things for Doc.
Hammer: Please don’t!
I’m not going to! But how do you exist on the Internet ever and not get spoiled about “The Force Awakens” at this point?
Hammer: Well, you assume I exist on the Internet. I barely check my mail. I’ll occasionally use it to look up a very specific thing. I’m not an Internet kind of guy, I’m really not.
Have you two seen the new “Fantastic Four” yet? Because last time we talked you had not, but had a lot of thoughts on the commentary track of the old one.
Hammer: I haven’t seen the new one. How can it compete?
With Jessica Alba talking about her Uggs?
Hammer: Oh, the other one is so bad. I don’t know. They shanked it! How many chances do you get? Like, look at “Spider-Man.” How many chances are you going to get to tell the fucking Spider-Man origin? … I don’t want to watch one more person’s retelling of Spider-Man. I don’t. And “Fantastic Four,” you had your chance! You can do it in the ’70s and make it look ridiculous, and then you make a new one. And that’s it. You can’t go back, go, “We were just kidding. Here’s a new one! It’s different! It’s slightly different.”
Publick: It’s very different, but I only saw like 20 minutes of it.
Publick: From what I understand, the stuff that’s really bad about it comes later than that.
It’s barely an action movie until the last 10 minutes. So much of it is just people arguing in a room.
Hammer: I’m more apt to watch something that is a new investigation of something. Like, I liked “Ant-Man” because I hadn’t seen 35 “Ant-Mans.”
So what are you guys looking forward to seeing this year? There’s seven superhero movies coming out.
Hammer: I’m begrudgingly and jealously looking forward to “Doctor Strange.” [Publick laughs.] I’m not super-excited, because I had nothing to do with it.
So are you going to be watching it and comparing it to what you would have done the whole time?
Hammer: I’m going to be watching in the theater, vocally going “Oh, COME ON! There’s so many better ways to do that!” Although, I love who they got for Doctor Strange [Benedict Cumberbatch], so that makes it even worse. That would have been a great Doctor Strange to write for.
Publick: I’m excited about “Captain America: Civil War.” Less so about “Batman v Superman.” That looks a little bit murky, and I don’t like Zack Snyder. I don’t really like anything he does. “Deadpool” will maybe be pleasantly surprising. I was never into that character, I don’t usually like —
Hammer: Is it really Vince Vaughn?
It’s Ryan Reynolds.
Publick: It’s Ryan Reynolds.
Hammer: Ryan Reynolds. Oh! Someone told me it was Vince Vaughn, and I was like, “How’s he going to slim down to be Deadpool!” [Publick laughs.] I mean, he’d have been great, but he’d have to eat nothing but steamed, skinless chicken for years.
Now I’m imagining Vince Vaughn as Deadpool as a “Venture Bros.” character, and I like it.
Hammer: I like Vince Vaughn! Now I’m kind of upset that Ryan Reynolds is having it easy compared to Vince Vaughn. Oh well.
Publick: I do like the nerd history of how the movie got made, though, that he got to play the character right after the weird Wolverine movie [“X-Men Origins: Wolverine”]. But I never read the Deadpool comics. I never liked funny comics. I didn’t read “Howard the Duck” and stuff like that.
Hammer: You read “MAD,” though, right? And “Cracked” when you couldn’t find a “MAD”?
Publick: Yeah, but only until I was like 12 or something. I didn’t like when the big companies would do a “funny” take on something. But I did like stuff like “The Tick” and “The Flaming Carrot” and weird indie comedic things that were never like Marvel Comics going, “Oh, we got a bunch of guys to try to be funny about what we do.” Like self-referential funny rubbed me the wrong way. Stupid reasons. But maybe [“Deadpool”] will be fun.
“The Venture Bros.” Season 6 premieres Sunday, Jan. 31, at midnight ET/PT on Adult Swim.