So sayeth Jonas Venture, Jr. to his brother Rusty in the season 2 premiere of today's entry.
It was a weird, goofy "fuck you" to the audience. But it also wasn't that. It was also an artistic choice that suggested this offbeat cartoon, which had originated as nothing more than a violent "Jonny Quest" ripoff was going to have stakes. That it could change. That it was a cartoon that wasn't just a cartoon.
And change it has. Mutated. Evolved. And taken bold choices. Too many bold choices, perhaps. But let's take a step back.
My earliest memory of "The Venture Brothers" was watching the pilot in a hotel room in Texas when I was in the army. It was the second time the pilot had shown, alongside a few, stranger [adult swim] entries like "Penguins Behind Bars." So why do I remember the second time better?
Well, back in those days [adult swim] was putting a lot more pilots on the air, presumably because they didn't have nearly as much content and, having commissioned a pilot, even if it never went to series, the result was likely still weird enough to warrant trying to get their money back with a showing. One winter the absolutely unwatchable "Boo Boo Runs Wild" ran like clockwork every night at 12:30. It was the only time of the evening I turned [adult swim] off.
One day I may do an entry on some of the [adult swim] pilots. But suffice it to say that "The Terrible Secret of Turtle Bay" at first seemed like that. It was a bit of a one-joke premise. Dr. Venture is like Benton Quest, except he doesn't give a shit about his kids. Hank and Dean are as eager and chipper as Jonny and Hadji but they live in a real world of strippers and muggings. And Brock Samson is as dedicated a bodyguard as Race Bannon, but an ultraviolent lunatic. Oh, and the accidental homoeroticism of Race and Benton was made all but overt.
Thankfully, though, they did send "The Venture Brothers" to series, and as I mentioned above, it evolved and evolved and evolved. Which brings us to the season 1 finale...when the ostensible main characters of the show, Hank and Dean, were killed at the very end. Cartoons are notably fond of the reset button, but not so "The Venture Brothers." In fact, they did a send up of the very notion of the reset button when it turned out that Hank and Dean were clones - fifteenth or sixteenth generation clones, in fact.
Which leads us back to the quote I mentioned in the opening. For the space of a single half hour "The Venture Brothers" hinted that it might be the sort of show to kill off its two teenage leads, and replace them with two middle aged brothers...er, one of which had been swallowed in utero and only recently escaped from his twin's body. It never went quite that far. But in subsequent seasons it never pulled back from marriages, breakups, deaths, and even, at the beginning of season 6, a completely new location. And because, as I mentioned above, each episode is loving hand-drawn in a retro style, fans can often go several years between seasons without having their cliffhanger itches scratched. Thus, while "The Venture Brothers" is only now entering its seventh season, it's not officially been on the air longer than any other [adult swim] show, including the eleven-season former champ "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" - at fifteen and a half years.
Jesus Christ, I just depressed myself. How much of my life have I wasted on waiting for a cartoon?
What's notably interesting about the show being so long-running is that they completely preceded the Marvel fad before it overtook them. Imagine having a main character on the show be an obvious spoof of Doctor Strange in 2004. How many people would have even gotten the reference? Being a superhero show, the creators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer leaned heavy into the Marvel deep cuts at a time when the idea of, say, Ant-Man becoming familiar to a mainstream audience was pretty out there. Now all the Marvel references are so embedded in their mythos it would be hard to extract any of them - and now they're no longer just for superfans.
Well, anyway, "The Venture Brothers" is delightful and kooky. Most of the time. As it's written by übernerds, it has a nerdy tendency to disappear into increasingly obscurer and obscurer pop culture references. If a particular reference doesn't resonate with you, you might be fine as it might be a throwaway line. It might also be a running joke through an excruciating, minutes-long debate between two characters (of particular guilt are albino Pete White and hydrocephalic "boy genius" Master Billy Quizboy.) So "YMMV" might be a general blanket warning for any given episode of the show.
And while I admire their bravery in most instances, there have, naturally, been a few misfires. Sergeant Hatred, a recurring (he's still in it, in fact) and unrepentant pedophile character, has raised more than a few hackles online.
The new season is currently airing (hence me once again running Re-Animated a bit out of order) but you're not going to be able to just jump right in. Trust me on this. You're going to want to go back to season 1, episode 1, hell, you'll even miss stuff if you don't go back to the pilot, and watch the whole thing through.