Fans of “The Venture Bros.” know a new season is a precious gift, because it can take years for masterminds Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick to create each one.
The Adult Swim action-comedy about a pair of eager, if incompetent, boy adventurers, their under-achieving super-scientist father and blood-thirsty body guard premiered in 2003. More than a decade later, Hammer and Publick hit New York Comic Con last month while prepping the long-awaited sixth season, which will debut in January.
Like many of the jokes about wordplay-inspired villains and obscure B-movies that populate the animated series, the widening gulfs between seasons have become a gag of their own. In a teaser that played before the show’s NYCC panel, title cards read, “Good things come to those who … … wait!” Yes, two ellipses.
To celebrate the much-anticipated return of “The Venture Bros,” Hammer and Publick met with journalists at NYCC to discuss what they have in store for Season 6, what they’d have done with a Doctor Strange movie, and the only reason to watch the 2005 “Fantastic Four” movie.
Just before the interview began, Publick stepped away for a moment.
So, while Jackson’s away, do you want to talk behind his back?
Doc Hammer: Sure! Ask me questions about Jackson Publick. I will definitely field them. Go ahead.
What was the best thing about not working with him between seasons five and six?
Hammer: I’m going to be honest with you: I know it takes us forever to make these shows, but I don’t remember time off. I really don’t. I think we had a little bit of time, but we would still text each other. It’s a marriage.
You’re really bad at hating this guy.
Hammer: I don’t. I love him. I would call him my best friend, but I think that we’re more than that. Best friend seems like at any point, he could like, [with an edge in his voice], “Who are you dancing with?” You know what I mean? Like, it could fall apart so easily. So he’s not really my best friend; he’s family. I’ve been frustrated with him, like, a couple of times in nine years. A couple of times in nine years? That’s crazy.
[Jackson rejoined the table.]
I know you guys wanted to do the Doctor Strange movie, and they obviously should have had you guys do it. What would you have done?
Hammer: It would be slightly funnier than it’s probably going to be. It would be a lot darker. Like, my idea of Doctor Strange is that he is a monster. He is the worst person on the planet, that his wife dies and he’s like, “I just want to be able to perform surgery again!” He’s a complete asshole. Also, this going to Tibet nonsense? No. No. That’s ridiculous. It’s such a ’60s kind of thing: Let’s go to a foreign land where people are different and they have magic powers. No. No. No. He’s just like an occult guy. He just gets right into the ugliness of human sacrifice in the underground. Really ugly.
Jackson Publick: Anything to make his hand work better.
Hammer: Yeah! “I just want my hand to work better so I can make more money.” It’s more of a selling-yourself-to-the-devil premise than going and getting secret information from Tibet. Waiting in line behind Batman! Like, “Hold on! I just want to get more secret information. Where’s the secret information line?” No!
Publick: Get behind The Shadow!
Who would you have cast as Doctor Strange?
Hammer: After me?
Hammer: I like how they cast it, actually [Benedict Cumberbatch]. After me, of course. Where we’d just take a new slant on it. Like, he’s more spry, almost slightly feminine, but whiter hair. [A reporter scoffs at the whiter hair comment]. Oh, I think we could handle [whiter hair]. Look what they did with Aquaman, for Christ’s sakes. People can handle so much change.
We were having that conversation before you sat down.
Hammer: The big, flowy beard-having Aquaman?
The whole notion that so many people feel entitled to only having characters presented the one way. Like, when they change the race or gender or hair, a lot of fans get upset about that. What do you guys think?
Hammer: Yeah, Aqualad changed his race! He’s from Tibet now. I’m kidding.
Publick: [Laughing.] We just learned that. I don’t know. I go back and forth. Most of the times when they change stuff I see why they did it, or I go, “I didn’t give a shit about it anyway?” There’s certain ones I think, “Oh, maybe now he’ll be interesting. Now stop it!” Stop it, he doesn’t have to look exactly in the comic book guy. But then other times [the change] seems so calculated and fashionable or whatever they’re doing that you feel gross about it. I don’t know. I wish the Fantastic Four movie was better.
Hammer: Which one?
Publick: I wasn’t offended when I heard about them changing [Johnny Storm from white to black].
Hammer: The old one or the new one?
Publick: The newest one.
Hammer: I didn’t see [the new one].
Publick: It just wasn’t good to watch.
Hammer: I do recommend the commentary on the first one.
What happens in the commentary?
Hammer: What’s her name — the one who plays —
Publick: Jessica Alba?
Hammer: Jessica Alba talks about her uggs for a solid 45 minutes. It’s amazing. Like, a scene will be happening, “Oh I was wearing my uggs. They’re so comfortable.” Like, every time!
Publick: “They’re only shooting from my waist up here, so I got to wear my uggs.”
Hammer: “I was wearing my uggs in that scene, that’s why I was so happy!” I’m not shitting you. Watch it, and you’ll be like, “Wow. That’s a lot of uggs talk.”
Can we expect more commentary tracks from you guys on the next DVD release?
Hammer: Why? You want that?
Hammer: It’s just us sitting and watching the show.
Last season in “All This and Gargantua 2,” we see what happens to poor Sovereign.
Maybe. So where does this leave The Guild of Calamitous Intent now?
Hammer: That’s what we’re going to learn in Season 6. What happens to the Guild.
Publick: We don’t kind of address that in [the Season 5 finale].
Publick: I’m kind of confused.
Hammer: No, we don’t. We blow it up and it’s bye-bye! A lot of blow-up.
Publick: But Killinger heals Doctor Girlfriend, and sort of says, “Here.”
Hammer: “Start again.” But we don’t really address it; we go, “Start again.”
Publick: Yeah, she’s at the head of the table.
Hammer: But the Monarch: Nope. That’s what we learn.
Publick: So you see the makings of the new Guild there. Yeah, they have some changes to go through. They’re downsizing and reforming a bit. We cover a lot of that at the end of the season. Or at the beginning.
Publick: Then we get to the middle and get caught up in our other stories. But yeah, it’s kind of there the whole time.
Hammer: I think we touch on it the whole way through, but not hard.
You guys have said this show is about failure. Will that change now that the Ventures have shit-tons of money?
Hammer: The show is only about failure because we wrote a show and looked at it and were like, “Wow, I think it’s about failure.” We never set out and said let’s do something about failure. We registered it was about failure, and pulling that out feels impossible because that’s what funny to us. And failure is a big, beautiful thing. It’s not just going ahead and not getting it done. If you’ve never had failure in your life or not learned how to deal with failure, you’re a monster. Like, I don’t know you. So failure is really life. So when we say the show is about failure, what we’re saying is the show is about their lives. We think about the fact that life doesn’t go as we planned. So that’s what we mean by failure. It’s not that everybody sucks at their stuff. In success is most of our failures. Piloting something is just complete failure. So we’ll never be able to drop it until life decides to drop it. And then there will be robots! And that’s not real. And then we failed. We failed our humanity.
It seems like a lot of the female characters on the show have their shit together more than the male characters. Doctor Girlfriend and Triana are much more emotionally stable characters. Is that something you set up intentionally? Or does it reflect how the Monarch and Dr. Venture would view them?
Hammer: It’s a lot of things. One, it’s two –
Publick: Yeah, it’s two guys –
Hammer: Two males writing a thing. It’s a mommy-less universe.
Hammer: A lot of mother problems. So I think, when you have that issue — which is something that resonates within both of us — you start doing that. Also, in my life, the rational people who are guiding me are always women. I naturally roll it into that. Also my very close friends — present company excluded — are women. So, it just happens. And it’s a better foil. I mean, the men are such infants. If you pair them up with anybody, that happens. It happens within Billy and White, two men, that one of them is going to be responsible and the other one is going to be irresponsible. I think it happens in all our pairings, unless they are poorly constructed like Watch and Ward. There’s nothing different about them. They are a poor pairing and were we to give them an episode, you’d find out that one of them is not that good at it and the other one is good at it. That’s just pairings.
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