The Venture Bros began life on the back of a script for The Tick. Seems appropriate in a way, no?
The prototype of Hank and Dean were drawn by then-Tick writer and storyboarder Christopher “Jackson Publick” McCollouch. Originally, the boys were going to be a feature in an anthology comic Monkeysuit in 2000. Monkeysuit was going to be a creative outlet for McCollouch and other storyboard artists at Jumbo Pictures. However, the Venture boys quickly proved too big for the printed page and McCollouch turned back to animation. He pitched the pilot script to Comedy Central, which obviously turned it down, in 2000. Later moving to L.A. to work on the live-action Tick TV series, McCollouch sent the script around as something he could do himself. (An interesting tidbit from Go Team Venture! — Will Vinton Studios — later known as Lakia Studios — was interested in buying the show but was more interested in doing the show in CG than in stop motion. McCollouch wasn’t keen on CG, so the project was scrapped.) The Venture Bros went dormant until [adult swim] seemed interested in the retro-futuristic take on an old property and ordered a pilot in 2002.
There was a gap of over a year between when The Venture Bros. pilot originally aired late one night and this episode (that’s August 7, 2004, for you playing at home.) Therefore, I imagine this episode was the first real chance [adult swim] viewers had to see the eponymous Hank and Dean in action. And, as I alluded to in my review of the pilot, this is a much better representation of what The Venture Bros. would become.
A lot of that buzz (a pun if butterflies buzzed) has to do with The Monarch. Sure, he was a character in “The Terrible Secret of Turtle Bay,” but there he truly lacked the “antagonistic” part of “antagonist.” The Monarch’s never-revealed plans get the plot of this episode in motion, and, like a good antagonist, his actions cause our heroes to react to the danger he promises. His presence in Tijuana — and Speedy’s impulsive behavior to kidnap the boys — break the show free from the “The Ventures are in a place, react to it” formula. He’s not quite the Joker to Dr. Venture’s Batman yet (more like the Killer Moth to Dr. Venture’s Batman), but he’s definitely more of a character.
Hank and Dean, seen as bland ciphers in the pilot, already have more agency in attacking The Monarch during their “prison break.” There’s a common complaint during the run of the show that the boys are almost afterthoughts in the show that bears their name. I can see that already, but I can also see them shedding their “gee whiz” personas and doing more than just being chased by the villain-of-the-week. They also get some more pathos. While we knew from the pilot Dr. Venture doesn’t really pay attention to his sons, in this episode the boys realize how little they matter to their father — except, of course, as organ donors.
On the other hand, perhaps Doc does care more about his associates than he lets on. Sure, he calls Dean “Dave” in this episode, but behind that hard superscience mask, there may actually be a caring soul. In his drunken state, Doc does build a shrine to Brock, possibly out of Brock’s quick and sudden near-death but also because he may have some emotional connection to his bodyguard. A normal man couldn’t survive being attacked with dozens of poison darts during a mad dash to save two obnoxious boys. Brock does that and has enough strength to hang onto the corpse of Speedy in his coma.
Continuity & Foreshadowing:
- This is the first episode with H.E.L.Pe.R., Speedy (in his only living appearance), and Henchman 24 (his Ray Romano-esque voice does come out of two distinct henchmen, though).
- Speedy’s very eager to “get his wings” in this episode. In “A Party for Tarzan” in Season 6, “getting your wings” is Fluttering Horde code for killing someone in the line of duty.
- Baron Underbheit is mentioned. He’s seen in the episode intros, though.
- Hank refers to The Monarch getting “all creepy uncle” on him and Dean. This may be a spoiler depending on how you read Season 7’s revelations.
- Speaking of Season 7, we also get our first taste of The Monarch’s very important backstory.
Doc: “Horrible disease-carrying things.”
Dean: “But that might have been someone’s spirit, Pop.”
Doc: “All the more reason to get it the hell off me.”
Dr. Guevara: “I am sorry Senor Venture.”
Dr. Guevara: “Si?”
Doc: “No, ‘Dr. Venture.’ What’s Mexican for ‘doctor’?”
Dr. Guevara: “‘Doctor’. As I was saying, I simply cannot write you these prescriptions. ”
Doc: “What? Why not?”
Dr. Guevara: “The quantities you have specified are practically criminal. You have drugs on this list with completely opposite applications. You have none of the elements they treat…”
Doc: “But I have tri-polar disorder!”
Dr. Guevara: “No.”
Doc: “Oh, come on!”
The Monarch: “Now Venture will send Samson after us and he’ll go totally sickhouse on our asses. I like my ass, gentlemen.”
Hank: “What’s your problem with our dad anyway?”
The Monarch: “Well, I – he – he’s my nemesis, my archenemy.”
Dean: “I don’t think Pop thinks you’re his archenemy.”
The Monarch: “Come one, I’m sure the walls of the Venture Compound are practically caked with the lingering curses of The Monarch’s name.”
Dean: “Uh…no. I’ve never even heard him mention you.”
Hank: “Hey, I thought Baron Underbheit was Dad’s archenemy?”
The Monarch: “Underbheit? That dime store Dr. Doom isn’t fit to – just you wait until your father calls me back!”
The Monarch: “It was like losing my parents all over again, only much quieter.”