Animated series were never just for kids, and the evolution of the adult animation genre has seen some intriguing spikes of growth over the years. But no cartoon-for-grownups has quite the flare of The Venture Bros., a wacky little comedy/superhero saga/occasional heartfelt drama created by Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer with more active characters at one given time (over 70) than most shows accumulate in their entirety (of course, not having to pay live actors helps).
To honor the show’s return from a two-year hiatus (airing its fifth season Sundays at midnight on Adult Swim), we talked with Publick and Hammer all about the trials of adding another season to an already-intricate story, whether or not The Venture Bros. has an endgame, and which of their animated characters they’d want to have sex with the most.
Working on the fifth season, what’s the experience like to go back to the drawing board for a new run of episodes?
Jackson Publick: You have the weight of all the old seasons on you! But you also have all of these rich characters and all these stories that have been developing. It’s pretty good.
Doc Hammer: And we’re pretty compelled to do it. There’s always a handful of stuff we didn’t get to do for the previous season, or something we thought of while making it, that we get super excited to start pursuing it.
Is there an endgame for The Venture Bros. in sight?
Hammer: It’s all up in the air. They haven’t shut the doors on anything.
Publick: Obviously, there will be an endpoint, someday. But we have a sixth season coming up, and that’s what we’re focusing on.
Your show is a part of a growing trend of animated television that’s pulling a serious adult audience.
Hammer: Well, it’s been good to us! I mean, the whole culture has changed in the 10 years that we’ve done this, and that’s part of why we’re still around. I mean, we’ve done a good job, but at the same time, the whole world got geeky! Cable exploded, and new media exploded, and we had a million superhero movies… everything we were doing from the start that we thought might marginalize us is pretty popular now!
Publick: And we made kind of a cult show, but with social media, people can talk about these private pleasures, so we can have a very large conversation about a “cult” show.
Hammer: I think it’s a good time for anybody making stuff that’s kind of personal and unique. There’s never been more ways to get stuff seen by people, and for the people who like those things to connect and inform each other for you. You don’t need to put billboards on buses [anymore].
At the same time, The Venture Bros. is a show about so many different things. It’s superheroes and super villains, but it’s also a show about family, relationships, adolescence. Is that on purpose?
Hammer: I think we just went with what we were interested in… There’s only been us two writers for ten years, and we know what we’re interested in, and we keep pursuing that. I’m not sure that we see The Venture Bros. as having one theme.
Publick: We really just deliver all the things we want to say within the framework of a show that pretends to be part of a genre. And that’s it. Sometimes we dive and we pay lip service to that genre.
Hammer: And if we’re missing something from that genre, we’ll come up with something. We’ll put in anything that we need! This is a show with more than 75 geeky characters…
And speaking of those characters: I wanted to play Fuck, Marry, Kill with you guys and the characters on The Venture Bros., but with so many, I wasn’t sure where to start. I thought I’d let you two have a crack at it.
Publick: All right then… [let’s start] with The Order of The Triad.
Hammer: Fuck, Marry, Kill? You marry Dr. Orpheus, obviously, because he’s a great guy. You fuck Jefferson Twilight because he’s the best looking… and unfortunately, you kill the Alchemist. I’ll give you one: Sally Impossible, Dr. Girlfriend, Triana Orpheus.
Publick: Oooohh… uh, you fuck Triana because she’s the youngest. You marry Dr. Girlfriend because she’s a really supportive partner, and you kill Sally Impossible because she’s kind of weak.
Hammer: See, I would fuck Dr. Girlfriend. I would marry Triana.
Publick: She’s substantially younger than you, so she’ll stay “together.” She’ll look good until you’re too old to notice.
Hammer: Yeah, until I’m crapping in my chair. And then, yeah, you kill Sally Impossible, again. You could marry Sally Impossible, but I think she’s kind of neurotic.
Publick: Yeah. I mean, its partially because she hasn’t been treated well by men. And this is not helping!
Terron R. Moore is a writer in New York, NY. You’ve previously seen him at VIBE, ELLE, Bullett, and Ology, among others.