Venture Brothers is a show on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. It’s a parody of Jonny Quest, Hardy Boys, and countless other shows, books, and movies aimed at action-minded young folk.
To understand the show, you have to understand the characters. Imagine that it’s thirty-odd years later, and Jonny Quest turned out poorly. Dr. Thaddeus Venture is our Jonny Quest, all grown up. When he was in a child, he lived in the presence of the great Dr. Jonas Venture, protected by the original Team Venture. But as an adult, he’s a bitter pill-popper without a real doctorate, trying to make a living riding his father’s coattails. He has two teenaged sons, Hank and Dean, who talk, think, and dress like stereotypes from the 1950s, and an enormous muscleman of a bodyguard, Brock Samson. They all live in the Venture Compound with their helper robot, H.E.L.P.eR (Humanoid Electric Lab Partner Robot), their pet dog, Scamp, and their tenants, the necromancer Dr. Orpheus and his goth daughter, Triana. The Venture Compound is, of course, a relic of the late Jonas Venture — it even has a statue in front of a lab-coated Venture, holding a young Rusty in his arms, and pointing to the stars.
The show’s world is a familiar hodgepodge of every other action cartoon show you’ve ever seen, if slightly more like our world than most. Although Dr. Venture is chased by his share of supervillains, they all play fairly (to a point), having paid memberships in the Guild of Calamitous Intent. A variety of bizarre, yet weirdly familiar villains, such as The Monarch, Dr. Girlfriend, Baron Ünderbheit, and The Phantom Limb populate the show’s universe. Shows routinely send the Venture family under the sea, to space stations, time-traveling to jungle pyramids, into the frozen North, and all of the other standbys of cheesy Saturday-morning fare. But all of this is tongue-in-cheek: when Dr. Venture uses his two-way communicator watch to contact Dr. Orpheus and have him use magic to save the Ventures from a Star Wars-esque trapped room with spiked walls closing in, Orpheus asks how fast they’re moving. Venture responds, “Slower then haunted house spiked walls, but not quite as slow as evil scientist spiked walls.”
The world of the Venture Bros. is actually the same world as Jonny Quest, it turns out. Episodes have revealed that Race Bannon works for the Office of Secret Intelligence alongside Brock, that Drs. Jonas Venture Sr. and Benton Quest were friends and occasional collaborators, that Jonny has grown up to be a paranoid-schizophrenic holed up in an undersea research pod. The Ventures aren’t simply a parody of the Quests; they’re old friends.
The other huge pull of Venture Bros. is that it is capable of being serious, or at least having a seriously involved plot. There is a lot of backstory. Brock’s past and involvement with the Office of Secret Intelligence, the death of Jonas Venture Sr., the exploits of the original Team Venture: all of these things are kept tightly concealed, and are revealed bit by bit over the course of the show. It’s refreshing to see episodes that have a nugget of seriousness buried somewhere beneath all of the humor. Especially in the second season, episodes have given us glimpses into immense character depth — the lunchbox scene at the end of Escape to the House of the Mummies, Part II and most of Twenty Years to Midnight are particularly strong examples.
The show’s creators have stated that its main theme is failure. Every character is a washed-up, pathetic version of what they want to be. The legacy of Venture Industries, once the hope of the future, is now a collection of decaying machines that Dr. Venture doesn’t have the inclination or know-how to fix. Hank and Dean’s 60s-era mentality seems to come from the fact that their beds, which teach them so they don’t have to attend school, have not been updated or revised since Jonas Venture invented them.
The show has run for two complete seasons, and a third is in the works. The final episode of the first season was left as a deliberate cliffhanger to infuriate fans — if the show hadn’t been renewed, it would have had an appallingly depressing ending.
The Venture Bros. is one of the finest shows on television, and is very rewarding to anybody willing to watch just a few episodes of it (and far more rewarding to somebody who has seen the whole run).
- Dr. Thaddeus Venture
Dr. Venture was once Rusty Venture, the young protegé of the brilliant Jonas Venture, but has grown up to be a bitter single father with a taste in amphetamines and a fraction of his father’s scientific ability. Venture has unmentioned ties to the Guild of Calamitous Intent, and a number of supervillain archrivals.
- Hank Venture
Four minutes older than his brother, Hank fancies himself to be much more wise and worldly. He has a severe case of hero worship for Brock, who tolerates it with gentle good humor. He also has a huge crush on Molotov Cocktease, Brock’s love. Forced to wear kerchiefs by his father.
- Dean Venture
Peppy but easily scared, Dean constantly competes with his older brother. He has a huge crush on his neighbor’s daughter, Triana Orpheus. Although his father can’t remember his name (occasionally calling him Don or Dave), Venture seems to expect that Dean will continue his legacy and become a superscientist.
- Brock Samson
A agent for the Office of Secret Intelligence, Brock is half Swedish, a quarter Winnebago Indian, and a quarter Polish. In his younger days, he was an operative with a taste for women, fine wine, and tuxedos, but is on a permanent mission to defend the Ventures as part of Operation Rusty’s Blanket. He has become a second father to the boys, of whom he is very fond. In college, he was Rusty’s roommate, but was expelled after accidentally killing the football team’s deaf quarterback. His true love is Molotov Cocktease, who killed his partner.
The family robot, built by Jonas Venture Sr. to protect and help young Rusty, the Helpful Electronic Lab Partner Robot also aided the original Team Venture with an array of fancy gadgets. He is fiercely devoted to the Ventures, but is the constant target of their abuse.
- Dr. Jonas Venture Sr.
In his lifetime, he was a brilliant scientist, head of Venture Industries, and the leader of Team Venture, a crack team of heroes willing to take on any adventure. Unfortunately, his globe-hopping lifestyle prevented his beloved son from having a normally functional life.
- Dr. Jonas Venture Jr.
Thaddeus Venture’s twin brother, swallowed in the womb, who escaped from his brother after many years. After getting over his original grudge at his brother’s apparent murder attempt, he has taken over the Venture legacy, and is Jonas Sr.’s true successor — he has multiple doctorates, is a ladies’ man, and from his home on Spider-Skull Island, creates inventions for personal use as well as government and private contracts which actually work. Prefers to be called “J.J.”
- Colonel Horace Gentleman
A member of the original Team Venture, Gentleman is a Scottish dandy with a taste for young boys.
A member of the original Team Venture, Kano is a Japanese muscleman who communicates through origami. He has arms strong enough to crush a boulder, but gentle enough to crush a butterfly.
- Otto Aquarius
A member the original Team Venture, Aquarius is the lost son of Atlantis. Half merman, half human, he has turned to door-to-door proselytizing for his new-found faith in Jesus.
- Major Tom
A member of the original Team Venture, Tom committed suicide while testing an experimental jet by crashing it into the waters of the Bermuda Triangle.
- Rodney the Action Man
A member of the original Team Venture, the Action Man has gone to pot after years of inaction. After Major Tom’s death, the Action Man married his wife.
Dr. Venture’s boyhood companion, Hector was a street urchin who Jonas Venture adopted after he saved the scientist’s life. Hector was rehired by J.J. to work at Venture Industries in Dr. Venture’s absence.
An ex-prize fighter who was the Race Bannon to Jonas Venture’s Benton Quest. Also rehired by J.J. in Venture’s absence.
- Dr. Byron Orpheus
Dr. Venture’s tenant, Orpheus is a necromancer who has spent so much time studying necromancy that he has lost touch with his friends and family, causing his wife to leave him. He has a teenaged daughter, Triana.
- Triana Orpheus
Dr. Orpheus’ daughter, Triana is the love of Dean’s life. She dresses as a Goth as an outlet for dealing with the closet in her room, actually a portal to Hell. Despite all this, she’s reasonably well-adjusted
- The Monarch
Dr. Venture’s archrival. Fancies himself to be far more of a supervillain than he is. After a fight with Dr. Girlfriend, his assistant, he wound up being framed for murder and imprisoned, escaping with the help of King Gorilla.
- Dr. Girlfriend
Formerly Queen Etheria, Dr. Girlfriend was The Monarch’s lover and right-hand woman until a huge fight. She has since moved back in with the Phantom Limb, her former partner.
- Baron Werner Ünderbheit
Dr. Venture’s archrival. Ünderbheit was Dr. Venture’s friend and lab partner in college, leading to an accident that made him lose his jaw. The leader of the nation of Ünderland, he has instituted mandatory military service for youths and a mandatory death penalty for criminals.
- The Phantom Limb
A supervillain who is quite high up in the Guild of Calamitous Intent. In college, he was Master Billy Quizboy's roommate. Was originally a scientist until an accident gave him invisible limbs that can kill people. Dr. Girlfriend was once his partner, known as Queen Etheria, until The Monarch seduced her. He has since orchestrated the framing of The Monarch in order to catch an enemy of the Guild and get Dr. Girlfriend back.
- Molotov Cocktease
A former KGB agent, now turned mercenary. She is a ruthless killer and master assassin, and is in love with Brock Samson. After she killed Samson’s partner, he killed her father and took her eye, which he now hides in a jar in his room. Although her entire persona radiates sexuality, she is, in fact, a virgin, with a titanium virginity belt.
- Pete White
An albino scientist who was a friend of Dr. Venture in college. He now runs Conjectural Technologies with his friend, Master Billy Quizboy.
- Master Billy Quizboy
A hydrocephalic dwarf scientist with a mechanical arm. He calls himself a “boy genius” because his condition and lisp give him the appearance of a child. Although he attended the same college as Dr. Venture, it’s not clear whether they were acquaintances at the time. However, he attended college as a twelve-year-old and was Phantom Limb's roommate. As a child, he worshipped Dr. Venture, going so far as to own a Rusty Venture lunchbox.
- Professor Richard Impossible
Head of Impossible Industries, Impossible was a professor at the college that Dr. Venture and his friends attended. An accident gave him the ability to stretch his body however he wants. Impossible Industries’ main building stands at the site where Venture Industries used to be. Impossible pays no attention to his family, also cursed with superpowers.
- Sally Impossible
Professor Impossible’s wife, whose skin turns invisible when she gets emotional. As a result, Impossible keeps her indoors and under close supervision constantly for fear of her being seen. She yearns to leave Professor Impossible and run away with Dr. Venture.
- Rocket Impossible
Sally Impossible’s son. Little is known about him yet.
Sally Impossible’s brother, who bursts into flame any time he contacts oxygen. He lives in an airtight coffin.
Sally Impossible’s retarded cousin, who is “a living callus.” He, like Sally, is kept under wraps by Professor Impossible.
- Professor Michael Sorayama
A college friend of Doctor Venture, completely frustrated in love, who built a team of Leslie-Bots to look like the girl of his dreams and defend his castle. Was a college professor until his death.
- King Gorilla
A supervillain who helped The Monarch escape from prison. King Gorilla is gay (independently of his prison stay), although he has trouble staying aroused while trying to rape The Monarch, due to the villain’s effeminacy.
- The Pirate Captain
Originally the captain of a pirate crew that attempted to hijack the X-2, the Captain has been hired by J.J. to guard and captain the X-2.
One of Triana's friends; has the same fashion sense. In a restaurant bathroom, she was given Dr. Girlfriend's card, and seems to be interested in a career in supervillainy.
- Colonel Hunter Gathers
Brock's former mentor, now fled from the Office of Secret Intelligence after a sex-change operation. A dead ringer for Hunter S. Thompson.
- The Groovy Gang
A twisted take on the Scooby Gang, each member of the Groovy Gang is a reference to a different killer: Ted (Freddy) is Ted Bundy, Patty (Daphne) is Patty Hearst, Val (Velma) is Valerie Solonas, and Sonny (Shaggy) is the Son of Sam, complete with a talking dog, Groovy (Scooby-Doo).
- The Terrible Secret of Turtle Bay (Pilot)
The whole Venture family travels to New York City so that Dr. Venture can make a presentation at UN headquarters for a conference on inventions for peace. A ninja is trying to steal the Oo Ray, Dr. Venture's invention, and the Monarch plots to kill Venture. First appearances of Dr. Thaddeus Venture, Dean Venture, Hank Venture, Scamp, Brock Samson, the Monarch and his henchmen, Dr. Girlfriend, Professor Impossible, Master Billy Quizboy, and Pete White.
- Dia de los Dangerous
After giving a science class at a Mexican university, Dr. Venture pays for plastic surgery only to end up in an ice bath without his kidneys. Meanwhile, the Monarch's henchmen kidnaps Hank and Dean and knocks Brock unconscious and buries him alive. First appearance of H.E.L.P.eR.
- Careers in Science
The Venture family travels to Jonas Venture's space station to perform repairs after a light bulb turns on that's never turned on before. Dr. Venture is haunted by the ghost of his father, Brock and H.E.L.P.eR are blown into space, and Hank and Dean attempt to find the Space Ghost. First appearance of Dr. Jonas Venture.
- Home Insecurity
Baron Ünderbheit and the Monarch both attempt to kill Dr. Venture at the same time. While their henchmen go on strike and they attempt negotiations, the Venture Family is in the basement, besieged by Dr. Venture's new robot, G.U.A.R.D.O.. Brock is on vacation and unable to rescue them. First appearance of Baron Werner Ünderbheit.
- The Incredible Mr. Brisby
The Venture Family travels to Brisbyland, where Dr. Venture is asked by Mr. Brisby to find a cure for aging. Brock is nearly killed by his only true love, Molotov Cocktease. The Venture Brothers are taken hostage by the Orange County Liberation Front, who begin a war against Brisbyland. First appearance of Molotov Cocktease.
- Eeny, Meeny, Miney...Magic!
Dr. Orpheus and his daughter become tenants of Dr. Venture, while Brock and the boys are trapped inside Venture's new invention, a machine which makes dreams come true. Dean falls madly in love with Triana, Orpheus' daughter. First appearance of Dr. Byron Orpheus and Triana Orpheus.
- Ghosts of the Sargasso
While trying to find an experimental plane left at the bottom of the sea by Jonas Venture out of respect for the dead (it crash-landed with a member of the original Team Venture), the Ventures' boat is taken captive by pirates. Meanwhile, the ghost of Major Tom (the test pilot) emerges from the sea after being awakened by Dr. Venture's Metasonic Locator. First appearance of the original Team Venture — Colonel Horace Gentleman, Otto Aquarius, Kano, Rodney the Action Man, and Major Tom.
- Ice Station — Impossible!
Dr. Venture, Pete White, and Master Billy Quizboy are all spending some time at Ice Station Impossible, an Antarctic think tank led by Professor Impossible. Race Bannon rescues the Goliath Serum from the Cobra People, only to be killed. Hank becomes infected, and Brock races him to the station so that Impossible can give them the antidote. However, Dr. Venture has discovered the station's horrible secret and has been left for dead in the cold by Professor Impossible. First appearance of Sally Impossible, her brother Cody, and her cousin Ned.
- Mid-Life Chrysalis
The Monarch has Dr. Girlfriend seduce Dr. Venture and give him a shot which slowly begins to turn him into a butterfly. Brock's license to kill expires, and the boys help him study for his test.
- Are You There God? It's Me, Dean
While the family is about to be killed by the Monarch in the Amazon, Dean has an attack of Acute Testicular Torsion. Due to regulations of the Guild of Calamitous Intent (Rusty's Law, introduced by Dr. Venture — an unresolved backstory issue), the Monarch takes Hank and Brock captive while Venture takes Dean for emergency surgery, performed by Pete White and Master Billy Quizboy. Brock helps improve the Monarch's surprise birthday party.
- Tag Sale - You're IT!
Dr. Venture has a yard sale to get rid of old inventions. Nearly everybody there is a villain out for his blood. Dr. Orpheus begins trying to provoke them in an attempt to make an archenemy. First appearance of the Phantom Limb.
- Past Tense
During the funeral of Dr. Michael Sorayama, their college friend, Dr. Venture, Brock Samson, Baron Ünderbheit, and Pete White are taken hostage and brought to Suriyama's castle, where he will kill them for the humiliations they made him suffer in college. Hank and Dean enlist the help of the surviving members of the original Team Venture to rescue the captives. First appearance of Dr. Michael Sorayama, first speaking appearances by the original Team Venture.
- The Trial of the Monarch
The Monarch is on trial for killing a police officer, after the publication of the tell-all book Flight of the Monarch leads him to break up with Dr. Girlfriend. However, it quickly becomes apparent that the Guild of Calamitous Intent has arranged the trial for a significantly different reason. First appearance of Tiny Lawyer, first speaking appearance for the Phantom Limb.
- Return to Spider-Skull Island
When Dr. Venture is taken in for emergency surgery, the boys think that he is pregnant with another child and run away from home. It turns out that the tumor was actually Jonas Venture Jr., Dr. Venture's twin brother whom he ate in the womb and who is out for revenge. First appearance of Jonas Venture Jr. and King Gorilla.
- A Very Venture Christmas (Special)
While trying to find a good Christmas story during Venture's party, the boys release an ancient demon while trying to read a book of Dr. Orpheus'. First appearance of Tiny Joseph.
- Powerless in the Face of Death
Dr. Venture freaks out and disappears into a long montage to try and find himself. After Brock drags him home, Jonas Venture Jr. departs for Spider-Skull Island and Dr. Venture fires Hector and Swifty, who had been helping out at the Compound during his absence, and had worked for Dr. Jonas Venture during Rusty's boyhood. Dr. Orpheus tries to raise Hank and Dean from the dead, and with the help of King Gorilla, The Monarch breaks out of jail. First appearance of Hector and Swifty.
- Hate Floats
The Monarch attempts to hire new henchmen and win back Dr. Girlfriend, but while talking to her at the mall, the Venture family is attacked and taken hostage by different groups. Brock helps Phantom Limb get back Dr. Girlfriend in exchange for Phantom Limb helping to rescue Dr. Venture.
- Assassinanny 911
Brock is sent on a secret mission to kill his former teacher. Molotov Cocktease does him a favor and takes care of the Ventures while he's gone, leading Hank to develop a huge crush on her. First appearance of Kim and Colonel Hunter Gathers.
- Escape to the House of the Mummies Part II
While the rest of the Venture clan in plunged into one wacky time-travelling adventure after another, Dr. Venture gets Pete White and Master Billy Quizboy to help him make a shrink-ray and win a bet with Dr. Orpheus. During a trip to the Underworld, Dr. Orpheus is forced to confront why he is so lame. We find out why Triana is a Goth. First appearance of The Master.
- 20 Years to Midnight
While cleaning, Brock finds a tape with a final message from Jonas Venture Sr. warning Dr. Venture that he must assemble a device by midnight to prevent the destruction of Earth. The entire Venture Clan (including Jonas Venture Jr.) teams up to find the parts of the machine and save the world. First appearance of Rocket, Sally Impossible’s son.
- Victor. Echo. November
Triana and her friend Kim go on a double-date with the Venture Brothers at the same restaurant where Phantom Limb and Doctor Girlfriend meet The Monarch and his new Internet girlfriend to renegotiate his contract with the guild. After The Monarch taunts Phantom Limb, he puts a Guild hit on the entire Venture Family. After getting Dr. Girlfriend's business card, Kim decides to become a supervillain.
After the X-1 goes down over Ünderland, the Ventures are taken prisoner
except for Dean, who Ünderbheit mistakes for a woman and is taken away and prepared for his marriage to the Baron.
- Fallen Arches
Dr. Orpheus and his team, the Order of the Triad, are approved for arch-villains through the Guild. Tryouts are held at the Venture Compound. First appearance of Jefferson Twilight and The Alchemist.
- Guess Who’s Coming to State Dinner?
After Colonel Bud Manstrong survives the horrific crash of Gargantua-1, a dinner event is thrown in his honor by the corrupt President Breyer. Unfortunately, he's being controlled by his mother and is set to assassinate the President. Even more unfortunately, Dr. Venture's new force field generator has trapped them all in the Oval Office! First appearance of Abraham Lincoln's ghost, Mrs. Manstrong, and President Breyer.
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Kills
Dr. Henry Killinger helps improve the Monarch's villainy, and the Venture Bros. meet
their mother? First appearance of Dr. Henry Killinger and his Magic Murder Bag and Myra Brandish.
- ¡Viva los Muertos!
Dr. Venture uses the corpse of one of the Monarch's slain henchman to make Venturestein, a zombie he plans to use as a prototype to sell to the Army. Meanwhile, Brock has an identity crisis, wondering if he is anything more than a killing machine, and the Groovy Gang try to solve a mystery. First appearances of Venturestein and the Groovy Gang.
- Showdown at Cremation Creek
(Two parts) The Monarch proposes to Dr. Girlfriend, who accepts. But before she can say "I do," Phantom Limb takes control of the Guild and uses its combined strength to attack the Cocoon, threatening to kill everybody unless Dr. Girlfriend is released. Brock must rally the Monarch Henchmen to fight back, with the help of the Order of the Triad and David Bowie. First appearances of David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Klaus Nomi, Sergeant Hatred, Princess Tinyfeet, Truckules, and Giant Boy Detective.
- Christopher McCulloch:
Hank Venture, The Monarch, Pete White, Colonel Horace Gentleman, The Action Man, Sasquatch, Steve Summers, Tiny Attorney, King Gorilla, Mister Monday, Colonel Hunter Gathers, Groovy Ted, Groovy
- Doc Hammer:
Dr. Girlfriend, Master Billy Quizboy, Number 21, Speedy
- James Urbaniak:
Dr. Thaddeus Venture, Jonas Venture Jr., The Phantom Limb, David Bowie
- Brendon Small:
Swifty, Hector, White Noise, Sergeant Hatred
- Lisa Hammer:
Triana Orpheus, Jeanie Tom, Leslie Cohen
- Mia Barron:
Sally Impossible, Molotov Cocktease, Girl Hitler
- Paul Boocock:
Dr. Jonas Venture, Tigeriffic, Groovy Sonny
- Joanna P. Adler:
Myra Brandish, Mrs. Manstrong, Groovy Val
- T. Ryder Smith:
Baron Verner Ünderbheit, Otto Aquarius
- Sue Gilad:
Groovy Patty, Princess Tinyfeet
- Charles Parnell:
Mandalay, Jefferson Twilight
- Michael Sinterniklaas:
- Patrick Warburton:
- Steven Rattazzi:
Dr. Byron Orpheus
- Steve Colbert:
Professor Richard Impossible
- Dana Snyder:
- H. Jon Benjamin:
- Nina Hellman:
Sources: http://www.tvtome.com (now defunct), http://www.tv.com