Henchman! Listen to the word of the Mighty Monarch!
Christopher McCulloch AKA Jackson Publick is best known today as one half of the dedicated creative duo behind Adult Swim’s long-running black dramedy “The Venture Bros.”, but began in indie comic book roots and worked on several versions of “The Tick”. After that, he and co-creator Doc Hammer pitched to Adult Swim a revised version of a comic Publick wrote, which is now one of the best-known shows on the network. I talked to Publick about they manage to keep the series fresh and keep trying to surpass themselves after all these years.
David Kaldor: As of this year, Venture Bros has surpassed Aqua Teen as the longest running Adult Swim Program. Did this make you guys feel more relaxed about developing the show going forward or did it just add on pressure? Or both? Neither?
Jackson Publick: Both and neither. It’s a bit of a cheat, since we haven’t done as many episodes [as Squidbillies], but it’s nice to know we have support from Adult Swim.
Do you ever find major shifts in pop culture impact episodes or characters you’re working on?
As much as we reference stuff and as much as people think it’s part of our DNA, we wonder if it’s cheap for us to do. We couldn’t make that joke when Game of Thrones wasn’t on the air, but we like to think Venture Brothers takes place in “the present” and not tied just to things from our own childhoods.
One of my favorite nerdy things about VB is its expansive continuity and fleshed out world. Has this become more of a blessing or a curse?
Ultimately, only a blessing. It was a real relief when we did Season 3, because it was the first time we could do a story, not about the Ventures. We have an internal sense of when we’re not giving our main characters enough love, and that’s when we cut the Gordian knot. Around season 5 I managed to balance those instincts of continuity and just having a fun adventure.
VB puts a lot of emphasis on characters living up to concepts of “good” and “evil” but it puts just as much on making characters on both sides relatable and likable while also flawed and insufferable at times. Does the way the OSI and Guild are currently set up represent something about you and Hammer’s views on those concepts?
It’s a sort of stalemate by design. The so-called good guys and so-called bad guys have to live with these dopey rules. We point out the “good guys” are the government in 80’s movies with acceptable losses and crap, and the “bad guys” have a passion like artists and musicians, and the ones we celebrate are the ones with the purest intentions. We blur the lines on both sides intentionally, because there is no true good or evil since that’s humanity.
What’s a joke from the show you or Doc Hammer have written that you’re most proud of? Or at least one you remember and are still proud of?
I’ve always really loved 21 and 24 humming “Mars” because it was a funny idea that cracked us up when we were writing it. I love the things that we can only do in the full package of the television show.
VB is probably the most comic-booky show around. Do you think we’ll ever see a VB ongoing? I know I’d shell out money for at least an Order of the Triad miniseries.
A couple publishers have been interested, but it’s hard to say what iteration we’d introduce to comic readers. I wouldn’t say never, we might feel like we can trust someone with it. So maybe. It’s something we’ve been interested in.
We’re 15 years into this show, and while it’s been a perfect ride thus far, it has to end at some point. Where are we now, we closer to the beginning or the end of Venture Bros?
I would assume we’re closer to the end, but I don’t feel like ending it just yet. We’re thinking about Season 8, and I’ve never had a job that allows me to say what I want to say and put it on TV. I wear a lot of hats and the work is hard, but I don’t think about much besides this show.
The Seventh Season of “The Venture Bros.” airs this Sunday at Midnight with “The Venture Bros. & The Curse of the Haunted Problem”. Check out our review of the recently released artbook and stay tuned for our review of the premiere.