?With the exception of The Simpsons, The Venture Bros. has the most fully realized universe of characters in cartoon history. A staple of the Adult Swim lineup since its 2003 debut, it has rightfully earned a frenzied fan base that can’t get enough of the series’ complex mythology, lovable-yet-unsympathetic characters, gratuitous clone murders and non-stop pop culture references that are organic and never feel forced (*cough* every Seth MacFarlane show *cough*). It doesn’t hurt that it’s also the funniest thing currently airing on television — animated or not. Show creator Jackson Publick honed his skills on Fox’s The Tick, and his work on that legendary toon more than prepared him to create Venture‘s roster of deeply flawed players. Given the show’s dysfunctional post-Johnny Quest ethos, it’s easy to get wrapped up in such nerd debates as who the best main character is. But what of those who are relegated to the series’ D-list? Let’s celebrate these unsung heroes and villains with a look at the eight greatest minor characters who have appeared on The Venture Bros. so far.
Before we begin, a quick note: This list considers Brock Samson, Rusty Venture, Hank and Dean Venture, The Monarch, Dr. Girlfriend, Dr. Orpheus, Henchman 21 and pretty much anyone else who has made seven or more fleshed-out appearances and/or is important to the ongoing mythos in a crucial way to be the main characters. As the series progresses, some of the folks listed below may play bigger roles. This hopefully will be the case, as they are all pretty swell. That bit of pedantic nonsense out of the way, let’s begin. Go Team Venture!
8 & 7) Steve Summers and Sasquatch
Unless you happen to be one of those glorious sociopaths responsible for Fan Fiction Friday stories, you surely have never wondered what it would be like if the Bionic Man got it on with that Bigfoot who appeared in The Six Million Dollar Man‘s best episodes. Regardless, thanks to The Venture Bros. we now all know what the union between man and Sasquatch is like. Pure hairy bliss. As you’ve probably noticed from several of my entries here on Topless Robot, I have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with all things Bigfoot-related. But I can honestly say that Sasquatch and his Lee Majors-esque boyfriend Steve Summers earn an unbiased place on this list thanks to their moving friendship with the normally aloof Brock Samson. If a no-bullshit fella such as Brock can turn to these two for sanctuary during his hour of need (as seen in “Blood of the Father, Heart of Steel”), then maybe we should all be a bit more understanding of their forbidden love.
6) Dermott Fictel
We don’t know yet if would-be tough guy Dermott Fictel is truly Brock’s son, but his unlikely friendship with Hank has inadvertently helped the blonde Venture mature — albeit in a suitably skewed manner. Before meeting Dermott, Hank’s primary way of being sociable involved donning a Batman costume and attempting to have crime-fighting adventures. Now he’s slowly becoming more of a typical clueless teen as opposed to the developmentally stunted and easily replacable clone he was early in the series. You can partially thank the big D for this. The only rational reason that Dermott is hanging with Hank is to get some clues about his true lineage. Clearly he’s a user, but his fondness for exaggeration and lies to mask his insecurities make him the most realistic teen on the show (it’s a coin toss between him and Triana Orpheus, but he has the edge since he has never had a conversation with a mystic who lives in his closet). Not too much has been done with Dermott as yet, so expect him to get sucked further into the Venture family’s vortex of failure and disappointment as the series progresses.
5) Girl Hitler
To badly paraphrase Bjork, this character believes in beauty… she’s Hitler as a girl. Once a trusted associate of Baron ?nderbheit (more on him in a minute), she later switched sides to become the benevolent ruler of ?nderland. That makes for great storytelling and all, but the simple truth is that a female Hitler just makes me giggle. Did anyone else think that Inglorious Basterds would have been just a wee bit better if Girl Hitler somehow made an appearance?
4) Baron Werner ?nderbheit
Whither Baron ?nderbheit? Once a mighty arch enemy of Dr. Venture, the Doctor Doom/Arnold Schwarzenegger/Apocalypse-inspired Baron seemingly has been all but forgotten about on the series. Still, we had some good times together. Like when he almost married Slave Leia (Dean). Those were the salad days. It’s hard to knock a series as consistently great as The Venture Bros., but the fading of ?nderbheit into obscurity seems especially sad given the one-note Sergeant Hatred’s subsequent rise to prominence. Here’s hoping ?nderbheit is just biding his time until he can once again inflict his jawless terror upon the denizens of the Ventureverse.
3) Dr. Jonas Venture Jr.
With apologies to Belial from Basket Case, Dr. Jonas Venture Jr. is the coolest parasitic twin in pop culture history. After spending 43 years inside of Rusty Venture, he was understandably a bit upset…thus his unsuccessful attempt on his sibling’s life. But soon the elder Venture brothers buried the hatchet and J.J. began establishing himself as a true man of science and industry. Unlike Rusty, Jonas is affable, charming and, above all, successful. As the Voltronriffic above clip illustrates, he even has his own giant robot to fight enemies with. All the more reason for his brother to resent him.
2) Dr. Henry Killinger
Armed with a pun for a name and a friendly demeanor, Henry Killinger is equal parts Winston Wolf and Mary Poppins (sure, some Kissinger is in there as well). During his too infrequent appearances, he has helped both The Monarch and Rusty Venture get their affairs in order…at least for an episode anyways. Whether giving tax tips to Brock or helping cement The Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend’s relationship, he always helps make things as they should be. If some blood is shed along the way, why that’s just the price to be paid for enlisting his ambivalently evil services.
1) David Bowie
You’d never know it from the “Dancing in the Street” video, but David Bowie is actually pretty badass. As the shape-shifting leader of The Guild of Calamitous Intent (a position currently held by Dean Venture), Bowie’s job was to oversee all arching and evil-doing of supervillians within the organization. During his time as Sovereign, he faced attempts on his life from the likes of former henchman/music icons Klaus Nomi and Iggy Pop. That’s right, Klaus Nomi. Animated. This type of esoteric gag is exactly why the show is such a joy. Given the Bowie references that peppered the first season and the show’s penchant for regularly name checking acts ranging from Depeche Mode to Republica, it’s supremely satisfying to see the Thin White Duke playing such a crucial role in the Venture mythos. And the fact that the real-life Bowie hasn’t made any public outcry over his animated doppelganger is pretty impressive too. Somehow I doubt that Rod Stewart’s sense of humor is as good.