Hank & Dean & Me: A Very Venture Love Letter

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The Venture Bros. turns twenty years old today. And I debated how best to mark this occasion and an open love letter with my story about the fandom seemed like the best way. 

I’m on the younger end of original Venture fans, a baby of sorts despite celebrating my thirtieth birthday in November. I was eleven when I first fell in love with Hank and Dean.

My parents never censored me, they discouraged me from watching South Park but that was about it (and even that was a battle they chose not to fight by the time I hit fifth grade), and I was already vaguely familiar with the shows that aired on my favorite channel late at night. In fact, for a time when [adult swim] first began, I was staying up later on Sunday nights just to watch Home Movies. So, when Santa gifted me a TV for my room in 2003, armed with cable and no set bedtime, the doors to the world of adult animation swung wide open and I fell so hard I hit my pre-teen head on the bottom of the pool (pun fully intended). 

I’d found, what I’d later discover is called, my special interest.

August 2004 rolled around, a new show was premiering on the block that had become my nighttime routine and I was drawn to it like a moth to flame. It was so unlike any of the other programs [adult swim] had to offer, at its core it was a Johnny Quest parody, Johnny Quest being a show I was only familiar with thanks to reruns. But there were aspects that reminded me of The Tick, a cartoon I’d already been a fan of. Later in life discovering The Tick’s deep involvement in Venture coming to be seemed like an “oh duh” revelation.

It wasn’t til season two, in 2006, that I joined the fandom thanks to the message boards on [adult swim]’s website. I was on the cusp of being fourteen and prime to be a fanboy. I was proudly assigned a henchman number (it was 87 for those who wondered). I was friends with show creator Doc Hammer on MySpace. I even wrote fanfiction, which is out there somewhere on the internet, and I’ll take its location to my grave. This was a first experience with fandom, and everyone was so warm and welcoming (a quality that the fandom maintains to this day).

A 14-year-old Venturoo

I remained passively involved in the fandom and a fan of the show, though less active as being a teenager, and the problems therein, took most of my attention. Hank and Dean seemingly grew up with me as the third and fourth seasons saw me through high school.

During the fifth season I was given the chance to meet, arguably, two of my personal heroes (show creators, Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer) in person when I attended San Diego Comic-Con. I got to attend the Venture Bros. panel, a highlight of the con for me, and interact in person with the people whom I’d only known of online. Seasons six and seven accompanied me through my social and medical transitions. The characters being a comfort through some truly difficult and monumental moments in my life.

Me with Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer (SDCC 2013)

Venture Bros. was always there for me to go back to. Like an old friend who you lose touch with from time to time but can pick up with right where you left off when you do reconnect. Naturally when COVID hit in 2020, I found myself isolated and in need of distraction. My life had been upturned by the pandemic. And my old friends Hank and Dean were there for me. I found myself binging the entire series, all 81 episodes, in the span of a week and got swept up in the master class of world building and character development that Hammer and Publick taught with each episode. 

I used my first stimulus check to buy physical copies of every season on either DVD or BluRay (if available), craving more content. I took in the special features and every single episode commentary (which the commentaries themselves could count as their own shows). I watched old panels from DragonCon, SDCC and NYCC on YouTube. I picked up the art book from my local bookstore and read it cover to cover. And, more importantly, I engrossed myself in the online fandom.

Picture of me wearing a Venture Industries mask (Dec 2020)

The fandom was giving me life as we struggled through the bleakness that surrounded us. It also sparked creativity in me, a need to make something, anything. Until one day I hit up my childhood best friend and said: “what if we made a Venture Bros. podcast?” 

My co-host, Garden (L) and me (R) recording our “Operation: PROM” episode (April 2021)

The podcast was me guiding her, as a veteran of the fandom, through everything Venture. It provided much needed stability and gave me an outlet, it also suddenly opened up new opportunities I had never dreamed of. I got to be a panelist at DragonCon three years in a row. It led me to interview the likes of Paul Boocock (the voice of Jonas Venture Sr.) and James Urbaniak (the voice of Dr. Venture) and introduced me to countless friends I now consider near and incredibly dear to me.

Venture Bros. cosplayers at DragonCon 2021 (I’m Hank)

To say I was devastated by the cancellation of the show in September 2020 is putting it mildly. I was genuinely upset I’d seemingly never know of what became of Team Venture and Team Monarch. I signed petitions and wrote letters to HBOmax asking them to pick up where [adult swim] was leaving off. I did it all with the same friendliness and kindness the rest of the fandom had shown me since I was fourteen. And was, of course, delighted when a movie was announced, glad we’d be getting closure on something that has had an unmistakable cultural impact on animation as a whole.

It’s crazy to think that it’s been twenty years that the boys, Brock, Doc and HELPeR have been around. And it’s bittersweet to contemplate a world where their story is finished. 

Thanks to everyone involved in the show’s production over the years for the gift you’ve given me (and countless others) with this carefully crafted cartoon. For playing a part in shaping my sense of humor, my taste in music (don’t ask me how many times I listened to “Like A Friend” at age 18) and changing my understanding of pop culture (I consumed so much media I otherwise wouldn’t have without Venture referencing it).

Go Team Venture!✌🏻

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