Heroes & Villains: So Long, Venture Bros., Dune Thoughts

As is its custom, the year 2020 just keeps on truckin’. If I can make a confession here it would be that I always feel a small twinge of guilt when sitting down to write anything that doesn’t directly reference the abject misery the world is experiencing on a daily basis, it’s kind of like I’m giving myself permission to write about comics, cartoons, action figures, and farts. “Listen, I know the world’s on fire right now but how ‘bout that trailer for The Batman?”

Previously, I’ve written that the things we enjoy are essential for keeping us sane in these trying times. Just make sure you’re not retreating too far and that you’re paying attention to the world around you and helping where and when you can.

And now on to our regularly scheduled programming.

Go Team Venture

One of these days I’ll get around to writing a proper click-bait list of my Top 10 Favorite TV Shows. I can write with the utmost certainty that The Venture Bros. will have a spot on that list and I was absolutely crushed when it was announced Monday that Adult Swim has canceled the show.

However, in a “I love you, I’m just not in love with you”” move, Adult Swim tweeted that they, too, want more Venture Bros. and are working with creators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer to make that happen. I have to admit that statement was a real head scratcher coming on the heels of a cancellation announcement. Maybe the network’s hand was forced in advance of an official announcement, since the new of the cancellation originated from the author of Go Team Venture!: The Art and Making of the Venture Bros. and was later confirmed by Publick himself.

I’d like to say that the move was a puzzling one or completely shocking but it’s really not. The show has been an Adult Swim mainstay for seven seasons over seventeen years and had become famous for its lengthy production time between seasons. The old “quality takes time” chestnut has never been more accurate then when used to describe The Venture Bros. with each season building upon and enhancing the seasons that came before it. I was always happy when the show came back, overjoyed to be watching it, and more than a little sad when it was time to say goodbye at the end. Now I get to be sad FOREVER (so, business as usual).

The Venture Bros. will now join the likes of shows like Metalocalypse that Adult Swim has unceremoniously canceled and left (potentially) unresolved. It’s an odd feeling when thinking back on the a show that started in my 20’s, lasted my entire 30’s and ended in my 40’s. I had most of the first season on VHS (!) before “upgrading” to crappy torrented versions that had been compressed and burned onto a DVD by a friend of mine all before I was able to get the officially released DVDs.

Initially, I had dismissed The Venture Bros. as nothing more than a goof on Johnny Quest before I sat in a friend’s basement and gave it a chance. I was struck by how fully realized all of the characters were and how well written the show was. As the show continued it became clear to me that Publick and Hammer were operating at a higher level when compared to other contemporary cartoons. Jokes or throwaway gags made in early seasons may not payoff for several years but in the end they only served to enrich to world the characters inhabited. It was also a show that did everything it could not to remain static. The characters grew, evolved, and aged almost in real time and, as a viewer, so did I.

The Venture Bros. had one of the most shocking first season finales I had ever seen, even though it was hand-waved away upon the start of the second season. I think we all spent the couple year gap between seasons wondering who exactly the titular Venture Brothers really were. Hindsight being what it is, you can probably view the title a few different ways (wink, wink).

In the end, I keep coming back to a quote I read from one of the creators which I’ll paraphrase here, “the show is a meditation on failure.” Since reading that, I’ve viewed the show through that lens and how each of its characters are in some way shaped, but not defined, by their greatest failures in life and how they live with them. It’s fitting that Adult Swim should fail the show by not allowing it to run its natural course but it’s a very Venture thing to have happened.

Maybe HBO Maxxxx will pick up the show like it did for Cartoon Network’s Infinity Train or maybe they’ll commission a miniseries or unsatisfying TV movie to tie things up but I sincerely hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Team Venture.

The Sleeper Has Awakened

The trailer for Dune dropped today and I had tried to call dibs on the Trailer Time article only to be told that our Sachin Hingoo had beaten me to it.

Dune is one of those epic sci-fi properties that never fails to capture my interest. The original Frank Herbert book is among one of the more challenging reads I’ve ever experienced and I tend to revisit it every few years to see what else I can glean from the text. Like many people my age, my first exposure to Dune was with the David Lynch Alan Smithee film and subsequent action figures and, my personal favorite, the Dune pop-up book.

At the time, we were living in a post-Star Wars world and there was never going to be any more Star Wars (which is weird to type) and the public was hungry for another space opera. What we ending up getting was a film that was just about as impenetrable as the novel upon which it was based, Sting in those weird plastic bikini bottoms, and a sandworm toy that was, well…just Google it.

I was in college when the Sci-Fi Channel decided to adapt both Dune and Children of Dune into a couple of miniseries with mixed results. While the scope of Dune demands a large scale adaptation the reach of the Sci-Fi Channel far exceeded the grasp of a made-for-cable movie. Some enterprising soul has uploaded these adaptations to YouTube so I may be revisiting them in the near future.

As one would, expect the trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is suitably epic. When it was announced as his next project after Blade Runner 2049 the film moved to the top of my must-see list since Villeneuve is one of the more interesting filmmakers working today. As I watched the trailer there was a small feeling of relief I felt when I realized that they had (based on this small amount of footage) gotten it “right.” At the very least, the filmmakers appear to have been able to zero in on the heart of the original text and adapt it for the screen.

Villeneuve has stated his intentions to tell the story across multiple movies and sincerely hope that the movie does well enough to warrant further sequels. There’s already a tie-in TV series in the works which expand the scope of this project and hopefully expose more people to one of science fiction’s greatest classics.

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