A Family of Superheroes Would Never Be Able To Stay Together
The Venture Bros.’ Impossible family is a very clear lampoon of the Fantastic Four. Marvel props up the Fantastic Four as family and friends that have undergone incredible adversity together, but they’re able to use these changes to their advantage, and are made into famous public figures. In contrast, the members of the Impossible family are depicted as horrors of science more than a successful team of crimefighters. The show looks at the realistic pain associated with someone setting themselves on fire or what it means to turn invisible. The effects and aftermath of this accident is shown to fracture this family, not make it stronger. The series reaches the point where the family’s Reed Richards surrogate gets driven to Howard Hughes levels of paranoia, pushes his wife to infidelity, and leaves the parentage of his child in doubt. The idea of a crimefighting family is fun, but The Venture Bros. shows the dangers involved with familial pain and how this is a backstory more appropriate for villains than heroes.
Mystery Inc. Are Detached Maniacs Who Are Lost in Denial
Scooby-Doo and the other Hanna-Barbera creations from the 1960s often reflect a set of values that run parallel to the idealism and optimism of Silver Age Comics. Different takes on Scooby-Doo are self-aware to contrasting degrees, but The Venture Bros. is the first to frame them as legitimate dangers who need to be off the streets. The Groovy Gang finds ingenious similarities between the members of the Mystery Inc. with feared serial killers and maniacs like Ted Bundy, Son of Sam, Valerie Solanas, and Patty Hearst. The Shaggy surrogate even thinks that he can hear his dog talk to him, which is in itself another reference to David Berkowitz.
The show argues that the Groovy Gang doesn’t have any actual mysteries to solve and that they create more problems out of their delusions. They’ve managed to survive by looting the vicinities of their “mysteries” and they’ve been lost in this façade for over a decade. Scooby-Doo periodically puts its wholesome nature under the microscope, but The Venture Bros.’
Spider-Man and The Horrors of Animal-Based Superpowers
Comic books have a tendency to glamorize superpowers and highlight how incredible it would be to suddenly have the same talents as some kind of animal or insect like a cheetah, shark, or ant. The Venture Bros.’ Brown Widow applies a realistic and anatomically accurate take on Spider-Man and how much of a burden his set of skills would be. The superhero produces organic webbing, but from a spinneret near his anus that turns the power into more of an opportunity for embarrassment. Brown Widow also has six eyes, four of which he’s forced to hide underneath a headband for some attempt at normalcy. Brown Widow is constantly ashamed of his abilities and they speak to the disturbing body horror nature of animal-based superpowers in a way that’s more grounded than something like Marvel’s Man-Spider. Even the character’s name is meant to undercut any superpowers and utility with how it refers to the relatively benign nature of brown widow spiders.
Jonny Quest and The Inherent Sadness of Boy Adventurers
Comic books are supposed to create a feeling of excitement the same is true for series like Jonny Quest or The Hardy Boys that find ways to put eager youth into the roles of mystery-solvers. The Venture Bros. features an entire episode that’s devoted to a therapy session where former “boy adventurers” discuss the damage that these exploits have had on their adult lives. These characters emphasize that a life of adventure is actually a life of trauma and that any person who’s spent their life this would want to repress these memories rather than brag about them. Many of the different superheroes in The Venture Bros. highlight the dangerous ways that toxic expectations can warp the public, but this proves that this level of machismo in youth won’t prepare these adventurers for adulthood, but actually debilitate them.