The Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing is here, as Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. makes its debut this week. The new stop-motion animated series, based on Marvel’s long-running supervillain M.O.D.O.K., comes from executive producers Jordan Blum (American Dad) and Patton Oswalt (A.P. Bio), with Oswalt also voicing the title character.
Fandom spoke to Oswalt, Blum, and costars Aimee Garcia (Lucifer) and Melissa Fumero (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) about why M.O.D.O.K. is so endearing, the show’s decision to focus on both his supervillain and family life, and more. We also reached out to Fandom’s Marvel Wiki to see why the big Marvel fans there were fans of M.O.D.O.K.
M.O.D.O.K. first appeared in a Captain America story in 1967’s by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in Tales of Suspense #94, appropriately titled “”If This Be… Modok!” and has been a Marvel fixture ever since, even as his notably bizarre visual appearance has led to many different interpretations. He’s been depicted as a cruel and calculating villain, a goofy, easily beatable nuisance, and everything in between, while also popping up in animated series like Iron Man: Armored Adventures and Ultimate Spider-Man or video games like last year’s Marvel’s Avengers.
Asked about the appeal of M.O.D.O.K., Patton Oswalt replied, “The thing that is so lovable about him is he is just as angry and jealous of the villains of the Marvel Universe as he is of the heroes. He thinks ‘I am an 8th dimensional intellect. I should be in the top tier! Why am I in the bottom tier with all these losers!?’ So that level of resentment and jealousy and pettiness feels very, very human and he’s so bizarre looking but is going on with his life and that’s something that is very appealing.”
On Fandom’s Marvel wiki, LardWad420 said, of M.O.D.O.K., “He strives to be the smartest one in the room, the same way I do. Also his massive cranium looks ridiculous,” while h5art remarked, “M.O.D.O.K. is simultaneously absurd and terrifying. A great villain.”
Said EP Jordan Blum, of what makes M.O.D.O.K. work so well, “You gotta go back to that Jack Kirby design. It’s so incredible and visually striking but once you get past that, it’s also like, oh this is a guy who takes himself very seriously! He’s one of the most ridiculous looking characters, he’s this monstrosity, but he’s so human. He’s so flawed, he’s insecure, and he’s got these aspirations and there’s so much built into that that I think you don’t expect when you just look at him. He’s a little bit of an arch villain but I think people have built on that and given him this really fun personality where you kinda wanna see him win, you wanna see him become an A-lister and he’s very self-conscious that he’s not, so I love that about him.”
Folks like JoJkJoJkso declared, of M.O.D.O.K., “He’s my favorite supervillain,” while Tesshu referred to him as “a comical and hilarious villain.” One fan very much excited for the series is ThatGuyNamedJoe, who let us know “I love M.O.D.O.K. He is such a funny villain and can be both serious and comedic when need be. I think Patton Oswalt is the perfect choice to play him.”
When it came to the show’s depiction of M.O.D.O.K. simultaneously juggling his responsibilities as a supervillain and a husband and father, Oswalt explained, “We wanted that from the very get go. We wanted that idea that he is thinking that unlike these other supervillains who all they can do is conquer the world, that’s what their focus is, ‘I’m gonna conquer the world and have a family outside it. I will have both! I will do what no other supervillain has done. Choices and sacrifice is an insult to an intellect like M.O.D.O.K.!’”
As Blum put it, part of it was, “Just asking questions, because you look at M.O.D.O.K. and you’re like, okay, well, I understand how he functions in this comic book but where does he go when he leaves this Captain America panel? Does he have a home life? He has to go somewhere. So it kind of led us to ask these questions regarding that with the family.”
And as for his day job running a nefarious organization, Blum remarked, ‘Every week, A.I.M.’s trying to take over the world. Well, what does it take to run that? Have a functioning, evil organization and there’s all this bureaucracy in place… That takes work and what a headache that must be for M.O.D.O.K., so a lot of the comedy just kind of came out of, okay, this is what’s been established. If you dig a little deeper, is there a world outside of that for M.O.D.O.K.? And it kind of led us to the show.”
M.O.D.O.K.’s wife, Jodie, is a normal human woman, and as Oswalt explained, “We wanted the wife to be not only regular, but as the show goes on, she’s more evolved thank M.O.D.O.K. emotionally, more mature, and is like, ‘I gotta maybe get out of this thing, this guy sucks!’ So let’s play that for the comedy rather than just have the boring sitcom wife who is like, ‘Oh honey!!’ and next episode, they’re just still married. What!? That state of grace always drives me crazy, you know?”
Said Aimee Garcia, who voices Jodie, “I think that Jordan and Patton did a great job at grounding these three-dimensional characters in this absurd, galactic, larger than life chaotic world. We’ve never seen a supervillain take out the garbage, we’ve never seen a supervillain have a midlife crisis, we’ve never seen a supervillain being treated as a washed up celebrity, and we’ve definitely never seen –– or rarely see –– a supervillain completely in love and then build a time portal to take the love of his life back to their first date!”
The show treats M.O.D.O.K. and Jodie’s relationship — and it falling apart — with sufficient weight, all while staying comedic and suitably absurd, and Garcia said, “I think it’s really fun to have these grounded moments of unrequited love and being in a relationship for a long time and trying to rekindle that flame but also having to deal with aliens and robots and Avengers and galactic warfare.”
CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK?
M.O.D.O.K. definitely has trouble relating to his children in the series, including his son, Lou (voiced by Ben Schwartz), who does plenty of things others would perceive as awkward or dorky, but who almost never waivers in how self-assured he is. As Oswalt put it, for M.O.D.O.K, “He can’t understand why Lou isn’t in his head all the time and how can he be this confident?” M.O.D.O.K. is thrown by “The fact that the son is such a geek but unlike M.O.D.O.K. is so comfortable and happy with himself, whereas M.O.D.O.K. is clearly so self-loathing.”
His daughter, Melissa (voiced by Melissa Fumero) visually looks like her dad – giant head and floating chair included – but while M.O.D.O.K. struggles to establish himself as a supervillain to be reckoned with, Oswalt notes, “She’s a queen bee at school and has blinged out her chair, and basically has M.O.D.O.K. goals but for high school.” Fumero was delighted by the idea of her character looking like her dad while at the same time, “She’s still a really cool teenager so when I saw the drawing of her, I was just like, ‘Oh, it was so much better than anything I could’ve ever imagined!’”
Said Fumero, “I think the really obvious take is that she would be ashamed and can’t believe her dad is a supervillain so to have this flip take of oh yeah, she’s totally proud that she’s a supervillain’s daughter, completely plans of going into the family business, is the queen bee in her school, learned early on that the way to get out of bullying is to be the super bully yourself…. She’s already nailing life better than her dad did at her age. I just think that’s just a really fun interesting take on her and it’s also really fun to play.”
MARVEL DEEP CUTS
There are many Marvel Comics characters who appear in M.O.D.O.K., including a recurring presence for Iron Man himself (voiced by Jon Hamm) but also some less than famous folks. When it came to the deep cuts on the series, Oswalt remarked, “I love Angar the Screamer. I love him so much, and the fact that we got to have him for a whole episode made me really happy.” Bill Hader voices Angar on the series, and Oswalt said, with a chuckle, “What a weird villain. Just a loud, heavy metal guy. You can tell that was some Marvel writer going, ‘I hate this loud rock and roll!’ And he just made a villain. It’s hilarious.”
Blum mentioned he was a huge X-Men fan and noted that while they were producing M.O.D.O.K., “It was right when Disney was buying 20th Century Fox and that was huge, so I was like, ‘Get Mister Sinister in there!’ And then little things… Last minute, I had VFX added, like a Yancy Street graffiti sign to a subway car. We didn’t want it to be overtaken by the Easter eggs, you really wanted him to service the story, but we peppered them in and they’re there if you’re a Marvel fan.”
Viewers will also briefly see West Coast Avengers villain Master Pandemonium as a talk show host and Blum laughed, “That one was definitely forced in there by me. I was like, ‘We have to use the Master Pandemonium! And then we had the talk show scene and I was like, ‘He’s the host!’ A lot of the writers were not Marvel people which was purposeful, because you didn’t want it to be a bunch of fanboy geeks fanboying out, and they were like ‘But why does he have demon hands!?’ And I was like, ‘Because it’s great! Put him in there!’ That was the only one that I think I shoehorned it, the rest of them hopefully are more organic to the story, but I love Master Pandemonium.”
Regarding how Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. carves out its’ own corner of the Marvel Universe, including using characters you might not expect, Garcia remarked, “Marvel is so prolific and I think it’s just so fun to see a fresh POV from a world that we know and love… I think it’s really neat to shed the spotlight on these characters who didn’t get as much playtime in the comics and now are getting their own show.” She added, with a grin, “If M.O.D.O.K. can get his own show, if M.O.D.O.K. can do it, any one of us can do it. He’s an inspirational character to us all!”
Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. debuts May 21 on Hulu in the US and on Disney+ in the UK on the same day.