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Marvel Comics has a slew of powerful, dastardly supervillains. From Green Goblin to Doctor Doom, numerous bad guys have become just as famous as their superheroic adversaries. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has drastically increased the social profile of some of these baddies, taking antagonists who were once virtually unknown and bestowing upon them newfound depth. Villains like Killmonger and Vulture have been some of the highlights of their respective movies, but there are still plenty of bad guys who have yet to really have their day in the sun.
While a bit of a cult favorite, MODOK has not yet had the same kind of breakout success of some of his contemporaries. He’s appeared in some Marvel cartoons over the years, and he’s a bit more famous now that he’s the primary villain of the recent Marvel’s Avengers video game. However, if you were to ask your average Marvel fan off the street, then there’s a good chance there’s plenty they still don’t know about the big-headed baddie. That’s all set to change, as the villain’s about to break out in a big way with his own Hulu series, aptly named Marvel’s MODOK, which is liable to blow your mind. Now’s the perfect time to get familiar with the antagonist before he becomes bigger than Thanos.
What are MODOK’s origins?
MODOK, which stands for Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing (other words like "Mobile" or "Mental" have been used over the years), made his first appearance in Marvel Comics in Tales of Suspense #93 in 1967. He was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as one of Captain America’s foes. Earlier in that series, the tech-obsessed terrorist organization AIM had discovered a cosmic cube, and attempting to understand what it was capable of, they proceeded to conduct an experiment on technician George Tarleton — going on to transform George into MODOK in the process. AIM would come to rue their hubris as MODOK went on a rampage and took over the entire organization. It wasn’t long until he drew Captain America’s ire after he kidnapped Cap’s ally, Sharon Carter, and the two began a long rivalry.
MODOK would go on to have conflicts with much of the Marvel universe, including Namor the Sub-Mariner, Doctor Doom, and Ms. Marvel. In one of his most famous storylines, MODOK kidnapped Betty Ross (the Hulk’s girlfriend) and transform her into a similar green rage monster, who would become known as Harpy.
Throughout his existence, MODOK has maintained a fascination with metahumans with many of his plots involving kidnapping people with special powers and conducting experiments on them. He even played a pivotal role in the creation of Red Hulk. He’s still a mainstay in Marvel Comics, so it’s not outside of the realm of possibility to see him one day enter the MCU proper.
What are MODOK’s powers?
As one could surmise from his appearance, MODOK has the largest brain in the Marvel universe. This grants him superhuman intelligence; however, that comes at the expense of being a giant head with basically useless limbs. While he could never take on the Avengers in hand-to-hand combat, his brain makes him a serious adversary as he possesses advanced philosophical structuring, pattern solving, and enhanced tuition. He can predict the outcomes of various scenarios to the point where one of his powers could technically be precognition.
That doesn’t mean he’s light on weapons to throw in heroes’ directions. His massive intellect, as well as access to a cosmic cube, has imbued him with psionic powers, granting him telepathy to control individuals and manipulate force fields. He also wears a headband that allows him to concentrate all of his powers in a single direction, creating powerful mind-beams. The Doomsday Chair he floats around in, since his itty-bitty neck is too weak to support his head, also comes with some handy gadgets, such as lasers and missiles.
His inability to move outside of his chair means that destroying it would pretty much put MODOK in a bad position. The stresses his head places on his internal organs also causes them to wear out prematurely. MODOK manages to circumvent this by having a stash of clones handy for organ harvesting. That MODOK — always thinking ahead.
How did MODOK appear in the Marvel’s Avengers video game?
The hype was real when it was announced a full-fledged action role-playing game based on the Avengers was going to come to the PS4 and Xbox One. However, plenty of people were surprised when it was announced the relatively obscure MODOK would be the game’s primary villain.
In an interview with Shack News, Crystal Dynamics Studio Head Scot Amos said it all began by choosing Kamala Khan to be the game’s main protagonist: "We said we wanted someone as a character who could synchronize with us as players. Somebody who’s a fan of superheroes, particularly a fan of the Avengers… As soon as we did that, [we asked], ‘What would be the opposite of somebody who loves superheroes? It would be somebody who wants to use science against superheroes.’"
This quickly led to the idea of having AIM in the story. And since MODOK has traditionally been the head of AIM, it was a natural fit to bring him into the story as the big bad. Amos went on to say, "That was a cool idea that AIM at the beginning of our story was actually George Tarleton, as the head of AIM, in partnership with Tony Stark working on this Terrigen reactor saying, ‘Clean energy for the world! Make the world a better place!’ So it starts with a noble goal, but that same event at the beginning, that A-Day event, that infects Kamala with Terrigen Mists that make her into an Inhuman also corrupts George Tarleton."
In a way, the recent video game almost makes MODOK a sympathetic villain. He genuinely wants the world to be safer; he just goes about doing that the wrong way. While he may not be a physically-imposing threat to the heroes, he uses his intellect to divide them another way: by making them question whether they’re truly the best way to protect Earth.
What will MODOK’s new show be about?
MODOK is really having his moment in the sun right now. In addition to being introduced to a new generation of gamers in Marvel’s Avengers, he’s also getting his own Hulu series coming in early 2021. Comedian Patton Oswalt will voice the supervillain, and in an interview at New York Comic Con in 2020, the actor mentioned how resentful MODOK is at the world — because not only does he hate all of the superheroes, but also all the supervillains who he feels don’t give him the respect he deserves. This only gets compounded when his evil organization, AIM, falls into bankruptcy.
Writer, executive producer, and co-creator of the series, Jordan Blum, who also participated in the interview, explained MODOK’s conundrum at the start of the series:
"He is, you know, gonna have to close up shop until a tech company, a Silicon Valley, kind of Google-like tech company, swoops in to save it and promises, like, ‘You can keep trying to kill superheroes, just give us a tablet by Christmas.’"
It’s not just MODOK’s professional dealings that come up in the show. He also has a family. As Blum went on to say, "He goes home to the suburbs in New Jersey to a family that we’ve never met in the comics." With both his career and family life in turmoil, it seems like MODOK will have more in common with a dad going through a mid-life crisis than someone like Red Skull, and that’s a really exciting prospect. So far, it sounds like the tone of the show will be unlike anything we’ve seen from Marvel so far.
With all this newfound attention, MODOK’s profile has never been higher. We’ll have to wait and see if he ever actually pops up in the MCU, but for now, you can catch his latest set of adventures when Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K., starring Oswalt, Aimee Garcia, Ben Schwartz, and Melissa Fumero, airs on Hulu in 2021.