How Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. Turned A Literal Killing Machine Into An Underdog

How Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. Turned A Literal Killing Machine Into An Underdog
Image: Hulu/Disney/Marvel
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M.O.D.O.K. stands for Mental Organism Designed Only For Killing. He’s made a career out of being a nuisance for The Avengers and frequently tries to take over the world. But despite all that, Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. TV show still manages to make the character an underdog.

Even when he’s exploding A.I.M. scientists, cutting off limbs or plotting from the shadows, M.O.D.O.K. is a character that somehow garners sympathy in the show.

He’s bold, big-headed and loves to commit crime — but it’s why we love him. It also part of the reason why star Aimee Garcia, who voices M.O.D.O.K.’s wife Jodie, was drawn to the show.

“I’ve always had a soft spot for underdogs,” Garcia told Gizmodo Australia in an interview.

“I feel like there’s no bigger underdog than a floating big head with really small arms and really small legs, who’s an egomaniac and is treated like a washed up celebrity.”

M.O.D.O.K.’s history dates back to the 1960s

In many ways, the show is a fall from grace for the character — but one that rightfully highlights just how ridiculous he really is. While he’s been a prominent part of Marvel’s comics since the mid-1960s, he’s usually been treated as a serious character. All that killing really helps you make a name for yourself, after all.

But as a child of 1960s, he has a touch of the ridiculous that’s hard to overlook.

The villains of this era were plantmen, stuntpeople with eyes for heads, a man on stilts and a lady wielding asbestos bullets. It was a time when the attitude was ‘anything goes’ — including a villain with a giant, bulbous head.

modok jodie relationship underdog
Image: Hulu/Disney/Marvel

M.O.D.O.K. is a definitive product of his time, and the show takes this odd challenge to heart. It’s a fun, silly send-up designed to poke fun at Marvel’s history while also creating a sympathetic look at M.O.D.O.K.’s unfortunate existence.

And while Marvel hasn’t dived into straight comedy before, the show’s format and performances prove there’s certainly an avenue for more shows in the same vein as M.O.D.O.K.

“The tone and direction is, to me, really, really ripe for the comedy but also full of a lot of heart,” Melissa Fumero, who plays M.O.D.O.K.’s daughter Melissa, told Gizmodo Australia via Zoom.

“It just hit that sweet spot. I felt like they were swinging for the fences and really nailed it.”

It’s a balance that’s hard to strike — particularly when a character like M.O.D.O.K. is involved. But somehow, the show manages to stay true to the character (he sure does a lot killing) while also leaning heavily into comedy. And between all these moments, M.O.D.O.K. manages to make you really love the character, even in his zanier moments.

Despite the show being about a dysfunctional, big-headed family where the patriarch literally wants to kill the world, there’s something to love about everyone.

Why M.O.D.O.K. had to be a comedy show

“If you make someone laugh, you forget they’re puppets and a dysfunctional family and he’s trying to just destroy the world,” Garcia said of M.O.D.O.K.’s surprisingly endearing nature. But she acknowledges the show really had to be a comedy for all the moving parts to work.

“The way M.O.D.O.K. looks just lends itself to comedy. Like, how does M.O.D.O.K. go on a family trip? How do you work that out? Does he float with Melissa outside the car? Do they try and bang inside and fit? … There’s something so endearing about a supervillain that thinks he’s bigger than he is.”

modok weird tv show
Image: Hulu/Disney/Marvel

The entire set-up is ripe for comedy, and the show uses the format particularly well.

Whether it’s M.O.D.O.K. trying to reconnect with his wife by going back in time or accidentally unleashing party aliens on an unsuspecting work conference, sharp writing means one of Marvel’s least loveable characters becomes a definitive underdog in his new show.

It’s an impressive feat for a character that’s been derided for most of his comics run. But as Garcia puts it, his struggles are what make him interesting.

“It’s really sweet because he doesn’t give up, he still tries to rectify his relationship with his wife, he still tries to be a good dad, he still tries to bond with his son,” she said. “How can you be mad at that?”

If you’re somebody who grew up with gruesome comedy hits like Robot Chicken and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, M.O.D.O.K. absolutely has something for you.

Despite all its weirdness, it’s a show with great writing and a bunch of heart that somehow, despite all expectations, manages to make you feel for M.O.D.O.K. and his unfortunate, underdog-esque plight.

M.O.D.O.K. is now streaming on Disney+.