In the sprawling pantheon of Marvel characters, M.O.D.O.K. is an unlikely candidate to headline his own Hulu TV series. The supervillain’s main appeal is his outlandish design, which has always given him an inherent sense of humor, no matter how nefarious his plots. This ends up making him a surprisingly good fit for Marvel’s first foray into animated family-sitcom territory.
Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. uses stop-motion animation to lean into the grotesquerie while putting the title character, voice by Patton Oswalt, in a story that splits focus between his crumbling family unit and a workplace that doesn’t respect him, giving the show a look and feel that stands out in the crowded superhero media landscape. It’s packed full of references to other Marvel concepts, so we’ve put together a guide to help you get the most out of Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K.
A.I.M.: Short for Advanced Idea Mechanics, this organization of evil scientists is best known for its ridiculous uniform: bright yellow beekeeper suits. A constant nuisance in the Marvel Universe, A.I.M. is responsible for creations like the Super-Adaptoid, an android that can replicate superhuman powers (reimagined as a snarky, sentient all-in-one gadget in M.O.D.O.K.), and the Cosmic Cube, a device with the power to reshape all of reality. At one point, A.I.M. was purchased by former X-Man and Avenger Roberto “Sunspot” DaCosta, who used its resources to support his own Avengers team. The takeover didn’t last long, and A.I.M. is back to being the bad guys who don’t work with bees but dress like they do.
M.O.D.O.K.: Giant head in a floating can. Leader of an evil organization dedicated to mad science. Punchline for decades of Marvel history. Transformed by the aforementioned Cosmic Cube, technician George Tarleton became the Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing, a supervillain that lacks any degree of subtlety. As if he wasn’t absurd enough, M.O.D.O.K. has gone through various transformations over the years, from the gender-flipped M.O.D.A.M. (Mental Organism Designed for Aggressive Maneuvers) to the hunky B.R.O.D.O.K (Bio-Robotic Organism Designed Overwhelmingly for Kissing). M.O.D.O.K. even joined the Avengers for a brief time in 2014’s excellent Secret Avengers series, where he plays a tragic romantic lead opposite S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Maria Hill. If you’re looking for an easy entry into M.O.D.O.K. comics, the cartoon’s showrunners, Patton Oswalt and Jordan Blum, recently finished their M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games miniseries, which is promoted at the end of each episode.
Monica Rappaccini: A former colleague of Bruce “Hulk” Banner, Monica stole his knowledge, won a Nobel Peace Prize, decided peace sucks, and joined A.I.M. She eventually reached the position of Scientist Supreme, but has always wanted to seize leadership for herself. Monica’s “daughter” — a test tube baby created by A.I.M. — is one of many people in the Marvel Universe to carry the Scorpion moniker, a name given to her because of her mutated arm that discharges poison. Monica is not a good mom.
Wonder Man: One of those characters that makes superhero comics feel inaccessible because his history is so convoluted. He’s been a hero and a villain, “died” on multiple occasions, and had his brainwaves used as the foundation for another character’s personality. A former member of the Masters of Evil who later joins the Avengers, Simon Williams has a wide array of superpowers thanks to his exposure to ionic radiation. Just like in the TV show, comic-book Wonder Man is essentially M.O.D.O.K.’s opposite. No matter what, he’s always a hunk, even when he turns into a human-shaped mass of glowing purple energy.
The stuff you probably know if you watch Marvel movies
Asgard: The extradimensional home of Thor, Loki, Odin, and a bunch of other superpowered beings who became the source for Norse mythology centuries ago. M.O.D.O.K. features one of the more prominent Asgardians not in the Marvel movies: Balder the Brave, Thor’s half-brother and best friend.
The Avengers: A paramilitary team of superheroes who protect Earth from supervillains bent on world domination and alien invasions that threaten all human life. They do this without any sort of official jurisdiction, which is totally cool and not terrifying at all.
Iron Man: Billionaire military industrialist Tony Stark sees the error of his ways when he becomes a prisoner of war with a piece of shrapnel in his heart. He builds himself a metal battlesuit to escape and dedicates himself to helping others as Iron Man, but is still kind of a jerk.
Pym particles: Subatomic particles discovered by Hank “Ant-Man” Pym that shrink or enlarge whatever comes into contact with them. While you can’t get one of M.O.D.O.K.’s Pym particle gummies, you’ll soon be able to visit the Pym Test Kitchen restaurant at Disneyland, where you can eat items like a comically large chicken sandwich.
Jack Kirby: The visionary superhero artist who co-created M.O.D.O.K. and most of Marvel’s flagship properties. Nicknamed the King, Kirby was lauded for his boundless imagination and explosive action, the likes of which comics had never seen before. He’s the namesake of Kirby University, where M.O.D.O.K. and Jodie fall in love.
Fred Van Lente: The co-creator of Monica Rappaccini (along with artist Leonard Kirk) and writer of the Ocean’s 11-inspired M.O.D.O.K.’s 11, Van Lente is the namesake of Monica’s elementary school.
The cool villains
Arcade: The flame-haired madman behind Murder World, a customized interactive experience that would probably be really fun if it wasn’t supposed to kill you. Originally an X-Men villain, Arcade has expanded his reach to play with the entire Marvel Universe, at one point creating his own Hunger Games scenario with a bunch of teen superheroes.
Fin Fang Foom: A dragon in underpants that sadly only has a few cameos in M.O.D.O.K. rather than a full supporting role. It’s past time for Fin Fang Foom’s big cultural moment.
The Leader: M.O.D.O.K.’s main rival when it comes to big-headed evil geniuses, Samuel Sterns was a chemical plant worker whose intellect and skull dramatically grew after exposure to gamma radiation. He’s one of Hulk’s main villains, and is currently doing some extremely creepy stuff in the Immortal Hulk comic.
Mr. Sinister: A flamboyant Victorian dandy obsessed with genetic experimentation, Nathaniel Essex started terrorizing the X-Men in the late ’80s. Clones are his big thing, and he puts M.O.D.O.K.’s ego to shame with an island home populated by clones of himself.
Madame Masque: The femme fatale daughter of a notorious crime boss, Madame Masque wears a golden mask to hide her scarred face, and keeps it on after she’s healed because it looks cool. A version of Madame Masque appeared in the second season of Agent Carter, taking inspiration from Hollywood starlet and scientist Hedy Lamarr.
The loser villains
Angar the Screamer: A hippie experimented on by a space priestess, gifting him with a sonic scream that makes people high. Based on his look and power set, he’s the patron saint of stoner uncles everywhere.
Armadillo: Part man, part Armadillo, all tragic. Antonio Rodriguez had his genes spliced with armadillo DNA so he could become a superpowered criminal and pay for his wife’s medical treatment. When she’s cured, she leaves him because he looks like an armadillo. The real villain here is the U.S. health-care system.
Master Pandemonium: A B-movie actor who made a deal with the devil to save his life, Master Pandemonium’s limbs were replaced by demon parts and his soul split into five pieces. His appearance is especially fun to see here after WandaVision, because his two baby hands are actually Wanda and Vision’s twins, Billy and Tommy, who were created from his soul fragments. In case you forgot, superhero comics are insane.
Melter: After losing his defense contracts to Tony Stark, Bruno Horgan straps one of his iron-melting devices to his chest and becomes the Melter! There’s a reason no one respects Iron Man’s rogue’s gallery, and the Melter is emblematic of the hero’s lackluster villains.
Poundcakes: One of the products of superhero comics’ long relationship with professional wrestling, Marian Pouncy commits crimes with the rest of her all-female wrestling team, The Grapplers, who realize they can make more money as supervillains than as wrestlers who will never get the respect of their male counterparts. Yet another reason to shatter the glass ceiling.
Tenpin: Too many supervillain identities are built around unconventional weapons, and Tenpin is one of the silliest. He hits people with modified bowling pins and runs around with a group called the Death-Throws. When it comes to bad guys, Tenpin is a gutter ball.