Patton Oswalt & Jordan Blum play Head Games with Marvel villain M.O.D.O.K.

M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games #1 page
(Image credit: Scott Hepburn/Carlos Lopez/Travis Lanham (Marvel Comics))

Marvel's M.O.D.O.K. is the perfect example of a comic book villain. With a strange visual design, godlike intellect, and talent for nefarious schemes, the Kirby/Lee-created baddie is a perfect foil for the varied heroes of the Marvel Universe. But who is M.O.D.O.K. when he's not a villain? What's he like as a coworker? A boss? Maybe even a family member?

(Image credit: Cully Hamner (Marvel Comics))

This is what Patton Oswalt and Jordan Blum asked while creating the upcoming Hulu animated series M.O.D.O.K., which follows the character in sitcom style. The show comes out in early 2021, but before that, Blum and Oswalt are exploring the character in comic book format with the limited series M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games.

In Head Games, M.O.D.O.K.'s brilliant computer mind is playing tricks on him, showing him visions of a life he never had, and making him question the one he does. Before the first issue's release this Wednesday, Newsarama sat down with Oswalt and Blum to learn a bit more about what's going on in Head Games, and if it will hint at the upcoming Hulu show.

Newsarama: Patton, let's start with you. We know what makes M.O.D.O.K. a mutant, cyborg, giant-floating-head. What makes him human?

(Image credit: Scott Hepburn/Carlos Lopez/Travis Lanham (Marvel Comics))

Patton Oswalt: What makes him human is what makes us all human — rage, jealousy, and crippling self-doubt.

Nrama: Jordan, M.O.D.O.K.'s organization, Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM) has been through a lot of incarnations in the past. What does AIM look like at the beginning of Head Games? 

Jordan Blum: Throughout the years AIM has splintered their ranks, hell, there once was a coup involving hiring the Serpent Society to assassinate M.O.D.O.K. But now clearer heads have prevailed, the factions are united under a board of directors led by Monica Rappaccini, Andrew Forson (from Secret Avengers), Taskmaster, Superia, and of course M.O.D.O.K. 

This is a critical time for AIM, their plans are moving towards the next stage of world domination through science. Victory is in sight... which makes this terrible timing for M.O.D.O.K. to start 'malfunctioning' by being haunted by ghosts from a life he never led. Monica becomes aware of this, and in true Monica fashion, utilizes this 'weakness' as a way to usurp M.O.D.O.K. and make a power grab.

Nrama: What does Monica think of M.O.D.O.K.? 

(Image credit: Scott Hepburn/Carlos Lopez/Travis Lanham (Marvel Comics))

Oswalt: She thinks of M.O.D.O.K. like she thinks of literally every other living person on the planet — as a subhuman idiot whom she will one day enslave and who will thank her for the privilege.

Nrama: What would M.O.D.O.K. be without AIM?

Blum: I think it's baked into his identity. He's a world conqueror and a world conqueror needs an army of minions. It's all he knows, it's all he lives for. Which is sort of what makes this series so fun. In the first issue, Monica turns AIM against him -- suddenly he's a fugitive, on the run. So where does he go? Who does he turn to? The answers are some pretty insane, unexpected guest stars from his lengthy comic book history. On top of that M.O.D.O.K. is grappling with that question on an existential level. He is so set in his ways and in who he believes himself to be, this image of a despotic ruler, that the idea of him living some other life as a husband or a father does not compute. How could he be both?

Nrama: Switching gears a bit, I do want to talk about the upcoming M.O.D.O.K. Hulu show. First of all, is Head Games set within the same universe as Hulu's M.O.D.O.K.? If not, do they influence each other?

(Image credit: Scott Hepburn/Carlos Lopez/Travis Lanham (Marvel Comics))

Oswalt: It's a universe within a universe. A world that's inside M.O.D.O.K. that's become manifest in the real world. And that's all I'm going to say for now.

Nrama: How will Hulu's M.O.D.O.K. be different from the MCU? What about other Marvel TV shows? 

Blum: The fun of all of this is that M.O.D.O.K., like Batman, is a very malleable character who can be interpreted in a lot of ways without ever breaking the essence of who he is. Even in our comic, we're writing him as the much more deadly and capable 616 version, but in our show, he's a lot funnier -  a temperamental, narcissistic computer-brained genius who can build a blackhole gun within seconds but who has absolutely no idea how to relate to people. Our show is much more of a satire. We pull from everywhere: comics, movies, shows, video games - it all counts. We took a Lego Batman / Into the Spider-Verse approach. But as comedic as our tone is, we're not doing a spoof, the show will have building drama, action, stakes, relationships and, I think to the shock of many, heart.

Nrama: Patton, you're going to be providing the voice of the titular character in Hulu's M.O.D.O.K. Did that affect how you approached the character in Head Games? Do you hear your own voice in his dialogue?

(Image credit: Scott Hepburn/Carlos Lopez/Travis Lanham (Marvel Comics))

Oswalt: Sometimes. But what I love about M.O.D.O.K. is how often he's putting up this scary/superior front to try to intimidate other people, and that allowed me to go outside of my voice.

Nrama: Jordan, I saw you've teased a couple of the show's characters on your Twitter, such as Super Adaptoid. Do you have a favorite (besides M.O.D.O.K.), and what are the chances they'll be in Head Games?

Blum: We're keeping a lot of them a secret until the show airs but there is definitely some overlap with who we used on the show and who appears at the CES-like supervillain-tech trade show in Issue Two...  but that's not really a satisfying answer, so I'll say Armadillo. He's one of my all-time favorite d-listers and Patton wrote a hilarious take on him for the show. 

Nrama: The last question is for both of you: M.O.D.O.K. is, of course, an acronym for Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing. If your names were acronyms like his, what would they stand for?

Blum: J.O.R.D.A.N. Jewish Organism Regrettably Designed for Absolute Napping.

Oswalt: PattonIsTooBusyToComeUpWithAnAcronym atton.

M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games #1 (of 5) goes on sale December 1, in print and digitally. Check out our list of the best comic readers for Android and iOS devices.

Grant DeArmitt
Freelance writer

Grant DeArmitt is a NYC-based writer and editor who regularly contributes bylines to Newsarama. Grant is a horror aficionado, writing about the genre for Nightmare on Film Street, and has written features, reviews, and interviews for the likes of PanelxPanel and Monkeys Fighting Robots. Grant says he probably isn't a werewolf… but you can never be too careful.