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M.O.D.O.K. TV series’ stop-motion animation is a tribute to Jack Kirby: ‘Bigness’ in 3D

By Tara Bennett
Marvel's M.O.D.O.K.

If you’re not a hard-core comics fan, then the name M.O.D.O.K. probably just looks like gibberish to you. However, Marvel fans know the name is synonymous with the blustery villain saddled with a freakishly large noggin that matches his outsized ambition. However, his effectiveness at the bad guy game is lacking.

For comedy writers Patton Oswalt and Jordan Blum, M.O.D.O.K’s look and sad-sack reality was a storytelling jackpot. And they told Marvel as much when they pitched the obscure  character as the center of what is now Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K., Hulu’s new 10-episode, stop-motion animation series coming in May. 

At Hulu’s Television Critics Association winter press day today, Oswalt and Blum talked to reporters about their angle on the character. “He’s this weird, oddity and that’s baked into the character,” Blum said. “He’s aware he’s not an A-lister and it drives him insane!”

Marvel's M.O.D.O.K.

Blum said that playing with the fact that this super villain (in his head) has a huge ego riddled with self doubt was a font of comedy gold. “To explore that with his family and work lent itself to the show,” Blum continued. “Creating a show around that excited us.”

As did the fact that the stop-motion animation style, most recognized in shows like Robot Chicken or films made by Laika Animation Studio, came out of the M.O.D.O.K.’s comic creator, Jack Kirby.

Oswalt said, “I had always read Marvel comics and M.O.D.O.K was drawn by Kirby with these huge features and big expressions. We felt stop-motion would capture that bigness. M.O.D.O.K has to exist in a three dimensional world.”

While the two writers admit Marvel had not expected a series pitch around this character, they understood what they wanted to do within a comedy series immediately. “If anyone understands this character, it’s Marvel,” Blum laughed.

Oswalt continued, “They love how weird their characters are. And they loved that [director] James Gunn put Howard the Duck in his Guardians of the Galaxy tag.” 

“And Guardians is a perfect example,” Blum said about how obscure characters, like them and M.O.D.O.K, can launch into the mainstream. “No one knew Groot or Rocket before that movie. All the Marvel character have potential, but it’s just finding the best vehicle for them.”

Oswalt said the series is set up as a sitcom around M.O.D.O.K.’s traditional family life and smokescreen boring job, but it definitely pushes boundaries with language and violence, which he said they take to "Monty Python levels" of satire and silliness. 

The two also teased fans of the Marvel comics world that they should be prepared for plenty of character surprises, and guest voices too. “We pull [story and characters] from everywhere but mostly the comics which is the source of the show,” Blum shared. "In the vein of LEGO Batman or the Spider-verse, they let us play with the big toys and A-list and D-list [characters]." He admitted they had Marvel character handbooks in the writer’s room that they referenced constantly for populating the series. "It was exciting to build our own version of the Marvel universe.”

Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. drops May 21 on Hulu.