He’s a giant head in a chair with tiny, dangly arms and legs and psychic powers, in a design that could have only been created by Jack Kirby, and he’s about to kill a lot of people.
Among this week’s new Secret Wars tie-in series is MODOK: Assassin by Chris Yost and Amilcar Pinna, in which the titular Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing will prove why he’s the top assassin in the Battleworld domain of Killville. This comes after a turn running with SHIELD agents in the most recent Secret Avengers series.
“For a guy who was designed only for killing, who has he really killed?” Yost asked CBR.
Here’s the skinny on old fathead, a Lee/Kirby joint who first appeared in 1967’s Tales of Suspense 93:
1) He was once a maaaaan. A MAAAAAN: MODOK started out as an AIM scientist named George Tarleton. The scienterrorists mutated Tarleton into a living computer so they could better understand the Cosmic Cube (or Tesseract, for those more familiar with the Marvel movies). Their Mental Organism Designed Only for Computing turns on his masters, becoming a Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing.
2) He gave the world Deathbird: During an arc in the original 1978 Ms. Marvel series, MODOK hires an assassin named Deathbird to take out Carol Danvers. Writer Chris Claremont would later port Deathbird into his most well-known title, Uncanny X-Men, making her the Shi’ar empress Lilandra’s power-mad sister. MODOK would also have a hand in the creation of the Red Hulk and Red She-Hulk, aka Gen. Thunderbolt Ross and his daughter, Betty.
3) He’s died: Dissatisfied with their homicidal supercomputer, AIM had the Serpent Society take MODOK out. A rogue AIM scientist played Weekend at Bernie’s with MODOK’s body for a time, but the body was destroyed in a fuel explosion amid a fight with Iron Man. AIM later resurrected MODOK when it needed help constructing another Cosmic Cube. And during the “World War Hulks” storyline, Amadeus Cho, given the power to warp reality within a small radius of himself, reverted MODOK back to his original, human form.
4) There are many kinds of MODOKs:
a. For starters, there’s Ms. MODOK, a scientist MODOK turned into the female version of himself until she convinced him to transform her back.
b. A second female MODOK was believed to be patterned after Hank Pym’s first wife and was originally named SODAM (Specialized Organism Designed for Aggressive Maneuvers) but was later renamed MODAM (Mental Organism etc.)
c. There’s the cluster of cloned MODOK brains acting as one sentient supercomputer, one of which crowned itself MODOK Superior and surrounded himself with smaller pawn versions of himself.
d. A Mobile Organism Designed Only for Talking appeared in a Howard the Duck series.
e. A splinter cell of AIM created the Mobile Organism Designed Only for Genocide, which Iron Man dispatched handily during Matt Fraction’s run on the hero.
f. For the kids, there’s the Mental Organism Designed Only for Conquest that appeared in Marvel Adventures: The Avengers.
g. An Ultimate Universe version of MODOK lived inside the head of a cyborg version of Captain America villain Dr. Faustus.
h. The brilliant and hysterical Warren Ellis series Nextwave: Agents of HATE features an infant MODOK that was the product of lovemaking between MODOK and MODAM, so pleasant dreams with that mental image. The series also featured four versions of MODOK patterned after Elvis Presley.
i. The Marvel/DC mashup Amalgam Comics combined MODOK with Green Lantern villain Hector Hammond, another big-headed foe, to create HECTOR, the Highly Evolved Creature Totally Oriented on Revenge.
j. The Mental Organism Designed Only for Roller Derby, or MODORD, appears in a Dazzler story from 2011 that is now my life’s mission to track down.
5) He’s played the good guy. MODOK has, in the past, cooperated with the government if it allowed him to retake control of AIM or get revenge on his enemies. A cluster of MODOKs also saved Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers) from being disincorporated, and MODOK was on the team of Ales Kot and Michael Walsh’s just-wrapped arc of Secret Avengers, alongside Nick Fury Jr., Maria Hill, Phil Coulson, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Spider-Woman.
Read this: The most recent volume of Secret Avengers by Kot and Walsh (issues 1-15). For a MODOK-led heist caper, check out 2007’s five-issue Super-Villain Team-Up: MODOK’s 11, by Fred Van Lente and Francis Portella.
Watch that: Marvel’s kid-tested, father-approved Super Hero Squad show, which ran from 2009 to 2011 and featured MODOK (the K is for Kicking butt) as one of the main henchmen of Doctor Doom. Specifically, watch the episode “Mental Organism Designed Only for Kisses,” in which, through botched sorcery by the Enchantress, MODOK and Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers) fall in love and make googly eyes at each other through a montage set to fake ’60s pop music. It’s pretty great.