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Who is MODOK, Marvel’s big-headed Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania villain?

Mental organism designed only for kexplaining comics lore

MODOK, masked and with guns drawn in Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania. Image: Marvel Studios
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Five, promising to kick off a three-year arc of adventures centered around the threat of the villainous Kang the Conqueror.

But as Kang overshadows Quantumania, there’s another character in his shade. He’s an evil genius, a grotesque laboratory experiment, and he’s among the best-beloved Marvel supervillains (for being the absolute worst).


Who is MODOK in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania?

“I am MODOK!!” declares MODOK before a prone Captain America, “Once, I was a mere guinea pig for the scientists of AIM! But, they did their job too well... and now... I AM THEIR MASTER!!” MODOK is a huge head, floating assisted in a hover chair, his nearly vestigial arms and legs dangling, in Tales of Suspense #94 (1967). Image: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby/Marvel Comics

Marvel Studios’ trailers for Quantumania have been light on MODOK sightings — we’ve seen him all armored up, whizzing around firing lasers, but aside from blink-or-you’ll-miss-it moments, the full glory of how weird MODOK looks has been kept under wraps. However, it seems likely he’ll be allied with Kang in some way, one of the foes over which Scott Lang will have to triumph.

MODOK is also played by Corey Stoll, which gives us a big hint as to his possible MCU origin. Stoll played Darren Cross, aka Yellowjacket, the main villain of Ant-Man (2015). The last we saw of him, he was violently shrinking away into nothing after Scott Lang damaged his shrinking suit to keep him from killing his daughter, Cassie, and her new stepdad. But now, thanks to Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), we know that if you shrink down far enough you make it to the Quantum Realm, a strange world hidden within the subatomic structures of the universe. It seems possible, even likely, that Stoll is still playing Darren Cross in Quantumania, and whatever’s happened to him in the Quantum Realm since last we saw him, it’s turned him into the MCU’s version of MODOK.

Who is MODOK in Marvel Comics?

MODOK, essentially a giant head in a scifi harness, with normal sized, dangling arms and legs that look puny in comparison, flies on his jet repulsors over a crowd of cheering AIM lackeys, on the cover of MODOK: Head Games #1 (2020). Image: Cully Hamner/Marvel Comics

MODOK first appeared in 1967’s Tales of Suspense #94, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. His existence began as a poor human test subject of the researchers in the mad science cabal known to the Marvel Universe as AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics). AIM’s scientists transformed that human into the perfect weapon and furnished him with his own acronym-based name: the Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing.

And, as MODOK himself bellowed at Captain America in his first appearance, the scientists did their work “too well.” MODOK subsequently took over AIM, and reigned the organization supreme for many years. His original incarnation is all about playing up his grotesque look as being the consequence of his enhanced intelligence (he’s all brain and no brawn — you get it). All the threat of a supergenius and a pretty decent psychic, packaged up in a hovering harness that allowed him to focus his “mental energy” into laser beams that shot from his forehead.

But these days, almost nobody does a serious MODOK story anymore. It’s just hard getting around the fact that his design looks pretty silly in the art style of today’s comics. And so his modern niche is as one of Marvel’s foremost joke villains, a character who lets writers and artists indulge in the bombast of classic comics speeches and explosions, and give their heroes a chance to bulldoze over a total pushover.

And then there’s the joke of the MODOK variant. When content standards look down on using the word “killing” in a kids’ show, MODOK has become become the Mental Organism Designed Only for Kicking-butt, or MODOC — the Mental Organism Designed Only for Computing (or Conquest).

We’ve seen MODOT (Talking), MODOG (Genocide), MODORD (Roller Derby), MODAM (a lady MODOK, mother of a MODOK baby), and the handsome, shirtless BRODOK, the Bio-Robotic Organism Designed Overwhelmingly for Kissing, whose head was only just noticeably larger than the human standard.

So it’s no wonder that’d he’d crop up in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania — he’s the perfect butt of a joke for one of the MCU’s jokiest sub-franchises.