If this be… Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. on Hulu! The long-awaited animated comedy from Stoopid Buddy Stoodios was co-created by Patton Oswalt and Jordan Blum.
— Jordan Blum (@BlumJordan) May 19, 2021
While the show faced some serious challenges on its way to release, it’s finally arriving on Hulu tomorrow, on Friday, May 21st, 2021 (or at 9:00 PM on May 20th, 2021 on the West Coast – set your timers, True Believers).
It goes without saying that Oswalt is superb in the role of M.O.D.O.K. A voice actor with a long resume of impressive performances, Oswalt brings everything he’s got to this role about a genius (who everyone thinks is a joke) trying to balance his professional career against his suburban personal life.
However, M.O.D.O.K. himself is but one aspect of this hilarious first season, which just might be the most Marvel Comics-accurate adaptation yet to hit the screen. You won’t be able to make it past the episode titles without smirking – believe it!
All in the M.O.D.O.K. Family
One of the greatest successes of Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. is the supporting cast – specifically, M.O.D.O.K.’s family. These characters could have been the typical archetypes, or worse still, simply props to be used as motivators for M.O.D.O.K., but instead, the show digs into the bizarre relationship dynamics between the cephalic villain and his brood.
Furthermore, Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. could have had the M.O.D.O.K. family be nothing more than foils for the eponymous antihero. Instead, they are each twisted in their own idiosyncratic ways – however, the show walks a fine line, never allowing their behavior to become too alienating (at least by the gore-splashed standards of a Stoopid Buddy Stoodios production).
This includes matriarch Jodie (Aimee Garcia), who is building her own personal lifestyle brand, surprising even herself in how far she’s willing to pursue success. Meanwhile, eldest child Melissa (Melissa Fumero) is the heir apparent to her father’s criminal empire, and the endlessly energetic and increasingly outlandish Lou (Ben Schwartz) rounds out a modern nuclear family who truly deserve one another.
And the supporting cast outside M.O.D.O.K.’s family is similarly well-developed. At A.I.M., there’s best friend/worst enemy Monica Rappaccini (Wendi McLendon-Covey), who has some hilarious fixations of her own, and beekeeper Gary (Sam Richardson), who begins as a faceless coffee fan and becomes oh-so-much more.
Finally, there is the superhuman contingent. While we see more of the villains than the heroes, of all the Marvel TV efforts put forth so far, this show might be the one that seems to exist in the world most closely adjacent to the 616. While it may be a big deal for one of the A-list Avengers to appear on the small screen in the live action fare, Wonder Man (Nathan Fillion) and Iron Man (Jon Hamm) can both appear in episodes of Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K…. That sort of thing happens all the time in the comics, after all – and so it is with this animated series.
Back to the Marvel Comics
It’s been clear since M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games that Oswalt and Blum have a deep familiarity with Marvel Comics. You may expect that to play out through comedic cameos and background gags, and it does – I’m resisting the temptation to simply list them there, because I wouldn’t want to deprive viewers of the joy of seeing that one particular deep cut unexpectedly appear (buckle up, devoted Grant Morrison fans)… and suffice to say that you won’t have to watch too far into the season to see Jack Kirby get his due (although my favorite shout out to the King of Comics comes in the form of some graffiti glimpsed near the end of episode four).
However, there is another way that the deep affection the creators have for Marvel Comics plays out in Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K.: the fact that the series embodies two of the most common elements for the publisher’s solo books.
First, there’s M.O.D.O.K.’s family. It’s very common for a particular Marvel Comics run to feature a supporting cast that was created for the title (and often, this supporting cast does not appear in subsequent runs). These characters often seem unique to the creators, and sometimes more grounded than the superheroes that headline the books – for a great example of this convention, think of the many supporting characters that have appeared alongside Deadpool in his eponymous runs.
And second, there’s the way familiar Marvel Comics characters are used in new and unexpected ways. Consider how Batroc the Leaper became a major supporting character over the course of The Unbelievable Gwenpool. In Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K., this function is filled by the Super-Adaptoid (Jon Daly), a one-time supervillain (or superweapon) who is repurposed as a glorified toaster, and whose stupid little smirk quicky becomes enough to illicit a laugh in and of itself.
Mental Organism Designed Only for Kibitzing
Some may bemoan the fact that Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. is removed from the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, but this is beside the point. For one, it allows for recasting of roles, but for another, it allows significant Marvel characters to be put in peril. In the same way that Harley Quinn worked better because it was on its own timeline, allowing the narrative to mercilessly kill off major DC characters without affecting the rest of the studios’ stories, Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. works just fine in its own little bubble…
And besides, as devoted Marvel Comics readers are already aware, a separate universe doesn’t necessarily have to stay that separate when it comes to Marvel. Miles Morales started in the Ultimate Universe before moving to the 616, after all, and the real tension of the Marvel Zombies series comes from the threat that these undead marauders who originated in a different dimension nevertheless might someday make their way to the universe where our favorite incarnation of the Avengers hang their respective hats.
Settle In to your Hovering M.O.D.O.K. Toilet Throne
The animation in Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. is of the extremely high quality you have come to expect from Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, with all of their usual gore and intentional censorship tricks intact. However, this is decidedly a Marvel story, so don’t expect any of the usual “out of continuity” references that are integrated into Robot Chicken (unless you want to count the many allusions in dialogue to 80s and 90s pop music – there’s a reason the comic bore the subtitle “Head Games,” after all).
There is one drawback to Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K.: while the ten episodes are well structured, balancing episodic comedy with season-long continuity, you will not be satisfied when the final episode has concluded. Just as with M.O.D.O.K.’s insatiable lust for breakfast meats, when you have consumed all there is to consume, you will demand more.
Stream the first season of Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K., and then immediately clear your schedule for the rest of the weekend in order to convince your put-upon co-worker to invent a device that confirms we’re getting more of this unusual animated celebration of Marvel Comics.
All ten episodes of the first season of Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. will be available for streaming on Hulu beginning tomorrow, May 21st, 2021 (or at 9 PM on May 20th, if you’re on the West Coast).