Geek Network Talks To Co-Creator Of MODOK HEAD GAMES And The Upcoming Marvel HULU Series MODOK.
Jordan Blum and Patton Oswalt have brought our favorite killing machine head M.O.D.O.K., front and center, not only to our television screens through the upcoming M.O.D.O.K. series, which you’ll be able to watch this year. They’ve also been hard at work on a comic mini-series titled M.O.D.O.K. Head Games. The series sees big MINDED leader of AIM deal with the everyday struggles of leading a terrorist organization and world domination, but when he starts catching glimpses of memories of a family he’s never had, it leads him down a path of suspicion, suspicion of possibly losing his mind, foul play? Or worse, CHILD ABANDONMENT & CHILD SUPPORT!
GNE: Before we get started, tell us a little about yourself…
JB: I’m the co-creator and showrunner for the upcoming Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. for Hulu and also the co-writer for the comic M.O.D.O.K. Head Games (Issue #2 of M.O.D.O.K. Head Games is available on January 6th! Go to Comic Shop Locator and preorder now! Or ya know, have the full force of a murderous giant head come down on you – Sir Thomas). I’m living out here in LA, the beloved Corona epicenter of the world, trying to wrangle two little boys while writing and doing virtual production. I would like to brag that I’ve spent the year locked in a house doing this and I’ve yet to go full Jack Torrance on them. That is Olympic-level parenting.
GNE: What can you tell us about your background? How did you get to where you are today, writing for the biggest publisher in comics and having worked with 2 of the funniest guys on the planet?
JB: My entire career, years spent breaking in as a PA, assistant, writing on Community, American Dad, and creating Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. for Hulu has been one long con to get Marvel to let me write a comic book. Haha, Marvel, you fell for it! As for working with Patton, that was a side con, I stole all his comics, threatened to shred them and now he has to pretend we’re friends and co-writers while actually doing the work of making TV and comics. It’s deliciously diabolical and I think M.O.D.O.K. would be proud.
GNE: So, why M.O.D.O.K.? Is there some significance to this particular character that made you want to work on this project?
JB: The minute I saw that Jack Kirby design it was love at first sight. I remember seeking out his Iron Man animated series toy when I was a kid and coveting it. I’ve always been attracted to the oddballs and underdogs of the Marvel Universe – filling out their backstories and day to days in my head. That’s basically where the show came from. Where does M.O.D.O.K. go home at night after he hovers out of that Iron Man panel? What are the mundane inner workings of running an evil organization where people dress up in yellow beekeeper uniforms and try to take over the world? There are so many places you could take these stories, especially set against the greater Marvel Universe — an egomaniacal floating murder-head having wants, desires, and frustrations were just endlessly fascinating to Patton and me.
GNE: M.O.D.O.K., who was created by legends, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, has been around for a while. We have seen many different versions of M.O.D.O.K., were you at all hesitant or intimidated to change the character to make him yours, or did you thrive in putting your own spin on it?
JB: The comic came out of how flexible the character is. I wouldn’t call him inconsistent; I mean Batman can be Adam West and Frank Miller and Brave and the Bold — M.O.D.O.K.’s the same way. He can be adapted into various incarnations but none of them feel like they betray the essence of the character. Sometimes he can be a very arch villain like in the original Stan Lee stuff, other times he’s incredibly menacing like in the Cap Gruenwald run or used for comedic purposes like in Gwenpool or our show. While writing the comic we decided to make this metatextual. This is a guy who has been killed and rebooted many times, taking many forms, and now he suddenly has memories of a life he never lived. This is both a journey and a mystery about M.O.D.O.K. making sense of the many M.O.D.O.K.s he’s been over the years.
GNE: You have previously worked on American Dad! Who should we fear more? M.O.D.O.K. or Roger Smith?
JB: M.O.D.O.K., in his giant head, believes he’s going to save the world by taking it over. His ends justify his means. Roger is just a straight-up sociopath, so Roger.
GNE: Speaking of American Dad! How has the transition from writing for television to comic books been? Any particular challenges you faced?
JB: Not a challenge so much as a different way of thinking of things. In TV the showrunner really drives the show, in every stage, in every detail. Comics are about the art. How can you make the artist look good? What can you write them that’s going to really excite them and let them shine? They are the director. So it was really fun to step back and watch Scott Hepburn go nuts. He brings so much kinetic energy to every panel — and so many ideas! Even the more conversational moments crackle and leap off the page. There is no greater thrill than an email popping up in my inbox with new art. I’m told it’s a lot like Christmas morning but I’m Jewish so I wouldn’t know. The other element we really leaned into was the tool of using captions for internal dialogue. It’s not something you have in TV and can be really fun to play within comics. We made that part of the story too. M.O.D.O.K. is complex, he’s part computer, part world-conquering villain, and part insecure human. All of these voices are competing in one head. Our letterer Travis Lanham designed fonts and boxes for each of those so they’re all distinct. They’re also clues for what is actually happening to poor old George and where the mystery is headed.
GNE: Do you see yourself writing more comics in the future?
JB: I hope I can until the day I die. I’ve never had more fun doing anything. It’s so collaborative, so immediate and so freeing. There’s no handholding – comic audiences are so ready to dive into the deep end with you. Comics are absolutely the purest medium in all of storytelling. I love TV, it’s fantastic and I’m lucky to work in the business but comics will always be #1. Publishers and editors, please, please, PLEASE let me write more comics! I’m not above begging.
GNE: Ok, here’s another one. Who got it worse in the head department? Hey Arnold or M.O.D.O.K.?
JB: I mean Arnold is basically a football, right? M.O.D.O.K.’s body cannot even support the weight of his own head without the help of a hoverchair. But the hoverchair is pretty dope, so…
GNE: Back to M.O.D.O.K: Head Games, I know the comic is currently a 4 issue mini-series, you also have the upcoming M.O.D.O.K. series coming to Hulu next year, any connection between the two, or do they both stand on their own?
JB: Hopefully, they can be both be enjoyed on their own. They are connected in a weird meta way. It’s almost a part of the mystery. But like I said, this is the 616 M.O.D.O.K. who is very different than the one on our show. It’s a big distinction and we approached it with that attitude. That being said, some of the other characters from the show might be making their Marvel 616 comics debut, or they completely exist in M.O.D.O.K.’s subconscious. Or both? I’m not going to say you’ll have to buy the book.
GNE: Speaking of the comic & series very quickly, you’re working with Patton Oswalt, how cool has that been? How did you guys meet and end up working on this together?
JB: I’ve been a fan of Patton’s for as long as I can remember. The first thing I ever said to him was “You got me through Oklahoma!” in reference to me listening to all of his comedy CDs while driving across the country, specifically Oklahoma which is a VERY long, flat state. Obviously, that context makes the statement make more sense but I forgot that when I blurted it out to him and continually shook his hand until he politely took it back. For reasons unbeknownst to me he still responds to my phone calls and emails. Back when I was on American Dad he came on board a pilot I was writing that we sold to Fox. We then ended up producing a presentation (15 min fully animated mini-episode) and really clicked with each other’s creative sensibilities. The show ended up not going at Fox but we stayed in touch, often running into each other at Golden Apple Comics or casting him in episodes I was writing on American Dad. After meeting with Marvel he and I developed M.O.D.O.K. for them and it’s been non-stop ever since. He is the kindest, most brilliant guy I’ve ever worked with and is the exception to the rule “never meet your heroes.” I say definitely meet your heroes, and create tons of content with them!
GNE: Something I’m sure about 5% of America needs to know, does M.O.D.O.K. ever have to use the bathroom?
JB: Yes, but the hoverchair is there to help.
GNE: Lastly, any upcoming projects or shoutouts you’d like to share with the world?
JB: There’s a lot of stuff I wish I could talk about but can’t at the moment… but buy M.O.D.O.K. Head Games Games (Final warning!!! Buy M.O.D.O.K. Head Games #1 – available now and pick up issue #2 on January 6th! Visit Comic Shop Locator to find a comic shop near you.) Watch Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. on Hulu later this year!
Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. Head Games can be found at any local comic shop, this mini-series has brought a comedic shock to Marvel that is much appreciated after the year we have had. Very rarely do we get a comic that can make you literally laugh out loud. Blum and Oswalt’s personality definitely resonates on these pages and it’s beautifully complemented by the pencil work and colors of Scott Hepburn and Carlos Lopez. As Blum explains, we often see many different variations of dialogue in this series in which Travis Lanham provides us with precise lettering that makes this comic an easy read and lets us just enjoy the madness that is M.O.D.O.K. Be sure to pick up this comic as it is going to definitely be one to remember and with a superstar creative team, the sky is the limit with this new series.
Also, be sure to keep an eye out for the upcoming M.O.D.O.K television series coming to Hulu this year. Starring Patton Oswalt, Aimee Garcia, Ben Schwartz, Melissa Fumero, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Beck Bennet, Jon Daly & Sam Richardson, and more! A cast with the talent of this size could not even be contained by M.O.D.O.K. giant melon of ahead. Great things coming from these creators and talented people this year. Stay tuned!