WHO'S THE MENTAL ORGANISM?
So, what is it about MODOK?
Well, there's really three types of comic book supervillains. First, there's the best kind: the kind that's genuinely cool -- well-written, interesting, with a cool costume, an intriguing origin, or a nifty hook. A villain who good writers want to get a shot at, who gets good dialogue, who returns again and again in stories that prove genuinely memorable. Dr. Doom was one such villain; the Joker is another.
Second, there's the vast majority of super-villains. They exist only as an excuse to crank out the product: a couple of dipshits in tights mixing it up in the middle of Manhattan. Nobody can really get that excited about the Fadeaway Man or the Melter one way or another; they're just sort of there. At best, they're given a decent hook, or are at least stupid enough to make jokes about. But you don't really like them.
Finally, there's the rarest of birds: the super-villain who is so profoundly fucked up, so misbegotted or deranged or downright incomprehensible that there's just no way you can hate him. At some point your brain just shuts down and says "You know what? Fuck it. I kind of like this guy." Jack Kirby had a particular genius for creating characters like this.
MODOK is one of them.
He's got a big giant head, always a plus for a villain. He's got teeny, runty little limbs, and his head is so heavy that he's forced to cruise around in a rocket-powered chair; he's the super-villain equivalent of one of those really fat women at the supermarket riding a Lark. He has incredibly mental powers and is an asshole. He's so dementedly entertaining that you don't even care about the fact that he has a purple costume. He's so inexplicably beloved that he has inspired an entire academic publication devoted to researching his complex character: The Journal of MODOK Studies (which can be yours for a mere $2 sent to Second Period Industries, P.O. Box 948, Athens, GA 30603).
And, of course, there's the name.
MODOK. It sounds awesome just by itself: like a barbarian or a Japanese sci-fi monster, "Godzilla vs. MODOK". But when you learn that it's not just a name, but an acronym -- and not just an acronym, but an acronym for 'Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing' -- well, that's just awesome.
Amazingly, MODOK was not always MODOK -- no, he started out as MODOC. A lowly lab assistant working for Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.), hapless dimwit George Tarleton was transformed by a power-hungry scientist into the double-domed MODOC -- 'Mental Organism Designed Only for Computing'. But the newly awakened and empowered freak thought to himself, "Screw that! Computing is for pussies. I'm gonna do me some killing." Which he did, starting with the man who created him. And he went on killing and did not stop.
Of course, the name lends itself to one of my all-time favorite running gags. For you see, MODOK is not just a mental organism designed for killing; he's a mental organism designed only for killing. One can get endless enjoyment contemplating previous prototypes of MODOK before they finally got it right. Polluting A.I.M. headquarters are MODOFs, MODOWPs, and MODOMLMs taking care of various filing, waxing & polishing and middle-level management tasks; and somewhere in a hidden hi-tech fortress, Ms. MODOK asks the former George Tarleton to take you the garbage, and he responds, "Bitch, do I look like a Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing and Trash Removal?"
In the end, MODOK-love is a little like a crush, a little like a child, a lot like a cult: you either get it, or you don't. Get it. Feel it. Live it. The man, the mental organism: the MODOK.