M.O.D.O.K. is a marvel comics super villain created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1967. The acronym is generally said to stand for Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing, although the ‘M’ is sometimes aid to stand for Mobile or Mechanized. The ‘F’ is silent. It is my contention that the M.O.D.O.K. character has been underused and unfairly constricted both by his role as a super villain and the medium of comics itself.
I.) “Make Room for M.O.D.O.K.”
This would be very much like the classic 50’s sitcom, “Make Room for Daddy”, except the main character successful comedian and nightclub owner Danny Williams, would be played by M.O.D.O.K. instead of Danny Thomas. I think there would be interesting resonance, because where Danny Thomas was the first Arab American to star in a sitcom, this would be the first sitcom starring a Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing. I like this idea because most young people today have no idea who Danny Thomas was and have never seen the original show, and outside of a fairly serious subset of Marvel superhero comic readers, I bet nobody has ever even heard of M.O.D.O.K.
II.) “Me and Bobby Mc M.O.D.O.K.”
This is a song I would sing alone on stage in an amber spot after telling the audience that I was going to ‘slow things down a little’. I would sing it in a sorrowful, slightly gravelly voice, as if I’d been drinking whiskey and smoking unfiltered Camels all day and was tired and a little bummed out. It would start out a lot like the song written by Kris Kristofferson made famous by Janis Joplin, but not quite so ragged, more like the Gordon Lightfoot version. Like “Me and Bobby McGee”, it would be a soulful love song about riding the rails with a lover, but with unsettling undertones about what physical love would be like between a man and a giant head with tiny arms and legs surgically attached to a floating weapons platform.
III.) Close Up of M.O.D.O.K.
This is just pretty much a hand held camera shot of a silent M.O.D.O.K. that goes on for quite a bit longer than anyone could sit still for.
IV.) Playing ‘War’ with M.O.D.O.K.
This is just me and M.O.D.O.K. playing the card game ‘War’. All dialogue should be improvised, kept as minimal as possible and related strictly to the ups and downs of the unfolding game, except just before the final play I want to deliver an extended monologue about how ‘War’ is completely predestined by the lay of the cards in the deck, that each play and the final outcome are predetermined before you even start, that with the exception of ‘Candyland’ it is probably the only popular children’s game that involves absolutely no strategy or chance. This should be followed by M.O.D.O.K. saying some curse words under his breath and floating away from the table without completing the game.
V.) M.O.D.O.K. feeds a baby
VI.) Thinking about M.O.D.O.K.
This one is just me thinking about M.O.D.O.K. and some of the stuff we have done together over the years. Not with flashbacks just, like, shots of my facial reactions as I silently remember things.
VII.) “Joanie Loves M.O.D.O.K.”
This is almost exactly like the ‘Happy Days’ spin off ‘Joanie Loves Chachi’ except Scott Baio doesn’t play Chachi, M.O.D.O.K. does. In the very first episode, Erin Moran’s character Joanie dies as a direct consequence of injuries sustained while attempting too kiss M.O.D.O.K. on the cheek as he leaves for work.
VIII.) Getting To Know M.O.D.O.K.
M.O.D.O.K. works on a watercolor still life of a fruit bowl while sharing stories of the many times he tried and failed to kill Captain America.
IX.) What Does This Have to do with M.O.D.O.K.?
This is a randomly selected rerun of the Doctor Phil show that does not feature M.O.D.O.K. in any way.
X.) Basket of Puppies.
In this one, there’s a whicker basket full of black lab puppies. They’re sleeping at first, but then they wake up and start playing and eventually M.O.D.O.K. floats into the scene. And you’re like, ‘Oh, God, I don’t want to watch this’ because M.O.D.O.K. is a Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing. And he’s floating there and you get time to think ‘Well, maybe not, everybody loves puppies’ but the thing is, the second ‘O’ in M.O.D.O.K. stands for ‘Only’ which in this case means exclusively and relates to the ‘K’ which stands for ‘Killing’, which was all he was designed to do, and then it gets awful.
XI.) Charlie Rose
Charlie Rose interviews M.O.D.O.K. at great length, asking penetrating questions about what life is like for a Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing. What are his hopes and dreams? Does a Mental Organism have the same legal rights as a human being, or in fact any legal rights at all? Is M.O.D.O.K. alive in the same sense that we are? Does M.O.D.O.K. have a soul? M.O.D.O.K. discusses his attempt to take over Hydra, the many, many times he has tried and failed to kill Captain America and his lengthy legal struggle to be allowed to play competitive wheelchair basketball. M.O.D.O.K. describes frankly the physical limitations of being a giant head with tiny arms and legs physically attached to a floating weapons platform/chair, and comes to the verge of tears when Rose asks him if there was ever a father figure in his life. M.O.D.O.K. relates some behind the scenes details about Johnny Carson from the one and only time he appeared on ‘The Tonight Show’ and then kills Charlie Rose with a plasma cannon housed in his left armrest.
XII.) M.O.D.O.K. and Gary Coleman
This one is just a few seconds long and exists solely for the purpose of having Gary Coleman say, “Wahchoo talkin’ ’bout, M.O.D.O.K.?”
XIII.) Hide and Seek
We are looking at a tree in a park. There’s some ambient noise. After a long time, very slowly, about one quarter of M.O.D.O.K.’s head emerges from behind the tree, then slips back out of sight. We continue to look at the tree for some time, then it’s over.
XIV.) A Dream About M.O.D.O.K.
It’s the near future, like twenty or so years from now. M.O.D.O.K. and I are living together in a slightly run down condo in Western Massachusetts. It’s kind of like we are married, but kind of not. We have this pet hamster and it’s really sick. It has some kind of tumor or something. It’s just lying on its side in the cedar chips with its eyes open real wide, breathing heavily. M.O.D.O.K. is on line. In the dream I have the feeling that he is always on line, that this is a problem for us. I say, “Don’t you even care about Dave?” which I guess is the hamsters name. M.O.D.O.K. doesn’t say anything. Then he just gives this big sigh. That sigh seems to go on forever.
XV.) M.O.D.O.K. Cake
This is a birthday cake in the shape of a two dimensional M.O.D.O.K.
XVI.) Back in the Day
This is a black and white TV, and on it we see the footage of that one Vietnamese guy during the Vietnam War about to shoot this kneeling Vietnamese guy in the head. You’ve seen the picture a million times, but it’s a still from footage, and this is the footage it’s a still from. The one guy shoots the other guy in the head, and that guy tumbles off his knees like somebody shoved him real hard and blood comes out of his head like the oil comes up out of the ground at the very beginning of the Beverly Hillbillies when Jed is shooting for some food. It’s much more real than the still photo you are familiar with, more visceral, and you know that you will never see that picture again without feeling physically ill, partly because it should have always made you feel that way, but before it was just a famous picture. In the background of the shot, about a block away, a blurry shape floats across the street. Possibly M.O.D.O.K.
XVII.) M.O.D.O.K. for President
This is a silk-screened poster in the Soviet Realist style. The paper is yellow ochre. The inks are red, black and aqua marine. It is a stylized portrait of M.O.D.O.K.
XVIII.) This One is Pretty Offensive
This is grainy super-8 sound footage of several Roman centurions on a desert hill trying to nail M.O.D.O.K. to a cross. They are having a very difficult time because his head is so huge and his arms are so tiny, thin and vestigial that even bent way back, they just barely reach the cross beam. The centurions are grunting and swearing in Latin, and M.O.D.O.K.’s tiny little hands keep popping out of their grasp because it’s hot and everybody is sweaty. Every once in a while M.O.D.O.K. quietly says ‘Owie’.
XIX.) A Dream M.O.D.O.K. Is In, But Not Central To
My daughters are in the living room watching Saturday Morning cartoons, which is odd, because you can watch cartoons whenever now, but when I was a kid they were only on Saturday mornings, so it’s sort of like we are all in the past. I’m in the kitchen peeling carrots. I’m having a really hard time. The vegetable peeler is dull, and the carrots are sort of spastically trembling a little bit, and when I succeed in getting any peel off them at all they kind of bleed. The show the kids are watching has gone to a commercial for some kind of cereal, which has a mascot, like frosted flakes has Tony the Tiger and the mascot is M.O.D.O.K. This one carrot really jerks in my hand and I shout, “Can you kids turn that damn TV down? I’m trying to concentrate in here.”
XX.) Vacation Photo
This is a Polaroid of a mom and some kids I cannot identify at Mt. Rushmore. The Teddy Roosevelt head is M.O.D.O.K.
XXI.) Seedy Bar
This guy in a leather jacket is at the kind of seedy bar. A not very good band with a strung out looking girl singer is playing on a crappy, cramped little stage. The guy peels away from the bar and our POV follows him, like we are looking over his shoulder. He heads into the men’s room and up to a urinal and thank god the angle is such that we can’t exactly see his rig when he takes it out and pees and our POV shifts so that we are looking down into the urinal and the urinal cake has a picture of M.O.D.O.K. on it.
XXII.) Somerville Cambridge Line
It’s 1991 and I’m in my the apartment I lived in back then in Inman Square over the Abbey Lounge and I’m sitting on the shitty, threadbare couch my brother gave me, drinking beer and watching TV with M.O.D.O.K. And I’m not even watching the program, I’m just going on and on and on about how I can’t get a girl friend, like, what’s wrong with me, do I exude some kind of pheromone that actively repulses women or is it just that what girls really get off on, no matter what they say, is to be treated like crap by immature bags of crap that are generally in a band or something who cheat on them, and I’m a reasonably nice guy which is like being a nice guy is some sort of anti matter equivalent of sexiness, so that actual sexiness and nice guyness absolutely cannot coexist and even I know I am being depressing and boring as shit in a sort of proto, loathsome, mens rights kind of way and finally M.O.D.O.K. goes “Jesus fucking Christ, Burbank, can you for five seconds shut the fuck up? I mean seriously, how clear could it be that girls don’t like you because you are a fucking drag to be around, and I’m saying that as your friend.” And I’m quiet for a while because I know he’s right and I can’t decide if I’m going to let my feelings be hurt by a friend just telling me what I already know and eventually I just go, “Yeah.”
M.O.D.O.K. carefully unwraps a Warheads hard candy and places it in his mouth. Both tasks are difficult, owing to his tiny, near useless vestigial arms. You can see on his face right away how sour the candy is, and that he hates it. He takes none of the pleasure some people do in proving he can tolerate the taste, or in experiencing something so sour, but he gamely continues sucking. After about a minute, the lozenge oozes out the corner of his mouth and falls to the ground. There is no way to tell if M.O.D.O.K. actively expelled the candy, or if it just slipped out, owing to the deformities of his abnormally large mouth.
This is just a long, sustained steadycam shot of M.O.D.O.K. He’s outside, on the banks of some river. It’s maybe an hour before sunset. The Camera just stays on him. He isn’t going anywhere, just kind of bobbing gently about four feet off the ground, like a guy treading water, except there’s no water. You have plenty of time to take in just how deformed he is, how uncomfortable it must be for him to do the simplest things. A sparrow lands on the ground a few feet away. Is he going to kill it? We can’t help but think he will. We watch M.O.D.O.K. watching the sparrow. You can hear cars going by in the distance.
This is the day M.O.D.O.K. is going to see a new doctor. In about an hour they will meet. They will evaluate the effectiveness of an antidepressant M.O.D.O.K. has been taking fir the last several years, talk about his mental state and discuss whether it would be appropriate for M.O.D.O.K. to try a different medication strategy. M.O.D.O.K. has told people he feels hopeful about this new doctor and a new approach, but really he doesn’t. He doesn’t think any new pill is going to do anything the old pills didn’t. He’ll go, though, because to people who care about him it’s some sort of indication that things matter. If the new doctor asks M.O.D.O.K. his feelings about being a Mental Organism Designed Only For Killing he will admit that killing long ago stopped making him feel anything. The days he doesn’t have the energy to kill anything feel exactly lie the days he goes through the motions of killing things. Everybody thinks M.O.D.O.K. is depressed because he has never managed to kill Captain America, but honestly when he hears news about Captain America doing stuff he feels nothing. It’s just a piece of news, the same as all the other pieces of news; just slightly different words saying the same thing, that the world is an awful place. On the way back from his visit with the new Doctor, M.O.D.O.K. is going to stop at the 7-Eleven and buy some Pringles, the ones that taste like pickles, if they have that kind. Maybe he will kill the guy behind the counter with the heat ray, or rake the customers with thousands of armor piercing rounds. Or maybe he will just buy the chips and go home.