When you think Marvel the first name you think of might not be M.O.D.O.K., but series co-creator Jordan Blum would love to change that. The name, which stands for Mental Organism Only Designed for Killing, doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, but it does give you an idea about the series’ darker side. Along with series co-creator and star, Patton Oswalt, Blum is responsible for bringing one of the freshest, funniest and most complex supervillains to the masses in Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. exclusively on Hulu.
The series follows the menacing and mechanical villain whose plans for world domination are constantly being foiled by his new boss as well as his crumbling marriage. We spoke with Blum, a seasoned comedy writer who not only makes M.O.D.O.K. disastrously funny but an extremely empathetic individual, even if he is designed to kill. You can listen to the interview in its entirety below.
“I got into filmmaking and TV and writing and went to school for it and then came out to LA and, you know, did every kind of job from being a director’s assistant or I was having to like, walk this guy’s dog and, you know, break up with his girlfriend for him over email…like the worst jobs you could have,” joked Blum. “Now M.O.D.O.K. is my first show so it’s been a fun ride from picking up dog crap to getting to write about a floating murder head.”
Blum is best known for his work on comedies like Community and American Dad but before finding his way to television, he explained that he grew up thinking he wanted to become a comic book artist.
“I’ve been a comic fan since day one. There’s like a picture of me in a highchair with a Captain America comic, just like thumbs up. And so that was kind of my first love,” Blum said. “I could draw Spider-Man, but I couldn’t do perspectives, and I had no patience for backgrounds and stuff. I just wanted to draw, you know, superheroes… I just didn’t have the discipline for it.”
Although he did not find success as a comic-book artist, the life-long comic fan has now found a way to incorporate some of his most beloved superheroes into M.O.D.O.K. and shed a light on some of Marvel’s biggest and all-time favorite characters.
“I thought Marvel would be like, ‘You can’t do that with our characters but we’re so in love with these characters, especially the big ones they let us use, that we were respectful of it and we understand that these are bigger than our show and we could bend them, but we can’t break them,” explained the writer. “We’re going to tell these crazy big Marvel stories, and they’re going to, you know, get absurd, but you have to care about these characters, and you have to invest in them.”
Despite being a huge comic fan, especially when it comes to the X-Men, Blum knew there was a fine line between giving some unknown Marvel characters depth and levity, versus oversaturating the series with loads of easter eggs and hundreds of different characters each episode.
“We wanted to bring in just the funniest people who maybe didn’t have that background so that anyone could watch the show and stop Patton and me from putting in 1000s of references and wanting to use every character,” said the X-Men devotee. “There’s a lot of restraint in not being like ‘Alright, throw all the X-Men in there, then all of the Avengers…Let’s just do Endgame!’ So, we really tried to make it so that the characters that we chose service the story instead of just cramming them in there.”
Finding inspiration from other formerly obscure Marvel characters, like Groot and Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy, Blum knew that, given the right love and care, M.O.D.O.K. had the potential to become not only a relatable character but even a franchise-launching character in the future.
“I think any Marvel character has that potential, you know, to have a universe built around them so I think we were encouraged by things like Guardians of the Galaxy, where it’s like, you know, hopefully, we can do this right, and connect it in a way that the movie did,” expressed Blum.
“There’s something about like, the underdog heroes and villains that always speak to me and M.O.D.O.K. was this guy who wants to be taken seriously. He wants to be Dr. Doom, right, but he’s not and he knows it, and it drives him crazy. And to me, that’s very relatable.”
M.O.D.O.K. is not only a relatable character, but he’s fun, empathetic, and is surrounded by a colorful slew of personalities that can be attributed to the “stacked” cast of voices that accompany Oswalt throughout the 10-episode series. The cast features the voices of Melissa Fumero (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Aimee Garcia (George Lopez), Wendi McLendon-Covey (The Goldbergs), Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation), Beck Bennett (Saturday Night Live), Jon Daly (Kroll Show), and Sam Richardson (Veep). Talent like Jon Hamm and Whoopi Goldberg can even be heard on the show.
“It was unbelievable!” exclaimed Blum, “it was like every week all our first choices said ‘Yes!’ and a big part of that is, you know, everyone would love to work with Patton I think people wanted, especially a lot of the more dramatic people like Whoopi or Jon Hamm, they love to do comedy, would love to come in and play and even Whoopi Goldberg said that like ‘No one asked me to do this stuff. This is so fun!”
Blum further described how working with talents like Jon Hamm, who would play around with fun voices in the studio, was not only “nuts” but helped to give credibility to not only M.O.D.O.K. as an animated series, but one that was almost entirely based off of comic books.
“For a while, especially in Hollywood, comic booky was like a dirty word…like comic booky is the best way to describe things in my opinion because it means it’s gonna be fun and big and colorful and insane, and you’re gonna have these crazy ideas, but they’re gonna be grounded, kind of with humanity,” advocated the comic-book fan. “When you have things like Thor Ragnarok that’s doing that when you can lean into the insanity of these things in their creation, you know, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about there. That’s what makes them amazing.”
Having the opportunity to create such an illustrious, comic-book-themed television show, was not only an ideal job for Blum, but it allowed him to fulfill a life-long dream as well: writing his very own comic book. “It was the greatest feeling in the world to hold it in my hands, and have it be real. I’ve been wanting to do this forever!”
Blum and Oswalt again co-wrote M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games which takes Marvel fans deeper into the ruthless and brilliant leader’s mind as he becomes haunted by memories of a family that he never even had.
“We were able to kind of take some stories that we didn’t get to do on the show that we wanted to,” said Blum, the now comic-book author. “The version on the show is a little different than the one in the comics so it was kind of fun to like, incorporate parts of the show into the comic book, not just do the show and figure out a way to kind of reconcile and bridge the two different versions.”
“Go watch Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. on Hulu. Go read M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games from Marvel Comics. And I hope everyone enjoys it,” encouraged Blum. “We had a ton of fun making it so I hope people have as much fun watching it.”
‘M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games‘ can be found on Marvel.com but Blum encourages fans to watch the Hulu series on top of diving into the comics. You can stream all 10 episodes of Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. exclusively on Hulu. And, make sure to check out the entire interview with Jordan Blum in The ‘Verse!