Ant-Man, the Wasp and Quantumania: Quantumania radically changes MODOK’s, Origin Story
MODOK is an MCU version with many of thematic connections to its comics counterpart. Ant-Man, the Wasp, and Quantumania give him a new origin.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe case study is fascinating in adaptation. Numerous filmmakers were tasked with balancing the creative demands of adapting Marvel Comics characters and stories while maintaining the integrity of the original Marvel Comics. This is especially true for Ant-Man, the Wasp, and Quantumania as it reimagines a very iconic villain.
The MODOK of Quantumania illustrates how the MCU adaptation process works. The character in the film shares the characteristics, look, and purpose of the classic comic idea. His fate, character, and origins are tweaked to better reflect the overarching character arcs within the franchise. MODOK, while they may share many similarities, is very different in real life.
MODOK first appeared in Tales of Suspense #93, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. A.I.M. scientists have used mutation to make their mutants. Tarelton was given superintelligence by A.I.M. scientists. While the procedure worked, and George was further augmented using lethal technology, the process left George far more ruthless than ever and made him even more ambitious. MODOK quickly turned on his creators and took a name appropriate to his new form. This made him a constant opponent of Marvel’s heroes, facing off against the likes of Captain America, and Iron Man. Hulk, The Avengers, and Captain America (a feud that continued even after MODOK was briefly with the team). MODOK has been subject to a few minor retcons about his history over the years. This includes revelations about his father (A.I.M. Alvinm, Founder of MODOK, who was his father and has a connection to A.I.M. remain constant.
The MCU MODOK version does not have any direct connection to A.I.M. but is still the result of some serious super-science. Darren Cross was the principal antagonist of Ant-Man. Cross is a former student of Hank Pym. After becoming increasingly furious with his mentor, he tried to sell Pym Tech including the Yellowjacket helmet. Scott Lang confronted Cross and caused damage to his suit. After that, he was reduced to the Quantum Realm at a disjointed pace, which left him with a peculiar and misshaped body. Cross was saved from death by Kang’s technology and given a new lease on life as MODOK.
How the MCU Changes MODOK while Staying True To the Concept
It’s remarkable how MODOK can be so different while still being true to the inherently cheeky spirit of MODOK. They are two completely different characters, with very different motivations. The Cross MODOK is a bizarrely eccentric character who manages to be both understated and exaggerated in his dialogue. He becomes a funny punch-line throughout most of the film. The comic MODOK was a much more singular figure that, after being transformed into the present form, became an issue for the entire universe rather than having any personal ties with the heroes.
Both versions of Cross are ultimately different characters. Cross’ redemption also helps the heroes in a manner that comics MODOK cannot. Cross showing courage against Kang and revolting against him feels like the comics MODOK. He is not afraid to backstab or attack anyone he chooses, but it does seem consistent with the comics MODOK. The comics portray Cross as a character that can quickly become comically pathetic, or suddenly deadly.
MODOK is also very faithful in his appearance. MODOK’s character design has made him one of Marvel’s most absurd villains. Comics such as MODOK (by Jordan Blum. Patton Oswalt. Scott Hepburn. Carlos Lopez. Travis Lanham.) have explored more dramatic elements of MODOK’s backstory and motivations. These elements remain true to the MCU-based version of the character, despite his being quite different. MODOK, in his function and style throughout Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania feels very much in line with his comic character as a memorably strange minor villain — even though the film takes some liberties with the source material in depicting the character. It is a great example showing how the MCU can adapt concepts from the comics while finding ways to integrate them into its universe.
Ant-Man, the Wasp, and Quantumania are now in theaters.