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Everything to Know About the Villain M.O.D.O.K. in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

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Warning: This post includes spoilers for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

A zany new character in Marvel’s latest release, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, will amuse but might also confuse viewers who lack deep knowledge of the comics. If you watched the first Ant-Man movie, you might recognize the actor who plays M.O.D.O.K.—Corey Stoll—who originally played Darren Cross. In the first movie, after Cross steals back the Yellowjacket suit, he and Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) get into an epic battle that lands them in the bedroom of six-year-old Cassie, Scott’s daughter. Cross threatens to hurt Cassie, and to power down his suit, Scott has to go subatomic to get inside. This leads Scott and Cross to the Quantum Realm, but only Scott manages to get out.

We don’t hear from Cross in the second movie, even though Hank (Michael Douglas) manages to go into the Quantum Realm to retrieve Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), who had been stuck there for 30 years. This brings viewers to the threequel, Marvel’s first big release of the year. At the beginning of the movie, the audience learns that Cassie and Hank are tinkering with some sort of signal to the Quantum Realm. Once Janet learns they’re sending a signal, she demands they turn it off, but they get sucked in, with Hope (Evangeline Lilly), Janet, and Hank getting thrust into one part of the realm and Cassie (Kathryn Newton) and Scott getting spit out into another.

As they venture through the Quantum Realm to reunite with one another, Scott and Cassie get captured by M.O.D.O.K.—an acronym for Mechanized Organism Designed Only For Killing (though Scott points out that it should be M.O.D.O.F.K). M.O.D.O.K brings them to Kang the Conqueror, played by Jonathan Majors. Here’s everything you need to know about the character and his comic book origins.

M.O.D.O.K.’s role in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and the MCU

Before Cross was stuck in the Quantum Realm, he was the antagonist of the first Ant-Man film. The charismatic scientist was Hank’s protegé and wanted to make a replica of the Pym Particles, which Hank created and hid from humanity with the fear that they might get into the wrong hands. Cross was able to make something similar, and was attempting to capitalize on his creation by auctioning the product off to potential buyers, including SHIELD, The Ten Rings, and HYDRA. He also made a shrinking suit called the Yellowjacket, which ultimately became his demise and was the reason he got stuck in the Quantum Realm.

Cross didn’t appear in the second movie but made his return in Quantumania as M.O.D.O.K. His presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is peculiar because audiences are not given the full extent of his backstory. Mainly, we know that Kang saved Cross, and he is Kang’s assistant who does whatever Kang asks him to, including trying to kill Cassie again. The two of them fight, and after Cassie figures out how to make herself big, she’s able to stop him. Cassie tells M.O.D.O.K. that he doesn’t have to “be a dick” and to think for himself, so during the heat of the battle between the Langs/Pyms and Kang, M.O.D.O.K. breaks Kang’s force field and the ants that Hank unionized are able to stampede Kang and take him away.

Audiences never get a clear explanation of how exactly his head got so big or if he’s a variant of M.O.D.O.K. from a different multiverse because, in the comics, he’s an very different character with a different backstory.

M.O.D.O.K. in Tales of Suspense (1959) #94
M.O.D.O.K. in Tales of Suspense (1959) #94Marvel

M.O.D.O.K.’s role in the Comics

The character was introduced to the Marvel Universe in a 1967 issue of Tales of Suspense, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. In the comics, the acronym for M.O.D.O.K. is slightly different—the M stands for Mental, not Mechanized. The man in the chair is a technician named George Tarleton, an employee of AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics), which astute Marvel viewers remember was introduced in the movie Iron Man 3. AIM is a think tank that is known for selling weapons to supervillains.

While at AIM, he goes under a mutagenic mutation in hopes of becoming more intelligent. This enlarges his head while keeping his arms and legs the same size, forcing him to use a hoverchair to get around. He later takes control of AIM with a plan to take over the world. Spoiler alert: he does not take over the world and is eventually taken down by Red Hulk and Red She-Hulk.

There has been a push for M.O.D.O.K. to make his MCU debut for several years now. He almost made an appearance in the ABC show Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but that plan was later scrapped. Peter Dinklage was also pitched to play the part by Captain America: Winter Soldier co-writer Christopher Markus, but Dinklage’s talents were utilized as the blacksmith, Eitri, in Avengers: Infinity War. Additionally, there was a short-lived, stop-motion eponymous animated series on Hulu. But now that M.O.D.O.K’s fate seemed certain—he appears to have died in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumaniait remains to be seen whether the character will be seen again in the MCU.

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Write to Moises Mendez II at moises.mendez@time.com