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The Improbable Origin of M.O.D.O.K.: Reign Delay

At the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con Fred Van Lente and I were invited to pitch a comic for Marvel Comics’s brand-new (at the time) digital comics initiative, based on the fact that Fred was already an established writer at Marvel and a number of staffers were fans of the comics we were producing independently, namely ACTION PHILOSOPHERS and COMIC BOOK COMICS. We very quickly landed on the idea of doing a funny M.O.D.O.K. comic as we were both huge fans of the Jack Kirby created villain (Fred and artist Francis Portella had already done an awesome revival of SUPER VILLAIN TEAM-UP with MODOK as the star) , and came up with the basic premise right there at our table - M.O.D.O.K. would hit rock bottom and be forced to move back in with his parents in Erie, Pennsylvania (which is also my hometown).

A few months later in a creative meeting at Marvel, Fred pitched our bare-bones idea and (so I’m told) it KILLED. Marvel wanted a formal pitch ASAP, but Fred had deadlines up to his eyeballs, so immediately after he left the meeting he called me on his sprint to the subway to let me know that if I wanted the job drawing it (I totally did, duh) I was also going to have to co-write it with him, starting yesterday.

So I wrote a quick story outline and descriptions of the principal characters (MODOK, his parents, his sister, a couple of childhood bullies, a personal favorite C-lister super hero for him to fight) and emailed it to Fred that night. With his insider knowledge of Marvel's upcoming storylines, Fred tied the plot to an upcoming Marvel crossover (Dark Reign) and substituted a trio of AIM minions for the sister character.

Meanwhile I sketched a couple of character designs and gags (including the infamous "MODOK DEMANDS PANCAKES!") and sent it off. The comic got green-lit almost immediately, and they even agreed to letting me be credited (and paid!) as co-writer, despite a complete lack of writing credits on my resume. With the comic now officially on the schedule and Fred STILL too busy to add it to his own workload, Fred told me to just start writing the script and to hand it off to him if I got stuck.

Well, that never happened and in less than I week I had finished a full 20 page script. Whoops.

Fred read it, made a few small edits and we sent it off to our editors, Jordan White and Nate Cosby. Fred then (very generously and without any prompting from me) told Nate and Jordan I had done the bulk of the actual writing and then bowed out of getting writing credit or payment for the comic, leaving me as sole writer, and still as the artist. Somehow I also convinced Jordan and Nate that I could color and do lettering and they let me do that too (thanks guys - I *really* needed the money).

The turnaround was FAST and BRUTAL. I had to pencil, ink, color and letter 5 pages a week for four weeks strait. I’d finish on a Friday, and the pages would be live the following Wednesday. At some point, they decided to collect the comics into a printed one-shot that hit comic stores in September 2009.

It was such a thrill to see my name (and ONLY my name) on a real "616 Continuity" Marvel™ Comic. MODOK: Reign Delay (editor Nate came up with that title) is available in print as part of the MODOK: HEAD GAMES collection (with a 4-part title story by Jordan Blum, Scott Hepburn and Patton Oswalt that is top-notch!) or found in the back issue bins at your local comic store. Almost every convention I've done since someone brings copies to sign or asks for a MODOK sketch or just tells me how funny they thought it was. I'm really proud of what I managed to pull off and it remains one of the most fun projects I've ever had.


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