The new MODOK stop-motion animated series bears a deep reference to The Bar With No Name, which has a long history in Marvel comics.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for MODOK Season 1, streaming now on Hulu.
Easter eggs in the Marvel animated series MODOK are almost a reason to look within themselves, and the cuts get really deep very quickly. Season 1, Episode 4, “If Saturday is… for the Boys!” focuses on a particularly chosen Marvel concept: The Bar With No Name, a low-end supervillain hangout that MODOK is forced to slip into after being diverted from a more posh location. It’s a funny trope, and it gave the show a chance to play with some of Marvel’s less worthy supervillains. The bar dates back almost 40 years in comics and has a deservedly odd reputation for reasons both in the canon and behind the scenes.
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MODOK ends up in The Bar With No Name after being kicked out of Soho Lair for non-payment of dues. He’s laughed at by people like the Leader and Mister Sinister, and comes to what appears to be the lowest. The bar is full of “a bunch of fisters”: criminals whose grand plan is to knock down the wall to the bank’s vault and get all the money before the police show up. They include a collection of also-rans gimmicky: Poundcakes, Armadillo, and Tenpin, among others. MODOK uses them in a plan to win back Soho Lair’s good graces, only to find that he prefers the company of the sisters.
The episode’s digs are very sharp and The Bar With No Name shares a sordid and wacky story with the villains who occupy it. He first appeared in Captain America # 318, in the city of Medina, Ohio and later emigrated to New York without any explanation, but retaining a similar clientele and purpose. The Medina location featured a group of abandoned supervillains discussing how to deal with the Scourge of the Underworld, who had killed their numbers one by one. This served as the main purpose of the bar wherever it was, and it moved around a bit.
From the start, the bar was played for a laugh: anonymous and inexpensive, designed for villain D-listers. The next issue, after its first appearance, bore the faces of its inhabitants and threatened to kill them all; the joke was that none of them were recognizable to anyone except die-hard Marvel fans. The Bar With No Name was played for similar jokes in its subsequent comic book appearances. In The Punisher War Journal Vol. 2, n ° 4, for example, the bar hosted a vigil for the aptly named Stilt-man, but was interrupted by a bomb planted by Frank Castle. Plus, Spider-Man’s frequent appearances were always tinged with humor.
The bar migrates from place to place apparently, although the reasons are a bit unclear. His move from small town Ohio to Manhattan was awkward – for the sake of expediency – and didn’t make much sense. He’s still moving around New York City as well, in part because he’s periodically demolished in bar fights, though the fragmented nature of his clientele also makes a mobile address a virtual necessity.
This makes it the precise type of detail in the barrel that MODOK wants to target: something weird that doesn’t quite match the rest of the Marvel Universe, but persists and nonetheless develops its own eccentric energy. The goons inside the bar matter less than the bar itself, as this is where the show’s hapless anti-hero doesn’t want to be, but finds a home nonetheless. Sometimes the deepest cuts are the most loving.
Marvel’s MODOK stars Patton Oswalt as MODOK, Aimee Garcia as Jodie, Ben Schwartz as Lou, Melissa Fumero as Melissa, Wendi McLendon-Covey as Monica Rappaccini, Beck Bennett as Austin Van Der Sleet, Jon Daly as Super Adaptoid and Sam Richardson as Gary. The series is currently airing on Hulu.
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