Marvel’s Loki trailer is finally here, and it gives us more obscure Marvel continuity weirdness than we could have possibly hoped for. Right from the outset, we learn that Loki is a prisoner of the Time Variance Authority, an obscure group first introduced in the pages of Thor comics of the 1980s.
But don’t let us spoil it for you…take a look at this trailer first, and then we’ll get into the history of the TVA.
The TVA was introduced in the legendary Walt Simonson Thor run back in 1986. In Thor #372, an officer from the distant future named Justice Peace showed up in the present to work with Thor in preventing a killer from unleashing a terrible outbreak. Basically, 12 Monkeys only Thor’s there, so the good guys win.
While the focus of the issue is Justice Peace’s shabby “Judge Dredd meets Orion meets a bad cosplayer” appearance, he mentions working for the Time Variance Authority, an organization that allowed him entry to the past to change things for the better. It wasn’t that big a deal and, really, the same issue had a side story about Beta Ray Bill and that’s the part worth remembering.
Also back in the ’80s, Marvel had a writer/editor/penciler named Mark Gruenwald. Gruenwald created the likes of Crossbones and Falcon and the Winter Soldier antagonist US Agent, while also writing the miniseries Squadron Supreme, which was Marvel’s counterpart to fellow superhero deconstructionist works Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns. The beloved Gruenwald was a know-it-all about everything Marvel and could keep track of continuity better than anyone else at the office. That inspired fellow writer/artist Al Milgrom.
In the pages of Fantastic Four Annual #24, Milgrom decided to flesh out the TVA by showing it as a comedic bureaucracy based around keeping order in the multiverse and throughout time. While the many, many employees were shown to be faceless suits, their managers were all depicted as clones of Mark Gruenwald. Because who else in the multiverse had such ability to keep continuity straight?
Owen Wilson appears to be Mr. Mobius, the main Gruenwald-type on the Loki show.
The TVA was mostly played up for laughs, but occasionally got involved in bigger stories. Few that are really worth talking about because they ended up either very ineffective or just too complicated to satisfyingly explain because time travel and alternate realities mixed with bureaucracy is just a pain to talk about. One of the more notable instances – at least in the sense that it’s the first time I had heard of them – was when Marvel decided to take their anthology series What If? and give it a five-parter storyline about Uatu the Watcher and the TVA saving the multiverse from utter destruction.
The TVA makes sense as a major fixture in Loki’s series for several reasons. For one, the logo of the series is constantly shifting and features fonts from different movies, showing that time travel is indeed a big part of this. It’s also an out for putting the genie back in the bottle when it comes to using time travel as a plot device for the greater MCU. I mean, after Avengers: Endgame, the ability to go back is still on the table, even if it won’t change the present.
In fact, the TVA’s intervention might just be the fallout of Endgame’s time heist. At the very least, two chaotic new timelines were created from the storyline and since 2014 Thanos and his cronies are all dust now, it makes sense that an escaped 2012 Loki would be hunted down by whatever version of Justice Peace and his faceless friends are like.
Then again, this could also possibly tie into the coming of Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. While we don’t know his deal quite yet, he’s easily the kind of threat that the TVA would be built to deal against.
Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Loki arrives on Disney+ in May 2021.