“Truth is this malleable thing”
'Vote Loki' creator pitches a President Loki MCU spinoff [Exclusive]
The MCU just referenced ‘Vote Loki'. Here’s what it was all about.
Loki 4 president! For a narcissist trickster sorcerer with the personality of a praying mantis, there are few occupations in the world that would suit Loki better than president of the United States. A few years ago, in the summer of 2016, comic book writer Christopher Hastings imagined just that in a satirical limited series for Marvel titled Vote Loki.
Five years later, Vote Loki has found its way to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the fifth episode of the Disney+ series, “Journey Into Mystery,” a variant Loki (still played by Tom Hiddleston) appears in the desolate “Void” surrounded by a Mad Max-esque posse. On Loki’s tattered blazer is a red, white, and blue “Loki” button, indicating this Loki was, uh, elected to lead. Turn on the subtitles on Disney+ and you’ll find this Loki is credited as “President Loki.”
In an email to Inverse, Christopher Hastings says he had no idea this was going to happen.
“I found out [they were doing Vote Loki] when a trailer for the show featured the campaign outfit from Vote Loki,” Hastings tells Inverse.
When Inverse exchanged emails with Hastings, it was prior to the episode’s premiere, to which Hastings said he was “very curious to see exactly what from the comic gets into the show.”
“I love time travel and multiverse material,” the writer says in praise of Loki. “I am a big fan of the TVA as a setting. I'm eager to see how it goes, and what it might mean for the next phase of MCU movies, especially since multiverse wackiness seems to be a major part of those upcoming movies.”
In 2004, while a student at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, Hastings wrote and illustrated The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, a serial webcomic about a doctor who is also a ninja. The series was a cult hit, at one point attracting 110,000 unique visitors a day. By 2011, Hastings was doing work for Marvel, writing single issues of A+X and Howard the Duck. With Chris Bachalo, he co-created Gwenpool — a bizarre blend of Spider-Man ex-girlfriend Gwen Stacy and Deadpool — and penned the 2016-2018 solo series The Unbelievable Gwenpool, teaming up with Japanese studio Gurihiru to create the character’s deeply unique comedic tone.
But during Gwenpool, Hastings spent the summer of 2016 playing with a different Marvel trickster: Loki. In the four-issue miniseries Vote Loki, Hastings spoofed the chaos that was the 2016 race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. In Vote Loki, an ambitious Loki seeks the seat of the president with a very unique campaign strategy: being honest about lying.
With “President Loki” having a minor cameo in the MCU, Inverse caught up with Hastings to look back on his explicitly political riff that took place inside the Marvel Universe.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Take me back to the origins of Vote Loki. When did the seed for the story plant in your mind? What was going on in the world of culture/politics at that time?
Gosh, it's tough to come up with one thing specifically, because we were making the comic by the seat of our pants, and so many things got scrapped and rewritten along the way, often at the last second. But one of the core topics I wanted to cover had to do with narratives versus reality. It's kind of a given that in the world of politics, truth is this malleable thing, and now more than ever all you have to do to make people believe a lie is to repeat it enough times.
I liked the idea of Loki playing with narrative in a way that wasn't necessarily outright lying, more bending. (Except the bit about being born in Maryland. One outright lie there.) The other driving point I wanted to explore was how Americans can have a tendency to incorporate their national-level politics into part of their identity, and what that does to a person, particularly when a character like Loki is the one on the ticket.
What sort of conversations did you have with Marvel about a political satire starring Loki? What was the elevator pitch that got approval?
Like I said, things changed so many times, I'm not even entirely sure how many versions were kind of approved and then scrapped on the way to get to what was actually published. I think it was more that I assured editor Wil Moss that I could jump on the book (which Marvel was determined to make; they just hadn't decided who was writing it when I was pitching) after talking about the stuff about narrative and identity, and the basic idea that the viewpoint character shouldn't actually be Loki but a journalist covering Loki's campaign.
Vote Loki introduced the character of Nisa Contreras. What was the primary inspiration for her?
That would be my real-life friend, Nisa Contreras. She's not a journalist, but she’s someone I'm sure could take down Loki if he were a) real and b) got on her bad side. I wanted the story to be more about witnessing the tension and the comedy of Loki running for president, about not knowing what was up his sleeve. And so I came up with [a] journalist.
Vote Loki was published over the summer of 2016 when the election was ramping up in awkward ways. (“Pokémon Go to the polls!”) Did the real election influence the comic in any way, including any specific moments?
The comic was a direct response to things that were happening during the 2016 campaign, specifically that a “joke” candidate that was obviously terrible could get pretty far with enough media oxygen and a comfortable political system that ignored the disgust a lot of people had with it.
Vote Loki ran for four issues. Was there ever a possibility for more?
If it was a smash hit, I believe there would have been a President Loki to directly follow Vote Loki.
What do you think of Vote Loki's inclusion in the TV series?
Top five surreal moments of my life.
Do you think Vote Loki could be the focus of its own adapted series/movie?
Oh for sure. You wouldn't even have to take the material from our comic; there's so much more brand-new political madness that a new Vote Loki series or movie could tap into.
A lot has happened in the five years since Vote Loki was published. What are your feelings looking back now in 2021? Did your opinions on the book ever change?
There was a lot happening in American politics in 2016 I missed and wish I had been able to see to include. For example, how broken political polling has become. I had no idea, along with the rest of the country.
It was tricky to do a cohesive narrative amongst a shifting Marvel continuity we had to stay inside; a lot of feedback and demands from various sources within the company and an election that was changing every single day. It was truthfully (heh) a quite stressful book to write, but looking back on it I'm proud to see what we absolutely nailed about American culture. In particular, what we had to say about politics as entertainment and identity, and how a slippery enough politician can not only shake scandal [off] by speeding up an already fast news cycle but embrace and twist it to their advantage.
Loki will air its final episode July 14 on Disney+. Vote Loki is available now.
Correction 7/8/21: An earlier version of this article did not give credit to Christopher Hastings as the co-creator of Gwenpool, and that the Gwenpool series was written after Vote Loki. This article has been updated with the correct information.