It never hurts to read the comics, especially if you’re looking for answers to the many mysteries of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the movies don’t always take after the comics so closely.
In the comic book version of Civil War, Captain America dies (sort of). And any comics reader will tell you Nick Fury is usually smoking a cigar. But in the movies? Not so much.
But in the latest episode of Loki, the MCU takes one of its biggest liberties with the source material so far. And it could have far-reaching implications for both the Disney+ show and this cinematic universe at large.
The TVA in the comics...
The Time Variance Authority, an organization created to maintain a single timeline and prevent a war of the multiverse, made its debut in Marvel’s comics in Thor #327 by legendary Thor collaborators Walt Simonson and Sal Buscema in 1986.
A sort of cosmic spoof on bureaucracy, the TVA were/are staffed by faceless employees — called “chronomonitors” — who spawn any time a new reality is created. As clones created by quantum technology, the TVA employees in the comics don’t have a life before or after the TVA. They exist solely to monitor their assigned reality.
That’s not to say everyone at the TVA is faceless, though. Mobius M. Mobius, a manager at the TVA played by Owen Wilson in Loki, is also a clone whose facial likeness was inspired by the real, late Marvel writer Mark Gruenwald. Because of Gruenwald’s long stint and deep knowledge of Marvel continuity, his face became Mobius’ face as an in-joke to Gruenwald’s uncanny talent in Marvel’s offices to remember the minutiae of Marvel’s complicated canon.
The TVA in the MCU...
Unfortunately for Gruenwald, you can throw all that comic book lore out the window when it comes to the TVA in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In Loki Episode 3, “Lamentis,” Sylvie tells (our?) Loki that the organization’s employees are variants, aka, “regular people” from their respective timelines who were arrested by the TVA, brainwashed, and conscripted into service.
In Loki’s case, it’s Hunter C-20 (played by Sasha Lane). When Sylvie needed to craft an enchantment on C-20, she used C-20’s memories of her favorite margarita joint back on Earth.
“I had to pull a memory from hundreds of years prior, before she even fought for them,” Sylvie explains to Loki, who is shocked at what he just heard: Before she joined the TVA?
“I was told that everyone who works for the TVA was created by the Time-Keepers,” a stunned Loki argues.
Sylvie tells him that’s bunk. “They’re all variants, just like us.”
As Loki makes clear, “They don’t know that.”
Loki doesn’t fit the personality of a revolutionary. He’s selfish, arrogant, and usually down for a good time, not a hard day. But with Loki in the midst of great change in the course of his “employment” at the TVA, Loki may very well become what he never thought he’d be: A leader.
I’m not going to pretend I know what the writers of Loki have up their sleeve. But it’s not a small moment when Loki learns a dark truth about the TVA, which we now know kidnaps people from the timeline and employs them as amnesiac “fun police.” While the plot of “Lamentis” moves along after Loki learns the truth of the TVA, it’s only a momentary pause, a pin to revisit later in order to introduce court-mandated action set piece to leave audiences happy and wanting more.
There are bigger, MCU-wide implications about the TVA, too. Once Loki does... whatever it is he will do when he finally meets the Time-Keepers and/or takes control of the TVA, will he restore the TVA’s staff of variants back into their timelines? Will Loki destroy the TVA so that it never kidnapped people from their time at all? Will Loki actually let a multiverse run amok for a certain sorcerer to clean up in next year’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness?
There’s also the matter important to Loki: Mobius (Owen Wilson) lied to him. Earlier in Loki, Mobius informed Loki that the TVA is staffed by creations of the Time-Keepers, which explains why that one employee didn’t know what a fish was. How could they? They live their life behind a TVA desk. But clearly, they’ve been wiped of their personal memories, which makes it easy for the Time-Keepers to keep them in control.
If there’s one thing we know about Loki, it’s that you never keep him in control.
Loki streams new episodes Wednesdays on Disney+.