Who is Zaniac? A Loki Easter Egg Remixes Marvel’s Weirdest Villain
Loki finally connects the dots between X-5 and the Zaniac, but it’s not much of a bombshell.
Loki has been pretty coy about the true identity of it latest antagonist, Rafael Casal’s X-5. Though he’s introduced as an enforcer at the Time Variance Authority, Easter eggs in Loki’s trailers teased a connection to an obscure villain from the Thor comics, the Zaniac. That connection seems even stronger now that X-5 has assumed a new identity and built a plush life for himself on the Sacred Timeline. At some point between Loki’s Season 2 premiere and its second episode, X-5 defected from the TVA and became Brad Wolfe.
Spoilers ahead for Loki Season Episode 2!
When Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Mobius (Owen Wilson) catch up to him in Episode 2, X-5 is already world famous and attending a premiere in ‘70s London. His latest starring role is in a film called The Zaniac, which could be foreshadowing an ominous reveal down the line. Then again, not everything in Loki has played out the way we’ve expected it to. Is the series getting ready to introduce its weirdest comic villain in live-action, or could this be another classic (yet clever) misdirection?
In the comics, the Zaniac starts out as a Mr. Hyde-esque alter ego for the actor Brad Wolfe. He’s later retconned pretty drastically, becoming a vessel for a swarm of demonic parasites (yes, really). Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #23 revealed that Dormammu, the lord of the Dark Dimension, has been using different hosts to house the Zaniac parasites for centuries: Jack the Ripper was even one of his puppets.
It’s still a bit too soon to tell, but Loki seems to be taking Brad Wolfe and the Zaniac in a subtler direction. So far, Brad is just the name that X-5 adopts outside of the TVA, while the Zaniac is the title of the slasher film he stars in. Episode 2 doesn’t spend much time unpacking his new life, either: shortly after his big premiere, Loki, Mobius, and B-15 (Wumni Mosaku) are bringing him straight back to the TVA, this time as a prisoner.
According to Season 2 producer Kevin Wright, X-5 is fulfilling a very specific role in the series. “In a story that is so much about not wanting people to be purely heroes or villains, where everyone has a truth that's somewhere in the gray, we needed somebody at the TVA who could feel intrigued by a life on the timeline,” Wright recently told Inverse. Clearly, his conversations with B-15, who first broke the reveal about variants and the TVA, influenced him in some way. It’s a shame that we don’t get to see how that discovery affects his decision to leave, but there’s still plenty of time to get to know this character more.
There is still time for Loki to reveal that X-5 is actually hosting a bunch of evil spirit worms — but so far, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Still, this character is massively important to the series, if only for the “annoying antagonistic force” he presents to the team. He’s also positioned as a foil to Loki, who’s fresh on the path to redemption just as X-5 is revealing his true colors. Hopefully Loki has more in store for the character: it doesn’t have to involve Dormammu or the Dark Dimension, but a closer look at Brad’s inner world would certainly be nice.