(A version of this article was shared with Pirates and Princesses and published on October 5, 2023.)
The self-proclaimed “God of Mischief” is about to make his return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with season two of the Disney+ series Loki. The confounding combination of supervillain, antihero, and little brother has one of the most complex and entertaining stories in the entire MCU, which lands him squarely as perhaps the most popular Marvel villain.
Where did Loki come from, why is he an alligator, and what exactly is a Nexus Event? Let’s explore the answers to all those questions, and learn a little bit about this ever so boastful and verbose (yet endearingly charming) God of Mischief, in this edition of Five(ish) Fun Facts.
Who’s Your Daddy?
Loki is widely known as Thor’s less impressive brother – hence his constant quest to best his sibling. But did you know the two are not even technically brothers? Both call Asgard home, and both (for the most part) acknowledge Odin as their father. Odin is indeed Thor’s biological father, making Thor the son of Odin – or Thor Odinson. Loki, on the other hand, was born into another species called the Frost Giants, on the planet Jotunheim. Loki’s biological father is Laufey, king of the Frost Giants, who tenderly abandoned Loki when he was a young child. This technically makes Loki the son of Laufey – or Loki Laufeyson.
Over the course of his MCU journey, Loki is conflicted over where his loyalties lie. While he may be constantly trying to outdo his brother for their father’s favor, Loki does reach the end of his wits at times and fully turns on his family. He even went so far as to lead the Frost Giants into Asgard to kill his father during Thor’s coronation as king. But the enemy of one’s enemy is often a mutual friend, and Loki rejoined Thor in the fight against their hated (and downright evil) sister Hela. In case you couldn’t tell, there are some serious family issues going on with the Odinsons. Loki later made the ultimate sacrifice when he tried to take down Thanos amid his brother’s capture.
In the Beginning…
Like his brother Thor, Loki originated in Norse mythology, as a cunning trickster (hence his title God of Mischief) who had the ability to change his shape and sex. A version of Loki made his first Marvel Comics appearance in a Timely Comics (which later became Marvel Comics) publication Venus No. 6, (August 1949). Here, he was depicted as a member of the Olympian gods exiled to the Underworld, resembling the traditional image of the devil.
It would be over a decade later when Loki returned, in a form much closer to the way we know him today. Disney Legend Stan Lee, his brother Larry Lieber, and artist (and fellow Disney Legend) Jack Kirby redesigned Loki into his modern day version, which debuted in Journey into Mystery #85 (October 1962).
The King of Variants
Loki is the poster child for the Marvel MCU’s heavy use of the “multiverse”, whereby different variations of characters – called variants – branch apart from the common timeline of the universe. Loki’s ability to change his appearance contributes to his aptitude for multiversal re-creation.
A few of Loki’s most popular variants appeared in the Loki television series.
Sylvie is the Loki variant that Agent Mobius and the Time Variance Authority (TVA) are hunting in season one of the Loki series. She was taken from her timeline by TVA Judge Ravonna Renslayer when she was a child in Asgard. Sylvie has since decided to take down the big bad TVA.
The Void Lokis
While visiting the “Void” in the Loki series, we meet several amusing variants of Loki, including Classic Loki (circa 1962), Kid Loki, Boastful Loki, President Loki, and even Alligator Loki (the breakout star of the series). Some of these colorful characters helped Loki escape the Void, and its all time and space-consuming inhabitant Alioth.
While doubling down on the Multiverse, the Loki series introduced us to a lexicon of brand new terms (at least, brand new for folks who weren’t comic readers). Let’s briefly refresh ourselves on these terms before settling in for season two.
Sacred Timeline – Miss Minutes (that adorable animated orange clock) succinctly explained the basis of the Sacred Timeline, within which all “legal” realities are allowed to occur.
Time Variance Authority (TVA) – Referenced above, the TVA governs all activity on the Sacred Timeline, making sure all realities conform to those which are allowed within the Timeline.
Nexus Event – This is an episode in time whereby a being strays off the Sacred Timeline, starting an illegal “branch” timeline.
Reset – The act of cutting an illegal timeline from existence, thereby terminating any future realities which could stem from that timeline.
Pruning – This is the act of banishing those who break away from the Sacred Timeline to cause a Nexus Event.
The Void – This grim wasteland is located at the end of time, where everything (and everyone) pruned by the Time Variance Authority goes to await eventual destruction.
Tesseract – Otherwise known as a Cosmic Cube, is the translucent blue casing which safely contains the Space Stone – one of the Infinity Stones which allows for travel through space and time.
Clear as mud?
Loki has appeared in one form or another in nine MCU productions. He factors heavily in three of the four films in the Thor franchise, including Thor (2011), Thor: the Dark World (2103), and Thor: Ragnarok (2017). Outside the Thor franchise, Loki is the main villain in The Avengers (2012), and a somewhat redeemed sacrificial hero in Avengers: Infinity War (2018). Alternate variants of Loki appear in Avengers: Endgame (2019), the Loki series (2021) What If…? (2021), and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023).
All versions of Loki in the MCU are played brilliantly by Tom Hiddleston, who adds just the right combination of humor, charm, and sleeze to make a character we can’t help but love.
You can’t deny it – Loki has an irresistible way of wiggling his way into your heart. Will his wits and charm be enough for a chess match with Kang the Conqueror in Loki Season Two? You’ll have to turn on Disney+ on October 5th to find out.