Loki season 2: What is the Zaniac in Marvel Comics?

Zaniac in Marvel Comics
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Loki season 2 episode 2 is all about actor Brad Wolfe and his movie, Zaniac. And while we won't spoil exactly what goes down in the episode, the story of Brad Wolfe and the cursed film Zaniac are inspired directly from Marvel Comics in one of the MCU's most obscure adaptations to date.

In Marvel Comics, just like in the MCU, Brad Wolfe is an actor starring in a horror movie titled Zaniac, in which he plays the movie's eponymous slasher killer, as seen in 1982's Thor #319 by writer Doug Moench and artist Keith Pollard.

While filming a scene involving some explosives, Wolfe was caught in an accidental blast which triggered lingering atomic energy from the Manhattan Project (comic book science!), somehow summoning forth a demon from the Dark Dimension, which bonds with Wolfe.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

The Dark Dimension is of course the home of Doctor Strange's archenemy Dormammu, and Strange's wife Clea who is Dormammu's niece. In fact, the demon which bonds with Wolfe is a creation of Dormammu himself, who created the entity out of a swarm of demonic horrors, bonding them into a single form.

What's more, Wolfe wasn't the first human the unnamed demon had possessed. It originally to Earth in the 1890's, possessing a man named Tom Malverne who murdered several women on the streets of Whitechapel in London - a series of crimes the London press attributed to "Jack the Ripper," one of several explanations Marvel Comics has given to the mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity over the years.

Because of this history, when Wolfe bonds with the demon in the present day, he becomes imbued with the demon's murderous spirit which leads him on a murder spree of his own, recreating the crimes depicted in his own Zaniac movie until he's apprehended by Thor.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Later, the Zaniac demon possesses a different guy, a criminal named 'Thug' Thatcher (very original nickname) who actually winds up murdering Thor's girlfriend Jane Foster. Thor then enlists the help of the TVA to travel back in time and prevent Thatcher from ever becoming the Zaniac, saving Jane's life as a result.

We won't spoil how the story comes to Loki, but needless to say, the TVA comic book connection is definitely something to look out for. Elsewhere, Loki's director confirmed to us that this version in the show isn't the same as that comic version. "Go a few timelines over and you'll probably find someone who's more like the villain character," he said.

Loki season 2 streams new episodes every Friday on Disney Plus.

George Marston

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)