What is the TVA from Loki in Marvel comic books?

Loki episode 2
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Loki season 2 just got its first action-packed trailer, and once again, the action centers on the Time Variance Authority - better known as the TVA.

Charged with pruning timelines and variants of beings that threatened the one "sacred timeline," the TVA was first presented in Loki episode 1 as an organization for good that served to prevent multiversal war. 

But that veneer was undermined early by some pretty extreme tactics, and by the organization's insistence on controlling the free will and destinies of others.

That said, the TVA wields enormous cosmic power over all reality - and even alt-realities - and they're likely only going to become more and more prevalent in the MCU as Loki returns for season 2.

As such, an examination of the TVA's rich Marvel Comics history could likely still provide valuable insight into the role it will play in the MCU's future. 

So keep reading for all the TVA comic book background and some thoughts on where this is all leading in movies and on Disney Plus.

What are the Time Variance Authority and Time Keepers?

image of the Time Variance Authority

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

The Marvel Universe history of the Time Variance Authority is mysterious and a bit convoluted – as one may expect, given they deal with and originate from infinite branching universes and timelines. Even the real-world origins of the TVA and their sister group the Time-Keepers, which are much easier to trace, have their strange twist and turns.

We'll start at the beginning and try to keep the back and forth to a minimum, given just about everything to do with the TVA sorta happens at multiple points in Marvel history simultaneously, and even the way the characters were developed jumps back and forth in time somewhat, thanks to retcons and time travel shenanigans.

The Time Variance Authority was created in 1986 by writer/artist Walt Simonson in Thor #371. In that story, Thor teams up with an agent of the TVA named Justice Peace (a hilariously over-serious pastiche of Judge Dredd, complete with grimace, helmet, and sci-fi motorcycle) to stop a time-traveling threat, though no other real lore about the TVA is revealed.

It wasn't too long before Simonson brought the TVA (and Justice Peace) back in his Fantastic Four run, with Justice Peace taking the Fantastic Four before a tribunal of judgment for meddling with time – including Reed Richards using a special device to battle Doctor Doom between the seconds of time, causing havoc to the timestream.

This revealed more about the TVA, including their headquarters in a place called the Null Time Zone, which exists in a pocket dimension outside of time. Many of their agents use the Justice title, including Justice Peace, Justice Love, and more. Though the TVA sometimes uses outside agents such as Thor or the cybernetic space bounty hunter Death's Head, all of their employees are genetically engineered for their specific jobs.

Simonson also introduced Mobius M. Mobius, a high-ranking TVA bureaucrat based on late Marvel editor/writer Mark Gruenwald, known for his encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel history. Mobius is played by Owen Wilson in Loki.

(Interestingly enough, Gruenwald also wrote a long Captain America run that has formed the basis of much of Disney Plus's current MCU streaming show The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, including creating John Walker.)

From there, the TVA's history gets more than a bit weird, as it's time to bring in the Time-Keepers.

image of the Time Keepers

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

The TVA, which is formed under unknown circumstances sometime in the distant future of the Marvel Universe, will itself someday be replaced by a different group of multiversal monitors, the Time-Keepers, created in 1976's Thor #243 by who else but Mark Gruenwald (yes, the Time-Keepers technically predate the TVA in the real world, despite coming after in the Marvel Universe. It's like we said… time travel shenanigans and retcons).

Far, far in the distant future, the last living Time Variance Authority agent, known as He Who Remains, will engineer a group of beings designed to eternally monitor, and if necessary, manipulate the time stream to maintain order. The first experiment goes awry, resulting in the Time-Twisters - evil beings with control over time who wish only to conquer.

With the help of Thor and his allies, He Who Remains manages to defeat the Time-Twisters (who will return as villains time and time again) and create a proper version of the Time-Keepers, who are established in their post as the monitors of the timeline at the end of time.

The Time-Keepers are first seen in Loki in animated form and as sculptures and massive statues that are ubiquitously present all over the TVA headquarters. 

In fact, the presence of the Time-Keepers iconography was so conspicuous in Loki episode 2, it felt like Marvel Studios was trying to misdirect viewers, and that was exactly the case. 

The Time-Keepers have proven to be a Wizard of Oz-like sham and front for He Who Remains, a Marvel comic book character that has been adapted into a variant of Kang the Conqueror.

The TVA and Time-Keepers in the Marvel Universe

image of the Time Variance Authority

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Given how often Marvel's comic book heroes and villains muck around in the multiverse and the timestream, it's no wonder that the TVA and the Time-Keepers have had their share of dealings with plenty of recognizable (and MCU-connected) characters.

From the TVA's earliest appearances alongside Thor and the Fantastic Four, they've operated as semi-neutral guardians of what they see as natural law and order hunting down heroes and villains alike for time transgressions.

Aside from taking the Fantastic Four to task, the TVA also encountered She-Hulk, who was working as an attorney for the superhuman law firm Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg, and Holliway (Goodman, Lieber, and Kurtzberg are the real names of the 'founding fathers' of the Marvel Universe, publisher Martin Goodman, Stan Lee/Stanley Lieber, and Jack Kirby/Jacob Kurtzberg). Though she ran afoul of the TVA by warning a time-traveling version of the then-dead Hawkeye of his fate during a trial, she later also saved the TVA from the villainous Clockwise, earning herself a pass.

The TVA has also gone head-to-head with none other than Deadpool multiple times, especially in the course of Deadpool's association with his longtime frenemy Cable (a time-traveler himself). Most recently, Deadpool actually invaded the TVA headquarters in an attempt to kill Cable who was being held prisoner there, as the TVA had mistaken Cable for his evil clone, Stryfe, who was on a time-traveling murder spree as part of the series Despicable Deadpool.

Comic books are bananas, and it's great.

Then of course there are the Time-Keepers, who have their own separate but sort-of-also-kinda parallel history with many Marvel characters.

The Time-Keepers' longest association is with Immortus and his younger self, the time conqueror Kang. Immortus first encountered the Time-Keepers when they instructed him to kill Wanda Maximoff the Scarlet Witch, a so-called Nexus Being with an intrinsic connection to Marvel's multiverse who would someday be responsible for great tragedy (which wound up being true, actually… specifically because of what Immortus did next).

Instead of killing Wanda, Immortus manipulated events to eliminate Scarlet Witch's children William and Thomas, a complex story all on its own, partially adapted in WandaVision.

image of the Time Variance Authority

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

In the course of Immortus's employment with the Time-Keepers, the villainous Time-Twisters subdued the Keepers and secretly replaced them, then ordering Immortus to capture Wanda Maximoff instead of killing her to use her status as a Nexus Being to ensure they could never be defeated by the Time-Keepers. In the end, Scarlet Witch rejected the power granted by Immortus as part of the scheme despite what it could have meant for her children, and the Time-Twisters were defeated, with Immortus trapped in time as a battery for their chronal energy.

Immortus later escaped when the actual Time-Keepers returned and sent him to recruit an army of Avengers from throughout time to defeat Kang, who was threatening the entire timestream by declaring war on the Time-Keepers and their jurisdiction. These events formed the landmark story Avengers Forever, which went on to have larger ramifications for the core Avengers title of the time.

Oddly, despite starting out as allies of Thor, and having ongoing dealings with Asgardians for many years, neither the TVA nor the Time-Keepers have really encountered Loki at all. Their only very brief comic book encounter (so far) involved Loki helping Wolverine escape arrest at their hands.

Loki did serve as an Agent of Asgard for a time, however, acting as Asgard's secret enforcer as penance for his misdeeds, which could be an inspiration behind Loki's TVA adventures in the MCU show.

The TVA and Time-Keepers in the MCU

image of the Time Variance Authority

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Loki season 2 looks to pick up exactly where the end of season 1 concluded - with Loki and Mobius reuniting to deal with the fallout of the arrival of Kang in the MCU. And that's especially poignant since Kang made his official debut as the villain of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

Though Kang himself isn't seen in the Loki trailer, his variant Victor Timely does, picking up from the post-credits scene of Quantumania, which also featured Loki and Mobius. We're not exactly sure how it all connects just yet - but the Loki trailer does offer some interesting concepts that are likely to arise in the show.

still from Loki episode 6

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

For one thing, Loki seems unstuck in time - something the TVA seems to think is impossible, but which is happening nonetheless. So at least we've got some idea of what Loki and the TVA are dealing with.

But another interesting point is how many TVA Agents are shown in the trailer in civilian clothes, seemingly leading lives of intrigue outside the organization - something that's sure to have bigger implications in the show.

We'll find out more when Loki season 2 premieres October 6 on Disney Plus.

Kang and Immortus figured a lot into the comic book history of the TVA. And they both figure prominently in Newsarama's look at the greatest time-traveling comic book villains of all time

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)