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Loki: He Who Remains in Marvel Comics explained and his MCU future explored

panel from Thor #245
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Loki episode 6 is now streaming, and the season finale delivers on the promise of the previous episode's cliffhanger by bringing Loki and Sylvie past The Void to meet who and what dwells at the end of time - but they seem just as surprised as viewers might have been by the identity of the person they meet there. 

Spoilers ahead for Loki episode 6.

He Who Remains

still from Loki episode 6 (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

When Loki and Sylvie reach the Citadel at the End of Time, they find the being known as He Who Remains - who is quickly revealed as the mastermind behind everything they've experienced with the TVA, Mobius, and Ravonna.

And as it happens, He Who Remains is a variant himself - but of a totally different Marvel Comics character than the one from whom he takes his name

Though the MCU version of He Who Remains shares many key elements in common with his comic book counterpart, the character's adaptation brings in aspects of another key Marvel character with an upcoming MCU future - Kang the Conqueror.

Kang isn't namechecked specifically, but He Who Remains is played by Jonathan Majors, who will portray Kang in the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, whose likeness appears on a statue of Kang elsewhere in the episode. 

And what's more, He Who Remains shares his appearance and many key character traits with one of Kang's most well-known comic book variants: Immortus.

The future of He Who Remains in the MCU may be tied specifically to Kang the Conqueror and his many other variants (the many participants of the war for the Multiverse laid out in Loki episode one's telling of the TVA's origins), but the character's comic book namesake has an interesting history all his own, which may point to some big ramifications for upcoming MCU properties.

We'll dig into it all right now.

Who is He Who Remains?

page from Thor #245

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

As the creator of the faux Time-Keepers and one of the dwellers of the Citadel at the End of Time, the MCU version of He Who Remains shares most of what we know of his comic book counterpart's mysterious, unrevealed history. 

First appearing in 1976's Thor #245, the comic book incarnation of He Who Remains is not an aspect of Kang, but is instead the last remaining agent of the TVA (whose comic book origins are also a bit different than their MCU adaptation), though he's not identified as being part of the TVA in his first appearance. 

He Who Remains creates the Time-Keepers through a series of genetic experiments as a way to maintain the TVA's work without the once vast manpower of their now-defunct organization. But his experiments go terribly wrong, and rather than creating beings with a directive to maintain the order of the timestream, He Who Remains inadvertently creates the exact opposite - the Time-Twisters, beings of extreme chronological power who are dedicated to sewing chaos in across as many timelines as possible.

When the Time-Twisters broke free and joined up with the villainous time-traveler known as Zarrko the Tomorrow Man, this drew the attention of Zarrko's longtime enemy Thor. With the God of Thunder and his paramour Jane Foster now involved, He Who Remains was able to prevent the Time-Twisters from being created to begin with, and reboot them as the Time-Keepers - the three "space lizards" seen in Loki as mindless androids under the control of the MCU's He Who Remains.

Interestingly, there was a fourth, corrupted Time-Keeper which He Who Remains banished to ancient Egypt in roughly the same time period Kang was there ruling as Rama-Tut, the time pharaoh - a connection that could come up again when Kang takes a bigger role in the MCU.

As for the Time-Twisters, a version of them from a branched reality - let's call them variants, shall we? - remained in existence, resurfacing time and time again to challenge the Time-Keepers. They even once impersonated the Time-Keepers to recruit Kang's jilted ex-lover Ravonna as well as Kang's future self Immortus, the same Kang variant that seems to have been combined with He Who Remains for the MCU who is himself a dweller in the Citadel at the End of Time in comics.

While He Who Remains has, well, remained in the Marvel Universe, he's only had a handful of appearances since his debut back in the '70s - though as we'll explain, some of those scant comic book appearances could inform some big ideas coming up in the MCU.

He Who Remains in the MCU

He Who Remains

still from Loki episode 6 (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Just like in comic books, the MCU version of He Who Remains is part of the TVA, though rather than being the last existing agent of the organization, he's apparently its founder, and the 'man behind the curtain' for the Time-Keepers, the Sacred Timeline, and the TVA itself.

Also as in comic books, the Time-Keepers are the creations of He Who Remains, though rather than genetically engineered time monitors, they're simulacrum designed to fool the agents of the TVA into adhering to his personal Sacred Timeline. The Time-Keepers' dark counterparts the Time Twisters haven't appeared, but their name was used for one of the TVA's time-manipulating weapons.

Speaking of which, that so-called 'Sacred Timeline' actually amounts to He Who Remains' plan to maintain victory in the Multiversal war with his own variants from across time and space by preventing their respective realities from forming, and to ensure his own survives - the same mission shared by the Time-Keepers in comic books.

This is where the person of whom He Who Remains is a variant in the MCU becomes particularly important. As He Who Remains explains, the participants in the Multiversal war described in animated form in Loki episode 1 were all variants of He Who Remains, all of whom develop the technology to traverse the Multiverse sometime in the 31st century. 

Though he's not named specifically, He Who Remains is clearly established as a variant of Kang the Conqueror, a Marvel Comics villain who has conquered many eras of many timelines, and who will be played by He Who Remains actor Jonathan Majors in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

In the MCU, He Who Remains appears to be sort of mashed-up with Immortus, a comic book variant of Kang who has often worked alongside the Time-Keepers and Ravonna, who is Kang's ex-lover in comic books. Aside from being played by Jonathan Majors, he wears an outfit almost exactly like that of Immortus (minus Immortus' giant helmet) and plays a role similar to that of Immortus in apparently keeping Kang the Conqueror in check.

Now, He Who Remains is apparently dead in the MCU, having been killed by Sylvie in revenge for her treatment by the TVA at his behest. But his future in the MCU, aside from his variant self Kang's impending debut, may lie in those last few appearances of He Who Remains in comic books (remember we said we'd come back to that?).

What If...?

page from Avengers Forever #9

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

One of He Who Remains' few comic book appearances took place as part of the story 'Timequake' - a rare five-issue event storyline told in the usually very self-contained What If…? title (which shows alternate versions of popular Marvel Comics characters and stories) in which who else but Immortus and the Time-Twisters go to war, resulting in bonkers ripples across multiple realities that lead to some of the title's strangest stories ever. 

What If…? is actually the next Disney Plus MCU show scheduled to arrive on the streaming service now that Loki has wrapped. What If…? will be adapted as an animated series that sticks true to the comic book source material's themes by showing new, 'variant' takes on popular MCU characters and stories in every episode.

With Loki star Tom Hiddleston stating that the show "sets up a bunch of stuff in the MCU," it may be no coincidence that the specific issue of the 'Timequake' story in which He Who Remains appears is titled 'What If the Watcher Saved the Multiverse?" - especially considering the war for the timestream shown in 'Timequake' is specifically fought between characters who were adapted into Loki. 

Could What If…? feature an overarching narrative beyond each episode's individual alt-reality, maybe one in which the show's host Uatu the Watcher is actually the hero?

He Who Remains Loki character poster (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

On the note of a war between incarnations of Kang, that brings us to He Who Remains' other major appearance in Marvel Comics, in the story Avengers Forever. In Avengers Forever, a team of Avengers gathered from past, present, and future come together to intervene in a war between Kang and Immortus.

What are the chances that What If…? could lead to a team-up between some of the alt-Avengers featured in its episodes to get involved in some aspect of a fight between multiple variants of Kang, Avengers Forever-style? We know we've brought that story up before (and we'll be honest, if Marvel Studios keeps teasing it, we'll mention it again), but all the pieces are officially in place in the MCU for an adaptation.

No matter what comes next, it's clear that He Who Remains is only the first of many MCU variants of Kang we'll see. And if the war between the Multiversal Kangs that seems to be on the horizon goes anything like the many ways it has gone in comic books, we've got a whirlwind in store for us as the MCU gears up for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania - all of which seem to tie directly back to themes established in Loki.

Kang is one of the best time-traveling 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)