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What is the TVA from Loki in Marvel comic books?

Time Variance Authority
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Loki season one is on the books and The Time Variance Authority (or TVA) from the Disney Plus' streaming series has proven to not be what we thought it was and exactly what we thought it was. 

And oh yeah, it seems like it has an MCU future too and will continue to be major players, perhaps in more Marvel Studios projects than just Loki season two

Charged with pruning timelines and variants of beings that threatened the one "sacred timeline," it 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 the writer's room of Loki planting some conversations about determinism versus free will that seemed to fall on the side of the latter. 

Almost a narrative cosmic extension of the Sokovia Accords from Captain America: Civil War which divided the Avengers, Marvel Studios eventually came around to clearly side with the anti-Accord (more free will) faction. 

And while there are TVA players like Mobius M. Mobius and Hunter B-15 who proved to be heroes, the same seems to have happened with the TVA. We're not supposed to be rooting for the dictatorial determinism the TVA represents. 

That said, it wields enormous cosmic power over all reality and is poised to still be an MCU presence moving forward, one way or another. 

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.

Spoilers ahead for Loki episode 6.

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)

So all the complicated Marvel comic book history brings us to the here and now, and it now it looks like both the Time-Keepers and the TVA are shams ... sort of. 

The Time-Keepers are total fake-ass mechanical fronts but the TVA is real after all and a creation of He Who Remains, a variant of Kang the Conqueror who in episode 6 seems to be insane but who has warped but arguably noble(ish) intentions. 

He Who Remains isn't hellbent on rule, he just believes pruning timelines is the way to ensure the "sacred" timeline isn't threatened by multiversal war and by much worse versions of Kang than himself. 

Kang, of course, will be the villain of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, played by Jonathan Majors, who also played He Who Remains. It's likely, however, Majors will play Kang much differently than the over-the-top, comical, Willy Wonka-ish He Who Remains. 

Majors may in fact be called don't to portray many different versions of Kang for years to come.  

Loki episode 4 revealed everyone who works for the TVA - including Owen Wilson's Mobius - is also seemingly a variant of a normal human person that has been mind-wiped by He Who Remains (probably with some assistance by Miss Minutes), and not the direct creation of the Time-Keepers as they all believed, which explains Mobius's pining for a jet ski. 

That is further confirmed in episode 6 and we learn who Ravonna is and where she comes from.

You can read more about that above but to briefly fill you in, she was a vice-principle of a high school (yeah, that pen) and her real name isn't Ravonna. 

There are still a ton of questions to be answered about how the TVA came to be, but it certainly looks like it will have a future in the MCU, at least in Loki season 2. 

However, in true time-travel paradox fashion, it appears the TVA will return in a much different form. 

In the final moments of the Loki season 1 finale, after Loki and Sylvie are offered control of the TVA to continue He Who Remain's work and the two fight over the offer, Sylvie pushes Loki through a time door back to the TVA, kills He Who Remains, and variant timelines begin branching off in uncontrolled fashion.

Loki goes searching for Mobius and Hunter B-15 (who are now allies of Loki) and finds them, except this Mobius and this B-15 don't know Loki at all. 

They've been mind-wiped (again) and/or are more variants.

He discovers he's at either the only remaining version of the TVA or a variant where the giant iconographic Time-Keepers statues have been replaced by a statue of Kang, which means the threat He Who Remains warned Loki and Sylvie about has already made his move. 

still from Loki episode 6

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Oh boy. 

Loki season 1 ends on several cliffhangers, that could be picked up in season 2 or a number of different projects. 

There is December's Spider-Man: No Way Home, which seems to have multiversal implications and connections to the Doctor Strange sequel in March 2022. The Multiverse of Madness co-stars Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch, whose children Billy and Tommy appear to still exist somewhere in the multiverse as seen in the final scene of WandaVision.  

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has indicated Loki would tie into Multiverse of Madness, and now there are already reports Hiddleston will appear in that film, meaning a TVA appearance is totally on the table as well. 

Moving forward, the TVA could also serve as a multiversal bridge to other properties like Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool and the X-Men, since we know they're both on their way to the MCU. 

And of course, the TVA's first big comic book story arc came in Fantastic Four, another franchise destined for an MCU debut who may benefit from having a window in from another universe.

We'd also be remiss not to mention the upcoming She-Hulk Disney Plus streaming series starring Tatiana Maslany in the title role. Considering She-Hulk's history with the TVA, there's reason to consider Loki story threads could find their way there too. 

Whew!

As we say, there are still a lot of questions about the TVA to be answered, but Loki foundational philosophical debate about determinism (which the TVA represents) versus free seems and the hero turns by Mobius, B-15, and Loki himself, and even Slyvie's actions indicate the TVA will ultimately be put out of the business of pruning timelines and variants and being the arbiter of who gets to exist and make choices.

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