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Loki: The Time-Keepers in Marvel comics explained

Loki Sacred timeline
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Loki season one has now concluded, and episode 6 reveals the truth of the power behind the Time Variance Authority (TVA) and their false leaders the Time-Keepers, who were revealed as mindless androids in episode 4.

But what's the real story behind the Time-Keepers in the MCU? And what does the truth behind their power actually mean?

Spoilers ahead for Loki season 1.

still from Loki episode 4

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

As Judge Ravonna Renslayer, agent Mobius M. Mobius, Loki variant Sylvie, and Loki himself discovered, the MCU Time-Keepers are - or were - in fact simply a ruse to hide the true power behind the TVA, the enigmatic being known as He Who Remains.

In comic books, The Time-Keepers are also creations of He Who Remains, whose MCU history and comic book history are a bit different - but unlike in the MCU, the comic book Time-Keepers are actually beings of tremendous power.

We'll break down everything you need to know about the TVA from comic books right now.

Who are the Time-Keepers?

Time-Keepers

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

True to their nature as beings outside of time who exist and interact with people and events throughout Marvel history, the Time-Keepers have a somewhat unique timeline in terms of how their real-world origins line up with their comic book story.

In the continuity of the Marvel Universe of comic books, the Time-Keepers are actually the successors of the TVA, who exist far in the future after the TVA has all but disappeared. However, in real-world terms, the Time-Keepers actually predate the TVA, having been introduced years earlier before their stories were eventually connected.

To tell the tale of the Time-Keepers, we've got to jump around in Marvel history a bit, as the Time-Keepers have been added retroactively into the context of many Marvel stories that predate their actual debut. Oddly enough, the Time-Keepers are predated on the page themselves by their own evil duplicates, known as the Time Twisters - and it's all part of the origin of the Time-Keepers themselves.

Unlike the MCU, which for the first three episodes of Loki presented the Time-Keepers as "space lizards" who come from a mysterious place to right the "Sacred Timeline" and quell the unrest caused by the worlds of the multiverse going to war with each other, comic books present the Time-Keepers as artificial beings created by a mysterious entity known only as He Who Remains, the last living agent of the TVA.

Time-Keepers

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

In order to maintain the order and chronological supremacy of the TVA, He Who Remains creates artificial beings meant to both channel chronal energy, and provide a record of the timeline to whatever society arises when the universe ends and restarts. However, his experiment goes totally awry, and instead of creating the Time-Keepers, He Who Remains inadvertently creates the Time-Twisters, a trio of beings who, rather than maintaining order in the timeline, become unstuck in time and travel throughout the history of the Marvel Universe wreaking havoc.

Incidentally, the term "Time-Twister" has appeared in Loki already, referring to the security devices the TVA uses to manipulate their captives' position in time and space, though no reference to "Time-Twisters" as beings has been made yet.

As for the comic book Time-Twisters, He Who Remains manages to enlist the help of Thor (though Loki isn't really in the picture at all) to defeat the Time-Twisters, and successfully create a new version of the Time-Keepers, who take the form of three somewhat lizard-like beings called Ast, Vorth, and Zanth, and who begin their duty as the guardians of the end of time, working somewhat in concert with the TVA - though their connections aren't quite the same as in the MCU.

Still, that was not the end of the Time-Twisters, whose villainy eventually ropes in characters such as Kang and Scarlet Witch, who have important MCU roles coming up. When He Who Remains creates the actual Time-Keepers after getting a visit from himself and Thor that shows him what the Time-Twisters will become, the Time-Twisters are shunted into an alternate timeline where they are never replaced by the Time-Keepers and continue harassing and disrupting the timestream.

The Time-Keepers in the Marvel Universe

Time-Keepers

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Weirdly enough, it's actually the Time-Twisters who have had the most impact on the Marvel Universe rather than the Time-Keepers - but their influence comes through their tendency to impersonate the Time-Keepers to manipulate people.

Chief on the list of Marvel characters who have become unwitting pawns of the Time-Twisters is Immortus, an older version of Kang the Conqueror who works as an agent of the Time-Keepers in direct conflict with his younger self, trying to right the wrongs of Kang's conquest.

However, when the Time-Twisters impersonate and replace the Time-Keepers, they put Immortus on a quest to eliminate a variety of timelines and beings that the Twisters feel will threaten their supremacy.

Targeting what they call 'Nexus Beings' - beings tied to specific realities and timelines who have a direct connection to the Multiverse - the Time-Twisters task Immortus with eliminating none other than Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch and the Nexus Being of the core Marvel Universe, with the intent of using Immortus as a receptacle for them to absorb her vacated power.

Time-Keepers

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

As part of the scheme, the Time-Twisters also try to kill alt-reality versions of Franklin Richards, Jean Grey, Vision, and Odin. Though these machinations are eventually stopped, Immortus' plans to get at Wanda Maximoff eventually result in the events of House of M, in which Wanda has a psychological break and rewrites reality entirely.

Immortus' associations with the Time-Keepers/Time-Twisters don't stop there. In fact, it's Immortus' orders from the Time-Keepers to stop his younger self Kang from altering the timestream any further that result in the story Avengers Forever (opens in new tab), in which a group of Avengers from past, present, and future are brought together to help end a war for the timestream brought on by Kang.

And of course, Immortus and Kang's rivalry also includes Immortus' partnership with Ravonna Lexus Renslayer, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw as one of the TVA's Judges in Loki, who in comics is Kang's jilted lover turned enemy. Ravonna acts as an agent of Immortus, reuniting with Kang in a secret ploy to destroy him at Immortus' behest. 

These schemes-within-schemes eventually lead to Ravonna trying to take over the Avengers by manipulating one-time member Doctor Druid and others, along with an attempt by Kang to do the same thing by subverting Tony Stark, who is then temporarily replaced by his own younger self.

During their last attempt to destroy the so-called Nexus Beings, the Time-Twisters were apparently eliminated themselves.

Time-Keepers

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

The Time-Keepers are teased to be returning to comics this August as part of the Kang the Conquerer limited series, as they've been shown on Peach Momoko's variant cover. 

But it remains to be seen if their comic book history will be retconned to reflect their MCU incarnation. 

The Time-Keepers in the MCU

Time-Keepers

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Though the Time-Keepers don't have the same power or position as in comic books, as they're simply a ruse to hide the identity of He Who Remains and the true purpose of the TVA.

But there's still some interesting stuff to take from the Time-Keepers' MCU introduction - particularly the ramifications of their story told in Loki episode 1 about their creation of the TVA as a result of a Multiversal war.

Thanks to the reveal of He Who Remains, who is in the MCU a variant of Kang the Conqueror, we now have a strong understanding of what that war actually was - a battle between many variants of Kang all vying for supremacy over countless timelines.

This is reinforced in Loki episode 6, which shows a variant TVA in which the statues of the Time-Keepers seen all over their headquarters are replaced with apparent statues of Kang, down to actor Jonathan Majors' likeness and Kang's classic comic book outfit.

Loki

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Though the Time-Keepers are all but defunct in the MCU, there's still potentially some life left in them yet. 

For one thing, even in comic books the Time-Keepers are artificial beings created by a higher power - and they aren't even the first try He Who Remains made at creating beings to guard the timestream. That honor goes to the villainous Time-Twisters, who could appear as variants themselves in Loki season 2.

And of course, that brings up the obvious possibility that a variant version of the Time-Keepers could somehow arise going forward, perhaps even with their power intact in another timeline. 

With the Multiverse on the table, and seemingly infinite branching timelines now expanding throughout the MCU, anything could happen.

If you're reading this, you're probably a Loki fan. In that case, make sure you've read all the best Loki stories of all time.

George Marston
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)