Last night’s Super Bowl game gave viewers a preview of the upcoming Disney Plus shows. While the bulk of the footage was devoted to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and WandaVision, there was also a quick glimpse of Loki. The God of Mischief was wearing what looked to be a prison jumpsuit with the letters “TVA” stamped on it. If you’re wondering just what those initials meant, and why Loki would be captured in the first place, read on.
Meet the TVA, cops of time and reality
The TVA, or Time Variance Authority, first appeared in 1986’s Thor #372, by Walt Simonson and Sal Buscema. They’re the custodians of chronology, monitoring the multiverse to get rid of any timelines that are deemed too dangerous. If anyone tries to mess with the past or future, the TVA takes measures to stop them, although they’re by no means infallible.
Despite their power, they often fail to prevent cases of time travel or reality altering. (Case in point: the X-Men.) But they’re not the only ones who keep eyes on the timelines — they’ve frequently gotten into territory fights with the likes of other cosmic forces in the Marvel universe, like the time-traveling Kang the Conqueror and his Dynasty, or the Congress of Realities.
But if you do get caught by the TVA, and found guilty, you’ll get deleted from the timeline and have your entire history undone via the Retroactive Cannon, or the Ret Can. Get it?
Another thing about the TVA: They’re made up of a literally faceless bureaucracy. Most of the agents are artificial clones called chronomonitors, who are born every time a new reality comes into existence. There are clones at the managerial level, as well, and they actually get to have faces — specifically those of Marvel Comics editors Mark Gruenwald and Tom DeFalco. When the laws of the TVA need to be enforced, it falls to higher-ranking judges called the Justices (a bit of a pastiche of Judge Dredd), and all of them, from the managers to the Justices, answer to the TVA’s leader, the mysterious Mr. Alternity.
The TVA are in Loki, and maybe more than that
The TVA has gone previously unmentioned in the MCU up to now, but including it in Loki makes perfect sense. This version of the Trickster hightailed it out of 2012 with the Tesseract in Avengers: Endgame. Set photos have indicated that Loki will be hopping around time trying to influence human history, which would of course put him on the TVA’s radar. This may even explain the recent casting of Owen Wilson; he could wind up being Mobius M. Mobius, their best-known member. Loki being Loki, no prison can hold him for long, hence his promise to “burn this place to the ground.”
Like WandaVision, Loki is expected to tie directly into 2021’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Given that the first Doctor Strange was big on time manipulation, Loki may get a shout-out or appearance in that movie as well. And there’s always the upcoming Disney Plus series She-Hulk. In the comics, the TVA helped Jen Walters’ law firm during a time-travel related trial, and she nearly wound up on the wrong end of the the Ret-Can herself at one point.
Justin is a Kansas City, Missouri, freelance writer and is on Twitter often, @GigawattConduit. He also is an avid lover of M&M McFlurries from McDonald’s, and accepts that he has an addiction to them.