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Marvel has really taken off with their streaming shows lately! Next up is Loki with Tom Hiddleston’s return as Thor’s mischievous younger brother. It will debut on Disney + on June 11, 2021.
Marvel’s version of Loki dates back to 1962 when he made his debut on the pages of Journey into Mystery # 85 as Thor’s rival. Seeing Loki as the evil opposite of Thor’s virtuous heroism is a pretty gross oversimplification of the Norse myths from which Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby drew the characters. But we’re not here today to look for that. (Maybe another post.) Instead, let’s take a closer look at the history of Marvel Loki and how it can – and has already influenced – the upcoming TV show.
There is more than one Loki
Loki was Thor’s archenemy for decades. Some writers gave it more nuances than others – I can only recommend Walt Simonson’s run, starting with Thor from Walt Simonson Vol. 1.1 – but he was still little more than the bad guy. His main goals were to take over Asgard and get revenge on his hated brother Thor and Thor’s annoying Avenger friends. This representation has only begun to change in the past decade.
During the siege, Loki helped Norman Osborn invade Asgard. When things got out of hand, Loki seemed to feel bad and tossed himself together with Thor and his company to bolster their powers so they could fight better.
Loki was delighted with his efforts, but this is Loki we are talking about. He has contingent liabilities for his contingent liabilities. And so, not long after, he was revived as the adorable little kid Loki, utterly innocent of the crimes and bitterness of his former self. Everyone in Asgard liked him once.
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But again … this is Loki. A fragment of his old self had survived the explosion and he destroyed Kid Loki’s soul while taking control of his body. And yet this Loki was completely unique from the older and younger versions. Indeed, he felt guilty about killing himself and decided to forge a new and better path.
In case that’s not enough Loki for you, an evil Loki from another future traveled into the past to mess things up for his past self. He decided that the only way out was to destroy and recreate yourself. Since then he has redesigned himself as the god of stories (as opposed to mere lies).
If you count it means we have Original Loki, Kid Loki, Not Kid Loki, Future Loki and New Loki. Given that the upcoming show is about Loki breaking time and being forced to fix things, we might see several Lokis there too, but man I hope not. I need a family tree to keep track of all of these Lokis as they are.
Loki is doing his best
As part of his Be Best-er campaign, Not Kid Loki has reunited the Young Avengers and joined their ranks. Towards the end of his tenure with the Young Avengers, Loki magically aged to full adulthood. He did this so that he would have enough power to fight an interdimensional parasite that was targeting his friends. Marvel did this to sell more comics to the Hiddle-Stans.
Helloooo, Norse (God).
This Loki made a deal with the Allmother, the rulers of Asgard at the time, to complete missions on her behalf in exchange for removing the criminal record of his original self from existence.
None of that means Loki is nice – he makes a habit of abandoning his teammates in the middle of a fight to use his own point of view – but he makes real efforts to break the endless cycle of being Asgard’s designated villain . Even if it turns out that the All-Mother would prefer to remain in this role in order to ensure a secure future for the rest of Asgard. So if Lokis Loki makes a real reform effort, expect resistance from those who favor the status quo.
Loki is gender specific
In the original myths, Loki sometimes wore clothes and / or turned into a woman. Newer writers, particularly Al Ewing, have interpreted this to mean Loki is gender specific, and portrayed him as such in comics like Loki: Agent of Asgard. Even Odin, the god of bad parenting, now respectfully calls Loki “my child who is both son and daughter” so that no one else will ever have excuses.
Odin said trans rights.
Given that the MCU’s idea of having a revolutionary queer rep is a five-second appearance by a random gay man on Avengers: Endgame, I have no hope that Loki’s gender fluidity will be recognized on the show. But it’s good to know.
Loki was almost president
At the end of the Loki trailer you can briefly see how Loki carries a campaign button “Vote Loki”. This has been taken out of the comics in a big way: Vote Loki, to be precise. After the whole thing with the “Agent of Asgard” didn’t work out and Loki had destroyed and recreated himself, he embarked on a new career path: politics! Seems like a natural fit for a professional liar / “storyteller” doesn’t it?
Why did Loki decide to run for president? That remains vague, although the comic offers several possible alternatives, none of which I won’t spoil here. It was pretty clear, however, that he actually didn’t want the job and had ulterior motives to throw his horns in the ring. I imagine Lokis to be similar to Loki in this regard. Would he be worthy of the name if it weren’t?