In the entire history of comics, eighty-three years long as we know them now, there are plenty of obscure characters and stories. Before 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy was a relatively obscure comic book reference even among comic book fans. This fact is made even more confusing by the fact that there is a Guardians team from 1969, a team from the early ’90s, and a team from 2008 – the one with Peter Quill, Rocket, Groot, Gamora, et al.
In the first movie, when Star-Lord says his name to Korath the Pursuer – himself an obscure comic character – and Korath responds with, “who?” — that is what so many comic book fans were already saying.
However, Marvel seems to have outdone themselves this time with their upcoming Disney+ series, Loki. Loki himself is not an obscure comic reference – at least not anymore. However, what is an obscure reference is the Time Variance Authority, a.k.a. The T.V.A.
But no worries, we at Geek Girl Authority have the information you want.
It’s not entirely clear what role the TVA will play in the Loki series, which premieres on June 8th. However, using what we know of them, we can make some solid educated guesses about what they might be up to.
But first – let’s get into explaining just who exactly they are.
The Time Variance Authority (TVA) is a bureaucratic organization that exists outside of all timelines and multiverses in a space called the Null-Time Zone dimension. It is their job to monitor every last reality within the infinite multiverse and assure that there is no deviation from where that reality is supposed to go. Timelines generally go in the direction they are meant to, however, there are certain time-travelers that tend to meddle with timelines and realities in a way that they cause “temporal interference,” as Marvel.com calls it. Whenever this happens, a new multiversal reality is created. So the TVA steps in to enforce the proper flow of each timeline through whatever means are necessary.
Though on some occasions the TVA will recruit outside their ranks, a majority of the employees that work there are genetically bred and cloned for the exact position they hold. Some are simple paper-pushers and administrators, others are managers, and others are military/police officers – called the Minutemen – designed to enforce the TVA’s authority wherever a temporal deviation occurs.
Owen Wilson plays a character named Mr. Mobius. In the comics, he is the first TVA bureaucrat we truly meet, first appearing in 1991’s Fantastic Four #353. He is a junior manager tasked with prosecuting the Fantastic Four for an assortment of time crimes they perpetrated in chasing down Doctor Doom in the story arc immediately preceding. Mobius himself is a clone of his boss, Mr. Alternity, who is the highest authority at the TVA. With everyone being a clone — for the sake of efficiency, of course — it makes it difficult to distinguish between everyone since they all look more or less the same.
In his first appearance, Mr. Mobius takes the Fantastic Four on a tour of their infinite bureaucracy, showing “the hall of discontinued universes” where they dispose of any “leftover detritus,” the train depot where various time-related refugees can take trains to their original timelines, and finally, he takes them to the Hall of Chronometry. It’s in this last place that we are introduced to the employees known as Chronomonitors. Each Chronomonitor is a faceless being designed for one purpose – to monitor the reality assigned to them and watch for time-travel-related violations.
They do this forever.
They are, very literally, an infinite bureaucracy of faceless bureaucrats.
Also – just a fun little Easter Egg – in the Hall of Discontinued Universes, Walt Simonson drew a series of Earths along with a figure that is clearly Supergirl – a clear nod to the Crisis of Infinite Earths that had just recently happened.
Though we didn’t actually see the TVA in all its Null-Time Zone glory until 1991, we first heard mention of them in 1986’s Thor #371. In this issue, we are introduced to a time-traveling cop named Justice Peace. In what is a clear nod to Judge Dredd, Peace rides a time-traveling hopsikle, hails from the city-state of Brooklynopolis, has zero humor, cannot lie, is efficient and unmoving, and enforces every last law with extreme prejudice.
In fact, his very first act upon arriving in the 20th century is to shoot some jaywalkers in the neck, injecting them with “DNA implants (to) prevent them from ever jaywalking again!” He’s even resourceful enough to take down Thor when first they collide – though that doesn’t happen ever again.
We find out in Thor #372 that he’s been conscripted by the TVA to go back in time – to 1986 – to take out an undying assassin named Zaniac, who is more like a homicidal virus carried in demonic looking bugs than an immortal being. This conscription makes Justice Peace one of the few in the TVA that was not created as a clone. Later, in 1991’s Fantastic Four #353, when we first meet the Minutemen, we find out that they are led by these conscripted Justices. However, the TVA has also been known to conscript other mercenaries and operatives, like in Fantastic Four #338 where we learn that the TVA has hired the bounty hunter known as Death’s Head.
However, perhaps the best appearance of the TVA is in She-Hulk Vol.2 #3, from writer Dan Slott and artist Juan Bobillo. In that storyline, She-Hulk’s law firm, Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway, is hired by the ninth richest man in the world, Charles Czarkowski, to represent him in a very strange case. We covered this in our article on She-Hulk, but we’ll give a brief summary here.
Czarkowski is on trial for murder, but what makes this case an interest for the TVA is that Czarkoski claims he was only defending himself from an assassin sent from someone in the future. To have a truly objective jury, the TVA calls in people from the past just about a week before they die. One of the people they call in is none other than She-Hulk’s recently deceased teammate, Clint Barton, a.k.a. the eagle-eyed Avenger Hawkeye. In the process of the trial, She-Hulk tries to get a message to Barton, hoping to save his life in the past, thereby resurrecting the dead hero. However, her attempt fails and, ultimately, is discovered by the TVA.
So She-Hulk is brought to the TVA headquarters where she is to be put on trial for tampering with the timestream and, should she be found guilty, she will be erased from history entirely – it will be as if she never existed. However, after a trial that calls upon every last person that She-Hulk whom She-Hulk has affected positively – she is mostly exonerated – but not entirely. She still has to pay for her time crimes. Usually, she’d be held in time prison for some … time … but apparently, the time prisons of the TVA are at capacity and they can’t hold She-Hulk. Nor is there room for a cowboy and sometimes-Avenger named the Two-Gun Kid. The penalty for her time crime is to return her to her present time and watch over Two-Gun Kid, who also can’t return to his present – the year 1876 – because he would no doubt use his future knowledge to further alter the timestream, thus committing more time crimes.
Honestly – if you are looking to read some great comics on the Time Variance Authority, this She-Hulk run is a solid one. It’s one of the best She-Hulk comics out there and has some real fun with the TVA.
With all of this background knowledge, let’s examine a bit more of what we might expect from the TVA. By all accounts, this series picks up right after Loki steals the Space Stone from Avengers Tower, as we see in Avengers: Endgame. All we see of him there is that he disappears into a portal, taking the Space Stone with him. However, this raises the question – why would the TVA – the Time Variance Authority – come after Loki when it’s not Time he’s messing with, but Space?
The Time Stone exists. Doctor Strange and the Masters of the Mystic Arts guard over it as the Eye of Agamotto. So why isn’t Owen Wilson’s Mr. Mobius and the TVA going after them? For that matter, the post-Snap Avengers of Avengers: Endgame changed a huge timeline by erasing what Thanos did to their timeline. So – why hasn’t the TVA gone after them?
Our best guess is that Loki is able to use the Space Stone – the one that he stole from the first Avengers in Endgame – to meddle in affairs he otherwise should not have access to. After all, he can zip to-and-fro all across the universe and his presence anywhere that it shouldn’t be is sure to cause … a temporal disruption. So the TVA goes after him. However, instead of jailing him, our guess is that they conscript him into their service. In fact, they very well may conscript him to go after some of the offending Avengers for their role in disrupting their timeline and creating new realities. Loki has been an Agent of Asgard – as we saw in his comic series, Loki: Agent of Asgard – so there’s comic book precedence for him being conscripted into an agency to act on behalf of another.
It’s also possible that Kang is involved in some way.
Kang, you say?
Okay. Let’s talk Kang.
On the subject of perpetrators of temporal interference – one of the biggest perpetrators of time travel infractions is none other than Kang the Conqueror and his Council of Kangs. In fact, combatting Prime Kang and his Council of Kangs is the biggest reason the TVA was created by a future earth civilization. There’s also the Council of Cross-Time Kangs and the Chronos Corps, not to mention Immortus — an even more future version of future Kang — but for now, let’s just stick with Prime Kang and the Council of Kangs.
We think that’s enough Kang to deal with.
Admittedly, keeping up with Kang and his timeline is pretty tricky, even for the most well-versed comic aficionado. However, this attention will be worth it because it will bring us to an interesting character in the Loki series: Ravonna, as played by actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
Well, potentially interesting.
Nothing has been confirmed about her yet, but …
Ravonna is a character from the comics known as Ravonna Renslayer; at least that’s the going theory right now. First introduced in 1965’s Avengers #23, she was initially a love interest for Kang. By that, we mean that she was the queen of a future earth civilization that Kang was attacking and the only way he’d stop attacking was if she agreed to marry him.
However, when Kang’s generals turn on him and demand Ravonna’s execution, he does all he can to protect her, proving his love for her is greater than his ambitions to conquer all of space and time. In the end, seeing his love for her, she sacrifices herself to save him.
This sends Kang through time to find ways to resurrect her – which he finally does in Avengers #267.
Well – sorta.
Just, stick with us – this gets a little confusing. Time-travel stories usually are.
Kang arrives in a place outside of time and space – Limbo – and there discovers that there is a Council of Kangs – as we mentioned above – and he decides that he alone should be Kang. However, he also discovers that, in this Limbo, that Immortus is dead and his beloved Ravonna is in a state of suspended animation, presumably saved by the now-deceased Immortus.
So Kang revivifies her. It turns out, that when Ravonna jumped in front of the shot intended for Kang, she created two different timelines – one where she died to protect Kang, but also another one where Kang saved her from the shot. This means that there was a separate timeline where Kang died and Ravonna was alive: this is that Ravonna. In the end, it turns out that she was in league with Immortus the entire time.
Why are we getting this deep in the weeds with Ravonna’s storyline? It’s not necessarily that we feel the MCU writers are taking this story whole cloth; rather, it’s to show how time travel, the multiverse, and the infinite realities and timelines in the Marvel comics operate – at least when it comes to Kang.
Timelines are more-or-less set-in-stone and moving forward; however, every so often an event so pivotal transpires and creates a deviation of the timeline, creating an entirely new reality wherein we find time-duplicates. This is how the Council of Kangs exists – they are all Kang’s from multiple timelines. It’s this sort of “Law of Timeline Deviation” that we want to highlight because we feel that this is going to play a part in the upcoming series.
But what about Ravonna?
Ravonna ends up running through time much in the same way as Kang – in some times she is a time-traveling assassin named Terminatrix, in other times she is a Queen Regent named Revelation, and still in other times she remains simply known as Ravonna. Finally, in 1993’s Avengers: The Terminatrix Objective – written by Mark Gruenwald and drawn by Mike Gustovich – we see a big narrative culmination that wraps up a lot of timelines.
It’s … a lot – but here’s what to know.
Ravonna, having been Terminatrix and Revelation, returns to her identity as Ravonna at a far-flung future and starts a family with Immortus, who himself is the future, peaceable version of Kang. However, the two of them have chased each other through time, sometimes fighting over Kang’s kingdom of Chronopolis, other times ruling it together as loving monarchs, but always with the Avengers or the Fantastic Four – or both – getting involved in whatever battles they are fighting.
That is, she has been both villain and hero – same as Kang.
In The Terminatrix Objective we see Ravonna ruling Chronopolis in Kang’s stead. In a storyline immediately preceding this one – called Citizen Kang – Kang saved Ravonna from death, but was himself killed in her stead. As an act of love, Ravonna rescued Kang’s body and put it in suspended animation until she could find a way to resurrect him. In the meantime, she rules over Chronopolis in the guise of Kang – and no one is the wiser. And then the future version of her – Revelation – gets involved. And at some point we see the super-far-in-the-future version of Ravonna – now just using her name, Ravonna – married to Immortus.
This raises one very important question. In The Terminatix Objective, we see Ravonna taking on four different identities – all her, but all at different times from multiple timelines. So which version of Ravonna will we get in Loki?
Is she actually Kang this entire time?
Are there other versions of her that Loki is tracking down?
Or is Loki chasing Kang – but unaware that he’s chasing Kang?
Or is Ravonna just an employee of the TVA and we’re overthinking it over here at Geek Girl Authority?
Guess we’ll just have to wait for the clues to start rolling in once Loki premieres on Disney+!
This article was originally published on 6/8/21