Marvel just dropped the trailer for Loki, the next Disney Plus series in the MCU’s Phase Four. In addition to longstanding Marvel alum Tom Hiddleston reprising his role as the trickster Asgardian anti-hero, the show features MCU newcomer Owen Wilson as Mobius M. Mobius.
Mobius M. Mobius is an agent of the Time Variance Authority, an organization ostensibly responsible in the Marvel Universe for preventing continuity errors and the particular kind of paradoxes caused by time travel. In the comics, the organization has featured in the pages of “Thor,” “The Fantastic Four,” and “She-Hulk.” Quite a few time travel stories have been told over the decades, but the TVA has shown up only sporadically since its introduction in 1986. This sense of mystery seems to have carried over to the MCU – where even a literal God seems befuddled by their authoritative, paper-shuffling bureaucracy.
The Time Variance Authority in the Comics
Time travel has featured fairly heavily in the MCU and its laws are relatively well-defined thanks to a few expository scenes in “Avengers: Endgame.” The way time travel works as explained in that film can be seen reflected in a handy graph in the “Loki” trailer, demonstrating breakaway time variances sprouting from a singular main thread. In the pages of the comics, zipping about the timeline has often been a cavalier affair, and the rules – if there are any – have been blurry.
Enter the TVA. The creation of writer/artist Walt Simonson, the organization was introduced in “Thor” No. 372 penciled by Sal Buscema. An agent of the organization shows up with a frumpy character design very much of the 80s with an oversized one-goggled helmet and an inexplicable cord running from one shoulder to a laser blaster. He has Judge Dred vibes and is riding a “hopsikle,” which is amazing. It is most certainly not Mobius M. Mobius and he’s not after Loki but instead Zaniac, an entity that possesses different hosts and coerces them to murder. The character does attempt to explain some time travel law to a humorless, bearded Thor and it is fairly clear with his talk of “ruptured time flux” that things don’t work the same way as the MCU.
Who Is Mark Gruenwald?
A justice of the TVA pops up to take a cheap shot on Dr. Doom at the end of Fantastic Four #352, this time both written and drawn by Simonson. As the team is taken to the TVA itself in the following issue, we are introduced to Mobius M. Mobius with his prominent forehead and trademark mustache – both serving as an homage to Marvel editor, writer, and artist Mark Gruenwald. If that name sounds familiar it might be because, in addition to being something of a continuity cop at Marvel, Gruenwald left a lasting impression on the Captain America title after a decade of writing it. Some of his work has shown up adapted in “Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” including his creation John Walker, aka US Agent.
Gruenwald’s legacy lives on at Marvel, leaves a rippling impression on the MCU, and, as an interesting footnote, on late-night TV. The replica of Captain America’s shield that has been shown off and displayed by Steve Colbert over the years was actually the Marvel editor’s before his death in 1996.
In the comics Mobius M. Mobius is not the only Gruenwald either. In fact, he’s one of many clones, a detail that not only extends the homage but also seems more than a little meta. While we only see one Owen Wilson in the trailer, the character’s general condescension towards the Asgardian God is in line with his comic book counterparts. They are an organization of great power and great irony, that if not quite fourth-wall-breaking is at least a little winky.
Bigger Implications for the MCU
It is fitting then that Mobius M. Mobius appears again in Volume 2 of “She-Hulk,” a title generally known for its irony and satire. The Dan Slott written third issue of the revamped series features the character again as a judge in a time travel trial as well as the reveal of the TVA’s “ret-can” – a literal cannon that will retcon characters from ever having existed in canon. Mr. Mobius survives the issue, unlike Mr. Paradox and some other TVA agents.
How closely the TVA of the MCU follows its comic counterpart remains to be seen, but the trailer does feature Loki mentioning the Time Keepers, a cosmic group linked in the comics. With “She-Hulk” coming to Disney Plus and the “Fantastic Four” film in development, it is possible the time travel agency will link properties in some way parallel to its role in the comics. We Got This Covered reported last year that Wilson was set to return in “Thor: Love and Thunder.” In any case, Wilson seems a pitch-perfect match for the particular brand of hilarious played straight that has characterized Mobius M. Mobius in funny books. Whether the ret-can will make an appearance is also up in the air.