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Back Issues: Loki – from Thor’s shadow to the spotlight

Tom Hiddleston's performance changed character in the comics

Tom Hiddleston appears as the villainous Loki in the Disney+ series “Loki.” (AP Photo)

Long a thorn in the side of his heroic brother, Loki began a shift to the side of the angels thanks, at least in part, to Tom Hiddleston’s winning performance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

A television series following the Norse god of mischief after the events of 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame” premiered Wednesday on Disney+.

Loki debuted two issues after Thor in 1962’s “Journey Into Mystery” #85, and would clash with him several times, either directly or while employing and empowering villains like the Absorbing Man and the Wrecking Crew. A scheme to pit his brother against the Hulk ensnared Iron Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp, inadvertently leading to the formation of the Avengers.

For many years, Loki was depicted not as the handsome, charming trickster Hiddleston portrays, but a cunning, sinister, kind of creepy guy. Stories over the years revealed he was not Thor’s brother by blood but a small Frost Giant taken in after Odin, the Norse equivalent of Zeus, killed his father, Laufey, in battle. Unlike in the 2011 “Thor” film, Loki was always aware of his true parentage. In fact, a 2009 story revealed he had traveled back in time and engineered the events himself.

Loki grew up in Thor’s shadow, resenting his brother’s accolades and arrogance. This planted the seeds for their enmity, with Loki trying time and again to humiliate and defeat his brother and take over the Norse gods’ kingdom of Asgard.

And yet, the brothers still showed affection for each other, with Thor particularly giving his brother an unearned benefit of the doubt time and time again.

There were times where the bond of family and Asgard — or at least his own schemes — prompted Loki to work with Thor and Odin, defending the realm against foes like the fire demon Surtur and the Egyptian death god Seth. In the former instance, Loki turned Thor into a frog in effort to seize the Asgardian throne. But Thor got better.

Loki was fated to initiate Ragnarok, the Asgardian apocalypse, but Thor eventually learned this had already happened many times over. Thor broke the cycle, apparently leading to the true end of Asgard and its inhabitants.

But these are comics, of course. The Asgardians returned, although this time, Loki had usurped the body of the female warrior Sif. Asgard eventually relocated to Earth, floating over the city of Broxton, Oklahoma.

The female Loki worked with a cabal of villains including Norman Osborn (the former Green Goblin) and Doctor Doom to manipulate events that culminated in a siege of Asgard by Osborn’s Dark Avengers. When the mentally unbalanced Sentry lost control and brought Asgard crashing to Earth, Loki rebelled and was killed.

The trickster god’s next rebirth came as a teenage boy, who Thor brought back to Asgard under his protection. Despite mistrust by his fellow Asgardians, this young Loki tried to follow a more or less heroic path. The villainous incarnation of Loki returned but eventually decided to forge a new path as the god of stories instead of lies.

Since then, a younger, more Hiddleston-esque Loki has tried to play both sides. He’s worked as a double agent for Asgard, attempted to acquire the Infinity Stones, tricked Doctor Strange into surrendering to him the title of Sorcerer Supreme and even mounted a campaign for president of the United States (since his latest form was born in the U.S., or so he claimed).

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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Recommended Reading

* “Thor” #364-366 — Loki’s latest plot to overthrow Asgard involves turning his brother Thor into a frog. Really.

* “Loki” (2004) — Loki conquers Asgard, but getting what he wants doesn’t sit well with the villain in this four-issue limited series that also takes a look at the experiences that drive him.

* “Vote Loki” — Loki runs for president as a reporter relentlessly pursues the truth about his motivations. The series was released during the 2016 election.

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