Pride Month Spotlight: Loki
Since his introduction in 1952, Loki Laufeyson has assumed various titles and acted as both friend and foe to many – including himself.
In the Marvel Universe, Loki Laufeyson has gone by many names. Some call him “The Prince of Lies.” Others know him as “The God of Mischief” or “The God of Stories.” The genderfluid and crafty sorcerer uses his intellect, magic, and shape-shifting abilities to elude and trick Marvel’s most venerable heroes. He even once turned his almighty brother Thor into a frog in THOR (1966) #364, a run written by the Mjolnir-worthy creator Walt Simonson. But the often-underestimated Asgardian has had a hand in orchestrating some of the Multiverse’s most beloved Super Hero teams and alliances – whether he meant to or not. Despite Loki’s vengeful origin story, he has grown into one of Marvel’s most morally complicated characters. Here’s a look at this chaos agent’s journey into becoming both friend and foe to many – including himself.
During Marvel’s Golden Age, Stan Lee introduced Loki to Marvel Comics with co-writer Larry Lieber and artist Jack Kirby in JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY (1952) #85, an issue that would begin the never-ending war between Loki and Thor for rule of their homeland, Asgard. Throughout the following decades, Loki’s main quest revolved around outwitting his brother. Equipped with illusion-casting abilities and psionic powers, Loki never made it easy on Thor.
However, much of Loki’s spitefulness can be traced back to Odin. After unleashing war on Jotunheim, Loki’s homeland, and killing his father, Frost Giant King Laufey, Odin adopted Loki as a child. Still, Odin never gave Loki his surname, which further ostracized him as he grew older. Abandoned due to his runt-like status amongst the Frost Giants, Loki never fit in on his home planet, but he struggled to fit into the staggering world of Asgardian warriors, too. Due to Thor’s bond with Odin and Thor’s natural athleticism, stature, and ability to wield Mjolnir, Loki envied the God of Thunder. THOR & LOKI: DOUBLE TROUBLE (2021) explores this fraught stage of Thor and Loki’s youthful rivalry.
What started as a lonely orphan committing harmless pranks on an alien planet soon evolved into subterfuge. Tired of being scolded by a detached Odin, Loki mastered the dark arts under the sorcerer Eldred. Notably, Loki grew up to trick Thor and Iron Man into attacking the Hulk in AVENGERS (1963) #1. Once his deception was revealed, though, the trio formed the Avengers, a team of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, to combat Loki and all future threats to Earth. Equally stubborn and resilient, Loki bounced back from that misadventure and aligned himself with the evil Dormammu, pitting the Avengers against the Defenders in AVENGERS (1963) #118. That too failed.
To better his odds against Thor, Loki makes radically unpredictable decisions. For instance, he chose the goddess Angerboda as his mate, and they birthed the Midgard Serpent Jormungand and the Fenris Wolf, who have been used as tools against Thor. Loki has also allied with characters like Amora the Enchantress, Super-Skrull, Silver Surfer, and more through his opportunistic schemes.
Despite his malice, Loki does have a heart. Nevertheless, his deep-seated fear of trusting others and love of trickery often leads him astray. THOR & LOKI: BLOOD BROTHERS (2011) gives readers a rare glimpse into Loki’s compassion. The four-issue series showed Loki finally gaining control of Asgard, but having to contend with whether or not he would risk losing his rule to save Thor’s soul. At times, Loki is emotionally swayed to help his family, which we see play out in THOR (1966) #353-354, aka “The Surtur Saga,” when he teamed up with Odin and Thor. Less humane moments, however, have led Loki to destroy what was once Asgard. Whoops!
Elusive by nature, Loki often transforms his physical appearance to best fit his current objective, which has included taking the form of a snake and an alligator. Additionally, his gender identity has always been fluid in Marvel canon. For instance, JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY (1952) first noted that Loki can appear as a “maiden.” The Marvel character then appeared as a woman in THOR ANNUAL (1993) #18 amidst a plea deal for Hrinmeer to team up with them to defeat Thor. Loki took a feminine form in THOR (2007) #5 by stealing a body meant for Sif, which he kept for years. Even Odin refers to Loki as his child of both genders in ORIGINAL SIN (2014) #5.5.
However, Loki is no stranger to being burned by his own duplicitous nature. He learned what it felt like to be manipulated by himself in Kieron Gillen’s JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY (2011). The comic run that made Kid Loki a fan favorite, this series showcases a teenage version of the trickster after he was reincarnated into a younger body. In a rare turn of events, Kid Loki must save the day by outwitting the ghost of his former self while contending with all the grief, hate, and pain he left behind in the universe. He descended into Hel and outwitted Hela, Mephisto, the Serpent, and the Warriors Three through the power of wordplay and deceit. He even sacrificed himself to help Thor fulfill his heroic destiny, which broke Loki out of the cycle that the elder Loki had previously designed to make himself the victor.
The events of Gillen’s run laid the foundation for Loki to build another beloved Super Hero team. Thanks to Kid Loki’s meddling with Wiccan’s spell, he played a vital part in forming the Young Avengers team that appeared in YOUNG AVENGERS (2013) by Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. Similar to Gillen’s previous take on the trickster, Kid Loki flexed his dark magic knowledge and uncanny ability to know when to appear at just the wrong time. He fought alongside Wiccan, Hulking, Kate Bishop, America Chavez, and Marvel Boy on an Earth where parents don’t stay dead, including King Laufey.
Since Kid Loki’s Young Avengers days, the Asgardian’s legacy has waned between dishonest foe and altruistic force in the Marvel Universe. In LOKI (2019), he was reborn as punishment for warmongering. In SPIDER-MAN 2099: EXODUS (2022), he became Asgard’s unexpected savior, deeming himself the God of the Outcasts. No matter the battle, when Loki is around, nothing and no one is ever what they seem to be.
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