Loki has worn many hats during his long and storied history within the Marvel Universe. He’s been a loyal, and not so loyal, brother to Thor, the villain who caused the formation of the Avengers, and now a secret agent for the mystical realm of Asgardia.
Writer Al Ewing and artist Lee Garbett reflect on how these different roles shape the way they’re using the character in his new book LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD, on sale beginning this week.
Al Ewing: He’s a good villain! Especially during the [Walt] Simonson years [on THOR], which was probably my favorite portrayal of Loki. That said some of my favorite moments in that were when he showed his sympathetic side. I am glad he’s moved away in the past decade or two from his pure villain status; I always prefer bad guys with a bit more nuance. And I think after that Rob Rodi and Esad Ribic [LOKI limited series ] in 2004, we’ve sort of seen that version of Loki entirely explored. We’ve seen what happens when he loses and what happens when he wins.
Lee Garbett: He's great as a villain. Like a spider [that] casts out all these threads and waits for the victim to become more and more entangled. He always seems to be a step beyond whatever you think his plan is, though I liked it best when you got the sense that all his scheming had started to get out of control and even he was struggling to manage it. That shows some fallibility and maybe nods to the trickster side more so than the out and out cackling villain.
Al Ewing: We’re really talking about Kid Loki here—at no other time has Loki ever been a pure hero, I don’t think, unless we’re talking about flashbacks to some “Good Old Days” when he and Thor were on brotherly terms. So Kid Loki was great; he was a real breath of fresh air, which obviously made his eventual horrible end that much more horrible, really. The crime that cannot be forgiven, I call it.
Lee Garbett: Yeah, poor Kid Loki. That was tragic. I'm not sure if our current Loki is a hero now but he's definitely enjoying playing the role.
Marvel.com: We can all agree that former Loki writer Kieron Gillen has much to answer for. So what about Loki as a purely trickster agent of chaos?
Al Ewing: Always fun. I remember in one of his very early stories, Loki comes to Earth, gets Thor out of the way—hammer under a force field, I think—and just wanders around playing pranks on people. Turning cars to ice cream and candy, little jokes like that. Then he just hides behind walls laughing. “Hyuk hyuk! I’ll fix it up in a minute.” He’s entirely benign in that story, an irritating nuisance rather than an actual menace, which makes me wonder—Loki being a living story and all—if he got warped by Thor’s decision to be a super hero. Because anyone opposing the super hero is automatically a super villain, right? And Loki just gets nastier and nastier, until by AVENGERS #1 he’s a cackling maniac. “Human dolts!” And, obviously, as the stories get darker and grimmer and more serious, so does he.
Lee Garbett: The Simonson era is the stuff I grew up with and that mix of villainy and crazy prankster is how I see Loki; seeing him go from changing Thor into the Thunder Frog to joining forces with Thor and Odin to save Asgard sums him up. He'll never let you get a handle on him. He's been around for an eternity and has the same to look forward to so he's just trying to amuse himself along the way, and for him there's nothing more fun than driving Thor nuts.
Marvel.com: There seems to be a correlation between Loki being “bad” when he’s working alone versus “good” when he’s part of a group. Does that hold true to you?
Al Ewing: If he’s part of a group, it’s usually for his own ends. He could be in a team of 100 and it’d still be a one-man show. He’s a solo operator, especially when he’s working with other people.
That said, as long as everyone knew where they stood, I’m sure a team would work. A crew, if you will, suitable for heists, capers, long cons, grifting and all manner of shenanigans.
Marvel.com: Has Loki changing forms into a woman and/or a child affected his current state as you plan to write and draw him?
Al Ewing: Well, obviously the whole death, resurrection and the Kid Loki business has affected him; we’ve seen in YOUNG AVENGERS how he’s been having something of an existential crisis over it all. Is he even the same Loki anymore? Is he innocent or guilty? Old or new? Evil or good? It’s hard to say, especially from the inside.
On the other hand—Loki is Loki. Male, female, young, old, they’re all facets of the larger whole. So in that sense maybe it doesn’t matter so much.
Marvel.com: And finally how about Loki as a spy? I assume it’s not quite the same as a pure trickster.
Al Ewing: It’s trickster with intent. One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot—and probably talking about just as much—is the fine line between superspy and heist artist. James Bond’s always breaking into places. Danny Ocean uses gadgets. I suppose the main trope that divides them is that spies have missions come to them from outside; thieves create and plan their own.
Loki has missions come to him, via the All-Mother, but he also adds his own little tweaks, as you’ll see in issue #1. So the jury’s still out.
Lee Garbett: He's potentially the ultimate spy. There's the nifty, magical take on gadgets and gizmos a la Bond and the ol' “Mission Impossible” latex masks/impersonation bit is a breeze for a master of illusion. Plus, all that intellect and ability to juggle so many loose threads and concepts; focused and aimed like a laser at a specific goal, should make him unstoppable. It also makes him cocky and when you come up against characters [that] have been doing this sort of thing for a living, things could get tricky for the trickster.
LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD #1, by Al Ewing and Lee Garbett, on sale this Wednesday, February 4!