The events of Avengers: Endgame may have introduced time travel to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but long-time readers of Marvel Comics know that there are plenty more time-travelers where that came from - including some major figures destined to one day appear in the MCU, like Kang the Conqueror and the Time Variance Authority.
In fact, all indications are that the Time Variance Authority is going to play a major and assumedly antagonistic role in 2021’s Loki series on Disney Plus. The first teaser for the show depicts the God of Mischief in a prison jumpsuit emblazoned with a big “TVA” logo - before promising to “burn this place to the ground.”
Is that just trademark Asgardian bluster, or is the Time Variance Authority really something that Loki could take down single-handedly? How big of a threat to the Marvel Cinematic Universe are they, really? To answer that, one has to turn to the annals of Marvel Comics history.
The Time Variance Authority Made Their Debut In A Comic Starring Thor Back In 1986
The Time Variance Authority will be making their Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in 2021’s Loki, but they’ve got a storied history in the pages of Marvel Comics - albeit an infrequent one. This organization of chronological cops first appeared way back in 1986 in a comic book starring Loki’s brother - Thor #372.
Created by Walter Simonson and Sal Buscema, the TVA exists outside of time itself and can visit any place in the Marvel multiverse on a whim, which helps explain why they’re not an ever-present aspect of Marvel Comics. The TVA might not show up all that often, but when they do, it’s a sure bet that a story of enormous consequence is about to unfold - and that almost certainly holds true for Loki.
The TVA’s In-Continuity History Reaches Across All Of Time
Though the Time Variance Authority didn't actually show up in a Marvel comic until 1986, they’re introduced as if they’ve always been around - because they patrol the timeline and can pop into and out of any moment at will. There’s really no telling where, or when, they will appear.
The TVA has fought with Kang the Conqueror in Ancient Egypt and made moves on Alioth back before humanity even existed. Though they ostensibly have an origin sometime in the future of the Marvel universe, their base of operations is the Null-Time Zone - a location that exists completely outside of time: not in the past, present, or future.
The Time Variance Authority Has One Mission: To Minimize 'Temporal Interference'
The Time Variance Authority was established with one goal in mind - to monitor the various timelines of the Marvel multiverse and minimize any “temporal interference.” In a multiverse full of time-travelers, that’s a pretty significant job. Most of the gig centers around simply monitoring the timelines from their headquarters in the Null-Time Zone - but every so often, the TVA has to directly involve themselves in some timey-wimey shenanigans.
When someone egregiously interferes with the natural flow of time and attempts to alter historical events, the TVA is pressed into duty - and their responses can be rather extreme. If an individual commits a serious enough timecrime, they can be completely erased from existence - past, present, and future - using something known as the Retroactive Cannon.
This ultimate measure works in concert with a section of the TVA known as the Department of Redundancy Department whose job it is to determine whether a defendant is redundant enough to be permanently removed from the timeline. That’s bad news for the various Spider-Men and Wolverines in the Marvel universe.
Ironically, The TVA’s First Appearance Sees Them Specifically Interfering With The Timeline
For an organization that was founded with the goal of preventing timeline interference, the Time Variance Authority sure come off like a bunch of hypocrites in their comic book debut. When an old Thor villain known as Zaniac threatens the survival of several future civilizations, the TVA authorizes one of their time-cops to travel back in time and wipe out Zaniac in the past.
The aptly named Justice Peace ends up teaming with Thor to straight-up scare Zaniac into a fatal heart attack, thus saving the future of Brooklynopolis. Oddly enough, Justice Peace - the first member of the TVA to appear on the page - hails from that same future, which makes him an exception to the rule. Most TVA employees are cloned, not recruited. They really started on some unsteady footing.