The second episode of Loki season two introduced a reference to a very obscure character from the pages of Marvel Comics—the murderous and monstrous Zaniac. We actually learned in Loki season two’s second chapter that TVA Hunter X-05, played by Rafael Casal, actually was an actor who portrayed Zaniac in 1970s movies. It’s something he did when he escaped into the past of the Sacred Timeline. But who is this long-forgotten Marvel baddie? Here’s the comic book history of the killer called Zaniac.
In the comics, Zaniac was a villain who first appeared in Thor #319, back in 1982. Created by writer Doug Moench and artist Keith Pollard, this wild villain remains a relatively obscure one from the God of Thunder’s pantheon of bad guys. While most of Thor’s main villains are other mythological beings, occasionally, he battled a more Earth-bound villain like Zaniac. Although, Zaniac’s powers came from otherworldly forces. So god or not, he was definitely more than a mere human.
Who Is Zaniac in Marvel Comics?
In the late 19th century, Dormammu, Lord of the Dark Dimension and mortal enemy of Doctor Strange, exiled an entity to Earth to possess a mortal human to be his agent of chaos. This being attached itself to a deformed and shunned man named Tom Malverne, a man harboring bitter resentment for the way the world treated him. With the power of this entity within him, Malverne went on a murderous rampage in 1888 London, where he butchered five women. He became the serial killer we know as Jack the Ripper. Once the person it possessed died, the entity continued to possess as the decades went on.
Also, this is the basic idea for the original Star Trek episode “Wolf in the Fold.”
Zaniac Fights Thor
This brings us to the modern day. A movie star by the name of Brad Wolfe was filming a slasher movie at the University of Chicago, which was where many early experiments for the Manhattan Project took place. While in costume as the film’s slasher villain, the Zaniac, Wolfe found himself trapped in a nuclear explosion. A pyrotechnics accident on set triggered residual radiation from the Manhattan Project experiments of the 1940s, causing this explosion. Wolfe gained incredible super strength and could create energy knives with a thought. Clad in the killer’s movie costume, he became the Zaniac.
The Entity drove Wolfe to madness; it also amplified Wolfe’s already inherent misogyny. He began to act out the movie’s plotlines. He kidnapped Shawna Lynde, a friend of Thor’s alter-ego Dr. Donald Blake. Thor saved Shawna from Zaniac, but Zaniac got away. He then attempted to act out the movie’s ending in real life, which involved murdering dozens of innocent women. Victims he called his “pretty pretties”. Luckily, Thor ended Zaniac’s plans. Zaniac only appeared a few more times, and Marvel killed him off in 1986’s Thor #372, a story where the Time Variance Authority appears.
How Zaniac Ties into Loki Season Two
In the second episode of Loki’s second season, we found outTVA hunter X-05, upon learning the truth about the Timekeepers, retreated into a new life on the Sacred Timeline, in the year 1977. He used the name Brad Wolfe, which might have been his true name. Much like the comics, this Brad Wolfe was a movie star. He played a character named Zaniac in a film of the same name. However, the similarities ended there with his comic counterpart. Zaniac was just an acting role for MCU Brad, not a being who possessed him. Loki eventually takes him back to the TVA as a prisoner. Will his Zaniac past come up again? Maybe when Marvel Studios does Wonder Man we’ll learn the superhero/actor is now starring in a modern reboot! We definitely think that would be a fun connection.
Originally published on July 31, 2023.