AGUIRRE-SACASA Details LOKI's Origin in October

Loki hasn’t had an easy time as of late. He was reincarnated as a woman, saw his plans to impersonate Scarlet Witch foiled by The Mighty Avengers and, perhaps most disappointing to him, died at the hands of the Void during the climax of Siege. So the timing makes sense for Marvel Comics to look back towards a simpler time for the Asgardian trickster god, illustrating his formative years in a four-issue, October-shipping Loki miniseries written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Sensational Spider-Man, HBO's Big Love) with art from Sebastián Fiumara (Ender's Shadow: Battle School, Yuggoth Creatures) Except Loki’s path to becoming an iconic villain really wasn’t simple at all, as Newsarama discussed over e-mail with Aguirre-Sacasa, Fiumara and series editor Alejandro Arbona.

We talked with the creative team about the type of events that shaped the God of Mischief, his surprisingly sympathetic side, and what ways Aguirre-Sacasa relates more to Loki than Thor.

Newsarama: Roberto, much of your Marvel Universe work thus far has been fairly grounded — Sensational Spider-Man, Marvel Knights 4. Working on an Asgardian god is at least a little bit of a departure. What drew you to this project?

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: Editor extraordinaire Ralph Macchio called me to talk about possibly taking on Loki, and I have a bit of a rule of thumb: If Ralph calls about something, it's always pretty damn special. And you're right about what I've worked on for Marvel. Some straight-up superhero stuff, some horror stuff, with the oddball series here and there. And, of course, The Stand. But I've never dug into a character as epic or a mythic as Loki. And I'm always looking to stretch, and since I'd never written a series from the point-of-view of a villain (or, if not villain, an anti-hero at least), I thought: "This could be good, this could be a challenge." Then, the more I researched Loki and Thor and Asgard, the more notes I started jotting down, the more excited I got. Something really unlocked for me …

Nrama: Sebastián, you’ve drawn this month's X-Factor and titles outside the Marvel Universe like The Picture of Dorian Gray, this is your first real Marvel "series." How has that been, especially working with such an enduring character?

Sebastián Fiumara: Yes, it is my first series with a Marvel U icon and it’s been so great! Loki is one of the richest characters, I think. He has a kind of twisted personality, tainted with a very much dark side and he says more with the look in his eyes than with his actions. A character like that is always interesting, plus he’s opposite to Thor. It is quite a challenge and excessively fun!

Nrama: Loki has been through a lot recently. Is the point of this series, then, kind of to "re-establish" him — sort of set straight where he's been and point towards where he might be going?

Aguirre-Sacasa: This series started with the premise that it would be "Loki: Year One," or some version of that. In talking with Ralph and working with editor Alejandro Arbona, however, the series shifted in focus a bit: Now, it explores the character of Loki (all his complexities, all his contradictions) as he goes from being a practical joker, a beloved "god of mischief," to being a murderer, the instigator of Ragnarok. It's structured, almost, like a Shakespeare tragedy, with a protagonist doomed by fate, driven by ambition, filled with loathing and all that good, juicy villain stuff.

Alejandro Arbona: Let's just say after this you'll understand Loki a lot better the next time you see him. Whenever that might be …

Nrama: At the climax of Siege, Loki seemed almost sympathetic. What's your personal take on Loki?

Aguirre-Sacasa: As always happens, I have a pre-conceived take on a specific character; then, I start working on the character, and my personal take changes. Suffice to say, I feel like I understand Loki a lot more now. I feel like he's … not quite a victim — he is what he is, no denying that — but he's much more human and relatable to me than, for instance, Thor. Or Odin. And I feel like, possibly, he's gotten a bum rap. Mythic-historically, I mean. (If that makes sense.) He's a character like Cain, from the Cain and Abel story. He has a certain role he has to play in a certain story, a certain mythology — the villain role — but who's to say he wanted to play that role … ? What if, possibly, he fought against that destiny? Who's telling Loki's story, anyway? Who, in the past, has told Loki's story? Maybe there's more to this story than we've been allowed to see or experience …

Nrama: The series sounds like it's basically Loki's origin story. Can you shed some insight into the timeline being covered in the story — is it all ancient Asgardian action, or does it delve into the modern Marvel Universe at all?

Aguirre-Sacasa: It's Asgardian legend by way of Marvel continuity. I'm outlining the series pretty tightly. Putting a lot of details and dialogue into the outline, then sending that in to Ralph and Alejandro, and a lot of their feedback has been about lining up my take on the story — let's call it Loki's murder of Balder — with versions that we've seen before in continuity. Which is not to say that this series is simply a rehashing. One thing we've accepted is that Loki and Thor are eternal, mythic characters that can support multiple versions of their stories. In other words, there's not just one single gospel truth about Loki and Thor; there are — and can be — and should be — several versions, several "truths" that co-exist in mythic harmony.

Nrama: Without getting too spoilerish, what can you say about some of the specific incidents depicted that help shape Loki into the character we all know?

Aguirre-Sacasa: You're going to see a practical joke going terribly array; you're going to see how Loki's responsible for Thor getting his hands on Mjollnir; you're going to see the Norn witches; you're going to see how a god is murdered; you're going to see how Asgard grieves for their fallen; you're going to visit the depths of Hel and see visions of Valhalla; you're going to be sitting with Thor and Loki, at the ends of the earth, at the end of time, their final confrontation …

Nrama: What other characters play a role in the mini — I imagine all the expected Asgard characters, but does anyone unexpected show up?

Aguirre-Sacasa: So far, it's the usual suspects, the Aesir, but I'm hoping we see more "out-of-the-box" faces in later issues. Like, who else might be in Asgardian Hel? In Valhalla?

Nrama: Sebastián, given that the series takes place in a mystical realm, is it fun for you as an artist to have a level of creative freedom in dealing with settings that are entirely fictional?

Fiumara: Absolutely. We are looking for a more ancient Norse than Marvel superheroes style for this series. I’ve never worked in a mystical-fantasy kind story before and I realize it practically has no boundaries, it’s very creative. And Roberto’s scripts are super cool in that matter, too; they give me a lot of room to create. It is a really fun book to work on.

Nrama: There must be research involved with writing an origin story of a 50-year-old character. What comics were especially helpful as reference for this project?

Aguirre-Sacasa: Ralph and Alejandro gave me loads of research. Loki's original origin, by Stan and Jack, of course; "Balder the Brave" from Tales of Asgard helped a lot; Matt Fraction's one-shots that were collected as "Ages of Thunder" raised the bar for me; and — especially — I have to say that Issue 12 of JMS's run on Thor was a huge influence and touchstone. (And, in my mind, just a brilliant comic.) Again, I think Sebastián and I are covering very different territory, but these are oft-told tales.

Nrama: How has working with Fiumara been thus far?

Aguirre-Sacasa: So far, so great. I loved Sebastián's art on the Marvel adaptation of Picture of Dorian Gray, and when Ralph told me he would be drawing this series, I was like: "Sold." He's in Argentina, so we haven't ever spoken, but we've traded great e-mails. In Spanish, no less. (Well, his e-mails are in Spanish; my written Spanish is pretty atrocious, so mine are in English.)

Nrama: Alejandro, why were Roberto and Sebastián the right team for Loki?

Arbona: It all starts with the approach to the character. Loki is a fascinating player in the Marvel Universe and in Norse mythology; he's not a two-dimensional, cut-and-dried, moustache-twirling villain. Roberto definitely has the sensibilities to get this guy, where his heart lies, what his resentments are, why he acts the way he does. And Sebastián gives Loki life in the same vein, as a complex compelling character who isn't just reduced to one note all the time, constant hand-wringing mischievousness. There's a vast depth to him, and when you look into the eyes of Sebastián's Loki, you'll see it.

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