This article contains spoilers for Loki Season Two.
Forget your Pizza Poppas, and forget your zombie superheroes. Loki season two has already given us the strangest, most unlikely Earth in the multiverse. Yes, the chyron in episode two tells us that Loki and Mobius go to 1977 in the Sacred Timeline. But in that world, a cheesy slasher called Zaniac is a star-studded, big-budget affair. In our world, even a masterpiece like Halloween was greeted with derision by critics of the time.
On the upside, our Earth does have wonderful things like Marvel Comics in the 1980s, when writers like Doug Moench told the kind of weird stories where Thor actually fights the Zaniac. Introduced in Thor #319 (1982), Zaniac was not just a movie monster portrayed by actor Brad Wolfe, but also an evil entity from the Dark Dimension.
The Zaniac of Loki lacks this cosmic evil. Instead, he’s just a character played by Brad Wolfe, the identity Hunter X-5 takes on while hiding from the Time Variance Authority in 1977 London. Loki and Mobius find X-5 pretty easily and torture in the TVA headquarters until he confesses everything he knows about Sylvie’s escape and General Dox’s plans to prune the excessive timelines.
At first glance, the Zaniac of the comics doesn’t seem much more impressive. When actor Brad Wolfe comes to the University of Chicago, he plans only to shoot a film and maybe impress a few local girls. However, he finds himself becoming one with his character, the furry and green-skinned Zaniac. Instead of impressing the ladies, Zaniac wants to kill the women he meets, including Dr. Shawna Lynde, a friend and co-worker of Thor’s alter-ego, Dr. Donald Blake. Blake taps his walking stick to summon Thor and fend off the Zaniac.
With Thor #319, Moench and penciler Keith Pollard craft a fun yet forgettable adventure story with some goofy twists (Zaniac sees Thor’s long blond hair and mistakes him for a woman, driving him to kill). When the legendary Walter Simonson brought Zaniac back for a two-part story in Thor #371 and 372, he made the monster the potential catalyst for a multiversal war, a catastrophe that can only be stopped by the combined might of Thor and Justice Peace (an obvious Judge Dredd homage) of the TVA.
As grand as those stakes certainly are, the most interesting part of Simonson’s revision is Zaniac’s motivation. The multiversal cataclysm would occur if Zaniac killed Jane Foster. And why would he kill Jane Foster, you ask? Just because she’s a woman. And why does Zaniac hate women, you ask? Because he’s Jack the Ripper. Sort of.
In Thor #371, we see that the Zaniac is not just a movie monster, but rather a worm-like monster who burrows into hosts and drives them to murder — kind of like the creature in The Hidden or Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. Simonson doesn’t provide much more background info about this new worm version of Zaniac. Instead, both the worm and the movie monster are forgotten, revived only when the producers of Loki season two went looking for more info about the TVA.
But an entry in the 2005 Horror edition of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe offers a compelling twist to the Zaniac. In the Jack the Ripper section, we learn that the infamous real-world killer is only one manifestation of a demon summoned by the dread Dormammu of the Dark Dimension. For generations, the Ripper worm would infect various hosts and make them kill women, hosts that include Jack the Ripper, Shang-Chi‘s sister’s boyfriend, and Brad Wolfe the Zaniac.
Will the already twisty Loki season two make Hunter X-5 into a worm-infected Jack the Ripper? Probably not in this world, which is for the best.