Spoilers for all of JIM, obv.
There’s been some smart meta readings of the book. They’re almost all correct. Journey Into Mystery was the most meta of all my books – and all my books are meta. But it’s not just a book about comics, and the horror of being a fictional villain in the Marvel Universe. It’s a book about a boy trying to prove he can be different. He can be better. He can change.
The primary question I asked myself before starting Journey Into Mystery was how I could best tell that story.
I’ve said before that, societally speaking, I’m part of a culture that enjoys telling stories about self-determination. If Journey Into Mystery was a film, some small part of you would presume that the reincarnated form of the wicked god would find a way to change his ways. But this is western mainstream company-owned comics, and when the wicked god is the antagonist in the third biggest film of all times, there’s a different sort of pressure. Not that anyone ever told me I had to. You just knew. We all knew. Generally speaking, bar the blessed innocents, people presumed he’ll fail. And the absolute dread of that looming on the horizon is one of the things which gave it power.
Of the book’s tricks, that it convinced people that Loki really could change probably is the foremost.
But he couldn’t.
I knew that if I ended the story with Kid Loki proved that he could change forever, it’d be beautiful. We’d cheer for that. I wish I could have left him running free over those green hills with Leah. But at some point down the line, someone would perform a heel turn. It could be a decade. It would more likely be weeks. At that point, the story’s point is inverted.
Suddenly our hymn to triumphing against expectations because a cynical “Of course Kid Loki couldn’t change”. He was always going to turn evil. We’d have told a story that some people are just bad ‘uns.
I’d be damned if I was going to be any part of that story.
So I had to kill Kid Loki.
In fact, killing him wouldn’t be enough. This is American superhero comics, and Loki’s a god. When a character in the story is the goddess of death, it’s not exactly tricky to get him back on stage.
So what I had to do was utterly destroy him. Annihilate him. Remove the very thought of him. And then, give the Marvel Universe perfectly good Loki for people to do whatever they wish with, to remove the temptation to bring back our little guy.
It’s not a perfect plan. Someone could still try and bring back Kid Loki. Claim there’s some kind of back-up somewhere. I’d advise against that, whoever ends up writing Thor in 10 years time. Because as good as your heart is, if you do so, someone else will eventually write Kid Loki Turns Evil and we’ll be left with a Some People Are Just Evil story. At the least if someone does do that, there’s a little plausible deniability of it really being Kid Loki.
In passing, the fact that someone would turn Kid Loki evil eventually would be the reason a “bring back old Loki and keep Kid Loki around” ending wouldn’t have worked. It doesn’t matter if there’s an Old Evil Loki lying around. Kid Loki Turns Evil is too tempting a story, and first rate antagonists are too rare in comics.
I destroyed Kid Loki because it was the only way for him to win.
As angry as he is in the end, as much as he loved his life, he went to the darkness knowing that he won.
And as Old Loki looks out through younger eyes, he knows he’s lost.
It’s not a happy ending for anyone, but it’s the happiest Kid Loki could have.
It’s better to die as good fiction.
A final thought: I don’t think Loki will ever go back to a creature of pure malice.
Ironically, you can thank the movie for that. Hiddleston’s intelligent, complicated and conflicted take on Loki was simply too compelling a figure. Whatever Loki’s going to be next, he’s going to have that in him. Which pleases me enormously, as that’s the sort of Loki I tried to write in Siege: Loki which started this whole thing off.
So, what now for Loki? He’s literally annihilated his innocence, and it went into nothingness mocking him. That puts him in a great situation, character wise. Loki’s black bitterness rests on a bed of jealousy, of fingers pointing outwards. He blames other people. He says it’s their fault. He’s doing it in 645, in the final panel.
But first he curses himself.
Interesting place for a character, that.
Young Avengers. January 2013.