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Who are the mysterious Time-Keepers?

The all-powerful wizards are key to Marvel’s Loki

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Judge Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) sits behind the bench with giant carvings of the three Time-Keepers behind her in Marvel Studios’ Loki Photo: Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

The first episode of Loki on Disney Plus did some major lifting. Not only did the pilot recap the god of mischief’s whole history, it also introduced a whole new swath of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Time Variance Authority, and its mysterious overlords, the Time-Keepers, whose wooden visages adorn the wall behind Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Judge Renslayer.

According to Loki, the Time Keepers are the ultimate arbiter of destiny in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, deciding which actions belong on the so-called Sacred Timeline and which actions need to be policed and eradicated, or “pruned,” and giving those directives to the cosmic bureaucracy of the TVA. And for now, that’s all we know about the TV version of the Time-Keepers.

The existence of the Time-Keepers gives the known Marvel Cinematic Universe a significant twist of lore. There is a greater, cosmic world beyond the most godlike flexes we’ve seen throughout the Infinity Saga. The logic of the multiverse will only become more complicated when Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness roll around. But for Loki creator Michael Waldron, it was no big thing to entirely shake up the MCU.

an animated version of the Time-Keepers in Loki
The Time-Keepers of Loki.
Image: Marvel Studios

“For me, [Loki] was about operating as if we can do anything — pitch the biggest, craziest ideas we could possibly come up with — and when they tell me no, they tell me no,” Waldron tells Polygon. “With Marvel, and Kevin [Feige], there is no ceiling on your imagination. The charge was to make the Loki show the best show we possibly could, and so if we’ve got a good argument for why something makes this show great, then, you know, we’ll go for it, and you trust that it will fit into the broader world of the MCU. Pitching and coming up with crazy lore: actually not as daunting as one might think.”

So who are the Time-Keepers? What role have they played in Marvel Comics over the years? And how might the events of Loki reshape what we know about the MCU? The books have plenty to tell us.

What are the Time-Keepers like in Marvel Comics?

The Avengers approach the robed figures of the three Time Keepers as the sit on a high dais, attended by Immortus.
The Avengers meet the Time-Keepers.
Image: Marvel Comics

In Marvel Comics, the Time-Keepers were created by the last director of the Time Variance Authority at the end of time, and tasked with generally protecting the entire timeline. Just like in Loki, they’re a triumvirate of robed figures who seldom appear to mortals — usually only a select few they’ve decided to work with. Two of them have more masculine faces, one has a more feminine facade, and all appear quite alien.

While they were created by a member of the Time Variance Authority, and have similar goals, the Time-Keepers aren’t supreme rulers of the TVA in the comics. In fact, they’re far more likely to be associated with the time-traveling supervillain Immortus.

The Time-Keepers recruited Immortus as a pupil, but also as a prisoner. In exchange for teaching him about the timeline, the Time-Keepers charged him with monitoring a section of time and undoing the complicated mess left over from the time-travel machinations he committed when he was younger, back when he went by the name Kang the Conqueror.

And keep your hat on when I say this, but ...

Kang the Conqueror is the villain of the next Ant-Man movie

a title card that says Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania Image: Marvel Studios

In late 2020, Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country) joined the cast of Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania. Reports at the time suggested that he was set to play the role of Kang the Conqueror, the time-traveling despot who eventually matures into Immortus, servant of the Time-Keepers.

But it gets even more tangled! Through Immortus, the Time-Keepers in the comics also got involved in trying to control the Scarlet Witch, whose chaos magic allowed her to warp reality, and thus made her a threat to the timeline. We’ll see the Scarlet Witch again in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, written by Michael Waldron.

It could be that the Time Keepers, Kang the Conqueror, and the Scarlet Witch are all pieces of the next big thing coming down the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s time-y-wime-y, multiverse-hopping pipeline. Or it could just be that over the years, everything in the Marvel Comics universe has managed to connect to every other thing in some way.

Time — and the Time Keepers — will tell.