Created by writer Doug Moench and artist Keith Pollard, Brad Wolfe/Zaniac first appeared in “Thor #319,” also titled “The Zaniac Craves Blood!,” where the antagonist squares off against Thor (and loses). What makes Zaniac interesting as a villain is that he’s very different from the almighty mythological beings that Thor usually fights — to be frank, he’s just a dude who happened to have superpowers due to a radioactive mutation, mixed with standard demonic possession. Zaniac’s backstory really is as wild as it sounds, so it is worth digging into in some detail.
Wolfe was the victim of abusive neglect by his mother while growing up, and this trauma, enmeshed with his growing resentment, was unleashed when he took on the role of a misogynistic serial killer named Zaniac as an actor years down the line. Wolfe was able to empathize with Zaniac’s backstory, which mirrored his own, and initially meant to embrace this role to rise up the ranks in his career. However, an accidental fire during the film’s shoot caused radioactive fumes from the Manhattan Project to mutate Wolfe’s genes while he was in Zaniac’s costume and makeup, granting him superhuman strength and speed. At the same time, he became possessed by a demonic entity who pushed him to the point of no return.
As Wolfe started believing himself to be the fictional Zaniac, he started acting out the film’s script by killing various women, until Thor intervened and sent him to prison. After he was broken out of prison, Wolfe was killed off in “Thor #372,” which is also the issue where the TVA makes an appearance. “Loki” seems to be taking a wildly different route when it comes to Wolfe/Zaniac, but will this path also end in him being a villain?