Once upon a time, the Marvel Cinematic Universe had a reputation for near-perfect portrayals of its comic book heroes, but failing when it came to the villains. In recent years, however, the likes of Black Panther’s Erik Killmonger, Thor: Ragnarok’s Hela, and, of course, Avengers antagonist Thanos have somehow restored the balance. And now, in Kang the Conqueror, the MCU may be about to reveal its biggest villain yet.
Played by Lovecraft Country’s Jonathan Majors, Kang is set to step into the microscopic world of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, before setting out to conquer the wider Marvel multiverse. Those efforts will likely culminate in the 2025 superhero team Avengers: The Kang Dynasty.
Majors has appeared as the One Who Remains in Loki, but there are a lot of questions about how this (supposedly totally different) character relates to his dangerous doppelganger.
In this explainer, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about Kang the Conqueror, from his comic book origins to how he might fit into the wider MCU. This being Marvel, hard facts about his involvement in the movies and TV shows are scarce. But when you’re looking at a character with nearly six decades of history, the clues are definitely out there…
Who is Kang and why is he important?
Kang the Conqueror might not be a household name just yet, but we can expect his familiarity to start skyrocketing very soon – just as #Thanos became a topic of conversation after his brief cameo during the end credits of The Avengers.
As the Marvel Cinematic Universe progresses into Phase 5, Kang is poised to become the MCU’s biggest villain, creating a lot of headaches for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. First of all, however, he will make his official big screen debut in February 2023 in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
What is Kang’s backstory in Marvel comics?
Kang the Conqueror is a bona fide Marvel Comics veteran, dating back to the glory days of the early ’60s, when the company churned out iconic superheroes and supervillains at an awe-inspiring pace. Like the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, the X-Men and Thor, Kang was a creation of the dream writer/artist team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and made his debut in 1964’s The Avengers #8.
Kang was originally Nathaniel Richards, a genius scientist born in the 30th century of Earth-6311, also known as “Other-Earth”. This version of reality was more advanced than Earth-616 of the MCU’s main timeline – basically, the Dark Ages never happened – but it was also extremely war-prone. However, a ceasefire was established after the arrival of another Nathaniel Richards, a time traveler from Earth-616 who happened to be the father of Fantastic Four founder Reed Richards/Mr. 6311 namesake.
Richards-6311 was not a fan of peacetime, however, and after discovering the time travel technology invented by eternal Fantastic Four antagonist Victor von Doom (another potential ancestor), he decided to experience history for himself. He later used his knowledge of the future and mastery of advanced technology to – as his name suggests – conquer various worlds.
Richards’ original destination was ancient Egypt, where he ruled as Pharoah Rama-Tut. In fact, Marvel’s Rama-Tut first appeared in 1963’s Fantastic Four #19, before being rebroadcast to become an earlier incarnation of Kang. (Other aliases the character adopted during his timeline misadventures include Iron Lad, Scarlet Centurion, Victor Timely, and Immortus.)
Rama-Tut eventually decided to return to his original time period, but his journey back to the 30th century was interrupted by a weather storm that took him to a war-torn 40th century Earth. With the planet’s residents now unsure how to use the technology of the past that was still plentiful on their world, Richards took the opportunity to take control. Assuming the moniker Kang the Conqueror, he subsequently became the ruler of Earth, before making moves on the rest of the galaxy – a course of action that repeatedly brought him into conflict with the Avengers.
As befits a character with a history of crossing universes, there are several “variants” of Kang in the comics. The original “Prime Kang” even established a Council of Kangs with two of their most ruthless alternate selves, and they began to eliminate all other ‘lesser’ Kang in the multiverse. Prime Kang then replaced the deposed Kangs with robot duplicates so he could rule their realms remotely.
Other notable Kang variants include Kangaroo the Conqueror from Peter Porker: The Spectacular Spider-Ham, and a female Kang from Marvel’s Ultimate alternate universe.
What are Kang’s superpowers?
Like Batman or Iron Man, Kang has no superhuman attributes other than his genius-level intellect. Having the ability to travel through time is his true source of power, and he navigates the space-time continuum in a timeship capable of switching between unlimited time periods and realities.
Kang also walks around in super advanced battle armor and has access to the most powerful weapons imaginable. In other words, there’s a strong chance he’ll even have a Thanos with Infinity Stones for breakfast.
Have we seen Kang in the MCU?
Yes and no. Jonathan Majors, the Lovecraft Country/The Harder They Fall actor who was long ago signed to star as Kang in the MCU, did appear in Loki’s season finale, but he was playing a totally different character – sort of.
In Loki, Majors appeared as He Who Remains, the founder of the Time Variance Authority (TVA), the bureaucratic organization with a mission to keep the space-time continuum on track. He resides in the so-called Citadel at the End Times, and it is here that Loki and Sylvie (the trickster god variant from another timeline) confront him about the TVA’s ongoing efforts to suppress free will.
In a much-talked-about long-exposure scene, He Who Remains reveals that a variant of himself was once a scientist on Earth in the 31st century. He discovered that there were several parallel universes “stacked” on top of his own, as well as other variants on Earth. other realities stumbled upon the same Earth 616 revelation. Afterwards, they made contact with each other and shared knowledge that would improve their respective worlds, but the peace did not last long. Soon, multiversal warfare broke out as each variant struggled to preserve its own universe.
He Who Remains ended the conflict by using Alioth (an enormous creature that consumes time and space) to isolate a single “Holy Timeline”. He then established the TVA to manage the flow of time and ensure it did not deviate from a predetermined manual.
After all those lifetimes of living alone in the End Times, however, the One Who Remains is tired and looking for someone to fill his shoes at the Citadel. He sees Loki and Sylvie as ideal candidates, but they don’t like the show – so much so that Sylvie kills what’s left and plunges the timeline into chaos.
He Who Remains had warned that his death would leave the Sacred Timeline exposed and allow countless other variants of himself to return – most of which, he claims, are far more dangerous than he is. This prediction is apparently confirmed at the end of the final Loki, when Loki arrives in a subtly altered version of the TVA that features a massive statue of the One Who Remains as its centerpiece.
Whether this new management at TVA is Kang or another variant is unconfirmed, but it seems likely that Kang was triggered when Sylvie killed He Who Remains.
When are we going to see the real Kang?
Kang has long been confirmed as an antagonist in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, the first film released in Phase 5 of the MCU (releases in theaters on February 17, 2023). Appearing on stage at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Majors teased that “there will be achievements,” while director Peyton Reed told the thousands in the audience that the film “will explore the Quantum Realm, which isn’t always what you think. is.” The footage shown at SDCC (although not yet publicly released) also strongly suggested that this submicroscopic world – which made time travel possible in Avengers: Endgame – will be where Ant-Man, the Wasp and their companions cross paths with. Kang.
The first poster released for the film revealed that Majors’ Kang’s look will be heavily influenced by his comic book counterpart:
1st look at ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA! Poster I illustrated for @MarvelStudios @Comic_Con Honored to work again with @MrPeytonReed #PaulRudd @EvangelineLilly & 1st time Cassie @kathrynnewton & KANG #JonathanMajors #antmanandthewaspquantumania #Quantumania #antmanwasp #kang pic.twitter.com/Mf8tL3wg6wJuly 23, 2022
Kang’s involvement in the MCU won’t just be limited to one-time villain duties in Quantumania, however. Given that a statue of his likeness appeared heavily in the season 1 finale, there’s a strong chance that Kang (or another He Who Remains variant) will appear in Loki season 2 – especially as former TVA boss Ravonna Renslayer (played by Gugu Mbatha -Raw) was romantically linked to Kang in the comics.
Meanwhile, the fact that Kang’s name is in the title of the fifth Avengers film, Avengers: The Kang Dynasty (released in 2025, directed by Shang-Chi and Legend of the Ten Rings’ Destin Daniel Cretton), strongly implies that he It will be the Phase 6 multiverse’s menacing response to Thanos – indeed, the use of the word “dynasty” implies that multiple Kangs may be involved. We also expect Kang’s evil influence to carry over into Avengers: Secret Wars, the conclusion of the MCU’s current narrative cycle.
And don’t be surprised if the villain makes an appearance in the MCU’s remake of the Fantastic Four (in November 2024) – after all, his original comic book incarnation, Nathaniel Richards, is distantly related to the FF’s Reed Richards. Could Marvel’s first family be riding Kang’s bid for multiversal domination?
Of course, now that Loki, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness have opened the doors to the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse beyond the well-established Earth-616, there’s potentially no limit to the places (and times) Kang, He Who Remains and its variants may appear.