Marvel Cinematic Universe, aka MCU, introduced the audience to its live-action universe’s first iconic villain Thanos in the post-credit scenes of “The Avengers” (2012). The characters’ buildup was stacked on for seven more years till the hordes of Marvel superheroes clashed with the mad Titan in a final battle, culminating a decade’s worth of storytelling since the inception of the MCU into the movie “Avengers: Endgame,” released in 2019. Just like Thanos’s introduction officially kicked off the “Infinity Saga” of the MCU and ended with his defeat, the cinematic universe’s next chapter, the “Multiverse Saga,” began with Kang’s introduction in the MCU. Although the “Multiverse Saga” is getting noticeably less, in fact, almost half the time (2021-2025) for development compared to its predecessor, the exponential increase of MCU content is more than making up for it. To get an idea of what “Multiverse Saga” can offer, we will trace this saga’s prime villain Kang the Conqueror’s comic origins, introduction, and involvement in MCU and share some of our speculations regarding what’s to come.
The Comic Origins Of Kang The Conqueror
One of the Marvel Universe’s earliest supervillains, Kang the Conqueror, made his first appearance in comics in “The Avengers” #8 (1964), created by the legendary duo Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. However, one of his variant selves, Rama-Tut, had made an appearance in comics a year earlier, in “Fantastic Four” #19 in 1963. Kang’s comic origins are convoluted, but we will keep it as simple as possible.
The resurgence of interest in science fiction-based stories marked the beginning of comic book literature in the 60s, and the origin of Kang was no exception. Before becoming the infamous time-traveling megalomaniac, Kang was originally Nathaniel Richards, a genius scholar from the 31st century. He had gained immense knowledge of history and amassed the chronicles of all past events concerning super-beings, right from the earliest periods. Nathaniel was a skilled inventor and had managed to construct a version of the time machine after getting access to another supervillain, Victor Von Doom, aka Doctor Doom’s design for the 20th century (current timeline). Growing bored of his age’s peaceful indolence, he decided to use this construct to travel to ancient Egypt. Using superior technology; he wanted to capture En-Sabah-Nur from that age, the first form of the extremely versatile and powerful mutant Apocalypse, in order to make the mutant his heir. Upon his arrival, he was considered by ancient Egyptians to be a God-sent Pharaoh, and Nathaniel assumed the identity of Pharaoh Rama-Tut to rule over them for quite a while. Things go to such length that the Time-Ship Kang uses to travel back in ancient Egypt was a look-alike of the Sphinx and later served as the inspiration for the construction of the Sphinx in the Marvel Universe. Rama-Tut’s reign is short-lived as the super-team of the current timeline, the Fantastic Four, while time-hopping, ends up in the same era and puts an end to Nathaniel’s deceit.
After facing defeat at the hands of the Fantastic Four, Rama-Tut drifts across space for a few months, where he comes across Victor Von Doom, his inspiration in early life. Motivated by this chance meeting, he models an exo-armor for himself and adopts the villainous persona of Scarlet Centurion for quite a while. For a time, he succeeds in pitting different earth’s Avengers against one another, but once again, his ambition gets the better of him. After being defeated by the combined might of the Fantastic Four and Avengers, he re-adopts the Rama-Tut identity and flees in his time-ship but accidentally reaches the far future, the 40th century. This future world was war-torn but had inept barbarians wielding technology beyond their comprehension. Having the advantage of intellect, Rama-Tut wasted no time conquering the earth and other universes and introduced his most well-known and formidable persona, Kang the Conqueror. Laced with various futuristic technological equipment and knowledge, Kang continued his time-traveling shenanigans and became one of Marvel’s most fearsome adversaries. His ultimate future self, known as Immortus, although a scheming, self-serving mastermind to some extent, turns to the side of good and serves as a protector of the Marvel multiverse.
Another version of Kang is the character Iron Lad, who was the result of young Nathaniel’s decision to undo his destiny of becoming Kang by going into the past and becoming a hero. He joined the Young Avengers, became a force for good for quite a while, and even thwarted Kang’s plans. But unfortunately, the plan backfired, and he had to return to the future to submit to his destiny.
Kang’s Introduction To The MCU
Kang’s character is very closely oriented to the concept of Time, and in a befitting manner, “Loki” season 1, which mainly dealt with multiverse and temporal effects, introduced Kang into the MCU. In the season finale, we meet one of Kang’s oldest variants, “He Who Remains,” aka Nathaniel Richards, as the character who oversees the sacred timeline. He resided in the citadel at the end of Time and created the Time Variance Authority (TVA) to nullify nexus events that can branch out into multiverses. “He Who Remains” seems to be a renamed version of Immortus from comics, as the latter, too, served a similar purpose.
In the MCU’s version of the origin, Nathaniel Richards, a scientist from the 31st century, gained knowledge of the existence of the multiverse and came into contact with other variants of himself. They shared their knowledge and technology to make their world better. Among them, one of the variants was Kang, for whom this was an opportunity to take control over other universes and start a multiversal war. The first Nathaniel Richards weaponized a creature named Alioth, who is made from tears of the fabric of reality and consumes space and Time itself. Using the creature, the first Nathaniel ended the war and took the name “He Who Remains.” Afterward, he isolated a collection of reality, known as a sacred timeline, a collection that ensures only his existence and hinders any other variants from existing. By doing so, he also made the sacred timeline a metaphor for determinism since every event and decision is scripted beforehand. Free will is out of the equation. In a way, he has conquered what Kang in comics always wanted, to conquer Time itself. After his death at the hands of Sylvie, the multiverse branches out infinitely, and later we see TVA getting rebooted and governed by Kang the Conqueror.
Place In MCU
In comics, Immortus, the future self of Kang, was wary of Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch, as her uncontained Hex powers had the potential to upset the balance of the multiverse. According to his knowledge, Wanda’s children posed an even greater danger to the multiverse. Therefore, he tricked Wanda into falling in love with Vision, an android. Appropriately, the “WandaVision” series begins the Multiverse saga, and also, by the end of season one, we see a semi-deranged Wanda grieving for her sons, which makes us wonder whether it was Kang who was pulling strings after all. The presence of multiple Kang variants alludes to the existence of the Council of Kangs. Kang will be the main villain in the upcoming phase five movie “Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quatumania,” and incidentally, Kang’s home in comics, Chronopolis, was teased in the second Ant-Man movie to be inside the Quantum realm. This, again, is appropriate because the quantum realm is another space beyond Time. In the third Ant-Man movie, Kang will allegedly blackmail Scott Lang to retrieve the master TemPad left by He Who Remains, which possibly was stolen from him in the first place; at least, that’s what we speculate!
TVA Judge Ravonna Renslayer’s role will be interesting, as she had left to search for the one with free will in season one. In the comics, Renslayer was the one Kang had fallen in love with, so it’s safe to assume the MCU will build some kind of connection between them too. Ms. Marvel has also shown the ability to go back in Time to change the course of an event to make the future result desirable, something which Kang has a habit of doing. Even “Moon Knight” had a brief Rama-Tut reference in an emblem on a jacket. Kate Bishop, Ms. Marvel, Kid Loki, Billy Kaplan, Tommy Shepherd, Cassie Lang, America Chavez, and Elijah Bradley, all teenage legacy characters, have made their MCU debut in quick succession within the last two and a half years, and that’s no coincidence. This indicates the eventual formation of the “Young Avengers,” which He Who Remains must have orchestrated to make the past self of Nathaniel Richards become Iron Lad and not Kang.
MCU has been testing waters with alternate future characters and variants for quite a while now; since “Endgame,” “Loki,” “Spiderman: No Way Home,” “And Multiverse of Madness” all dealt with some form of variants appearing alongside the main character. It is pretty obvious that Kang will be introduced in the MCU in all his glory, with variants from other universes. In fact, the Kang we will see in “Quantumania,” “Avengers: Kang Dynasty,” and “Loki” might be different variants. In leaked trailer footage of “Quantumania,” Kang says outright that he has killed Avengers before.
Jonathan Majors, who portrayed the role of He who remains, will once again return to play the character’s evil variant, Kang, with a different appearance and personality. Interestingly enough, in comics, Kang is a descendant of both superheroes, Mister Fantastic, aka Reed Richards, and his archenemy, Doctor Victor Von Doom. With Reed Richards already being introduced in this year’s Multiverse of Madness, played by John Krasinski, and Doctor Doom rumored to make his appearance pretty soon, it’ll be intriguing to see how deep the MCU delves into comic lore with this one. “Avengers: Secret Wars” will follow the penultimate movie of phase six, “Avengers: Kang Dynasty,” where both Reed and Doctor Doom will play a significant part in the former event in comics.
Like Thanos, Kang’s motivations will be changed to suit the MCU better, but one thing that has remained unchanged for good is that Kang is just a man. Sure, his technological prowess and time ship gave him all sorts of defense mechanisms, but his strength lies in his intellect. The stage has been set meticulously to mark the arrival of this genius psychopath, and the Marvel multiverse will have their work cut out for them to tackle this threat!