Forget Thanos, Ultron, and Loki. In the pages of Marvel Comics, the Avengers’ biggest adversary was always Kang the Conqueror. And after years of waiting, he arrived in the MCU on Loki, played by Jonathan Majors, and soon, in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. But those will all just be the warm-up act. Because we know he’s going to unleash chronal hell in Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, and in all likelihood, in Avengers: Secret Wars. But who (or what) is Kang from the Marvel universe? More than any other Marvel villain, the answer here is quite complex.
When Does Kang the Conqueror First Appear in Marvel Comics?
Despite primarily being an Avengers villain, the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby creation Kang first appeared in the pages of Fantastic Four. This detail made him a part of the Fantastic Four film rights, and therefore, it wasn’t until Disney purchased Fox that Marvel Studios could use him properly. His first appearance was in 1963’s Fantastic Four #19, as the Pharoah Rama-Tut. He wouldn’t appear in a more recognizable form until a year later, in 1964’s Avengers #8. But let’s begin at the beginning, which in this case, means ancient Egypt. By way of the 31st century.
Kang the Conqueror’s Path From Fantastic Four Villain to Avengers Adversary
Kang is complicated to explain, thanks to the many, many variants of him across multiple timelines. For the purpose of clarity, we’re going to focus on what they call “Prime Kang.” And we’re going to focus on his chronological appearances. Nathaniel Richards, who may or may not be a descendant of the Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards and Doctor Doom, was born as a human male in 31st century Earth. As a young man, he discovered his ancestor Doctor Doom’s time platform, which he used to travel to ancient Egypt.
He conquered this past era and became the Pharoah Rama-Tut. But a time-traveling Fantastic Four defeated him, and sent him packing to the far-flung future. This war-ravaged 40th century Earth he landed in, 1,000 years further from his birth era, utilized technology the population no longer understood. So Richards used his scientific knowledge to conquer this time period, and became Kang the Conqueror. He had no super powers to speak of, but a genius intellect, and access to all time periods, allowed his access to almost godlike technologies.
But the 40th century was not enough for him, and Kang decided to conquer other eras as well, with the goal of eventually ruling over all of history. And this is when he came into conflict with the Avengers. As a young man, he was obsessed with Earth’s “Heroic Age,” and saw them as the only ones who could stop him. So he traveled to the past to destroy them. The first of literally dozens of times combatting Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Kang was more of a master stragesist than Thanos, but despite incredible power, he wasn’t on the level of the Celestials. Despite trying to steal their technology once.
The Many Identities and Variants of Kang
Eventually, Kang time-travelled so much, that multiple variants of himself spread across spacetime. If one Kang died, another always existed in an alternate timeline to cause trouble. One version of him went by the name the Scarlet Centurion, an identity he adopted after his time in ancient Egypt, but before becoming the Kang we know. Even though the Kang identity appeared in the comics first. (As Professor Hulk would say in Endgame, “time travel!”)
But those are all just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Kang variants. In one story, he traveled back to the early 1900s and took the name “Victor Timely,” and built a small town in Wisconsin from which he could alter the flow of time. In the year 2099, he was the owner of a large company and known as “Kang the Conglomerator.” In the 21st century, another CEO-style variant of Kang went by Mr. Gryphon. He even melded once with Ms. Marvel and became “Kamala Kang.”
On Earth-18854, Kang took the power of Galactus himself, and became “Kang the Time Eater.” Because of his contol of time, he may even be more powerful than the Celestials themselves. Not all of the Kangs were totally cold and power hungry however. One fell in love with one of his subjects, a woman named Princess Ravonna. In one timeline, they even had a son together named Marcus. He would assume a former alias of his father’s, the Scarlet Centurion.
Immortus, the Most Dangerous Kang Variant
But the version of Kang the Avengers tangled with the most was Immortus. This was a much older version of Kang. After having conquered timeline after timeline, Kang grew weary of battle. The alien race called the Time-Keepers approached him, time travelers from the end of the universe, and the last living creatures known to exist. He became their agent, and began preserving timelines instead of conquering them. He did all this for the Time Keepers, in exchange for immortality (hence the new name). The former Kang accepted and reinvented himself again, this time as Immortus, the lord of the other-dimensional realm of Limbo.
But conquering timelines and pruning them are also aggressive acts. Just not in the same way the younger Kang was prone to. All of this constantly brought Immortus into conflict with the Avengers. Although he did officiate at the wedding of Vision and Scarlet Witch. Speaking of Wanda Maximoff, Immortus was later revealed to be the one behind the Scarlet Witch’s dark side turn. All the tragic events in her life were caused by his manipulations. But it wasn’t only Wanda, as Immortus’ hand lead to a teenage Tony Stark’s death in the ‘90s as well. (Don’t worry, he got better.)
In the comics, we even saw a “Council of Cross-Time Kangs,” made up of hundreds of Kang variants from across the multiverse. But they later revealed this Council to be a trap of sorts, one made by Immortus to slowly eliminate all variants of himself to ensure that only her remained at the literal end of time. Confused yet? We know, it’s a lot. And that’s without getting into how Kang once manipulated time to fight the X-Men and the crew of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Yes, that is an event that happened back in the ’90s.
That Time Kang Was an Avenger
The most intriguing version of Kang first appeared in 2005, and readers didn’t even know it was Kang at first. After the Avengers broke up (in the pages of Avengers: Disassembled), a young hero appears named Iron Lad. He wore an advanced version of Tony Stark’s armor, one that was neuro-kinetic in nature. When teen Kang discovered what his dark destiny had in store for him, he fled back in time to seek the Avengers for protection. He landed at a point in time when the team had split up, so he used his know-how to assemble the Young Avengers. Eventually, he realized he must return to his own time and fulfill his destiny and become a villain, or he’d damage the timestream even more.
The MCU’s Version of Kang a.k.a. the Time Tyrant in Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Phase 6
So how will the comic book Kang influence the MCU version? We can only guess, but there are clues already. In Ant-Man and the Wasp, we briefly saw a domed city in the Quantum Realm. It’s likely that in Quantumania, we learn this is Kang’s kingdom of Chronopolis. The version we met of Kang in Loki, “He Who Remains,” was very reminiscent of the Immortus version. Right on down to the robes, and ruling over a limbo-like pocket of spacetime. The inclusion of the T.V.A. and the Timekeepers in Loki was another connection to his comics counterpart.
Loki had another nod to comic book Kang’s history with one of the TVA agents, Ravonna Renslayer. She was based on Kang’s great love from the comics. Another way “He Who Remains” echoed the comics was his elmination of other Kangs and their timelines. This was also very Immortus-like. But now that he’s dead, we’ll likely see his much more destructive variants spread chaos throughout the Multiverse. All leading to The Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars. His MCU future looks to be very exciting. Or should we say, one of his futures? When it comes to Kang, there are an infinite number to choose from.