Who is Kang the Conqueror? Everything you need to know about Marvel’s latest Big Bad
Once upon a time, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was known for its near-perfect interpretation of its comic book heroes, but it fell short when it came to villains. In recent years, however, Black Panther’s Eric Killmonger, Thor: Ragnarok’s Hela, and of course, the Avengers antagonist Thanos, have all corrected that balance to some extent. And now, in Kang the Conqueror, the MCU may be about to unveil its biggest villain.
Played by Lovecraft Country’s Jonathan Majors, Kang will enter the microcosm of Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantum Mania, before setting out to conquer the wider Marvel multiverse. Those efforts could culminate in 2025’s superhero team Avengers: Dynasty of Kang.
Majors has already appeared in his role to stay with Loki, but there are still many questions about how this (reportedly completely different) character ties into his dangerous doppelganger.
In this explainer, we’ve put together everything you need to know about Kang the Conqueror, from his comic book origins to how he fits into the wider MCU. This is Marvel, and there are few specific facts about his involvement in movies and TV shows. But when you look at a character with a nearly six-year backstory, the clues are definitely there…
Who is Kang and why is he important?
Kang the Conqueror may not be a household name yet, but we can expect his familiarity to start to soar soon – just as #Thanos became the talk of the world after a brief cameo at the end of The Avengers.
As the Marvel Cinematic Universe enters Phase 5, Kang is poised to become the MCU’s biggest badass, causing tons of cross-universe headaches for Earth’s most powerful heroes. First, however, he will officially make his big-screen debut in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantum Mania in February 2023.
What is Kang’s history in Marvel Comics?
Kang the Conqueror is a true Marvel Comics veteran, dating back to the glory days of the early ’60s, when the company was churning out iconic superheroes and supervillains at breakneck speed. Like the Fantastic Four, Hulk, X-Men, and Thor, Kang was the brainchild of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s writer/artist Dream Team, making his debut in 1964’s Avengers #8.
Kang’s real name is Nathaniel Richards, a genius scientist, born on Earth 6311 in the 30th century, aka “Other Earth”. This version of reality is more advanced than Earth-616 of the main MCU timeline – basically, the Dark Ages never happened – but also extremely war-prone. Nonetheless, the two sides reached a ceasefire following the arrival of another time traveler from Earth-616, Nathaniel Richards, who happens to be Fantastic Four founder Reed Richards / Mister Fantastic’s father — and possibly his Earth ancestor — 6311 has the same name.
However, Richards-6311 doesn’t like peacetime, and after discovering the time-travel technology invented by perennial Fantastic Four antagonist Victor von Doom (another potential ancestor), he decides to experience history for himself. He then used his knowledge of the future and his mastery of advanced technology – as his name suggests – to conquer countless worlds.
Richards’ original destination was ancient Egypt, where he ruled under the pharaoh Ramatut. In fact, Marvel’s Rama-Tut first appeared in 1963’s Fantastic Four #19 before being remade as an early incarnation of Kang. (Other aliases the character took on during his timeline-jumping misadventures include Iron Lad, Scarlet Centurion, Victor Timely, and Immortus.)
Rama-Tut eventually decides to go back to his original time period, but his journey back to the 30th century is interrupted by a time storm that takes him to a war-torn 40th century Earth. With Earth’s inhabitants now unsure how to use past technologies that are still abundant in their world, Richards seized an opportunity to take control. Assuming Kang is the Conqueror’s moniker, he then becomes the ruler of Earth before taking action elsewhere in the galaxy – an action that has repeatedly brought him into conflict with the Avengers.
As a character with a time-travelling history, there are multiple “variants” of Kang in the comics. The original “Prime Kang” even established a Kang Council with two of his most ruthless alternate selves, who set out to wipe out all other “little” Kangs in the multiverse. Prime Minister Kang then replaced the deposed Kang with a robotic replica so he could rule their realm remotely.
Other notable Kang variants include Conqueror Kangaroo: Spectacular Spider-Ham from Peter Polk, and a female Kang from the Marvel Alternative Ultimate universe.
What superpower does Kang have?
Like Batman or Iron Man, Kang doesn’t have any superhuman attributes other than genius-level intelligence. Possessing the ability to travel through time is the true source of his power, navigating the space-time continuum in a timeship capable of switching between infinite time periods and reality.
Kang also walks around in super advanced combat armor and has the most powerful weapons imaginable. In other words, there’s a good chance he might even be able to eat Thanos powered by the Infinity Stones for breakfast.
Have we already seen Kang in the MCU?
yes and no. Jonathan Majors, Lovecraft Country/The Harder They Fall actor, long-term contracted to play Kang in the MCU, did Appeared in Loki’s final season, but he played a completely different character – more or less.
In “Rocky,” Majors appears as him, the founder of the Time-Varying Authority (TVA), a bureaucratic organization whose job it is to keep the time-space continuum on track. He resides in the so-called End of Time Fortress, where Loki and Sylvie (a variant of the Liar God from another timeline) confront him with TVA’s ongoing efforts to suppress free will.
In a lengthy and very chatty exhibition scene, he reveals that a variant of himself was once a scientist on Earth in the 31st century. He discovers that there are multiple parallel universes “stacked” on top of his own, just as other variants in other realities stumble upon the same Earth 616 Shattering Apocalypse. They then connected and shared knowledge that would improve their respective worlds, but the peace didn’t last long. Soon, a multiverse war broke out as each variant fought to protect its own universe.
The survivors end the conflict by isolating a single “sacred timeline” with the use of an Alioth, a gigantic creature that consumes time and space. He then set up TVA to manage the flow of time and make sure it didn’t deviate from the intended script.
However, after all the lives spent alone at the end of time, the one left behind is tired and looking for someone to fill his shoes in the castle. He thought Loki and Sylvie were ideal candidates, but they didn’t like the show — so much so that Sylvie killed He Who Remains and threw the timeline into chaos.
He had warned that his death would expose the Divine Timeline and allow countless other variants to return – most of which, he claimed, were far more dangerous than him. That prediction appears to be confirmed at the end of Loki’s finale, when Loki lands in a slightly altered version of TVA that features a giant statue of him left as its centerpiece.
Whether this new management of TVA is Kang or some other variant has yet to be confirmed, but it appears that Kang was released when Sylvie killed the man he left behind.
When will we see the real Kang?
Kang has long been confirmed as the antagonist in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantum Mania, the first film in the MCU’s Phase 5 release (coming February 17, 2023). Appearing on stage at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Majors teased that “there will be conquests,” while director Peyton Reed told thousands of viewers that the film will “explore the quantum realm, which isn’t always you. It is as imagined.” Screenings at SDCC (though not yet publicly released) also strongly suggest that this sub-microscopic world — famously made possible by time travel in Avengers: Endgame — will be Ant-Man, The Wasp and Kang’s common path.
The first poster released for the film revealed that Majors Kang’s appearance would be heavily influenced by his comic book counterpart:
First time watching “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantum Frenzy”!My poster for @MarvelStudios @Comic_Con was honored to collaborate again with @MrPeytonReed #PaulRudd @EvangelineLilly & first time Cassie @kathrynnewton & KANG #JonathanMajors #antmanandthewaspquantumania #Quantumania #antmanwasp #kang pic.twitter.com/Mf8tL3wg6wJuly 23, 2022
Kang’s involvement in the MCU isn’t limited to one-time villain duties in Quantumania, however. Given the prominence of his likeness statue in the Season 1 finale, there’s a good chance Kang (or another variant of Remnant) will make an appearance in Loki Season 2 — especially as former TVA boss Ravonna Renslayer (by Ravonna Renslayer). Gugu Mbatha – Raw) is romantically linked to Kang in the comics.
Meanwhile, Kang’s name is featured in the fifth Avengers film, “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty,” which will be released in 2025 and directed by Shang-Chi and Destin Daniel Clayton of “Legend of the Ten Rings.” ) title, this fact largely implies that he “would be Phase 6’s answer to Thanos’ threat to the multiverse – in fact, the use of the word “dynasty” implies that multiple Kangs may be involved. We also expect Kang’s malicious influence to carry over into Avengers: Secret Wars, the end of the current MCU storytelling cycle.
Don’t be surprised if the villain shows up in the MCU’s new take on the Fantastic Four (coming in November 2024) — after all, his original comic-book incarnation, Nathaniel Richards, and FF’s Reed Richards has a long relationship. Will Marvel’s first family challenge Kang’s multiverse domination?
Of course, since Loki, Spider-Man: Nowhere, and Doctor Strange have opened the doors of the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse in the Madness Multiverse beyond the well-established Earth-616, there may be no limits to these places (and times) ) Kang, He Who Remains and their variants may appear.