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Kang The Conqueror: Who Is This Formidable Foe?

We’re mere days away from the release of Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania and to say we’re excited would be an understatement. And while we’re all eager to see what’s next for Scott and Hope, there’s another character we just can’t wait for.

Kang the Conqueror has been a formidable foe in the Marvel Universe for a long time, and while we got a little bit of an introduction in Loki, we haven’t seen his full potential yet.

But who is Kang the Conqueror? Where does he fit in? And why is he such a big threat to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes?

Rama-Tut in Fantastic Four #19, 1963
Rama-Tut controls the Fantastic Four in his first appearance in Fantastic Four #19, 1963

Strange Beginnings

Over the years, Kang has gone by many names- Iron Lad, Scarlet Centurion and Immortus to name a few. But the first time we see him is in 1963 in Fantastic Four #19, as the pharaoh Rama-Tut. Here, he explains that he’s from the 31st century, a peaceful time that offers him no adventure. After researching the past and becoming fascinated with the antics of the Fantastic Four, he discovered a time machine that was created by his (possible) ancestor.

In September of 1964, we see the first appearance of Kang in Avengers #8. He has travelled to the 20th century and he goes up against the Avengers. After capturing almost all of them, he gives the whole world an ultimatum; surrender to him within 24 hours. But this was still the early days, and this was also the Avengers! Richards eventually had to escape once more. But the journey from pharaoh to conqueror isn’t an easy one, and it takes Kang a lot of time (and time travel) to get there.

Nathaniel Richards discovering his ancestor’s Time Machine in Fantastic Four #19 1963
Not Quite Kang: Nathaniel Richards discovering his soon to be favourite toy, in Fantastic Four #19, 1963

Destined To Rule

Kang’s real name is Nathaniel Richards. This name might sound familiar to you, as it is the name of Kang’s potential ancestor; the time-travelling scientist father of Reed Richards. The original Nathaniel Richards found himself on Earth-6311 after a time travelling incident caused him to go on the run. The planet was devastated by a war between the people on Earth and the people who colonised the Moon.

The original Nathaniel then married Princess Cassandra and rebuilt a citadel to work in and house his inventions. It is here where Kang discovers the remains of a time machine centuries later. And this machine allows Kang to travel through time and start his conquests.

In the years since we first met Kang, he has travelled back and forth through time on multiple occasions. He’s fought the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and even himself. One thing that never changes is his main objective; conquering whatever world he finds himself in.

Rama-Tut and Dr Doom First Meet in Fantastic Four Annual #2 1964
Nathaniel Richards and Dr Doom come face to face and have a little bit of a crisis in Fantastic Four Annual #2, 1964.

Back To The Future

After our introduction to Kang as Rama-Tut in Fantastic Four #19, he tried to escape back to his own time. Instead, he found himself in the modern era of Earth-616, where he came face to face with everyone’s favourite Latverian, Dr Doom. In Fantastic Four Annual #2, 1964, Doom and Rama-Tut meet on a time travelling jaunt. Floating through space they agree on their hatred for the Fantastic Four (as well as having a small existential crisis). Here, Doom inspires a new alter ego for the futuristic Nathaniel Richards.

But it’s not quite Kang time just yet. Before taking on his most formidable role, we see the time travelling menace become the Scarlet Centurion. His plan to bring down the Avengers by forcing them to go up against their alternate-reality selves doesn’t go very well. Once again, he is forced to take on the role of Rama-Tut and flee to his home time.

Seeing as this was the early days of Nathanial Richards’ time travelling escapades, things didn’t entirely go to plan. He narrowly misses out on his 31st-century home and instead lands 1000 years in the future. Here he finds a war-torn planet fighting with ancient weapons they don’t know how to use. Seeing this as the perfect opportunity to dominate not only the planet but the entire galaxy, Richards uses his vast knowledge to conquer the planet. From here, Kang The Conqueror was born.

Kang and The Avengers from Avengers vol. 7 #6 2017
A Timeless Battle: Kang vs Avengers. Cover from Avengers vol. 7, #6 2017.

I Fight With Time Itself

But Kang didn’t simply dabble in time travel; he mastered it. After conquering Earth in the 40th century, Kang needed more of a challenge and wanted more than the dying world he found himself in. He set his sights on the Earth in the 20th century.

His first trip to 20th-century earth saw him take on the Avengers and prove himself as a worthy foe. After beating them in a fight, he took almost all of the Avengers prisoner. He sent Captain America back to the 40s, and left only Janet Van-Dyne and Cap’s then sidekick Rick Jones behind. After lots of fighting, the destruction of a missile, and Thor cracking Kang’s armour with lethal radiation, Kang was eventually subdued, and the Avengers were all rescued and returned to their time.

This didn’t deter Kang from his need for conquest. Instead, he studied the avengers and their ever-changing line-up from afar, as well as taking more time to conquer the 40th century. He even found room in his heart for another and fell in love with Princess Ravonna. After a long and complicated plan to try and win over the Princess in Avengers #23-24, 1965, she was killed by one of Kang’s commanders who had turned against him

Broken-hearted, defeated, and reluctantly forced to return the Avengers to their timeline, Kang needed a greater adventure. Over the years, he has clashed with the Avengers, The Fantastic Four, and even The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, among others. From pitting the avengers against themselves in a twisted game with the Grandmaster (Avengers vol. 1, issues #69-71), to creating a multitude of Marcuses in order to secure his dynasty (Avengers vol. 3, issues #41-55), Kang has tried all he can to rid the world of his nemeses, and conquer his most sought after world.

The Many Faces of Kang from Avengers vol. 7 #2 2016
A plethora of Kangs. Cover from Avengers vol. 7, #2, 2016.

A Rose by Any Other Name

But the main problem with fighting with time is that time will often fight back. And as Kang was so willing to travel across centuries and universes, there was a lot of fighting back to contend with.

Something that Kang was initially unaware of was the many divergent and variant Kangs, some of which were created due to his time travelling escapades. And while Prime Kang has many aliases that he has used throughout time, other versions of Kang are not to be taken lightly.

Kang the Time-Eater, from Exiles vol. 3, #4 2018
Kang the Time-Eater from Exiles, vol. 3, #4, 2018.

Take, for example, the Kang of Earth-18854, who killed Galactus and absorbed his power. He then went on to repeat this routine for many different Galactuses and became known as Kang the Time-Eater.

Or how about the more well-known Immortus? A future version of Prime Kang who is an agent of the Time-Keepers, immortal, and the lord of Limbo. Prime Kang has a deep hatred for this version of himself. He succeeded in separating their timelines, vowing never to become the weakling that Immortus was.

As some may imagine, a variety of Kangs would mean that not all seek to conquer the universe. Kang seeks out a younger version of himself to try and convince him to follow his villainous path sooner. The young Nathanial Richards was horrified at what he would become, and instead chose a different path. He took on the role of the superhero Iron Lad. After some time as a Young Avenger, Iron lad is grief-stricken after the death of his teammate Stature, the daughter of Scott Lang. But not everyone can escape their destiny, and his grief changed him. The young Nathanial Richards took on a new persona as Kid Immortus and followed a more treacherous path.

Kangaroo the conqueror from Spider-Ham #4, 2020
The Kang Collective have had enough of Kangeroo the Conqueror in Spider-Ham #4, 2020.

If you need more Kang in your life, then look no further than the Council of Kangs. A gathering of Kangs from thousands of different timelines, led by Prime Kang. They first appear in Avengers #267, 1986, and were brought together with one task; to kill all divergent Kangs and ensure there was only one. And if you’re looking for something a little more lighthearted, check out Spider-Ham #4, where we meet the Kang Collective. A slightly different gathering of Kangs from a multitude of alternate realities, containing both human and non-human Kangs. Shockingly, the Kang Collective quickly exile Kangaroo the Conqueror for being an affront to all Kang Kind.

Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp Quantumania 2023
Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror.

Kang of the Future

While there are still many more Kangs from comic book history, there are simply too many to explore in one article. Instead, we need to look to the future and see what the MCU has in store.

We’re not too sure just yet what path this Kang will take, but we do know some things. We know this could be the version of Kang that becomes Immortus – scholarly and with more amicable links to the Time Keepers. We’re also expecting ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ in 2025, whose comic book storyline origin may still play a part.

There’s still a whole lot we don’t know about the newest villain in the MCU line-up, but with so many Kangs to draw inspiration from, we do know he’ll possibly be one of the most formidable foes yet.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania will be released on Friday 17th February, 2023!

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