He's been called by dozens of names. He's lived across thousands of years, fought countless battles, decimated entire worlds, and challenged the whole Marvel Universe – even fully taking over the world.
He's Kang the Conqueror, the Marvel Cinematic Universe's newest villain, to reportedly be played by Lovecraft Country's breakout star Jonathan Majors in Ant-Man 3. And if you're like most fans of the MCU, you've probably never heard of him.
Despite being one of the Avengers' longest-running villains (Kang first appeared in 1964's Avengers #8) and being widely considered one of their strongest arch-enemies, Kang has had little crossover attention from his comic book stories, in large part because his history can be daunting and, quite frankly, confusing at times – what with all the time travel and Kang's incessant habit of adopting new villainous identities.
But Kang is a villain with serious depth and more than a few solid comic book stories to draw from for movie inspiration – and with his historical connections to the Fantastic Four, the Young Avengers, and even Iron Man, Kang's arrival in the MCU could herald a whole new wave of MCU additions and adventures.
Who is Kang?
Answering the question of who Kang is might be the hardest part of understanding him.
Kang was originally a 31st century scientist named Nathaniel Richards – a descendant of Reed Richards, more on that later - but it's not so cut-and-dried as that.
Kang has taken numerous identities throughout his history, often interacting with Marvel's heroes as a variety of villains – some even appearing simultaneously to oppose each other – which has created a huge web of appearances of Kang, some of which are contradictory and many of which take place at similar points in the timeline of the Marvel Universe, but at wildly different points in Kang's life.
While it would be all but impossible to quickly run down every time Kang has shown up, or to create a true timeline of his appearances, there are some significant things to know about him that are likely to inform his role in the MCU.
As we said, Kang started out as Nathaniel Richards – a likely descendant of Reed Richards, AKA Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four. Kang (then still simply Nathanial Richards) first discovered time travel through the power of the arch-enemy of Reed Richards Doctor Doom's time platform, using the technology to travel to ancient Egypt and become the pharaoh Rama-Tut – a villain who was defeated by a time-displaced Fantastic Four, who set the timeline right and sent Nathaniel Richards far into the future.
This is where the identity of Kang comes in.
Arriving hundreds of years into the future of his own timeline, Nathaniel uses his knowledge of time travel and of the technology of many different eras to conquer this future world, taking the name Kang, and vowing to conquer other eras as well, with his goal to eventually rule the entirety of history all at once.
Since then (and before then, and after then, and... time-travel is a lot), Kang has challenged the Avengers numerous times, always attempting to defeat them and conquer Earth – and he's employed multiple identities to do it.
In fact, Kang has had so many different identities that there's literally an entire organization of his different incarnations, many of whom really don't get along, called the Council of Cross-Time Kangs.
So who are the other identities Kang has employed? Here are just a few.
Kang's primary alt-identity is Immortus, a much older version of the villain who has often run afoul of both the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, and who is an agent of the Time Keepers, the last living beings of the Marvel Universe in Immortus's timeline. He is tasked with maintaining the integrity of the timeline, something he's often taken harsh and downright villainous tactics to pursue.
And we mentioned Rama-Tut, an early enemy of the Fantastic Four, and Nathaniel Richards's first villainous identity. Rama-Tut traveled time in a flying Pyramid - something that could be interesting given the 'secret history' vibe of the upcoming Eternals film.
Then there's Iron Lad of the Young Avengers – an armored hero who took his inspiration from Tony Stark, and who was actually a teenage version of Kang attempting to try his life over again as a hero. Iron Lad tragically returned to his own timeline due to issues with changing the past, leaving his life and memories as a hero behind to fulfill his destiny as Kang.
There's the Scarlet Centurion, an alien warrior who had a disturbing and complex relationship with Carol Danvers, but ultimately proved to be another identity of Kang's – one which he later passed on to his son Marcus, an Avengers villain/supporting character with his own complex story.
Finally, Kang's other major identity is that of Victor Timely, a turn-of-the-century American living in Illinois in the early 1900s – who eventually inspired Professor Phineas Horton to build the original android Human Torch who fought alongside Captain America in World War II. The android body of the Human Torch was later used to build the Vision – who went on to try to defeat Kang by kidnapping him as a child, resulting in an even more fractured version of Kang with even more identities.
That's a lot, but it's most likely that the version of Kang who comes to the MCU will be based on the main version - though we would not be surprised to see elements of his personality and mission from other versions of his identities to come through as well.
How does Kang fit into the Marvel Universe?
Like we said, Kang has deep connections to many Marvel heroes. Most obviously, he shares a name with Reed Richards' father Nathaniel Richards. Complicating things even more, the original Nathaniel Richards (Reed's father) is also a time-traveler and in some realities has also been Kang, though in most cases they are descendants who share a name.
He's also got strong connections to Doctor Doom, Reed's arch-enemy, having used Doom's time-travel technology to develop his own tech and weapons, and having teamed up with Doom to challenge Marvel's heroes more than once.
And of course there's Kang's Iron Man connection, not just through Kang's time as Iron Lad, but through one of the most notorious (and disliked) Avengers stories ever. In 'The Crossing,' Kang manipulates Tony Stark into becoming a villain, at which point he dies and is replaced with a teen version of Tony Stark from earlier in the timeline, all of which was eventually reversed through even more comic book science.
Kang also once teamed up with the Apocalypse Twins, mutants who were twisted by the X-Men villain Apocalypse to be his successors. Interestingly enough, it's that story that develops Kang's connection to the Wasp, who is trapped in a dystopian future world by Kang where she marries Havok of the X-Men and even has a child, though the relationship and the child were eventually erased when Wasp and Havok returned home (though not all the memories of that time went away).
Weirdly, the one time Kang fought Ant-Man and the Wasp by themselves, it was in a corporate tie-in comic for Synchrony Bank in which Ant-Man learns to open a savings account (yes, really).
Most importantly, Kang once actually managed to conquer the Avengers' whole timeline, taking over the world and imprisoning almost everyone who might be able to stop him, including Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Of course he was eventually defeated – but not before he and Captain America fought to the finish as a pair of gigantic holograms clashing in space above the Earth.
What are Kang's powers?
Kang actually doesn't have any powers of his own – but he is a gifted military strategist and combatant, and has access not just to extensive weaponry from across all eras of history including the far future, he has unparalleled time-travel technology.
That weaponry includes his vaunted Damocles Base, a massive time-traveling starship shaped like a sword, which holds a massive arsenal of its own.
In the past, Kang has managed to launch attacks across multiple time periods at once, including in the story Avengers Forever, in which Immortus brings together a team of Avengers from across different eras to challenge his younger self.
And aside from his weapons, Kang is sometimes backed by an army of potentially trillions of soldiers from all across time and space, which he has often employed against his enemies.
All of that said, Kang does have one major weakness – his strict and strange code of honor, which has often led to his downfall. Though he's sometimes bent or tried to break these rules, Kang has a personal code that prevents him from defeating his enemies through treachery, such as going back in time and killing them as children.
To Kang, conquest only counts if it is won through hard combat – and only if your enemies know you've beaten them.
How could Kang affect the MCU?
Kang is more than just a simple villain – he's a gateway to a whole different side of the Marvel Universe, including the Fantastic Four, the Young Avengers, Doctor Doom, and much more, almost all of whom have been confirmed or bandied about as potential expansions for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Kang's inclusion as a villain for Ant-Man is interesting – aside from Kang's run-in with Wasp as part of an Avengers team, Kang doesn't have many specific comic book connections to Ant-Man's world. But in the MCU, Kang may be a perfect fit for an Ant-Man villain.
For one thing, it's Ant-Man's knowledge of and access to the Quantum Realm that made the time-travel aspect of Avengers: Endgame possible, so it makes perfect sense that Kang may have a connection to Ant-Man through the Avengers' Time Platform (as opposed to Doom's Time Platform in comic books, Doom not being part of the MCU yet). And if Ant-Man is going to play around in the timestream, he's bound to meet others who have done so.
We've also seen the logo of the Time Variance Authority in preview images for Disney Plus's Loki streaming series, which focuses on Loki's disruption of the MCU's timeline in Avengers: Endgame. Like Immortus's Time Keepers, the Time Variance Authority protects these time problems, preserving reality in the process – something which could factor into Kang's story as well.
There's also the possibility that this version of Kang/Nathaniel Richards actually is Reed Richards's father, who abandoned his son to travel the timestream when Reed was young - which would open up a whole other can of worms about the future of the MCU and how the Fantastic Four may come to join the film franchise - and when, especially since Ant-Man 3 director Peyton Reed is an avowed Fantastic Four fan, and even once pitched a version of the film to Fox.
Whatever comes – and when Kang is involved there are countless possibilities – Marvel casting current breakout star Jonathan Majors of the hit HBO show Lovecraft Country is another example of the studio's media savvy, and their usual mode of snatching up rising stars for multi-movie deals.
Given Kang's connections to so many aspects of the Marvel Universe, and the potential for him to be a conduit to the Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom, the Young Avengers, and even other alternate timelines (much like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness), it's looking like Kang could be a gamechanger in the MCU - perhaps even its next overarching supervillain that could unite everyone for a big blockbuster film down the road.