Kang the Conqueror is the next major MCU villain, and he's about to hit the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a big way as the main antagonist of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. But as shown in the character's debut in Disney Plus' Loki, Kang will also bring his own variants - alternate versions of himself from across the Multiverse and timestream - into the mix.
Loki premiered this concept with the introduction of He Who Remains, the MCU's first Kang variant, along with a statue of Kang himself in the likeness of actor Jonathan Majors. But that's barely scratching the surface of the many identities and incarnations Kang has inhabited over the years in comic books, with some of the time conquerors variants going on to play as big a role in the Marvel Universe as Kang himself.
Kang's history is being revisited in comic books in advance of his movie appearances, meaning that now is the perfect time to learn the truth about Kang's origins and his past as one of the Avengers' premiere villains and to get to know the many variants.
Kang Prime, as he's sometimes called, is the main incarnation of Nathaniel Richards as a supervillain, debuting all the way back in 1964's Avengers #8. It's from his temporal machinations that nearly all other versions of him arise - the original Kang for whom the rest are all 'variants', of a kind. In addition to the many varied identities he's used which have taken on a life of their own, Kang Prime also has an army of duplicates of himself from around the Multiverse, and from different points in his history.
A descendant of both Reed Richards and Doctor Doom, Kang developed his mastery of time travel and accompanying empire over eons before facing the Avengers, creating countless alternate versions of himself along the way - and pissing a significant number of them off. Though Kang has tried to work with his variants before in a group called the Council of Cross-Time Kangs, it has always ended poorly, with the many Kangs winding up turning on each other.
Kang's earliest variant, Rama-Tut, actually debuted shortly before Kang himself in 1963's Fantastic Four #19, with the connection between the characters being established several years later. As Rama-Tut, Nathaniel Richards traveled to ancient Egypt and established his own dynasty, while also venturing to other eras in his time pyramid.
First encountered by the Fantastic Four during a time travel adventure, which quickly drew the attention of not just the Time Variance Authority and Time-Keepers, but his own alternate selves Kang and Immortus. These three have often warred with each other - a bitter irony, considering they are all the same person at different points in his own life.
Immortus is the elder self of Kang the Conqueror, an embittered manipulator whose previous chronological crimes led him to become an agent of the Time-Keepers, working against his own younger self as well as the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and more. Aspects of Immortus were adapted into the MCU version of He Who Remains (a totally different character who is not a Kang variant in Marvel Comics) for Disney Plus' Loki.
Despite being charged with preserving the timestream, Immortus' methods of doing so often hew toward his younger self's diabolical misdeeds. As such, he's often gone to all out war, as in Avengers Forever, and manipulated events behind the scenes for years. He's even partially responsible for the breakdown of Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch.
Following his time as Rama-Tut, Nathaniel Richards was trapped in the modern Marvel Universe where he met his ancestor Doctor Doom for the first time. While stuck in the present, he took on the identity of Scarlet Centurion with the intent of manipulating and destroying the Avengers (as usual), this time working alongside Doom.
Aside from Kang's time using the identity, there have been other Scarlet Centurions. In another reality, the Scarlet Centurion is the greatest enemy of the Squadron Supreme. And in the story Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, Kang's son Marcus XXIII (his 23rd cloned son) becomes the Scarlet Centurion. Incidentally, the name 'Marcus' was also once used by Immortus while in disguise.
During his many travels around the Multiverse, Kang lands in the United States in the early 20th century, where he takes on the guise of Victor Timely, an inventor working on ideas meant to rival the greatest discoveries of the era - though most of them are ultimately just future tech Kang brought back from his time, as shown in Avengers Annual #21.
Victor Timely plays a small, but important role in Marvel history, as the mentor of Professor Phineas Horton - AKA the creator of the original Human Torch, whose android body was later used to create the Vision. Kang even impersonated a whole line of Victor Timelys, pretending to be his own son to extend his career to the modern day.
When a version of teen Nathaniel Richards discovers his future as Kang the Conqueror, he steals a suit of advanced armor from his future self and travels to the past, taking the identity of Iron Lad and founding the Young Avengers to attempt to prevent his own evolution into a villain.
Unfortunately, destiny cannot be denied - at least when it comes to Nathaniel Richards - and the elder Kang chased his younger self to the present to retrieve the armor, and set Iron Lad back on his path to becoming Kang. Iron Lad's memories of the present were wiped, and his later appearances have included him working directly alongside Kang and Immortus.
Another youthful incarnation of Nathaniel Richards, Kid Immortus is a nickname taken up by a young time traveler working alongside Ravonna, Kang's former paramour, who later joined up with the elder Immortus.
Kid Immortus' biggest scheme to conquer the Multiverse came when he teamed up with two other major Fantastic Four foes from his timeline, Doctor Doom and Annihilus. The trio merged their forms to become a nigh-unbeatable foe named Doom the Annihilating Conqueror, taking on the substitute Fantastic Four in Matt Fraction and Mike Allred's FF.
Mister Gryphon is a somewhat unique incarnation of Kang, as his divergence (what Marvel Comics calls the process of variants spinning off from each other through different timelines) occurs directly on the page - with the enigmatic Mister Gryphon splitting off from Kang during a time-travel accident, and becoming trapped in the present day.
In All-New All Different Avengers, Mister Gryphon decides to use his predicament to enact a new plan to defeat the Avengers, founding a corporation called Qeng Enterprises and purchasing Stark Tower out from under the team. He goes on to reprogram and mind-control the Vision, while summoning a brutal Chitauri warrior known as Warbringer, before his schemes are finally put to bed.
Kamala Kang is a somewhat unique Kang variant in that she didn't quite diverge from the main Kang's timeline in the way that many of his other alternate selves did. Instead, Kamala Kang is a mash-up of Kang the Conqueror and Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel created through the power of the Infinity Stones.
In the story Infinity Warps, Kamala Kang is a young girl swept up in a whirlwind of chronological energy, turning her into a time-traveler with dozens of variants all her own.
The newest variant of Kang the Conqueror is none other than his own younger self - something that's becoming a tradition at this point - whose adult self mentors the young Nathaniel Richards to become a time conqueror. Traveling to the past, the elder Kang teaches his younger self about all his victories, and his defeats as well.
Realizing his older self is a bitter, sad, old loser, the younger Kang steals his time-travel gear, ditching the older Kang at an extinction event to die, stuck in the past. From there, he travels to the era of Rama-Tut, beginning a tour of his own past currently being told in the Kang the Conqueror limited series.
Kang the conqueror is one of the best Avengers villains of all time.