The Marvel Cinematic Universe shook with reports that Jonathan Majors had been cast in the as-of-yet untitled Ant-Man 3 as Kang the Conqueror. It’s an addition that promises to have a massive impact on the MCU's past, present, and future.
From Kang the Conqueror's first appearance in 1963’s Fantastic Four #19, the character has plagued the heroes of Marvel Comics for decades in the real world and even longer than that in Earth-616's history. Hailing from the 30th century, Kang is Marvel’s preeminent time-traveling villain, and that gives him the potential to quite literally rewrite the history of the MCU. What's even more impressive about Kang the Conqueror's powers is that he doesn't have any. He uses technology and his unparalleled gift for planning to orchestrate intricate schemes to take over all of existence.
Marvel fans have been on the lookout for an heir to Thanos as the next universe-wide threat to the franchise. And if it is indeed Kang the Conqueror, the MCU’s next big bad hasn’t just arrived - he’s been here all along.
There Are At Least Five Distinct Versions Of Kang Floating Around The Timestream, And Endless Duplicates
Kang the Conqueror is a contradiction of a character. On the one hand, he possesses a unique time machine that allows him to actually change the past, which means he can fundamentally alter the very fabric of the Marvel Universe, something he’s done on numerous occasions. Kang’s brand of time travel can shift past events, instead of just creating a bunch of alternate timelines.
With that said, however, Kang can also visit said alternate timelines when he so chooses, and this has resulted in the creation of a bunch of alternate Kangs. The actual mechanics of this are tough to wrap one’s head around, but suffice it to say that there are at least five distinct versions of Kang floating around the timestream, and countless duplicates of each “personality.” There’s even a Council of Kangs, made up of a handful of Kangs from throughout the multiverse and formed in a futile attempt to regulate the comings and goings of all the various Kangs.
The end result is that Kang is functionally undefeatable. Even if one were to destroy him, there will always be an endless supply of other Kangs ready and willing to take another pass at conquering Earth.
Kang Has No Superpowers, But He Doesn’t Need Them
A guiding principal of the Marvel Universe, often invoked when discussing Asgardians and the like, is Arthur C. Clarke’s assertion: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Kang the Conqueror is the embodiment of that maxim.
Born an ordinary 30th-century human, Nathaniel Richards has neither any superpowers to speak of, nor any special abilities save for a genius-level intellect. He really doesn’t need powers because he’s still consistently able to combat Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to a standstill on the strength of his futuristic tech alone.
Whenever he travels back to the 21st century, he comes packing his battle armor, which is loaded with features that simulate super-strength, super-durability, and transferable antigravity. Its gloves can summon any weapon from any time period to his hand in an instant, such as the handheld neutrino-ray warhead launcher he frequently favors and a device that can sap his opponents’ vitality.
Kang also usually shows up in his Time Chair, a floating throne into which he has integrated the Time Platform, as well as a host of other powerful devices, including a forcefield. That means that, on occasion, he’s able to defeat foes like the Avengers without ever leaving his seat.
Kang Comes From A Peaceful Future That He Couldn’t StandPhoto: Avengers/Marvel Comics
The life story of Kang quickly becomes convoluted and complex - understandable in the case of a character for whom time travel is a way of life. There is, at the very least, a clear origin point for the man who would one day become the Conqueror.
Nathaniel Richards was born in the 30th century of the alternate future of Earth-6311. In this reality, humanity never experiences the Dark Ages, and so by the time the 2900s roll around, the world is at peace, thanks in no small part to various interventions by an entirely different Nathaniel Richards, Reed Richards’s time-traveling father from the main Earth-616 universe.
A historian and scholar in his own time obsessed with the wars and warriors of the past, the 30th-century Nathaniel found himself bored in a world without conflict and started looking for a way to experience those more exciting eras firsthand.
Kang Is (Allegedly) The Descendent Of Both Reed Richards And Victor von DoomPhoto: Doctor Doom/Marvel Comics
The Nathaniel Richards of the 30th century already came from a super-powered bloodline even before he was known as Kang the Conqueror. In his own time, he was widely recognized for being the descendant of that other peace-bringing time-traveler Nathaniel Richards, which also made him a descendant of the one and only Mister Fantastic, Reed Richards.
If Kang himself is to be believed, however, he also has another notable ancestor from the modern era of Marvel Comics: none other than Doctor Doom himself. This reported blood relation has led to Kang and Doom working together on numerous occasions, though it’s often impossible for two egos so large to coexist for long. Of course, it would be a rediscovered Doom invention that would kick off Nathaniel’s long journey to becoming the Conqueror in the first place.