With the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s fifth phase set to kick off sometime next year with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, fans are gearing up for the timeline’s next big villain after Thanos: Kang the Conqueror. This time around, the chosen villain’s origins are a little more complicated and may get a bit confusing for fans who aren’t that deep into Marvel comic book lore—I mean, this post itself is supposed to be about some guy named Nathaniel Richards, right? So why are we talking about some other dude named Kang? Let’s break all this down.
Who is Nathaniel Richards?
The name Nathaniel Richards may already be familiar to most of us because Reed Richards’ (a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic’s) father has the same name, and he also happens to be a time traveler like Kang. However, for the purposes of this discussion and to lessen confusion, we’ll be setting that aside—for now.
Kang was originally born in the 31st century as Nathaniel Richards, a scientist and descendant of Reed Richards and (possibly) his number one nemesis, Doctor Doom (they probably took the enemies-to-lovers pipeline a little too seriously at one point). Somewhere down the line, he discovers the art of time travel and uses the technology to jump to Ancient Egypt, where he becomes the pharaoh Rama-Tut. He is eventually defeated by the Fantastic Four, who kick his ass and set their timeline right by sending Nathaniel/Kang back to the future and into his own timeline. Once there, he uses his knowledge of both time travel and advanced technology to attempt to conquer the world, going head-to-head several times with the Avengers.
As you can tell, he has assumed many identities. In the MCU’s official timeline, we first got a dose of these many alter egos in Loki’s sixth episode, with the introduction of ‘He Who Remains.’ Played by Jonathan Majors, He Who Remains is the Time Variance Authority’s creator and is said to have put an end to a multiversal war from eons ago.
His primary variant is Immortus, a long-standing enemy of both the Fantastic Four and the Avengers. There is also Iron Lad, who became a part of the Young Avengers and mostly drew inspiration from Tony Stark. Another variant is Scarlet Centurion, who has an odd relationship with Carol Danvers before it’s revealed that he’s just another Kang variant. Lastly, there is Victor Timely, who was the inspiration behind the building of the android Human Torch.
What are Kang’s powers?
As formidable as Kang may appear to be, he technically does not have any powers—but this doesn’t make him any less intimidating. Best known for being an excellent military strategist and tactician, Kang’s most significant advantage is his superhuman intellect and time travel technology. He also wears armor crafted out of materials and objects from the 40th century, further emphasizing his strength and prowess.
Interestingly, Kang does have a flaw: He has a moral code of sorts. Considering that his whole thing is time travel, you might be wondering why he doesn’t just kill his enemies as children—well, yeah, the whole code thing prevents him from doing that.
Who plays Nathaniel Richards/Kang?
Lovecraft Country actor Jonathan Majors played Kang in Loki’s sixth episode and will reprise the role in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. He is also known for his work in The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Da 5 Bloods, and The Harder They Fall. In their report from Marvel Studios’ Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con, ComicBook.com shared this quote from Marvel boss Kevin Feige, in which he praises Majors’ confidence:
“It comes down to the cast and with Jonathan Majors, who I think took over the Hall H stage, you know, in the three minutes he was up there. It’s amazing, and I said to him there’s nobody’s shoulders I’d rather be putting the multiverse saga on than his. It’s really impressive what Jonathan Majors is able to do and all the different incarnations, variants, if you will, of Kang that we will see him do. It’s really pretty cool,” Feige said.
Feige further added that Kang will definitely be different from the evil Titan who previously terrorized the MCU: “What I love is that he’s totally different from Thanos. That he is completely different. That it’s not just how about there’s a bigger purple guy with a helmet? That’s not what Kang is. Kang is a very different type of villain and the fact that he is many, many different characters is what’s most exciting and most differentiates him.”
In an interview with Men’s Health, Majors himself explained what drew him to the role: “It was the character and dimensions of Kang. And the potential that it had. I thought, ‘I’ll take a chance on that.’”
Majors’ trainer for the film, Jamie Sawyer, explained that the goal was to give audiences the “warrior” version of Kang. “There was a focus on what that warrior would look like who’s been around through the ages and has developed every type of combat skill. It was about making him look like an imposing figure,” Sawyer said.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe Timeline
As we’ve established, Kang has many connections with various characters in the timeline, and we can probably safely assume that, like Thanos, he will be ominously looming in the background throughout Phase Five—until it all boils down to Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars. Prior to the release of Loki, fans had no idea about Majors’ role, so we probably shouldn’t rule out any additional appearances outside of Quantumania.
Most recently, audiences returned to Wakanda with the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever following the tragic passing of actor Chadwick Boseman. Phase Four will officially conclude with the release of The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special on Disney+ on November 25, 2022.
Joining Quantumania for Phase Five are Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, The Marvels, Captain America: New World Order, Thunderbolts, and Blade.
(featured image: Marvel)
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