Kang the Conqueror Across the Decades
Journey through Marvel Comics history with Kang the Conqueror's greatest hits from each decade since his introduction in the 1960s.
Since his introduction in the ’60s, Kang the Conqueror has become one of the Marvel Universe’s most dangerous and powerful villains. On numerous occasions, the man once known as Nathaniel Richards has proved himself more than a match for entire teams of Super Heroes. As a result, each decade of Kang has brought with it at least one iconic story. Here are some of the best and most important Kang the Conqueror stories from across the decades.
’60s: Kang the Conqueror Makes His Marvel Debut
Although a version of Richards called Rama-Tut initially debuted in the pages of FANTASTIC FOUR (1961) #19, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s AVENGERS (1963) #8 marked the first proper appearance of Kang the Conqueror, the most enduring version of the character. In AVENGERS #8, Kang arrived on Earth and immediately tried to conquer the world. The Avengers opposed the villain and came shockingly close to losing. In the end, they were only able to just eke out a victory against Kang.
That first story is, in many ways, a template for many of Kang’s other appearances. AVENGERS #8 showed that Kang’s advanced technology and understanding of the timeline made him a particularly dangerous opponent. However, like in that first story, his failures often stem from underestimating his enemies. Kang’s defeat at the hands of the Avengers also wounded his pride and kicked off a longstanding grudge against the team that motivated his actions in many subsequent stories.
’70s: “The Celestial Madonna Saga” Re-Defines Kang
Spanning AVENGERS (1963) #129 through #135 and GIANT-SIZE AVENGERS (1974) #2 through #4, “The Celestial Madonna Saga” saw Kang abduct several members of the Avengers, including Mantis. He believed one of them to be the Celestial Madonna, a being destined to have an absurdly powerful child, so he aimed to have a child with her in order to further his own conquering ambitions. To stop him, the Avengers teamed up with both Immortus and Rama-Tut, who are alternate versions of Kang.
During the “Celestial Madonna Saga,” Kang learned that Immortus—a villain who had previously taken on the Avengers—was a future version of himself, and he did not take the news well. Kang hated the idea that he would become Immortus in the future, viewing that version of himself as a coward and failure. Kang thus swore to never become Immortus, and that oath drove many of his best stories.
’80s: Meet the Council of Kangs
Despite seemingly dying in the ’70s, Kang returned in AVENGERS (1963) #267 for a three-part story. The shocking first issue introduced the Council of Kangs, a group made up of different versions of Richards. This included Prime Kang, the main version who had appeared in the comics up until that point. Secretly, Prime Kang was working to kill these other divergent versions of himself on his quest for Multiversal victory.
This storyline not only brought Kang back to the Marvel Universe, but also further fleshed out his contentious relationship with Immortus. There’s also a stellar recap that gave the clearest version of Richards’ complicated history up until that point.
’90s: AVENGERS FOREVER Redefines Kang Again
Although Kang has generally served as a villain, he has sometimes found his interests aligned with those of the Marvel Universe’s heroes. Enter AVENGERS FOREVER (1998), one of the finest Kang stories ever told. In the story, Kang and a group of Avengers from across time united against Immortus and the Time-Keepers, a group of powerful beings dead set on stopping humanity from damaging the timeline. What ensued was a time-twisting battle for the ages.
AVENGERS FOREVER again put the focus on Kang’s relationship with Immortus, but also represented an important turning point for their relationship: at the end of the series, they were seemingly divided into separate beings. Thus, Kang found mastery over his own fate again.
’00s: The Dawn of the Kang Dynasty
In AVENGERS (1998) #41, Kang the Conqueror arrived on Earth with his son Marcus Kang, AKA the Scarlet Centurion. This kicked off the “Kang Dynasty” storyline, which ran through issue #55 of that series and AVENGERS ANNUAL (2001) #1. In that story, Kang successfully conquered Earth by pitting the planet’s inhabitants against each other and then using his army of future soldiers to sweep up the pieces. Although resistance to the villain’s rule was strong and the Avengers eventually defeated him, one fact remained unchanged: Kang won.
Not only was “Kang Dynasty” a bombastic, exciting story, but there was also a ton of fantastic character work for both the Conqueror and his son. The storyline was a realization of just how brutal and effective Kang could be. Overall, the 2000s were a great decade for Kang stories, as the classic YOUNG AVENGERS (2005) series also introduced Iron Lad, a younger version of Richards who struggled not to become his older self.
’10s: Kang, Enemy of the Inhumans
Around the time of SECRET WARS (2015), Blackagar Boltagon, AKA Black Bolt, hoped to keep his son Ahura safe from the potential death of the Multiverse, so he struck a deal with Kang. In exchange for protecting Ahura, Kang would get to keep the boy forever. Then, during UNCANNY INHUMANS (2015), Black Bolt tried to renege on the deal, resulting in all-out war between the series’ titular group and Kang.
In the ’10s, Kang’s actions resulted in alterations to the timeline that later had to be undone. UNCANNY INHUMANS also showed just how much damage Kang’s talents at manipulating others could do to a person’s psyche, resulting in some truly shocking moments.
’20s: Kang Has Only Himself Left to Conquer
KANG THE CONQUEROR (2021) featured the “Only Myself Left to Conquer” storyline, in which an older version of the titular villain appeared to his younger self in the 31st century. However, after seeing the brutality of the person he’d become, the younger Richards rebelled, stole Kang’s armor, and went journeying through the timestream.
KANG THE CONQUEROR not only shed new light on Richards’ history, but also continued his recurring theme of attempting to defy his own future. Ravonna Renslayer and Richards’ relationship with her played a key part in the story, leading to an arc that was both entertaining and tragic.
Kang’s next big journey will take place in the pages of AVENGERS (2023) by Jed MacKay and C.F. Villa at the helm. That storyline will pick up where TIMELESS (2022) #1 left off by pitting Kang against the mysterious Twilight Court, a group of characters led by the mysterious and deadly Myrddin.
Don’t miss Kang’s continuing adventures in AVENGERS (2023) #1, on sale May 17!
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