The Many Faces of Kang
Get to know the Conqueror and all his major variants!
In case you hadn’t noticed, Kang’s time has come. The time-traveling villain (and sometimes hero?) has been menacing Earth’s heroes for almost as long as there’s been a Marvel Universe, and he’s not stopping any time soon.
On Wednesday, August 18, Kang will headline his own comic series in KANG THE CONQUEROR #1, courtesy of co-writers Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing, and artist Carlos Magno. This new limited series will offer a fresh perspective on Nathaniel Richards, AKA Kang the Conqueror, a man who has, at times, been his own worst enemy.
To truly understand Kang, the first thing to know is that there are countless variations of him across the Multiverse. Actually, an infinite number. But in the end, everything comes back to Nathaniel Richards.
As his last name implies, Kang is related to the Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards, but he is not a direct descendant. Instead, Kang’s line of ancestry comes from Nathaniel, the interdimensional explorer who was also Reed’s father. At some point in the 30-31st century, the man who would be Kang discovered a time machine that he used to go back to ancient Egypt. Which brings us to Kang’s first incarnation...
FIRST APPEARANCE: FANTASTIC FOUR (1961) #19
The Fantastic Four didn’t realize what they were getting into when they went back to the past to search for a way to restore Alicia Masters’ sight. Encountering an evil overlord who fashioned himself as an Egyptian Pharoah, the man named “Rama-Tut” used futuristic ray guns to enslave the team, and he even tried to make Susan Storm his bride. Although the FF were able to turn the tide, they were shocked when Rama-Tut used his own time machine to slip away.
While the name “Kang” was still unknown to the Marvel Universe, his 30th century origins were set in this pivotal first appearance.
FIRST APPEARANCE: AVENGERS (1963) #8
This is the version of Kang that we’re most familiar with, a few years after he abandoned his Rama-Tut identity. After conquering the future and earning his title, Kang traveled to the present and challenged Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. He almost beat them his first time out too, although he has never been able to fully defeat the Avengers in the past, present, or the future.
[RELATED: Kang the Conqueror Character Close Up]
FIRST APPEARANCE: AVENGERS (1963) #10
From the Avengers’ perspective, they met Immortus shortly after they first fought Kang. However, it would be years before they realized that the two men were one and the same! Unlike Kang, Immortus is more scholarly, and he bends at the knee to the Time-Keepers in return for control over a certain period of history. That’s why Kang despises his future self as a weakling, and he has vowed to never become Immortus.
Amazingly, Kang succeeded in changing his fate in AVENGERS FOREVER (1998) #12 when Kang and Immortus were separated from each other. Now, both variants can have a life of their own without getting bogged down by that pesky shared history!
COUNCIL OF KANGS
FIRST APPEARANCE: AVENGERS (1963) #267
And here’s where Kang goes infinite.
AVENGERS (1963) #267 introduced the Council of Kangs, which was essentially a gathering of Kangs from thousands of different timelines. But with AVENGERS (1963) #292 we met the full Council of Cross-Time Kangs. It’s important to note that not all of these Kangs were variants of the original. Some were creatures and aliens who usurped the role of Nathanial Richards’ Kang in their own timelines. The prime Kang despised the Cross-Time Council, and he later sicced interdimensional space-cloud Alioth on them.
More recently, SPIDER-HAM (2020) #4 established a new multiversal group: the Kang Collective. However, poor Kangaroo the Conqueror was quickly expelled from their ranks as an affront to all Kang-kind. Kang’s words, not ours.
When you’re a time traveler, you can afford to be patient and plan for the long term. That’s why a divergent Kang adopted the persona of Victor Timely. Almost a century before the rise of the Avengers, this variant of Kang was leaving his mark on the technology that would shape our present. He even introduced robotic tech that eventually led to the creation of the first Human Torch! This paid off in the “Kang Dynasty” storyline from AVENGERS (1998) #41-55, when the seeds planted by Victor Timely in the past allowed Kang to seize control of the Sentinels.
SCARLET CENTURION (MARCUS KANG)
FIRST APPEARANCE: AVENGERS (1998) #38
While a variant Kang used the moniker Scarlet Centurion for years, readers were introduced to his son, Marcus Kang, during the “Kang Dynasty” arc. Marcus also took on the identity of the Scarlet Centurion, and while Kang was proud of his son’s potential, he felt the need to murder him because Marcus hid a minor betrayal. Marcus also refused to let his father languish in captivity or death, but he didn’t foresee that freeing Kang would lead to his own demise.
FIRST APPEARANCE: YOUNG AVENGERS (2005) #1
Kang wasn’t always a bad guy! When he was much younger, Nathaniel Richards idolized the Avengers. But when his future self visited him, Nathaniel was horrified by the future that Kang presented as his own. So, Nathaniel escaped to the past, adopted the Iron Lad persona, and tried to be a hero alongside his fellow Young Avengers. Iron Lad even had romantic feelings for Stature, the teenage Super Hero who is also the daughter of Ant-Man: Scott Lang.
But no matter how good his intentions are, Iron Lad can’t escape his destiny.
FIRST APPEARANCE: AVENGERS (2016) #1
Perhaps the reason that Kang went bad was due to nurture, not nature. Whatever his faults, Nathaniel Richards was once an innocent baby. That’s why Kang was so incensed when Vision kidnapped his much younger self in the “Kang War” storyline, placing him in the care of the Priests of Pama. Kang Prime couldn’t exist if Baby Kang wasn’t returned to his proper point in time. That’s why Kang made the unusually aggressive step of messing with the personal timelines of each of the Avengers on this particular team. Ultimately, Baby Kang’s place in the timeline was restored.
FIRST APPEARANCE: INFINITY WARS (2018) #4
Kamala Kang is perhaps the strangest Kang of them all. During INFINITY WARS (2018), Gamora used the Infinity Stones to warp reality and cut the universe’s population in half by merging different beings into a single person. That’s how Ms. Marvel: Kamala Khan and Kang became mashed up as Kamala Kang. Even their origin stories were slammed together, as Kamala Kang’s attempts to use time travel resulted in personal tragedy. Fortunately for both Kang and Kamala, their union was short-lived.
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