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Ant-Man 3 has found a villain, with Lovecraft Country star Jonathan Majors cast as Kang the Conqueror. But the cinematic arrival of Kang might mean more than just a one-time bad guy showing up to confound the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s smallest superhero.
One of Marvel’s earliest recurring supervillains, Kang first appeared in 1964’s Avengers No. 8 — although, thanks to his somewhat confusing backstory, he’d actually shown up a year earlier, in Fantastic Four No. 19 as an entirely different character in Ancient Egypt. There’s more than a little bit of that in fully understanding who and what Kang actually is, be warned.
The basics of Kang are quite simple… kind of. Originally from the 31st century, he traveled to Ancient Egypt to spend some time as a pharaoh, and then overshot his return journey by a thousand years, landing in the 41st century — an era so peaceful and evolved that it proved surprisingly easy for him to conquer. Once settled in his new role as Kang the Conqueror, he begins to travel to our present day to constantly confound the superheroes of the Marvel Universe.
Except, as tends to happen with time travelers and supervillains, things aren’t necessarily as simple as they might seem. For example, before the future-Kang traveled from the 31st century to Ancient Egypt, he traveled to the present day in disguise as the heroic Iron Lad, founding the team of teen superheroes known as the Young Avengers. Beyond Iron Lad, there are multiple variations of Kang running around: The Scarlet Centurion, Rama-Tut, and Immortus, who is actually a future version of himself from an alternate timeline. There is, in fact, a quorum of Kangs from alternate timelines that meets to discuss matters; it’s called the Council of Cross-Time Kangs, and it first showed up in 1988’s Avengers No. 292.
And if that’s not enough, Kang might also be a descendent of either Mister Fantastic from the Fantastic Four or Doctor Doom, the Fantastic Four’s sworn arch-nemesis — or, perhaps, both of them.
Kang has been at the center of a number of big Avengers comic book storylines through the decades, including the 1998 Avengers Forever series, in which multiple Avengers from across time team up, and the massive 16-part 2001-2002 “Kang Dynasty” storyline, where he actually succeeded in taking over the world. (It didn’t work out so well for him.)
All of this just threatens to eclipse the true appeal of Kang, however: that he’s a time-traveling jerk who likes to show up without warning with technology far beyond the comprehension of anyone around. That’s more than enough reason for him to make an ideal foil to Ant-Man in the third Marvel Studios solo outing for Paul Rudd’s miniature hero — but the multiple connections he has to the larger Marvel mythology, and specifically the Fantastic Four, which Marvel Studios now has the rights to, mean that he could prove to be far more important to the future of the MCU than it seems on first glance.
The future of the MCU is about to arrive — and he might be bringing the future of the MCU along with him.
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