Everyone's going to be asking "who is Kang the Conqueror?" After episode 6 of the Loki series, the titular trickster and Sylvie have arrived at a moment in the history of the timelines that will make many a fan wonder about what they just saw, prompting many to believe the Disney Plus show delivered the latest villain for the Marvel movies.
Kang is seen as one of the potential successors to Thanos, as the next possible big-bad villain for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is due to Kang's ability to travel through time to terrorize characters throughout the entire MCU.
Kang just appeared in the latest Marvel movie, but we'd argue that Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania nearly ruined Kang. Fortunately, Jonathan Majors is portraying Kang, and he's charismatic enough to save even the weakest script.. But who is Kang? What makes him tick? Why is he such a problem? Let's dig into some comics history.
Of course, though, we need a SPOILER WARNING. This piece will discuss the plot points of many Marvel movies and shows, including Loki episode 6.
Who is Kang the Conqueror? What's his real name?
Long time Marvel comics and movies fans will have their eyes widen when they learn that Kang the Conqueror's original name is Nathaniel Richards. Yes, that Richards.
Before Kang was Kang, Nathaniel was a scholar, studying both robotics and Earth-616 — also known as mainstream Earth. And this brings us to the idea of the multiverse, as Nathaniel lived on Earth-6311, which isn't the Earth that the Avengers and Loki we've watched live on.
This is where things get really complicated. Another Nathaniel Richards — who was born on Earth-616 — traveled through time to Earth-6311 and is credited with bringing peace to that planet. The Nathaniel Richards of Earth-616 is also known as The Benefactor, which is how we'll refer to him going forward.
Some say that the Nathaniel Richards of Earth-6311 is a descendent of The Benefactor, through Reed Richards, aka Mr. Fantastic, the leader of the Fantastic Four. Others say he's a descendent of Dr. Doom. This is all enough to lead to an identity crisis.
Eventually, though, he becomes Kang the Conqueror, and all the details about his path there are below. And since we know a Fantastic Four movie is coming to the MCU, there's plenty of reason for people to think Kang is part of the equation for how we get there.
Who is playing Kang the Conqueror in the MCU?
But before we get to who Kang the Conqueror is, let's talk about who's playing him. Actor Jonathan Majors rose to prominence after starring in the film The Last Black Man in San Francisco, and he was later cast in the leading role in the HBO series Lovecraft Country.
We may have just gotten our first look at Kang's Ant-Man 3 look, in a leak from the crew merch. It's a very traditional take on the purple-helmeted villain, seen in a reflection of Ant-Man's helmet.
🚨 The ‘ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA’ stunt team got their merchPossible look at Kang The Conqueror 👀(via @AceRuele) pic.twitter.com/yPgxFd4UMfDecember 2, 2021
Was Kang the Conqueror in Loki?
Jonathan Majors sure can fib. In a Variety interview, Majors denied such an appearance. When asked, he said "I have no idea what you’re talking about."
But as we saw in the Loki finale, Majors most certainly arrived with some interesting technology and knowledge similar to Kang. But he's not Kang, but likely a Kang variant, called He Who Remains... who was more like Immortus, if you ask us.
That said we got a cameo-level glimpse at what appears to be the real Kang at the very end of the episode. Loki, after discovering the TVA has no idea who he is, discovered that the original statues depicting the three time keepers have been replaced with a He Who Remains variant.
A variant that wears an outfit almost identical to Kang's comic book getup.
But despite being a well-kept secret, Majors/Kang's appearance in Loki wasn't particularly well hidden. Not if you looked in the right place anyway.
Over in IMDb's Costume Department Credits for Loki, we see a peculiar listing. One Chelsea Ostrow is marked down as the costumer for Mr. Majors. Yet, there was no listed Mr. Majors for the Loki show. This seemed to be the one clue or flaw in the plan for covering up Majors/Kang showing up in Loki.
The only question is whether Kang where Kang will make his official debut. He could show up in a later Marvel movie, like his confirmed appearance in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. It also wouldn't be a huge shock if he debuted in Loki's second season. After all Kang from the comics already has ties to both Mobius and Ravonna, and we'll explain the latter below.
What are Kang the Conqueror's powers?
Kang the Conqueror's powers are mostly in his brain and in his technology. Kang does not have any super-powers, and so he's kind of like Tony Stark. He's a genius (or super-genius, even), and so he's got the inventive skills to build whatever he needs. Plus, he's inherited some pretty big tech.
What are Kang the Conqueror's other names?
Let's go back to that lore. After inheriting all that tech from The Benefactor, Nathaniel Richards tried to defy the destiny that this future-self suggested, which led to periods of time when he became known as Iron Lad and Kid Immortus. The former, a hero, was a Young Avenger. The latter, was his first attempt at villainy.
It was as Kid Immortus that Kang crosses paths with one of Loki's characters: Ravonna (Ravonna Renslayer in the Loki show). She showed Immortus that one of the possibilities for his future included working with Dr. Doom and the villian Annihilus — and the trio would triumph over the Fantastic Four. That result wasn't coming soon enough, and so Ravonna and Kid Immortus time-traveled to work with Dr. Doom and kill the Fantastic Four sooner.
This is where we see Ant-Man cross into the Kang story, as he was then the leader of the Fantastic Four. Naturally, the good guys win and stop Kid Immortus, Renslayer and Doom — thanks to help from The Watcher (who we'll meet in What If...?). After that, Ravonna and Kid Immortus manage to leave and travel back with the timestream.
Nathaniel Richards eventually takes the path he was supposed to, first time-traveling to ancient Egypt on Earth-616 and becoming Pharaoh Rama-Tut. His time as Rama-Tut, though, brings Kang back into the concepts seen in Loki. After escaping a conflict involving the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, Rama-Tut was forced to ditch his time machine, only for a "time storm" to send him to the modern era, where he united with Dr. Doom. Here, he would create yet another identity: The Scarlet Centurion, which was inspired by Dr. Doom's look. A loss to the Avengers made quick work of that name.
And as you might guess from his decision to become a pharaoh, Kang has great ambition and wants to rule the time-space continuum. Which made some wonder if he was a Time-Keeper, before we learned the Time-Keepers were just androids.
What is Kang the Conqueror's motivation?
Aside from controlling the timelines, Kang is driven by love and tragic events. And this is how we're going to see more of his ties to the Loki show.
After deleting The Scarlet Centurion identity from his life like Sean Combs going through his many monikers, Nathaniel Richardson took the name Kang The Conqueror after winding up back home on Earth-6311. Except he arrived 1,000 years later than he wanted, in the 40th century — and at a version of his planet that was ravaged by war.
Back on Earth-6311, Kang got himself an army and started ... you know ... conquering. Here, Ravonna (now Princess Ravonna Renslayer) re-enters the scene, as Kang demanded her hand in marriage in exchange for sparing Carelius, the kingdom she was princess of. Ravonna basically rolled her eyes at the prospect, and declined — as he wasn't royalty, and failed to meet her standards.
Until, that is, Ravonna discovered that she truly loved Kang. This happened after Kang's own men rose up against him, because Kang went against his own rules by not killing the royalty of conquered peoples. Kang and Ravonna eventually unite, and she sacrifices herself to protect his life. Kang, trying to save Ravonna, creates another reality where he dies. Conquerors just can't catch a break.
These actions lead to Kang's discovery of more realities, as well as the organized Council of Kangs, a whole governing body of Kangs. This then leads to the Council of Cross-Time Kangs ... and we'll leave this all there.
We're really hoping the MCU version is a lot simpler than the above explanation. Kang is a character that arguably suffers from too many cooks in the kitchen, and too many years of storytelling. We assume Marvel Studios will have a much less convoluted storyline for Kang.