Kang the Conqueror has lived for millennia across an infinite number of timelines. He’s had many forms in the comics and has threatened the Marvel Universe in a myriad of ways. But that Kang was only one of a million different Kangs. And in the comics, he hasn’t always been a villain — self-serving and maniacal, but not always a villain. Following his introduction in Loki, and his larger role in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, “He Who Remains” was intended to remain on the MCU scene for a long time.
The character has long been a fan-favorite from the comics. As a character designed with the mechanic to be infinite, he has plenty of opportunities to show up all over the place in the MCU, and Kang’s lore makes for some interesting plotlines capable of happening in future movies. He could very well threaten every Marvel hero in all of their separate movies at the same time. However, will “He Who Remains” remain his position as the MCU’s new ‘big bad’ or do Marvel Studios now have to take their franchise in a new direction?
Update February 10, 2024: This article has been updated following the firing of actor Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror in the MCU as well as recent developments in the MCU following the release of The Marvels.
The Jonathan Majors Controversy
Even the most casual of Marvel fans are now aware of the controversy surrounding Kang star, Jonathan Majors, following his guilty verdict for accounts of assault and harassment. The accusations first made headlines in March 2023 and a verdict was announced in December 2023. Marvel Studios very quickly detached themselves from the actor, declaring that Majors had been dropped from any associated projects in the MCU.
While Majors still denies the accusations and opposes the verdict, with his lawyer stating they will formally appeal the decision, it’s guaranteed that Majors won’t appear in future MCU projects. Kang was set to appear as the major villain in the next Avengers movie, aptly titled Avengers: Kang Dynasty. The film was initially scheduled for 2026, but its future (like many projects in the MCU) is uncertain at the time of writing, as no major announcements have since happened to address a potential recasting or replacement for Kang.
Who Was Kang and Why Did Marvel Have Such Big Plans For Him?
Kang the Conqueror was introduced in the pages of Marvel Comics in Avengers #8 in 1964, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. He was a time-traveling villain from the future named Nathanial Richards, the descendant of Reed Richards and Sue Storm of the Fantastic Four. Later comics would explain Kang was also the Marvel villain Rama-Tut, who was introduced in the pages of Fantastic Four #19 in October 1963, months before Kang debuted. This established that there were many different versions of Kang from various points in time, which would include Immortus (introduced in Avengers #10 in 1964 and established as a later version of Kang a decade later), The Silver Centurion, Iron Lad, Victor Timely, and Mister Gryphon.
As Marvel Studios looked to expand into the Multiverse Saga starting in Phase 4, they needed a major villain to be their new Thanos. Kang made a certain amount of sense as he was an Avengers villain, but unlike a lot of other villains, he was specific to the team rather than one member. The various versions of him in the comics also played into the variant storyline that Marvel was looking to introduce in their Multiverse Saga. They really solidified their plans for having Kang be the major villain of the MCU following the casting of Jonathan Majors in Loki and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Seeds for Kang the Conqueror began to be planted. A reference to his persona, Rama-Tut, was placed in Moon Knight. 2023 had both Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Loki, which both heavily featured Majors as Kang variants. They announced that the fifth Avengers movie, the culmination event that would unite the various heroes of the MCU again, would be titled Avengers: The Kang Dynasty.
The scope of the Kang Dynasty was teased at the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantuamnia, where Rama-Tut, Immortus, and the Scarlet Centurion appeared in the end credit scenes and all played by Majors. Marvel went all in on the character based on the actor’s performance, similar to how they went all in on Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. Yet where Downey Jr’s. is one of the best casting decisions in the history of movies, Majors would be one of the biggest fumbles in the history of the MCU as his involvement would derail their plans.
With Majors out of the role, where does that leave Kang as the next major villain in the MCU? The character has already been established as a key player in the future of the franchise, but has Marvel laid too strong a foundation for the character to be recast? There are currently five films scheduled between the time of publication and the next Avengers movie, so Marvel has a forgiving window of time to adapt, but the decision will have major repercussions on the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Should Marvel Recast?
There are two real possibilities for Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios to make going forward. Will they re-cast the role? Or will they readjust future plans and change the next major villain? Both options are a double-edged sword for the franchise but also could yield great benefits.
The MCU has recast roles in the past. The most notable are Don Cheadle replacing Terrence Howard as War Machine in Iron Man 2 and Mark Ruffalo stepping into the role of Bruce Banner for Edward Norton after disagreements between the actor and the studio over The Incredible Hulk. Currently, Colman Domingo (The Color Purple) is the unofficial favorite after rumors he was being considered by Marvel Studios. If Marvel were to recast the role of Kang, there is the possibility that audiences wouldn’t be able to look past the recasting, but there also might be the chance that audiences don’t really care and everyone is overthinking the recasting element, and if audiences like Kang, they will roll with it.
The MCU Could Readjust Their Plans
The other option is for Marvel Studios to change directions and draw attention away from Kang and towards a new villain. Were Marvel to look for a new big bad for the franchise, there are lots of exciting and promising options in their back catalog of villains. The most anticipated villain yet to appear in the MCU is Doctor Doom. The character is most closely associated with The Fantastic Four – and their upcoming movie could establish the character as an over-arching villain – but they have previously faced off against many Marvel heroes.
If Marvel does announce Dr. Doom as the next major villain, that would certainly be a smart move in terms of general audience engagement. If audiences did not connect with Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Marvel might be smart to pivot towards a villain that is not only a fan favorite like Doctor Doom but also one that general audiences would likely get excited about. They know who Doctor Doom is and wouldn’t need to be convinced or told a lot to get excited about the idea of one of Marvel’s most popular villains going up against the most popular superheroes in the world.
As for Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, Marvel Studios can always change the name. Yes, it certainly would be a little embarrassing to have to change it after making a big splashy announcement of the title. Still, it is better for a bit of short-term bad press instead of sticking to a narrative that is not working because you made a title announcement. Marvel Studios already changed the name from the problematic Captain America: New World Order to the much better Captain America: Brave New World.
The easiest pitch for them to pivot to, particularly following recent films like The Marvels and the upcoming Deadpool 3, would be Avengers vs. X-Men. It is a popular event from the comics, like the Civil War, that is immediately eye-catching to audiences that see it. Pitting The Avengers against the X-Men from another universe not only allows them to adapt the Avengers vs. X-Men comic but also the “Tim Runs Out” storyline that led to Secret Wars, which is the subtitle for the sixth Avengers movie. It is a win-win for everyone. Marvel can keep their multiverse plan moving forward and combine two popular comic book storylines, pivoting away from Kang the Conqueror while also bringing in an easy-selling concept to general audiences that will excite moviegoers at the prospect of seeing popular characters face off in an epic movie worthy of Avengers viewing.
The MCU is also no stranger to having to shift focus to new primary characters. After the sad passing of Chadwick Boseman, Director Ryan Coogler was forced to shift Black Panther: Wakanda Forever to a new character, opting for Shuri (Letitia Wright) to take the lead. While the circumstances surrounding Majors’s departure from the MCU are obviously different, Marvel Studios has experience in re-writing projects to center on another character, meaning replacing Kang as the major villain isn’t as farfetched as some fans believe.
Check out our breakdown of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 4 in chronological order.