In September, Jonathan Majors, star of Lovecraft Nation, was officially cast as fan favorite villain Kang the Conqueror in Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Given Kang’s comic book background, his arrival could theoretically chart a path for the MCU’s future.
Kang is intimately connected to both the Fantastic Four, which is currently in production at Marvel HQ, and the Young Avengers, which Marvel appears to be establishing through Disney+.
However, the original Majors casting study noted that “with so many new characters in the MCU, there may be a twist in how the character is used in future films.” This means that Marvel, which is renowned for remixing comic book elements to work into the MCU, may not be providing a carbon copy of the Kang character fans are familiar with.
And this may have a strong correlation with Tom Hiddleston’s forthcoming Disney+ series Loki.
On Monday morning, Disney released a second trailer for Loki, which is once again brimming with Kang iconography.
Why is this the case?
In certain comic book incarnations, the character was born Nathaniel Richards, a descendant of Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four.
Although continuity is a moving target, in one version of Nathaniel’s backstory, he is the founder of the Young Avengers.
However, the most famous and identifiable incarnation of the character is as a time-traveling supervillain hell-bent on conquering the world in various historical epochs.
Rather than being the despotic ruler who travels through time in order to kill and vanquish, it’s entirely conceivable that the MCU’s Kang is hell-bent on maintaining the timeline as the head of the Time Variance Authority (TVA).
“We ensure that time flows properly,” Owen Wilson’s Mobius says in the teaser. “You picked up the Tesseract, shattering the fabric of reality. I’d like you to assist us in repairing it. ”
Kang is a natural extension of Marvel’s recent (Avengers: Endgame) and upcoming (Loki) focus on time and the multiverse (Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness).
Usually, he is depicted in comics as a cosmic-level threat analogous to Thanos.
However, recasting him as less of an absolute super-villain and more of a morally ambiguous anti-hero capable of breaking either way suits Marvel’s cinematic history.
The seeds of relationships seem to have been sown. According to Disney, Gugu Mbatha-Raw will play a character called Judge Renslayer.
This is almost definitely Ravonna Renslayer, Kang’s comic book love interest.
It’s also worth noting that Michael Waldron, the showrunner of Loki, was a writer on Rick and Morty, and Jeff Loveness, another Rick and Morty alum, wrote Ant-Man 3.
Rick and Morty are two morally ambiguous, dimension-hopping hero/anti-heroes who operate similarly to Kang in terms of manipulating the world and wreaking havoc in their wake, down to the fact that Kang, like Rick, has several versions of himself that collaborate and sometimes fight.
These scribes are familiar with the narrative tools available in the sandbox.
And Loki exemplifies the type of character redemption that the MCU’s saga-length narrative structure necessitates, and it appears as if The Falcon and the Winter Soldier would give Daniel Brühl’s Zemo a similar makeover.
Keeping a talented young actor like Majors on board as a character who straddles the line between good and evil for a multi-project arc makes sense—and could serve as a good foil for Loki, just like Zemo does for Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier.
Introducing viewers to Kang and his skills in Loki prior to the release of the next Ant-Man and the Wasp film is an excellent use of Disney+’s cross-platform synergy with the big screen.