The events of Avengers: Endgame left the Marvel Cinematic Universe without a Big Bad, ending with Thanos self-owning himself and his entire army into dust. However, a new report out of Deadline seems to suggest the search for the MCU’s next grand villain might be over. Lovecraft Country breakout Jonathan Majors has joined Ant-Man 3, and though the studio would not confirm, it’s looking like he’ll be playing Kang the Conqueror. If you’re not a comics person, your first thought—after “wait, the guy with the brain in his belly?”—is who the heck is Kang the Conqueror? Well, hold on to your butts, because things are about to get real time-trippingly weird. But after that, it’s probably gonna’ get…fantastic.
First and foremost, Kang is not a villain to be effed with. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1964’s Avengers #8, Kang made his first appearance by arriving from another timeline and declaring Earth to be his, then absolutely bodying the Avengers when they tried to stop him. The dude got annoyed with fighting Captain America and sent him back to 1945. That’s not a metaphor. He just tossed Steve Rogers back into the ’40s.
Time travel is kind’ve Kang’s whole thing. A scholar born in the 31st-century on the prosperous, peaceful Earth-6311, Kang discovered time-travel tech designed by Victor von Doom and hopped on over to ancient Egypt on Earth-616—the “prime” timeline of the Marvel Universe—where he rose to power as the brutal Pharaoh Rama-Tut. That’s just one of the many identities adopted by Kang across multiple timelines; he had a brief stint as a super-villain named the Scarlet Centurion, with armor once again inspired by Doom. But it wasn’t until he accidentally traveled to a wartorn 40th Century and witnessed the destructive potential of technology that he officially adopted the name “Kang” and started a crusade to conquer the galaxy.
But here’s the key thing: Before all that name-changing, time-traveling nonsense, Kang was simply named Nathaniel Richards. As in allegedly descended from Earth-6311’s legendary, peace-bringing benefactor, also named Nathaniel Richards, who just happens to be the father of Reed Richards, founding member of the Fantastic 4. Yes, Kang the Conqueror making his first appearance in the MCU is exciting not only because it’s a legendary villain making his live-action debut—played by an extremely talented up-and-comer, to boot—but also because there’s a direct line leading to a new live-action Fantastic 4. Marvel’s First Family has been pretty much guaranteed to find themselves back on the big screen since the Disney/Fox merger brought them into the fold. But any casting of Kang the Conqueror should immediately put the Fantastic Four in mind, too, not just for Ant-Man 3 but also the MCU’s much-delayed Phase 5: Black Widow, Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.