March Madness – Inside Kang the Conqueror

Kang the Conqueror is the archenemy of the Avengers. A case could be made for Ultron because his vengeance is personal, being an indirect member of the Avengers family. And there have been too many iterations of the Masters of Evil for any one group to qualify. But Kang is always there, lurking in the shadows of time itself waiting to strike. He fits perfectly in the theme of the month here at Biff Bam Pop! as Kang is quite mad. It’s that madness that makes him such an impossible and unpredictable foe.

The Avengers’ Greatest Enemy

Madness isn’t the only thing he’s got going for himself in the super-villain category. Kang is one of the few baddies who has won. That’s right, he’s defeated the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in combat, more than once. Kang has even conquered the entire planet Earth while it’s been under the Avengers’ watch.

There is a scene in David Michelinie’s 1979 prose novel “The Man Who Stole Tomorrow,” where the Avengers have just finished fighting a Kang-created threat, and Iron Man is trying to explain to an Alaskan sheriff exactly who the Conqueror is.

“…Kang isn’t like any of our ordinary mortal foes. In fact, he may not even be mortal at all anymore, at least as we know the term. Kang is a once-human creature who holds absolute mastery over space and time. Unfortunately, he also happens to be hopelessly insane. And he’s beaten us before.”

(The sheriff) sat forward in his chair, rubbing one of his chins between thumb and forefinger, and put on his best expression of official interest. In a back corner of his mind, he wondered vaguely if urine stains could be removed from khaki.”

Yeah, Kang is just that scary. He could easily qualify for Arkham, or at least Alcatraz.

Who Is Kang Really?

The conventional answer to the question “Who is Kang?” is Nathaniel Richards. But let’s face it, in comics, it is never that easy, and when it comes to Kang – nothing is easy. Nate Richards is either Reed’s dad or his descendant. Kang could even be Reed Richards, if you think about it. Driven, almost to the point of insanity, brilliant, with a knowledge of time travel – it’s possible. Witness recent events in the Ultimate Comics universe, how far is Reed from taking that super-villain road really?

Victor Von Doom is another possibility, or one of his descendants. In any case, Kang was inspired by Doom, and especially his famous time machine, and may even have improved upon it, in some cases, apparently using Stark technology (more on that later). It is notable that Kang’s attire is in the vintage Stan Lee Silver Age villain colors of purple and green, but he’s also armored, and hides his face, much like Doom. Kang has been so many other folks, why not Doom as well?

In recent times it has been suggested that Kang might also be Tony Stark or one of his descendents. A young Kang even traveled back in time to just after the events of Avengers Disassembled to create a new team of Avengers. This tactic of assuring there was an Avengers team for him to engage in combat is something Kang has done on several occasions. The team he created this time: the Young Avengers, and the name he himself took on – Iron Lad. Think what you may. It may explain the Stark tech in Kang’s weapons.

The Many Faces of Kang

Yes, Kang has many aliases. The truth is that Kang has traveled back and forth in time so many times, that the only constant his insane mind can keep track of in orderly fashion is himself. Equally, he has done the back and forth, back and forth so many times, he has created divergent doubles of himself in the time stream. Yes, Kang has met himself, and in more than a few cases, paradoxically, even killed himself. Some of these divergent Kangs have taken different paths in their lives, some even taking on other identities.

Kang is also Rama Tut, who took over ancient Egypt with his advanced technology, posed as a god-like pharaoh, and even fought a time-displaced Fantastic Four. And then there is Immortus, also a foe (and sometimes manipulative ally) of the Avengers, and the lord of Limbo. In more than a few parallel universes he took the name of the Scarlet Centurion, and battled alternate versions of both the Avengers and the Squadron Supreme. In the first, but aborted, Justice League/Avengers team-up it would have been suggested that time traveling and conquering JLA villain, Epoch, the Lord of Time, was also yet another divergent Kang.

There have been many other names over the years – the Blue Totem, Kang Aroo, Victor Timely, even Fred. There have even been entire organizations of lesser divergent Kangs, called the Council of Kangs, and the Crosstime Kang Corps. In both cases, these were ruses for more superior Kangs to consolidate and destroy these lesser versions.

Besides nameless minions, there have been henchmen like the Growing Men, the Legion of the Unliving, the Space Phantoms, and his beloved Ravonna. Both Kang and Immortus have produced sons named Marcus, who both met unfortunate fates.

Armed and Dangerous

Okay, Kang has got some high marks in his columns – scary, check; crazy, check; even has a handful of wins; but what makes him Kang? Where did this time traveling bad ass come from? One thing is fairly common in every version; he originates, as Kang at least, on Earth in the fortieth century.

Most of the background information is actually kind of vague, as evidenced by folks trying to divine his true identity. It is said he conquered the entire planet in his own time, and then using his time travel technology began moving backward century by century until he got to the twentieth century, and the Avengers – but logically that doesn’t quite work.

There have been things that have brought Kang to the present besides conquest and revenge on the Avengers. Most of them make much more sense than marching backward through time. Where it began is hard to place but Kang has the Avengers in his craw and wants them dead so bad, he will, as noted above, resurrect the team in order to fight them.

Kang has many weapons beyond his timeship, Uru-proof force-field, his armor, his armies, minions and various headquarters throughout time, space and even Limbo. By far however, his greatest weapons are time travel, his strategic brilliance, and his unrelenting hatred. Why is he so dangerous? To quote myself in something I wrote years ago…

“(Kang) is a villain who can come out of time, battle the Avengers to a standstill, escape back into the time stream, recuperate, go shopping, nap, do his taxes, watch TV, read “War and Peace,” attend law school, get married, have children, get divorced, take another nap, reorganize his forces, build nastier weapons and then return to battle the Avengers again – five seconds after he left.”

So make your arguments for Loki, Ultron, Zodiac, and the Masters of Evil as the ultimate Avengers foe, but trust me, the mad Conqueror wins in my book.