Kang the Conquerer is set to conquer the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Or, at the very least, the untitled movie Ant-Man 3. But is this how Marvel's First Family, the Fantastic Four, join the MCU too? A lot of fans think so.
This week, Deadline reported that Lovecraft Country star Jonathan Majors is set to play the villain in the third Ant-Man movie. What's more, his role may be the supervillain Kang the Conquerer, a time traveler who in the comics regularly squares off against the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. The twist in Kang's origin story is that he is possibly (though never confirmed) a descendant of Reed Richards, the leader of the Fantastic Four.
The news briefly created an unintended consequence. For a short time, the Deadline news caused "Reed Richards" to trend on Twitter, in which Marvel fans proposed their ideas for actors to play Reed Richards. And given that Kang may be played by Jonathan Majors, a number of tweets suggested Black actors for Mister Fantastic.
But why do Marvel fans think Kang means the Fantastic Four will join the Marvel Cinematic Universe? The reason is because of Kang's family tree in the Marvel comic books, but even that isn't as solid as you might think.
In the comics, Kang the Conquerer, real name Nathaniel Richards, is a scholar from the 31st century who travels in time to amass power over a more primitive Earth. The problem is that the 20th (and 21st) centuries are protected by superheroes like the Avengers, who are always ready to stop Kang and send him back to the future.
What makes Kang a fun (but headache-inducing) character is that, as a time traveler, he manifests into different versions, all as a result of divergent timelines. It's not a multiverse of Kangs — like the Council of Ricks in Rick and Morty — but it still means Kang can show up unexpectedly with a new face and name. And of course, there is always a "Prime Kang," the one and only original Kang with a consistent look and personality.
One version of Kang the Conquerer (the Egyptian lord Rama-Tut) meets Doctor Doom, and the two baddies basically commiserate over their failures in Fantastic Four Annual #1. After discussing the identity of the person who built the time machine Kang uses (which Kang knows to be his ancestor), they theorize that they're both are the same person at different points in time. They never find out whether it's true, but they both move on believing it to be.
As Comic Book Resources wrote in 2017, these pages would haunt Marvel's writers for years to come.
Years later, in John Byrne's run on Fantastic Four (specifically in issue #273), it is revealed that Reed Richards' father — also, coincidentally, named Nathaniel Richards — built the time machine both Kang and Doom speculated over in Fantastic Four Annual #1. But the abstract way the comic tells its story means it's only heavily implied, but not capital-C confirmed, that Kang is a descendant of Reed Richards. It was and still remains to this day a mystery in the Marvel Universe.
Still, because you can't stop fans from overthinking things, the casting of Jonathan Majors as Kang has inspired fans on Twitter to speculate over casting Reed Richards in the MCU. For so long the popular choice has been John Krasinski (who famously auditioned for the role of Captain America). But with the casting of Jonathan Majors, popular choices now include actors like William Jackson Harper (The Good Place), Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You), John David Washington (Tenet), and Aldis Hodge (The Invisible Man).
It should be pointed out that descendants can look wildly different than their ancestors, and that ethnicity can change across generations. If the MCU casts another white actor for Reed Richards, it doesn't undo anything about Jonathan Majors' Kang.
It should also be noted that the inclusion of Kang doesn't mean the MCU is actually ready to introduce the Fantastic Four just yet. (Thus far, Kevin Feige has only playfully teased the Fantastic Four once, last year at Comic-Con.) The MCU is full of characters who show up without their associated worlds with them. Scarlet Witch, played by Elizabeth Olsen in several Marvel movies, has had her story told without involving the X-Men villain Magneto, who for a long time was believed to be her father in the comics. Black Panther, a character introduced in the Fantastic Four comics, made his MCU debut just fine without them. So too Kang can appear in Ant-Man movie without anyone mentioning Reed Richards.
Still, because the Fantastic Four remain unseen in the MCU, fans are eager to see the First Family come to life in a way that hasn't already been done. Previously, actors Loan Gruffudd and Miles Teller have both played Mister Fantastic in differing adaptations. Alex Hyde-White also played the role in the unreleased 1994 movie The Fantastic Four. With so many versions of the Fantastic Four already made, fans want to see something new. And maybe we will soon enough.
There is no release date for Ant-Man 3.