A Brief History of Kang, Part 1: A Time To Begin

By Robert Clough

"Can you think of ANY one man whose power is greater than the Avengers? Don't answer that!! Not until you meet...Kang, the Conqueror!"

(From the cover of Avengers #8)

And so the man who would become one of the Avengers' foremost (and most confusing) villains was introduced to the world. Kang was always an appealing character because of his incredible power, which meant that in order to defeat him, the Avengers would have to rely on teamwork, willpower, and smarts. Kang's weakness always rested in his overconfidence, arrogance, and inability to trust others. As a time-travelling villain, he always begged the question: if he can't defeat the Avengers in one fight, why doesn't he just appear again and again once he's rested up from a fight, or attack them when they've just finished a battle? This was addressed in any number of ways--"time storms" preventing his entrance, the wish to beat the Avengers without "cheating", looking at fighting the Avengers as more of a game rather than real "conquest", and others. One writer actually did have Kang attack over and over again, until he was supposedly killed off. Years later, he was brought back with the concept of multiple Kangs in multiple eras. This opened up a huge can of worms, until the continuity surrounding Kang became almost impenetrably complicated. But his extensive hand in the Marvel Universe, combined with his other personas (Immortus, Scarlet Centurion and Rama-Tut), still make him an intriguing character in the hands of the right author. With Avengers Forever redefining the character, let's look at Kang from the beginning. But this is a job far greater than any one Avenger fan can handle, and thus a Council Of Kang Chroniclers has been assembled, consisting of me (Rob Clough), Mighty Michael Proteau, the Astonishing Avenger Lady Lonni Holland, Ominous Owen Erasmus, and the originator of these Kang Chronicles: John Simons, the Lord of Time. Each of us will tackle a different era of the Avengers and Kang. Let us start at the beginning...

Avengers Vol 1 #8:
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

The Avengers are summoned to deal a huge UFO that lands in the woods of Virginia. The ship vaporized a bunch of trees and destroyed some tanks before the pilot of the ship came out, demanding to see the world's leaders. This man, in an unusual green and purple uniform with a blue mask, was Kang.

Confronting Kang, he seemed cool and collected. He was there to conquer the planet, and figured that no one could stop him. Thor threw his hammer at him, and Kang caused it to go into "sub-space" and reappear elsewhere. He zapped the team with an "anti-grav" ray that had them go flying.

After playing around with the Avengers, he then explained his origin to the government man who came by. He revealed that he was born in the year 3000, and became the Pharaoh Rama-Tut. After he fought the Fantastic Four, he traveled to the 20th century and met Dr. Doom, who may have been a distant relative. While trying to return to his own century, he overshot it and instead landed in the year 4000. It was a desolate, war-torn world where the soldiers no longer understood how their own weapons were created. Kang quickly took over, but got bored ruling such a barren world, and decided to build a new time ship and conquer the 20th century.

The Avengers attacked again, but Kang threw up an anti-matter screen to deflect Thor's hammer. While the Avengers got a few licks in, Kang was pretty much unharmed, and in fact managed to capture the team with an "attractor ray". He held the whole team in stasis, except for the Wasp, who managed to escape with mascot Rick Jones. Kang then gave the agent an ultimatum: either surrender the earth or die. He gave him 24 hours to spread the word. Kang boasted that he could destroy the moon with just his ship!

Rick Jones and his Teen Brigade preyed on Kang's sometimes-muddled decision-making by pretending to surrender to him, wishing to become his servants. So he sent them into the ship, where he told them to bring him something. The kids dropped it, not knowing it's his "energizer tank". Kang had to spend time plugging up the leaking energy...but Rick Jones managed to free Thor (who had turned back into Don Blake).

While the team fought Kang, the Wasp returned with a weapon she fished out of Giant-Man's lab. Hank instructs Thor to keep hammering away at Kang's personal force shield, and he manages to distract Kang for a moment. His shield lowered, Hank sprays him with an "acid-base solvent, which will rot and decay any fabric, any type of wiring or insulation." Kang's suit is ruined, but he launches a "neutrino missile" at the team. Iron Man deflects it with his repulsors, and it explodes harmlessly, while Giant-Man destroyed the rest of the missiles. Kang then has his mask emit deadly levels of radiation, but Thor absorbed it with Mjolnir and directed it back at Kang. Beaten, he ran back to his ship and escaped into time...

Avengers #11:
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Don Heck

Kang was really stung by his humiliating defeat to a bunch of primitives. He had been monitoring the Avengers since his defeat, waiting for the right time to strike, and it was now, when Iron Man was temporarily missing (due to Tony Stark's illness, unbeknownst to all). After seeing the Masters of Evil almost succeed in beating the Avengers by using Wonder Man, Kang concluded that this was the sort of route to go. Not interested in fighting them directly, he instead built a Spider-Man robot.

The robot is obedient to Kang and has all of Spidey's powers, and even his language patterns. After Kang sent him back in time, the robot tells the Avengers he wants to join them, and offers knowledge of Iron Man's whereabouts as incentive. He claims that he saw him kidnapped by the Masters of Evil and heard he was being taken to an ancient pyramid in Mexico.

The Avengers zoom down south to find their friend. Of course, the whole thing is a trap. Kang was pumping in nerve gas to weaken the Avengers, and the Spider-bot managed to beat each of the team one at a time in different traps. Unbeknownst to everyone, the real Spider-Man had tagged along, just when the Spidey-bot was about to transport the Avengers to the future and Kang's mercies. Spidey managed to deactivate the robot, and Kang is foiled yet again...

Memorable quotes:
"I'll bet he's not bad-looking under that silly headgear he's wearing!"
--The Wasp, on Kang, #8

"EVERY remark is a signal for a girl to freshen her lipstick, big boy!"
--ditto, #11

"Time means nothing to Kang, the Conqueror!"
--guess, #8