A Brief History of Kang, Part 10: The Scarlet Who?

By Owen Erasmus

You don't have to wait for the early 90’s for Kang's corner of the Marvel Universe to get confusing; Roy Thomas could do his bit as well.

Avengers Annual 2

As Rama-Tut is travelling to the future to become Kang, his time machine hits a 'temporal disturbance' and creates another version of himself in a different time-line. That Tut decides to do without the cool Kirby face mask and the menacingly simple name and instead becomes the Scarlet Centurion.

In time, he appears on his version of the Earth and confronts that world’s founder Avengers. Telling them that all their efforts won’t have any impact on real problems like hunger and plague, he promises to help them make the world a better place if they rid the world of super humans who are somehow stopping the world from becoming a paradise by affecting the cosmic imbalance.

The rather gullible Avengers of this world take him at his word and set about defeating all the heroes and villains that existed in the Marvel universe at the time. With the 'balance' almost corrected, the centurion warns his pet heroes that five more super-heroes are due to arrive and only when they too are dealt with, will he solve the world’s problems.

Fresh from going back to World War 2 to witness the death of Bucky, Cap, Hawkeye, T'Challa, Jan and Hank arrive on this different Earth. They learned of what had happened by using the fabled herodotron (Thomas slipping in a reference to Herodotus, the first recognised historian, for all the non-history teachers in the audience).

They swear to set things to rights. The new Avengers battle their way past the founders and reach Dr Doom's castle and try to use his time machine to avert the Centurion's rule. He arrives to confront them in person and reveals that he had wanted them to defeat his pawns. He had been responsible for Cap wanting to learn more about Bucky's death in order to get them into the time stream. He needed someone to dispose of his pawns and decided that despite their lesser power, the new Avengers teamwork and brains would see them through.

He falls to that very teamwork though, as the rest of the team keeps him occupied. Goliath shrinks down to ant size and repairs the time machine from the inside, sending first the Centurion off into the time stream and then the Avengers home. The Avengers get home without learning that the Centurion had any connection to their old foe, but the Watcher lets the readers in on the secret.

This is an important story because it shows for the first time that Kang or one of his other selves is capable of carrying through his threats. He had previously been shown taking over eras that lacked super human protectors but here a little hypnosis and some well chosen words were all he needed to outsmart the Marvel universe, albeit a different Marvel universe. It was also in a way one of the first what ifs, making use of the idea that there were different worlds almost identical to the regular timeline apart from one small change. In fact, when the Centurion eventually returned, it would be in the pages of What If.

Owen Erasmus