A Brief History of Kang, Part 22: Hero Worship
By Robert Clough
Hulk #286, 1983
Bill Mantlo/Sal Buscema/Kim DeMulder
We're in the 41st century, and we see a soldier on a hellish battlefield. He notes that the billboard has proclaimed him "Hero of the Day". He requests "battlestructs" and hears commands in his battle helmet from his king, to smash and destroy the enemy. Thanks to some kind of gamma-temporal event, he gets zapped into the past, where he encounters the Hulk. At this time, the Hulk had Bruce Banner's full personality, and he was currently doing research at an observatory. After a brief skirmish, the Hulk removes Hero's helmet and his foe suddenly went limp...without his orders, he was purposeless.
Upon being revived, the soldier goes nuts, wanting to find king and fight the enemy. He views poor Bruce as the enemy, and starts opening fire. At that moment, the gamma-temporal disturbance strikes again and brings the soldier and Bruce back to the 41st century. They encounter some soldiers who claim they must kill the enemy. The Hulk takes them out, trying to lecture them that he's not their enemy. He's told by Hero (no longer the hero of the day, his faced being replaced on the billboard by another) that everyone is everyone else's enemy...there are no sides! The Hulk destroys a "war-machine" that comes along, all the while telling Hero that the war will go on only if he lets it continue. The Hulk then gets captured and taken to a city. Hero decides to follow. Once in the city, the Hulk realizes that he's not just in any future...he's in the future of Kang the Conqueror! Kang at this point was supposed to be dead, but even beyond the grave, he had an influence. Kang was the "king" heard in the helmets, with everyone in this society being raised with these recordings that told them to kill. There was a giant statue of Kang in the center of town that was transmitting this message. The Hulk escapes his bonds and Hero shows up and destroys the head of the Kang statue. The Hulk finishes the job. With the voice in their heads gone, Hero implores them to stop fighting. They answer by shooting him dead.
That handy gamma-temporal event then snatches the Hulk back, and he carries the body of Hero with him. In the next issue, Bruce buries him in a plot outside his observatory.
Not an actual appearance by Kang, but it was a small taste of Kang's brutal future world. No wonder he didn't like to hang out there. This story was based on an episode of "The Outer Limits" written by Harlan Ellison.
--Clough the Conqueror