The season finale of Loki finally revealed the identity of the man pulling all the strings and keeping the timeline in place – He Who Remains. But as always, he’s not who comics fans think he is. Donned in dark garb with a purple shawl, and played by Marvel Cinematic Universe newcomer Jonathan Majors, there are links to be made about his identity, so here we go.
Majors has previously been announced to play Avengers time-traveling supervillain, Kang the Conqueror, in the upcoming Phase 4 movie, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and since he’s in Loki, it’s easy to assume that it’s Kang on screen. But given the nature of the Time Variance Authority (TVA) and the show’s focus on variants, which are alternate forms of a character evolved from another timeline, that’s rather presumptuous.
Here’s what we know – He Who Remains is the final director of the Time Variance Authority at the Citadel at the End of Time, the last reality of the Multiverse. In the comics, the identity of He Who Remains has never been revealed and in the MCU, the character borrows elements from the Marvel Comics, but also adds in aspects of another MCU character, Kang.
During his last minutes before receiving a plunge in the heart courtesy of Sylvie Laufeydottir, He Who Remains explained that killing him would unleash all versions of him and branch out multiple multiverses. Dubbing himself the kindest of his variants, He Who Remains warns that his other variants would look to conquer as many multiverses as possible – sounds familiar?
Since the character is played by Majors, it’s accurate to note that the variants mentioned of He Who Remains is definitely Kang, and as the final shot of the episode shows, that’s our first glimpse of Kang the Conqueror, which is the statue that Loki sees at the TVA. And now that the multiverses has been birthed, it’s only time until Kang shows up to conquer it all.
Interestingly enough, Majors repeated several times earlier this year that Kang would not make an appearance in Loki, and he’s technically not lying – Kang is not in the show, but a variant of his character is.
Note the similarities in costume between the MCU version and the Marvel Comics one? Now that that’s out of the way, does Kang really sound that bad?
Yeah, and here’s why.
Who Is Kang the Conqueror?
Kang the Conqueror is a time-travelling despot who uses all his resources and technology from the future to rule as many universes as possible, while there’s still time. Of course, now with the multiverses, there will always be time.
Comic Book Origin
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for 1964’s Avengers #8, Kang has gone by many names in Marvel Comics, including Immortus, the Scarlet Centurion, Rama-Tut and Iron Lad. Based on the different times he’s appeared as each character across the 80-plus years of Marvel Comics history, each incarnation of the character can either be a variant, or because he’s a time traveler, each version is a version of the same character, at a different point in time.
Rise of the Fantastic Four
He was originally born as Nathaniel Richards in an alternate timeline Earth-6311 (or Other-Earth) in the 300AD, where he found the ability to time travel in order to escape a Great War. With his newfound knowledge and ability, he was able to rebuild a new world and became a warlord and the Benefactor.
Now, if that name sounds familiar, it’s because Nathaniel is also the possible descendant of Reed Richards’ time-traveling father, Nathaniel. And Reed Richards is, of course, one of the founding members of Marvel’s First Family, the Fantastic Four. If anything, this is the first reference that elements of the Fantastic Four exist in the MCU.
Basically, Kang started out as a scientist in Earth’s future and eventually became an extremely long-lived time-traveller.
Powers And Abilities
Kang wasn’t born with powers per se. He’s a powerful and dangerous superhuman with high levels of intellect, unparalleled skills as a military tactician, and is able to create and wield incredibly sophisticated technology. His ability to time travel is also a big advantage that he has over other Marvel characters, and he can learn from mistakes, and do things over. He’s also a fearsome general and has successfully conquered thousands of worlds in the comics.
His futuristic armour gives him immense strength and durability against attacks, while his ability to travel and manipulate time gives him the ability to summon any weapon he wishes throughout all of history. He’s able to subvert the laws of gravity and fire concussive bolts from his fingers.
In other words, he’s a genius human from the future with an armoured suit that beats Iron Man’s.
The Many Faces Of Kang
He Who Remains
Starting out with He Who Remains, Loki establishes that he is the final director of the Time Variance Authority at the Citadel at the End of Time, the last reality of the Multiverse. He first appeared in Thor 245 and shared some similarities with the version we saw in Loki.
In the comics, He Who Remains created the Time-Twisters, who later wound up destroying past universes by time traveling. Thor and Jane Foster eventually got involved and prevented the Time-Twisters from causing more havoc.
He Who Remains in the comics appears as a very old man, but the version we see in Loki is clearly a variant of Kang the Conqueror, and by killing He Who Remains, Sylvia sets Kang – and the whole multiverse – loose.
Immortus is actually Kang, but an older version, not variant, of Kang the Conqueror. Immortus first appeared in Avengers #10 in 1964 and given that he is older and wiser, chooses to prune away timeline branches, in order to attempt to maintain order.
Now, his younger self, Kang, is vehemently against this, so even if they are two sides of the same coin, there is a link to show that He Who Remains is pretty much Immortus, you know, the one who prunes variant timeline branches.
Immortus was contacted by the trinity of beings, known as the Time-Keepers, to oversee the 80 millenia of their existence and keep humanity and the Avengers from expanding into space. Immortus acted as custodian of the timeline and kept humans from exploring space, hence his conflict with Marvel heroes.
Fun fact: he’s the reason why Scarlet Witch and Vision are together. Immortus believes that the children of Wanda would have the potential for great power in the universe, so he instigated the relationship, believing that the Scarlet Witch would be unable to conceive children with an android.
If Immortus is an older Kang, surely there is a younger version? That’s 16-year-old robotics student Nathaniel Richards, who was rescued from a life-threatening situation by his future self, Kang the Conqueror. Believing that by skipping over the events of the live-threatening situation, his younger version would start on the journey towards becoming Kang much earlier than intended, so Kang outfitted his younger self with a suit of psychokinetic armour that responds to his thoughts, and gave him a glimpse of his future as a conqueror.
Horrified, young Nathaniel rejected Kang’s help and used the armour to escape and hide in modern-day Earth, hoping to get help from the Avengers. When he arrived, all he saw were ruins left behind from the Disassembled attacks from Scarlet Witch.
Iron Lad later on used data he found in Vision’s programming and recruited three Young Avengers to take down Kang. Despite his youthful heroism, it seems that Iron Lad is destined to become Kang sometime later.
In The MCU
With Kang due to make his big debut in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, He Who Remains’ appearance in Loki and the branching of the Multiverse means there’s no way of knowing when and how exactly he’ll crop up in the timeline. With the MCU further expanding, he could come up as his younger self, as Iron Lad, as Immortus or as a completely new identity.
A more recent rumour indicated that Loki is set to appear in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness, alongside Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), so we might find out more about the new multiverse in that sequel.
The possibilities are endless for the MCU when it comes to portraying Kang the Conqueror and his various identities. For now, we’ll just have to wait for his big movie debut in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, and keep a lookout for where else he is slated to appear in the MCU.