Loki. Ultron. Thanos. These classic Avengers’ foes found their way into the MCU’s Infinity Saga and provided formidable and nearly unstoppable threats to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Despite their powers, their goals were fairly pedestrian and their means easily understandable. Marvel Studios certainly took a completely different path in selecting the big bad of their next saga, however. By choosing Kang, Marvel Studios took on the challenge of introducing a character that is inherently more difficult to adapt because…he’s not just one character. Moreover, he’s nearly as often at odds with himself as he is with the Avengers.
Time travel, alternate universes and divergent selves make for great science fiction but can also be considered too high-concept to be embraced by mainstream audiences. Kang is all those things and more, yet he also belongs on Marvel’s Bad Guy Mount Rushmore with the trio of villains fro the Infinity Saga. So how do you adapt a character as complicated as Kang? That’s exactly the question I asked Jeff Loveness who joked that getting past “the thigh-high purple boots and the invisible bean bag chair he was always lounging on” were among the first obstacles he had to face.
“That was the huge challenge,” said Loveness of bringing such a complicated character to the masses, “cause Thanos is pretty single-minded and pretty monolithic and pretty easy to get and so the challenge and the kind of the beauty of Kang is that he is this almost post-modernist, limitless guy.” The contrast between Thanos and Kang, as Loveness saw it, was stark and certainly proved troublesome, especially when the idea of the Multiverse came into play.
“In a Multiverse story, you’ve always gotta be careful about pulling the rug out of people with stakes,” Lovesness explained, “cause if there’s a thousand Doctor Stranges, who cares? You know you run into that with Rick and Morty or Everything Everywhere All at Once touched on that too. Like what’s the point if it’s just limitless? How do you create stakes in that?” As much fun as it may seem to be for a writer to have a character who can do whatever he wants whenever he wants, Loveness understood that the audience will quickly lose interest in those types of shenanigans. So he took a much more grounded approach in creating the MCU’s Kang.
So for me, a lot of it was like stripping Kang down because in an Avengers movie, even before I was the one writing it, I’m sure there’s going to be plenty of Kang stuff there’s going to be plenty of doing lasers and time travel and monologues. So I think the movie really started to take shape when I realized let’s just actually focus on him as a singular human being. He doesn’t have powers. He’s not a big purple space alien with motion capture. Let’s really focus on the vulnerability and humanity of this guy. And so that’s where the idea of him being almost like marooned in the Quantum Realm [came from].Jeff Loveness
The idea of the exiled conqueror allowed fans to meet one of the most powerful villains in the history of Marvel Comics, as Loveness explained, as nothing more than a man. Of course, it’s not going to end there as the mid-credit scene revealed, but in order to really create a villain that would resonate with audiences, Loveness turned to history for examples of failed conquerors.
And I’m just a big history guy so I thought about Julius Caeser. What if he got assassinated by 50 other Julius Caesars? Or like Napoleon in exile after he had gotten defeated in Europe, turned back from Russia…defeated in Waterloo. Kang is a non-linear character; he says “I don’t live in a straight line”, so let’s show that and let’s meet him almost after a major defeat and let’s meet him kind of in this lower, more vulnerable stripped down place because if we do that, we really get to know the guy…we don’t get lost in all the multiverse and the time travel stuff. You can fish food it a little bit, which we did, but I think the best parts of that movie are when you’re just on Jonathan Majors’ face.Jeff Loveness
Majors, of course, has been at the center of the praise for the film and according to Loveness, the real key to adapting Kang and “beating Thanos” is really the incredible amount of talent possessed by the man behind the character. “In my head, the competitive part of me is ‘That’s how you beat Thanos,'” said Loveness of having Majors on board as Kang. “Thanos is fantastic he speaks for himself; an iconic villain. But, man, we have the best actor in the world and a camera that’s right on his face and so you get to really see the pain, passion and crusade in this guy’s voice.” And as Loveness said, there’s plenty of “Kang stuff” to come which means plenty more Jonathan Majors.