Marvel Studios Reportedly Only Chose Kang As Multiverse Saga Villain After Jonathan Majors Received “Positive Buzz” Over ‘Loki’ Cameo
For all of Marvel Studios’ promotion of Kang the Conqueror as their shared cinematic universe’s next ‘big bad’, it seems that the decision to feature him in that role was only made after the villain’s actor Jonathan Majors received “positive buzz” for his portrayal of a multiversal version of the time-traveling mad man in Loki‘s first season.
This insight into Marvel’s ongoing scramble to find a post-Endgame sense of direction was first divulged to the public by authors Joanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales, and Gavin Edwards in their newly-released retrospective, MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios.
Speaking to the studio’s decision to begin heavily relying on the multiverse as a narrative tool, the authors recalled how the concept’s MCU debut in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness “opened up new possibilities for storytelling, however, and new avenues for fan service.”
“Multiverse of Madness featured not only the All-Star Illuminati, with John Krasinksi and Patrick Stewart, but four different versions of Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange,” the trio explained. “Marvel Studios believed that audiences could follow complicated contingency timelines without comic-book-style explanatory captions, and tried not to abuse that trust.”
Providing a brief recap for readers, Robinson, Gonzales, and Edwards then explained, “Phases One, Two, and Three of the MCU had been collectively known as ‘the Infinity Saga; Phases Four, Five, and Six were dubbed ‘the Multiverse Saga,'” and noted that “The saga’s antagonist, introduced in Loki as He Who Remains and then showcased in the movie Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, was the time-traveling Kang, a character who had so many different versions and iterations in Marvel comic books that writers and fans had long ago given up on keeping them all straight.”
Having finally broached the specific topic of Kang himself, the authors then revealed that, “According to one Marvel source, Kang was not originally intended to be the overarching villain of the Multiverse Saga; the decision to elevate him to a Thanos-level threat was based on the positive buzz actor Jonathan Majors generated in the role.”
“Disney flexed its marketing muscles for Kang’s cinematic debut, hoping to get as many eyes as possible on Majors’s performance and to hype two post-credits sequences promoting his central role in both TV (Loki) and film (everything else?),” they detailed. “In the closing moments [of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantmania], thousands of versions of Kang crowded an arena: all of them wore the face of Jonathan Majors. Not since Robert Downey Jr. had the studio placed so many chips on one actor.”
And though this bet was undoubtedly risky, Marvel’s confidence in their new ‘main antagonist’ was boosted by the fact that “Although the reviews for Quantumania were woeful, and its box office dropped by 69 percent in its second weekend of release—setting a dismal new record for Marvel Studios—Majors seemed immune to criticism,” as “His performance was lauded as the highlight of the movie and the de facto future of the MCU.”
Of course, as fans and the authors of MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios now know, Marvel’s plans for Kang ran into a major roadblock when “on March 22, 2023—less than two months after the movie’s release—Majors was arrested on charges of assault and harassment, stemming from a domestic dispute where he allegedly strangled a woman. ”
Per the trio’s recollection of the situation, “Suddenly, Marvel’s safest bet for its future became its latest dilemma.”
Unfortunately, neither Robinson, Gonzales, nor Edwards were able to provide any insight into Marvel’s current handling of Majors’ ongoing legal troubles, nor what options they may be considering in the event that the actor is found guilty of his criminal charges.
Further, they did not detail what plans Marvel had, if any, for their pre-Kang the Conqueror productions.
Despite the uncertainty facing Majors’ future, Kang the Conqueror is set to play a major role in the currently-airing second season of Marvel’s Loki, though as of writing, he has yet to make his series debut.