The end of Marvel’s third phase brought the end of Thanos, the decade-long big bad of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). However, in Marvel's phase four on the Disney+ show Loki, it was confirmed that Kang the Conqueror would fill Thanos' shoes as a multiverse-destroying villain. For most of Loki season one, He Who Remains is described as a boogeyman. An enigmatic being whom no one at the time-keeping agency, Time Variance Authority, knows. It is not until the final episode that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), a woman variant of Loki, meet He Who Remains in hopes of killing him. Though Kang and his variants are canonically White, as the clip above highlights, the person they meet at the end of time and space is a Black man (Jonathan Majors).
In Kara Keeling’s book Queer Times, Black Futures, she posits that capitalism's futures predict plausible alternative futures based on the present, which profits from the racial oppression of Black and Brown people. Therefore, black people have no future under capitalism. However, Afrofuturism/Sci-Fi futures are based on alternative futures that seem impossible in the present (17). I theorize that Blackness within the MCU has mainly existed outside the White space and timeline of the superhero franchise. I argue that Blackness within the MCU exemplifies Keeling's theory of Black future and queer time, especially with Kang embodying Keeling's theory as his Blackness thrives outside of time and space, allowing him to connect or even control the multiverse—compared to his White counterparts. His control and ease with being outside White time and space is the driving plot point for why he is a danger to the White protagonists.
In Loki, he is seen as threatening White freedom as Sylvie kills him to reclaim hers. This depiction of threat is affirmed again in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, where another version of Kang is betrayed and killed by the White protagonist in his efforts to escape to the White normative world. The two end credit sequences cement the White characters' fear of his Black body. The first sequence shows the unlimited potential of Kang’s body by showing the Council of Kangs, numerous variants of Kang. In the second, Loki and Mobius (Owen Wilson) find Victor Timely (Majors), a scientist who discovers multiverse travel, and Loki claims him to be the most dangerous man in the multiverse.
The arrival of Jonathan Majors' Kang highlights the issues around race in the MCU. However, his presence also creates a transformative reading of Blackness within the MCU, as seen with other villains—Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and Namor (Tenoch Huerta). The fear around Kang comes from the fear Whiteness has around the Other. In defining her book title, Keeling defines queer temporality as "a dimension of time that produces risk" (26) and black futures as "a way of indicating an investment in the risk that already inheres in social life" (35). I believe that her theory of queer time and black future is embodied within the portrayal of Kang because of the casting of Jonathan Majors and the risk he takes as an actor and character.
Though likely a result of colorblind casting, Majors' Blackness profoundly impacts the character in ways Marvel may not fully understand. As a Black spectator, his goals and philosophy around time and space strongly align with how Blackness is viewed within those concepts. However, these imaginings become monstrous because the films are viewed through a White lens. As we see more of, the subversive reading I am theorizing here will, unfortunately, strengthen the need for White violence to stop it.
Keeling, Kara. "Queer times, Black futures." Queer Times, Black Futures. New York University Press, 2019.
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