Kang the Conqueror is the Secret Origin of Marvel’s Very First Hero

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Kang the Conqueror has been responsible for a lot of death and destruction, but he is also indirectly responsible for Earth’s Heroic Age.

Throughout the years, Kang the Conqueror has assumed many identities, and one of his lesser known personas was responsible for the creation of the first Marvel hero—and by extension the entire Marvel Universe. In 1992’s Avengers Annual #21, readers learn that Doctor Phineas Horton, who created the original, android Human Torch, the first Marvel hero, studied under industrialist Victor Timely—who was actually Kang in disguise!

Kang the Conqueror hails from the 40th century. Born Nathaniel Richards, he has used a variety of personas since his first appearance in 1964’s Avengers #8 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Rama-Tut, Immortus, the Scarlet Centurion and Iron Lad are among the many aliases Kang has adopted throughout his temporal reigns of terror. In 1992, the story Citizen Kang ran through a handful of Marvel’s Avengers-related annuals. This story explored the various facets of Kang’s long life, including a look at some of his lesser known aliases. One of them, Victor Timely, while not spoken of in the same regard as the others, actually played an integral role in Marvel history, helping inspire the first Marvel hero – and all those who followed after him. The story, titled “The Puzzle,” was written by Peter Sanderson, illustrated by Rich Yanizeski, inked by Fred Fredericks, colored by Scott Marshall and lettered by Dave Sharpe.

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In the story, Kang traveled back to the 1920s, posing as industrialist Victor Timely—a call out to Timely Comics, Marvel’s original name. Phineas Horton, a brilliant scientist in his own right, comes to study under Timely, who agrees to do so, knowing what Horton will one day create. A decade later, Horton would create the android Human Torch, kicking off Earth’s Heroic Age. Later, in the 1980s, Kang returned, as Victor Timely III, refocusing the company as a premiere computer and robotics company; the company’s tech is used by Reed Richards, Misty Knight and Deathlok. And readers learn all of this was part of Kang’s plan to conquer 20th century Earth.


Earth’s Heroic Age is one of Kang’s obsessions, and the revelation here he is indirectly responsible for it adds layers to his character. Phineas Horton was already on the rise when he crossed paths with Victor Timely; the narration was quick to point out that the Human Torch was purely Horton’s innovation, yet the villainous Kang has a hand in it as well. Kang mentored Horton, giving him focus—which ultimately led to the Human Torch and Earth’s Heroic Age, which would in turn inspire Kang many years later. Such a cyclical existence befits a time traveler like Kang. The revelation that Kang is also responsible for the computer revolution goes along with this; the narration speculates that all of this is some sort of long game being played by Kang, a bid to enslave the people of Earth. Playing the long game is not a problem for someone with Kang’s time-traveling technology.


Kang the Conqueror has been responsible for untold death and destruction across the years. Ironically, he is also indirectly responsible for the heroes who defeat him time and again. This effect that he has had on the Marvel Universe proves why he continues to be one of comics’ most compelling villains.

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