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With Jonathan Majors’ Kang the Conqueror sidelined, who will be Marvel’s new supervillain?

<span>Redundant on the big screen … Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.</span><span>Photograph: Jay Maidment</span>
Redundant on the big screen … Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.Photograph: Jay Maidment

These are the kind of issues that other superhero studios are supposed to have. A rising star, suddenly brought low by an off-screen incident that kills all hype surrounding forthcoming projects. Talk of recasting, or perhaps even a complete change of plan. Disastrous instalments that were supposed to kick off a new era, but end up representing a debilitating full stop in the saga.

For DC’s Ezra Miller, read Marvel’s Jonathan Majors. For the former’s The Flash, read the latter’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. After more than a decade of seemingly unstoppable box office and critical smashes, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) seems to have discovered that it is human after all, and that the travails that have proven so bothersome to lesser studios, are starting to rear their hideous and deeply inconvenient heads for Disney’s comic book golden child.

According to the Hollywood Reporter the studio’s next Avengers movie, once titled Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, will now be completely retooled after Majors’ conviction on two misdemeanour charges of assault and harassment against a former girlfriend in December, which were followed by accusations of physical and emotional abuse by two more women this month.

Marvel dropped the actor, who had starred as versions of Kang in Disney+’s Loki TV series and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, on the day he was convicted of assault and harassment. Now the Hollywood trade magazine confirms what always seemed likely, that there is no point in focusing on a character that has so much negativity surrounding them – word is that Kang will either be completely written out, or at the very least sidelined – and that Majors’ appalling behaviour has in effect rendered a stalwart Marvel villain utterly redundant on the big screen.

Kang is a fascinating creation, a supervillain who manifests in myriad personas from Marvel’s version of ancient pre-history until the end of time. In many ways he was the ultimate big bad to inherit the mantle of trying to defeat Earth’s mightiest heroes after the Avengers’ defeat of Thanos and his nefarious, finger-snapping, magic-jewel wielding efforts at destruction of half of universal life as we know it. So who will replace him as the MCU enters the endgame of phase five?

The obvious solution would be to bring in a supervillain from the one corner of the Marvel universe that has yet to be explored in the MCU, those superheroes who have never been introduced in the main timeline because the comic book publisher sold them to 20th Century Fox in the 1990s, resulting in the X-Men films, some god-awful Fantastic Four flicks and a couple of decent Deadpool movies. Back in the fold after Disney’s 2019 purchase of Fox, we are expecting to see the likes of Doctor Doom and Magneto make their debuts sooner or later as Marvel integrates its forgotten children into the main arena.

Doom could easily appear in the Matt Shakman-directed Fantastic Four, and yet if publicity for the 2025 venture holds true, it will be a 1960s period piece. The supervillain would therefore need to leap forward through time if he is to end up as the main antagonist in forthcoming Avengers movies, hardly an impossible task given that Tony Stark discovered the ability to time travel in about five minutes in Avengers: Endgame – and that Kang exists across time – but a scenario that would need some degree of writing around to say the least. A more plausible candidate, given the number of times Doom has appeared in recent, not-very-good Fantastic Four films, is the planet-devouring villain Galactus – though let’s hope they don’t appear as a monstrous cosmic fart (as in 2007’s execrable Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer).

What about Magneto? It’s possible he could turn up in Deadpool & Wolverine, though unlikely. Marvel has yet to offer up much evidence of its plans to handle a full-scale introduction of the X-Men into the MCU, though there have been suggestions (via a recent end-credits scene that was just about the only reason to watch the otherwise utterly insipid The Marvels) that the reason we haven’t heard about mutants yet in the main Marvel reality is that they only exist in alternate universes.

And then there’s the Hulk. Mark Ruffalo’s take on the not-so-jolly green giant has become so amiable in the MCU that it’s hard to imagine him turning on his former comrades, along the lines of the comic book World War Hulk storyline.

Perhaps Marvel should just bring back Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, recently imported from Sony’s Spidey flicks for Spider-Man: No Way Home instead. In the absence of viable alternatives, and like an ageing star-striker who’s still capable of coming off the bench to score the winning goal, the villainous goblin king remains primed and ready to bring chaos, maniacal laughs and pumpkin-shaped bombs to any superhero party. It probably won’t happen, but if it did, you wouldn’t find a single fan of comic book movies complaining.