Friday, September 29, 2017

The Earth That Was!

As many 20th century Marvel readers are aware of (it seemed appropriate to actually cite the century, given our subject matter), Kang the Conqueror's road to conquest began in the year 3000 A.D., in an era of peace on Earth that he found intolerable. Discovering access to a time machine designed by his ancestor, he traveled back to ancient Egypt and took on the identity of Pharaoh Rama-Tut, where he planned to establish a base of operations for himself and then begin raids of conquest throughout time. Yet as we've seen evidence of recently, Kang actually hails from an alternate reality--a parallel Earth that endured a shocking history of destruction and decimation well before even our first world war. The Earth on which Kang was born rose from its ashes--and ironically, it was Kang's own ancestor who was responsible for the peace that he found he couldn't bear.

Since we're talking about a time machine, and the fact that Kang's ancestor conceived its design, the original story by Stan Lee from Fantastic Four Annual #2 that followed up on the Rama-Tut tale implied that the ancestor in question was either related to Dr. Doom or was Doom himself; but when that connection was invalidated by writer Roger Stern's Avengers story from 1986, the same story underscored a revelation from a Fantastic Four story from '84--namely, that this ancestor was in fact Nathaniel Richards of our own Earth, the father of Reed Richards. Some family tree, eh? Imagine Thanksgiving at the Richards table. "Pass me that turkey leg or I'll conquer your puny century!"

So to complete the circle on this subject, it might be interesting to review scenes from John Byrne's 1984 story and have a look at the fate of Earth, a virtually destroyed world that would in time produce a ruthless conqueror--a story that begins with Reed's search for his missing father, a search which led to that same parallel world where Reed gained historical information from the queen who led a rebellion against none other than his own father, a man who on this world is known as the Warlord. In the tale that Reed hears, it seems Earth's course for disaster was set with an event which, on our Earth, symbolized national pride and achievement.

On any Earth, the destruction of its moon would no doubt have serious consequences for the planet. In this case, the Luna war would be the beginning of a vicious cycle which in time would lead to more war--but in the interim, the planet's survivors would cling to life as their world fell to ruin around them. At the point of Nathaniel Richards' arrival, his offer of help would be a straw that the hapless population would be only too willing to grasp.

The "Warlord's" actions were a strange turn of events--and certainly a surprise to Reed, who is astonished to discover that this Warlord might indeed be his father. But, when things are finally cleared up, Nathaniel elaborates on what truly happened, and how the Queen's daughter, Cassandra--his wife--took advantage of both his good will, and his knowledge.

Nathaniel resolves to stay behind, and help to create the world that he originally intended to see flourish. According to the man who would become Kang, he succeeded only too well.

What both Byrne and Stern conspicuously omit from their retellings which otherwise adhere so closely to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's original material is that the Fantastic Four were part of the planet's history that Kang envies; indeed, their careers were a factor in the impetus which led him to seek out Nathaniel's now-ancient citadel. It seems particularly odd for Byrne, of all people, to omit the panel, in light of how diligently he usually links his FF stories to the team's roots.

The panel clearly ties this world to our own, which seemed intentional on the part of Lee and Kirby in detailing events that documented our own Earth's era of peace that the man who would become Rama-Tut found so detestable--a fact that would naturally impact on the story's revised 1984-86 version. The oversight by both Stern and Byrne appears deliberate; whether it was because explaining the discrepancy wasn't worth the time it would take, or that it simply got in the way of the new version, is open to speculation. It doesn't seem to be an insurmountable complication by any means--the presence of the FF in an alternate reality isn't a stretch of the imagination, considering how often such a concept has seen publication.

Given what we now know of Kang's origins, it would be interesting to come across a story where Kang's journey to the past takes place on his own world, rather than the "alternate" world which turns out to be our own. For all we know, he might have even been responsible for the war that led to the destruction of the moon, a paradox of that world's history that would have made for fascinating reading.


Anonymous said...

Been enjoying this blog's look back at Kang. That's one villain that had a lot of great stories in him, as we have seen. He's a gift that keeps on giving, story-wise. That Hulk story you reviewed was a classic.
So was Kang a descendant of the Richards, or what? Are those the "ancestors"s? And doesn't Nathaniel Richards later turn out to be kind of a bad guy?
And if the Moon ever does declare independence from the Earth, I'm goin'.


-3- said...

Kang has always been a favorite character since his introduction, but - I have to admit, i never noticed the discrepancy until you pointed it out.
Good spotting.

Comicsfan said...

M.P., yes, it seems that Kang is indeed a descendant of Nathaniel Richards, though perhaps not of Reed; technically speaking, the family line that Kang descended from existed on an alternate Earth, where Reed likely never existed. As for Nathaniel, I think the general feeling among the FF members is that he was never as forthcoming as he should have been, particularly given the danger that Hyperstorm posed to his family.

Jared said...

I haven't ever read this. What issue of FF is this from?

Comicsfan said...

Jared, these scenes are from FF #273.