This week, Jonathan Majors was found guilty on misdemeanor counts of reckless assault and harassment against ex-girlfriend Grace Jabbari, and later that same day, Marvel Studios confirmed that it would no longer be working with the actor who was said to be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s new main villain, after Josh Brolin’s Thanos. Majors had already appeared as several different versions of multiversal menace Kang The Conqueror in Loki and Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania, and his storyline was going to fully come together in the next Avengers movie (originally announced as Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, but now simply referred to as Avengers 5, per The Hollywood Reporter).
Other than that, Marvel has been predictably tight-lipped about its future plans, meaning we don’t know how the jettisoning of Jonathan Majors is going to impact upcoming Marvel stuff beyond the fact that it has to in some way. With the studio unwilling to give us big spoilers, that leaves us to make wild speculations about what could/should happen. But, in a surprising and refreshing twist, the speculations don’t have to be all that wild because there are really only two options for Marvel at this point: Recast Jonathan Majors and move forward with a different person playing Kang, or do a soft reset and remove Kang from the equation entirely.
Both options are equally likely and equally possible given the current state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so let’s break them down.
Option 1: Recast Kang with a different actor
Marvel’s current storylines are all about the multiverse, which is to say the infinite possibilities afforded by infinite alternate realities. That conceit has already made it possible to put three Spider-Mans in one movie, different versions of famous heroes in another movie, and a bunch of different Lokis in Loki. Quantumania also introduced a huge array of different Kangs—all played by Majors at the time—in a post-credits stinger.
In terms of Marvel lore, then, it would be enormously easy to just bring in a different actor and say “This is Kang now.” No one in-universe would ever need to directly address that he looks different and nobody would ever need to acknowledge the Majors versions of Kang ever again. Marvel could even have a new main version of Kang who establishes his evilness by killing all of the other Kangs offscreen. It would be very clean and easy.
And it would be similarly easy behind the scenes, because Marvel has recast characters a bunch of times in the past, so it clearly doesn’t have any reservations about the practice. Don Cheadle replaced Terrance Howard as James “Rhodey” Rhodes after the first Iron Man, Mark Ruffalo replaced Edward Norton as Bruce Banner after his Hulk movie, and Harrison Ford is going to replace William Hurt as General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross in Captain America: New World Order. Nobody in Iron Man 2 or The Avengers bothered to say “Hey, that guy looks different from the last time we saw him” because they didn’t need to.
Recasting Kang would also have the added bonus of reestablishing why he should be the new big bad guy for people who didn’t bother watching Loki or Quantumania, and with the general public clearly experiencing some MCU fatigue, an opportunity to give your villain a second first impression.
Option 2: Replace Kang with a new villain
The more exciting option might be to sideline Kang entirely and move ahead with a different main villain. Now that Marvel Studios has confirmed it has a Fantastic Four movie in the works, the door is open for a handful of additional noteworthy Marvel villains that could easily justify the same kind of multiversal stakes as Kang. Doctor Doom is an obvious one, since he’s arguably THE big Marvel villain in the comics, but there’s also Galactus (the planet-eater is literally the biggest Marvel villain, thank you thank you) or a dark horse candidate like Annihilus (a big bug guy from another dimension).
We’ve got to see at least one of them sooner or later, and having Doctor Strange or whoever say “Oh no, all of our tampering with the multiverse accidentally unleashed this great evil dude” would be almost as easy as saying “Kang looks different now, just go with it.”
And there’s an easy lore justification for this as well: Season two of Loki ended with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki (not the one who died in Infinity War but the one who escaped the regular timeline in Endgame) stepping into the web of the multiverse to physically hold all of reality together so it wouldn’t spin out of control and destroy all of existence. That’s some proper comic book nonsense that could be used to explain why all the different versions of Kang are no longer a threat and why some villain from some other universe suddenly finds themself with a new chance to do evil.
There’s even some reason to think that this is exactly what’s happening behind the scenes, with Marvel Studios hiring Loki creator and season one showrunner Michael Waldron to write the next two Avengers movies. Waldron has experience with the “comic book nonsense” side of the MCU, so it seems important that he—out of all potential writers—has been brought in at this point, years before these movies really need to get off the ground, during a time of apparent disarray for Marvel.
Whatever Marvel chooses and however this all works out, the collective internet will be happy to either second-guess its decision and criticize the rollout, or just numbly accept everything that happens and root for the studio to succeed like a favorite sports team.