Warning - This article contains MAJOR spoilers for the season finale of Loki.
Back in March 2019, The Walt Disney Company agreed to a $71.3 billion merger with 21st Century Fox. This gave Disney ownership of FX Networks and National Geographic, which led to their 100% ownership of Hulu and a new catalog of the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and other Marvel characters.
Amongst other variables, a major reason for the merger was to boost their soon-to-be streaming service, which became today's Disney+.
This was huge news in the industry and an exciting time for Marvel fans that have wanted characters like Wolverine, Deadpool, and Reed Richards in the MCU. The first sign of Marvel Studios using a newly-acquired Marvel character was when they announced Jon Watts would be directing a future Fantastic Four film.
In Episode 6 of Loki "For All Time. Always.," Disney made history by introducing a Marvel character who was previously owned by Fox into the MCU for the first time since the 2019 merger.
KANG ENTERS THE MCU
Jonathan Majors made his highly-anticipated debut as Kang the Conqueror in Tom Hiddleston's Loki finale. Ironically, the character was actually killed by Sylvie, but rest assured that will not be the last time fans see Kang, or many more Kangs, in the future.
The time-hopping villain isn't one of the characters that was mentioned often when Disney acquired Fox, but back in 2015, Guardians on the Galaxy director James Gunn confirmed to a fan that Kang was owned by Fox.
The fans asked if the Shi'ar Empire or Kang would be used in Guardians Vol. 2 and Gunn responded "Shi'ar and Kang are both owned by Fox. All decisions about who is in GotG2 were made a long time ago."
Six years later, Kang has finally been brought into the MCU fold. The quick-witted antagonist is set to play a major role in Phase 4 of the MCU, already confirmed to play a part in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Considering Kang was never reported to make his first appearance in Loki, don't be surprised if he pops up in upcoming movies like Spider-Man: No Way Home or Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which are both rumored to deal with the multiversal events of Loki.
After the God of Mischief's final episode, fans are already predicting that a potential fifth Avengers movie revolves around the 1984 and 2015 comic book run Secret Wars with Kang as the main villain.
It remains to be seen how big of a role Kang ultimately plays, but it isn't a coincidence that he was the first Marvel character Marvel Studios chose to use from Fox.
WHO'S NEXT: DEADPOOL OR FANTASTIC FOUR?
In a surprise marketing ploy, Ryan Reynold's Deadpool teased joining the MCU in a reaction video with Korg of his new movie Free Guy. This was the first look at Deadpool interacting with Marvel Studios characters, hinting at Deadpool 3 being set in the MCU.
There has been no official announcement from Disney on when Deadpool 3 will go into production or be released.
Fantastic Four would be the obvious suitor to be next in line to pop up in the MCU. There hasn't been any casting news or a confirmed release date for the film, but Kang could be the answer to when they first appear.
Kang the Conqueror's real name in the comics is Nathaniel Richards, a descendant of Reed Richards. Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania director Peyton Reed once pitched a Beatles-inspired Fantastic Four film based in the 1960s.
Combining the fact that Kang is set to show up in Quantumania, the connection between him and Reed, and the possibility that they're trapped out of time in the Quantum realm (similar to Janet Van Dyne), the Ant-Man threequel is the most likely place for Marvel's first family to appear before their own film.
Before the Disney-Fox merger, Marvel Studios had a lot fewer characters to choose from, and more competition from fellow studios.
THE STRANGE HISTORY OF MARVEL CHARACTERS RIGHTS
Back in the 1990s, Marvel Comics was going bankrupt and sold off the movie rights to their most popular characters. This included Sony Pictures' purchase of Spider-Man and his surrounding characters, Universal's purchase of Hulk, and Fox's purchase of X-Men and The Fantastic Four.
To this day, Sony still owns Spider-Man, but they began working in conjunction with Marvel Studios back in 2016 when Peter Parker appeared in Captain America: Civil War. Sony has continued to make movies outside of Disney with Venom, Morbius, and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.
There's no plan on slowing either with sequels to Venom and Into The Spider-Verse coming soon and plans for other characters like Kraven the Hunter and Spider-Woman getting their own films.
Spider-Man infamously almost left the MCU and reverted back to Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters in 2019 after their deal ended with Disney. They ultimately struck a new deal where Disney would have a more financial stake in the Spidey movies, but nothing long-term was promised.
Many fans may be less aware that the Hulk is still entirely owned by Universal if it chooses to make a solo movie. However, Marvel Studios is able to use the character as much as they please in other non-Hulk films and television shows.
Mark Ruffalo has only appeared in Disney-produced movies since 2008's The Incredible Hulk starring Edward Norton was distributed by Universal Pictures.
The Fantastic Four and X-Men were owned by Fox for over two decades. However, there was a unique situation where the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver characters could be used by both studios.
At Disney, they could have the same abilities and names, but couldn't be referred to as "mutants" or have any connection to their father, Magneto. The speedster Quicksilver was portrayed in the X-Men movies and Avengers: Age of Ultron by Evan Peters and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, respectively.
Black Widow's Taskmaster was formerly owned by Fox, along with Daredevil, and their rights went back to Marvel Studios in 2015 after not being used by the studio.
Sometime before 2016, a one-of-a-kind deal was struck between Disney and Fox, swapping the characters Ego the Living Planet and Negasonic Teenage Warhead. The characters would later be featured in 2017's Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 and 2016's Deadpool, respectively. Director James Gunn confirmed that the swap was made and admitted, "I don’t think Fox knew what a big piece of the cosmic universe puzzle he was going to be."
Wesley Snipe's Blade films were produced by New Line Cinema, and by 2012, eight years after Blade: Trinity, the rights went back to Marvel Studios. At 2019's SDCC, Marvel President Kevin Feige announced that a Blade movie starring Mahershala Ali will be released within the MCU's Phase 4.
Finally, Netflix recently held the creative rights to characters Daredevil, Punisher, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and more. Their rights recently reverted back to Disney and rumors swirled that Charlie Cox could reprise his role as Matt Murdock in Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Now that many of these characters are back with Disney, it simplifies the rights going forward and gives Marvel Studios an endless amount of heroes and villains to utilize.
The first character previously owned by Fox, Kang the Conqueror, will return in Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania on February 17, 2023.