Nathaniel Richards was a scholar born in the 30th century. Bored with the perfection of his society, Richards became fascinated with history and discovered the time travel technology created by one of his ancestors, Victor Von Doom. Richards then traveled back in time to ancient Egypt c. 2950 B.C., in a Sphinx-shaped timeship, and became the Pharaoh Rama-Tut, with intentions of claiming En Sabah Nur — the mutant destined to become Apocalypse — as his heir. He was briefly blinded in a crash, but a radioactive herb restores his sight after he scares the natives by firing his ray-gun. Richards's rule lasts until being driven off after a defeat at the hands of the time-displaced heroes of the 20th century, the Fantastic Four (with some help from a time-traveling Doctor Strange and Khonshu), and he escapes into time. He returns to rule, and encounters the time-traveling West Coast Avengers.
Embittered by this defeat, he travels forward to the 20th century of an alternate timeline, being Earth-689, and meets his ancestor Doctor Doom, first encountering him adrift in outer space and returning him to Earth. Richards then tries to retrun to the year 3000 but accidently lands in 4000. He designs armor for himself based on Doom's using 40th century technology, and calling himself the Scarlet Centurion manipulates the Avengers from this timeline — the original team — into apprehending all heroes and villains after their defeat of the Space Phantom. The Centurion then transports the Avengers from the mainstream Marvel universe (Earth-616) into the timeline, hoping that they will defeat their Earth-689 equivalents, and can then be disposed of. While the mainstream versions do defeat their counterparts, they are also able to force the Centurion from the timeline, where he battles the Squadron Supreme on an alternate Earth. The Centurion then travels back to his home century, and reinvents himself as Kang the Conqueror and, using the resources at his disposal, establishes an empire.