Your favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe superheroes almost looked a little differently.
Marvel Studios' head of visual development, artist Ryan Meinerding, spoke to Entertainment Weekly about his unused concept designs for some of Marvel's biggest superheroes, including Chris Evans' Captain America and Zoe Saldana's Gamora.
“We’re just always trying to make it better,” said Meinerding, who has worked with Marvel since the first Iron Man in 2008. “It’s as simple as that. It’s looking at what we have and figuring out different ways and creative solutions for trying to improve it.”
Meinerding said his biggest priority is to bridge the gap between the original Marvel comics and "the story world that the filmmakers are trying to create" for the ongoing Marvel Studios franchise of films, which are mostly faithful to the source material while managing to carve a unique path of their own.
Steve Rogers goes from dancing monkey to actual soldier early on in Captain America: The First Avenger, where the story helped Meinerding determine the final direction for Cap's earliest battle suit.
“He covers up his costume with a leather jacket and a helmet, and it feels like he’s trying to be more of a soldier and through the process of rescuing those soldiers, the jacket gets a little more torn up and the star starts to poke through a little bit,” Meinerding said of Cap's choice of clothing when he embarks on a mission to reclaim captured U.S. soldiers, including best friend Bucky Barnes.
“I think at the end of that journey, he ends up realizing that there’s a value to be had in not only being a soldier but also being a symbol," Meinerding added. "It’s the idea of those first two costumes being combined into the final look in that movie.”
An alternate version, which sees Cap sporting a blue coat, went unused because "he didn't feel as much like a soldier in that costume," Meinerding said. "He still felt like he was a little bit more showy."
Vision, the synthetic android turned Avenger, almost repped a completely gold-and-gray color scheme.
But Avengers: Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon "really wanted Vision to stay human-colored,” Meinerding said, explaining the above look was nearly final before producers decided to go a more classic route.
“He really wanted him to look like Paul Bettany with the bit of styling on him," Meinerding said, "and when we did versions of that, it seemed hard to make that look cool and interesting.”
Gamora, the green-skinned warrior and adopted daughter of Thanos, almost wasn't green at all.
It's nearly impossible to picture actress Zoe Saldana's alien heroine as anything but her now iconic green, but an early concept design by fellow Marvel artist had Gamora looking completely different — and purple.
“In my opinion, it’s much, much more difficult to find the first version of the character — more or less because the tone of those movies are still being worked out,” Meinerding said. “We have to do a bunch of versions just to get in the ballpark of what the visuals are gonna be and what the tone of the movie is gonna be.”
Andy Park's Mantis concept art, above, had the empath looking even more insect-like in appearance, complete with an outfit covered in ridges.
The character, who joined the space bound band of a-holes in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, has two feelers extending from her forehead and comes bearing two wide eyes — making her an obvious alien — but the early concept design adds more bug-like flourishes (and comes off as a bit more unsettling.)
Regal Wakandan king-slash-superhero T'Challa underwent several different costume and helmet designs between his debut in Captain America: Civil War and his solo movie, which ultimately overhauled the Civil War suit in favor of an open-eyed costume that could absorb kinetic energy and give off a purple glow.
Above is an unused helmet design from Black Panther, which Meinerding wrote would have given T'Challa "a more regal look."
Meinderding also shared a more catlike look, below, that's closer in style to Brian Stelfreeze's design from the comic books. "This design pass here removes the separate helmet and has the suit and the mask as one similar to a Spider-Man suit," Meinerding wrote.
Meinerding took a shot at changing up the Hulk's look in Thor: Ragnarok, which re-imagined the strongest Avenger as a gladiator warrior marooned on an alien planet.
Meineidig shared multiple Hulk hairstyle designs on Instagram, including looks with a full beard, a buzzcut, and another still with long, flowing locks — not entirely unlike the 'do Thor used to rock.
Meinerding also displayed reinterpretations of Spider-Man's classic red and blues, including a design, above, that would have debuted in Captain America: Civil War.
This specific design is inspired by the suit worn by Spidey clone Ben Reilly originally crafted by comic book artist Mark Bagley, but Meinderding ultimately opted for a more classic look.
"I'm incredibly fortunate to have designed all of Spidey's MCU designs," Meinerding wrote on Instagram.
Meinerding is also responsible for crafting the Avengers: Infinity War poster spread that debuted last summer during San Diego Comic Con.
Avengers: Infinity War opens April 27, followed by Ant-Man and the Wasp July 6.1comments
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