Now firmly established as a huge success on both the critical and commercial levels, Marvel Studios’ latest MCU entry Doctor Strange managed to accomplish the goal of introducing another formidable hero to a cinematic pantheon that already includes heavyweights like Iron Man and Captain America. In addition to telling the origin story of brilliant but injured neurosurgeon turned powerful sorcerer Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Doctor Strange also successfully injected a more supernatural and mystical side into the MCU.
Of course, a great hero is nothing without an imposing villain, and filling the role of primary antagonist for the majority of Doctor Strange’s run time was Kaecilius (Hannibal’s Mad Mikkelsen). Backed by the dark power of the demonic Dormammu, Kaecilius was a former student of The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who found himself corrupted by evil after the devastating loss of his family. Accompanying Kaecilius on this journey of destruction were a group of followers known as Zealots.
In the film proper, the Zealots are similar in appearance to Kaecilius himself, sporting heavy makeup around the eyes and wearing somewhat Mortal Kombat-esque battle attire. However, this appears to have not always been the case. In fact, a newly surfaced piece of Doctor Strange concept art – courtesy of CBM – presents a vastly different visual design for the Zealots.
As is readily apparent, this unused design for Kaecilius’ Zealots has a much more cult-like look to it, looking suitable for someone on their way to a worship service at the church of Dormammu. The white makeup and long robe also evokes the classic look of the grim reaper, and when combined with the way the Zealot appears to be floating above the ground in the right panel of the image, lends a very ethereal quality to this piece of unused art. Considering director Scott Derrickson’s background in horror films, this design for the Zealots looks like it would fit right in with one of his prior efforts.
While it’s understandable why Marvel might have opted to go with a Zealot design that more visually jives with what Kaecilius’ ended up looking like, the scrapped attire would have definitely lent a more sinister quality to what in practice are basically just standard henchmen. That said, had the look been used, Doctor Strange’s filmmakers’ may have run the risk of Kaecilius’ followers looking more dangerous than he did.