Black Panther‘s costume was almost very different – particularly in terms of its color scheme.
Every time Marvel release a movie, it’s accompanied by a special hardback book collecting images of concept art from the film. The Art of Black Panther is one of the most beautiful to date, exploring the incredibly detailed work that Marvel’s artists and producers put into creating the fictional world of Wakanda. It also features stunning concept art for different character designs, and the Black Panther’s are particularly interesting.
The general design of the Panther’s costume remained the same – although the matting went through a number of different versions – but the color schemes went through several different iterations. As trailers revealed, the Panther’s latest suit can absorb energy and release it in devastating bursts. As the suit builds up a charge, purple patterns begin to form across it. Marvel actually tried out a number of different colors for these patterns.
How The Black Panther Costume Could Have Looked
Black Panther’s concept artists experimented with blue and even red, but ultimately went with the purple design seen in the actual movie. It’s certainly an appropriate choice, since this particular power was inspired by the original comics. In 2016, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze launched one of the most popular Black Panther runs of all time. They realized that the properties of Vibranium just didn’t make sense; the fictional metal can absorb energy, but energy cannot be created or destroyed – it can only change form. If Vibranium was absorbing energy, there had to be a way to release it. Coates and Stelfreeze came up with the idea that Black Panther’s costume could release an energy charge in a radial purple blast.
Black Panther director Ryan Coogler is a comic book fan, so it’s no surprise he went with a color that honored this popular series.
The designs themselves are beautiful, and Marvel put a great deal of work into this aspect of the Black Panther’s design. Ryan Meinerding, Head of the Visual Department, described this as the most “labor-intensive” part of the movie. Concept artist Adi Granov tried to design it to look like tribal tattoos. “Someone in the studio came up with this Wakandan alphabet,” he explained, “So I tried to then incorporate those symbols into it.” Sadly, the Wakandan alphabet is not included in The Art of Black Panther.
One other part of the Black Panther costume took a lot of work: the ears. Traditionally, Black Panther’s ears point upwards. Again, it was artist Brian Stelfreeze who changed that, trying to hint at what Meinerding called “an angry-cat look.” Marvel Studios tried a number of different approaches, but ultimately followed Stelfreeze’s design.
Ultimately, Black Panther is remarkably comic book accurate – largely because Coogler is a comic book fan. He sifted through decades’ worth of comics, and carefully chose the best concepts to render on the big screen. And yet, in spite of Coogler’s clear desire to honor the comics, the creative team still checked to make sure they were taking the best approach. It’s definitely gratifying to see how carefully they considered every single element of the Black Panther’s design.
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