In 1978, Stan Lee and John Buscema released How To Draw The Marvel Way. The 192 page manual promised to show aspiring artists how to sketch their favorite superheroes exactly how the professionals did.
Unfortunately, most who tried to illustrate Marvel’s best and brightest failed, and their efforts looked similar to The Avengers drawing their likeness on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
However, some persevered and used their talents to become concept artists for Marvel Studios. According to Andy Park, a concept artist for Marvel, "How to Draw the Marvel Way was like my bible growing up! There are a LOT more designs!" Many aspiring artists used How To Draw The Marvel Way as a starting point for their future endeavors.
Marvel Studios uses numerous drafts of superhero characters for their movies, using the sketches to help them form the characters that we see on the big screen.
Some concept art is pretty similar to what we see on screen, while other designs are extremely different.
Because there are several designs that differ from the final project that we see on screen, it's interesting to take a look at early pieces to see what might have been. One might even argue that some of these unused designs are better than what we got in the movies.
With that said, here are the 25 Marvel Concept Art Designs That Completely Change Everything.
25 Thor (Thor: Ragnarok)
Influential comic book artist Jack Kirby is renowned for his stylized technology, using stacks of repeating shapes that create futuristic jungles of buildings.
Artist Aleksi Briclot tried to implement Kirby's vision to the gladiator outfit that Thor wears during his brawl with the Hulk.
“Exploring some more ideas about his look in the arena. Obviously inspired by Jack the King Kirby,” Briclot said in a Twitter post.
The result looks suspiciously like the comic book rendition of Magneto. However, the red color scheme doesn’t really make sense in this context. Perhaps the scarlet shade was meant to resemble Thor's red cape, but either way, it looks out of place here.
24 Venom (Venom)
With an easy template for filmmakers to sample from, it’s brave for a bored concept artist to get carried away with the look of Venom.
Case in point: Ian Joyner’s take on the symbiote. The creature’s vision is covered in what looks like countless spider egg-like eyes.
Venom’s intentions often flip-flop between heroics and villainy, but this painting by Ian Joyner makes it painfully clear that this monster is up to no good.
He looks more appropriate for an episode of Stranger Things than for a Marvel movie. We’re also getting a serious Cloverfield meets The Mist vibe from this nightmare.
Godzilla will be taking on Mothra in a future sequel. Maybe the King of the Monsters needs a tune-up with this creature.
23 Magneto (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Granted, Apocalypse's look in X-Men: Apocalypse (which resembled Ivan Ooze) doomed the movie during production. However, a purple-skinned Magneto would have made things so much worse.
Not once in the comic books did Magneto ever resemble Apocalypse. This rendition (created by Jerad S. Marantz) was meant as “a much darker interpretation of the character” after Apocalypse corrupts him.
The burgundy battle armor and helmet are absent and are replaced by a black outfit.
Here, Magneto is a shade of purple more appropriate for fellow Marvel baddie Killgrave. Watching Erik serve as the Egyptian mutant’s lackey was a little off-putting, especially considering the fact that the X-Men antagonist is placed at the upper echelons of Marvel's all-time baddie list.
22 Groot (Guardians Of The Galaxy)
This version of Groot by Jackson Sze is the opposite of marketable -- his massive oak body looks ready to squash some orcs.
The face is pretty spot on, but the body is an aberration of nature, like a tree riddled and deformed with pesticides. That flower looks as thought it’s going to wilt in fear after being plucked by such a hideous beast.
Sze seems to have taken his inspiration from Groot’s original introduction in Tales To Astonish #13, where he was a villain intent on invading and experimenting on humans.
While the MCU's Groot was able to walk upright, this one’s right leg is completely deformed. It's eerie to imagine him ambling towards his next unsuspecting victim.
21 Valkyrie (Thor: Ragnarok)
Artist Aleksi Briclot created several versions of Valkyrie's outfit for Thor: Ragnarok, including one with skull knee pads that would elicit the satisfaction of Skeletor.
According to Briclot, she found inspiration from “Jack the King Kirby" and wanted to try an "original tribal look" for the image on the right.
She also created another design that explored the character closer to the comics, but included a Bioshock mask.
“[This was] way before the beautiful @tessamaethompson was announced, so my material reference was mostly the tall blonde character from the comics. On this one, I’ve used some obvious gladiator looks with some Jack Kirby influence on the helmet,” stated Briclot.
20 Black Panther (Black Panther)
Over the past several years, T’Challa has toyed with capes-- he originally adorned one while battling the Fantastic Four in 1966 and draped one across his shoulders through the entire Christopher Priest run in the late '90s.
This concept art design by Andy Park is a tribute to Priest's era. T'Challa looks identical to Mark Texeira's interpretation of the character.
“This is an alternate concept design I did on the film of the former Black Panther, T’Chaka! I HAD to do a version w/ his classic cape look from the comics,” Park posted on his Twitter.
However, as more movies are added to the MCU, there are less and less cape wearers.
19 Star-Lord (Guardians Of The Galaxy)
With the amount of times that Quill propels himself through space, this particular design doesn’t seem very practical for exploration.
Here, Star-Lord can be seen in a helmet with small goggles. Without his oxygen mask, it's hard to see how he'd be able to survive in space.
“Here's the same #StarLord design I painted for the 1st film-- mask fully & partially opened. He's less villainous :)” said Andy Park posted his Twitter page.
Star-Lord’s look in the comic uses a similar face plate as the movie.
However, his comic book counterpart wears an extraterrestrial firemen’s cap to cover his scalp. Comics published after the premiere of Guardians of the Galaxy adopted the partial helmet look, with tufts of his hair sticking out.
18 Baron Zemo (Captain America: Civil War)
Marvel Studios Visual Development Supervisor Andy Park created a version of Baron Zemo identical to the character we see in the comics.
However, Park was dissatisfied with the look. “At the end of the day, his traditional comic book look didn’t make sense for the story,” said Park on his official Twitter page.
In the comics, Zemo uses his purple hood as a way to disguise himself. It’s not everyday you see someone with a purple hood.
In one story, Cap quickly saw through the disguise, however, breaking a glass encasement of Adhesive X. This goo merged the fabric of Baron Zemo's hood to his head permanently.
Maybe trying to explain why Zemo got Elmer’s Glue on his head was too silly a prospect for Captain America: Civil War.
17 Juggernaut (X-Men: The Last Stand)
Many fans were happy about The Juggernaut's portrayal in Deadpool 2. The brute was finally animated to his proper enormous proportions.
Unfortunately, The Juggernaut was a character who underwhelmed many fans in past X-Men adaptations.
In X-Men: The Last Stand, we were stuck with former soccer star Vinnie Jones. Although the uniform we got wasn't ridiculously bad, the cement block-like helmet and the Spartacus straps that composed of his outfit could have been better.
An alternative interpretation would have made the character worse.
This version by Anthony Jones looks like Bane got lost in the desert and ended up in an Assassin's Creed game. We'll take a smaller sized Juggernaut with a fondness for cement over this one any day.
16 Vision (Avengers: Age Of Ultron)
Marvel Studios Head Of Digital Development Ryan Meinerding originally imagined Vision with a gold faceplate and a gray torso.
The look was a throwback to Vision’s original introduction in the comic books. This “Ghost Vision” was adapted in earlier designs.
However, Marvel opted for a more traditional appearance that was introduced in The New Avengers.
“[Director] Joss [Whedon] really wanted Vision to stay human-colored,” Meinerding told Entertainment Weekly. “He really wanted him to look like Paul Bettany with the bit of styling on him, and when we did versions of that, it seemed hard to make that look cool and interesting.”
15 Ant-Man (Ant-Man)
Artist Andy Park drafted a plethora of helmets to nail down the Ant-Man look. Each alternate design shifts between vintage Air Force, astronaut, and G.I. Joe.
In the comics, Ant-Man is usually seen with his eyes and mouth exposed and with two antennas peeking out of his helmet.
We admit that this would have looked ridiculous in real life, but we’re surprised that it wasn’t utilized more in concept art designs.
Ant-Man with antennas is something we could eventually see, however-- in the three movies with Ant-Man appearances (Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, and Ant-Man and The Wasp), he’s donned three variations of the superhero's outfit.
14 Ultron (Avengers: Age Of Ultron)
At the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, our motley crew of superheroes fight against thousands of possessed robots on the top of a floating city that's about to be dropped on the Earth to initiate omnicide.
If that sounds like a visual mess, it kind of was, but it was nothing compared to what we could have seen.
This design by Phil Saunders shows a multi-arm robo-monolith version of Ultron opening his maw to gobble up the Hulk, while Iron Man attempts to take down its giant outstretched hand.
This version of Ultron is gigantic and a true force to be reckoned with.
13 Arnim Zola (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
In comic book lore, Zola looks like a rip-off of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Krang-- his consciousness is located within the stomach of a humanoid.
An ESP box is mounted on top of the robotic chassis that Zola mentally controls. If it is destroyed, his thoughts can be transferred and downloaded elsewhere.
In the movie, a camera is perched on top of an old computer monitor with supercomputers whirring in the background.
This concept art design created by Josh Nizzi could have aligned closer to the robot body that we’re familiar with from the comics.
We personally like the Ken Doll with the perfectly combed blonde hair and plastic body. Who knew Zola was secretly vane?
12 Deadpool (X-Men Origins: Wolverine)
In both Deadpool movies, Reynolds makes fun of the studio for disgracing the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. In Wolverine, Deadpool had laser eyes and his mouth sewn shut.
“It was a very frustrating experience,” Reynolds recalled to Entertainment Weekly. “I was already attached to the Deadpool movie. We hadn’t at that point written a script yet. [Origins] came along and it was sort of like, ‘Play Deadpool in this movie or we’ll get someone else to.’ And I just said, ‘I’ll do it, but it’s the wrong version. Deadpool isn’t correct in it.'”
These design variations by studioADI have about as many dislikes as likes on their YouTube channel. It doesn't seem like the creators were ever going to get the Merc with a Mouth right.
11 Yellowjacket (Ant-Man)
Most of these Yellowjacket designs by Andy Park look akin to Hasbro's drawing board. These masks wouldn’t look out of place in Battleship, G.I. Joe, or Transformers.
The illustrations are a hodgepodge of villains you’d see as the supporting cast of cronies who back up the antagonist in any movie adaptation based on a toy series.
The majority of these mask designs weren’t even utilized. Instead, we got a Yellowjack who looked like Ultron crossed with a light bug.
At least Ant-Man creators didn't use the comic book version-- in the comics, Yellowjacket wears yellow spandex and high, arching shoulder pads with his bug namesake imprinted on his chest. That guy would get laughed out of any comic convention.
10 Cable (Deadpool 2)
Josh Brolin’s appearance as Cable in Deadpool 2 is as close as you can get to Nathan Summers. Artist J.P. Targete took it a step forward, essentially plagiarizing Cable's futuristic X-Men duds.
“Here's some Cable marketing art I did for 20th Century Fox's Deadpool 2, [a] crazy fun movie! They gave me the freedom to explore and give my own take on his look. I went more traditional, as he is in the comics,” Targete stated in a Twitter post.
Despite the movie taking place over several days, Cable basically wears the same outfit throughout the entire movie-- a brown sweaty shirt and black pants decorated by an arsenal of holstered weapons.
This version isn't too different, so we may see it at some point in the future.
9 Wasp (Ant-Man)
The designs by Rodney Fuentebella are much more exciting than the versions of The Wasp and Ant-Man’s respective outfits that we see in the movie.
One design has red and black leather in alternating patterns, as well as an unused face mask shield that is hooked to look like the stinger that The Wasp's name implies.
The image above looks similar, with the biggest difference coming from the abundance of zippers and the flat faced shield. Neither the red nor the transparent facial windshields survived the transition from concept to screen.
The advanced prototype of The Wasp's outfit was introduced in the after credits scene of Ant-Man. The red, blue, and gold outfit is without zippers, unlike this concept art design that is teeming with them.
8 Zuri (Black Panther)
Concept artist Wesley Burt went through several versions before he could get Zuri’s wardrobe right.
“I wanted to bring in a Tuareg style tagelmust on one of them, I've been a big fan of Tinariwen for years and was thinking of them. The other one here has a bit of a tribute to Kamasi Washington and his look and stage presence; [I] listened to their albums a lot while working in this,” Burt said on Twitter.
However, Washington wig was never made and Zuri was instead bald in the Black Panther movie.
7 The Collector (Guardians Of The Galaxy)
This creepy charcoal sketch of The Collector would likely cause the Guardians of the Galaxy to pause when they first entered his Museum.
In comic book lore, Taneleer Tivan is one of the Elders of the universe and is so ancient that his origins have been lost with time.
The Collector's blond hair remained intact from the concept art design.
However, Benicio Del Toro's version of the character is a lot less creepy looking. Instead of looking like a zombie, the MCU's Collector looks a lot more alive and fashionable.
We can see why Disney toned down the scary and brought out the eccentricity of the character. We’re not sure what he’s holding, but it looks like something you'd see in Stephen Gammell's Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark.
6 Ego (Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2)
Kurt Russell’s humanoid form makes Ego the most suave and eligible bachelor on a planet made of him. Artist Jackson Sze imagined a character that appears to be lifted out of both Star Wars and Firefly.
“Cowboy Ego,” Sze posted on his Twitter. “Fractal and lattice form language of the planet incorporated into his costume at this point of production.”
We can see this space scoundrel look whenever Ego courts one of his countless suitors on other life-sustaining planets.
Altering the cape from red to black makes wearing one a little more subtle-- the crimson look gives away the twist that Ego has evil intentions, as red is often the color of villainy.
The Celestial is clearly a Dune fanatic.
5 The Grandmaster (Thor: Ragnarok)
Before creators settled on Jeff Goldblum looking how he probably looks on vacation, The Grandmaster’s blue hued extraterrestrial-look from the comics was considered.
“One of my first design takes of The Grandmaster. When doing an established character,we always look to the comic source for inspiration,” said Sze on Twitter.
The Grandmaster is much more serious (and much more blue) in the source material, but director Taika Waititi wanted to showcase Goldblum’s comedic talents and opted for a more human-looking Grandmaster.
In the movie, Goldblum has spiked hair and wears a bathrobe. His brother is The Collector, i.e., Benicio del Toro with a blond wig in Guardians of the Galaxy.
Because of the two are related, drastically altering the skin pigment of one would likely cause confusion, especially if their lineage plays an important part in the MCU’s future.
4 Ego The Living Planet (Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2)
In early drafts of the script, Quill’s father Ego wasn’t the only character that was supposed to have his flashbacks animated. Jackson Sze’s concept art shows Ego’s planet catching up on his son’s past.
“Early drafts of the #GotGVol2 script called for Peter's memories to be shaped into giant sand murals,” Sze posted on Twitter.
Quill has the ability to house his mind in his own constructed planet. These sand castle memorials would be more suitable to his globe.
Showing off Quill's entire backstory through the mind of his father would have been too confusing for fans.
3 Vulture (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
Vulture has appeared in comics and movies in various forms. In some cases, he's appeared as a vulture, while in others, he's been reimagined as a buff John Malkovich.
Thankfully, Spider-Man: Homecoming got the costume right. In it, Michael Keaton wears a bomber jacket and operates military colored wings that have built in drone fans created to slow his descent.
Artist Josh Nizzi wanted to tie this technology closer to the MCU.
“There was an idea that he was in the the same drop unit as the Falcon at one point,” said Nizzi in an Instagram post. “Still less refined technology, though.”
The script was later changed, however, and turned Adrian Toomes into an embittered salvager whose company was sunk by Tony Stark after the events of The Avengers.
2 Spider-Man (Captain America: Civil War)
Here, artist Ryan Meinerding’s rendition is of Scarlet Spider. This outfit was introduced during the Clone Saga run from 1994-96 by Mark Bagley.
Originally the blue-hooded clone of Peter Parker, Ben Reilly later adopted a costume with the image of a spider spread eagle across his uniform. He briefly took over the mantle of Spider-Man in the series.
“[This was] done for #CivilWar. Inspired by the Ben Reilly costume by Mark Bagley for the comics,” posted Meinerding on Twitter.
Granted, the franchise has now been rebooted three times, but it makes little sense to introduce the costume of a different Spider-Man without using the character beneath the mask.
1 T'Chaka (Black Panther)
The original T’Chaka design resembles a certain detective dressed up like a bat -- a direction that Marvel Studios Visual Development Supervisor Andy Park was relieved director Ryan Coogler didn’t pursue.
“When designing the T’Chaka Black Panther look, Ryan Coogler wanted to see options where his mask would expose his eyes and mouth," Park said via a Twitter post, "This was a challenge b/c this could easily look like some other 'dark knight.' I’m glad he picked the one on the right.”
We’re not sure we’ve ever seen a superhero with his goatee peeking through the cowl. Considering the fact that the scene was based in the early ‘90s, T’Chaka’s first look suspiciously resembles Shaquille O’Neal in DC’s ill-fated Steel movie.
What do you think of these designs? Would you have prefered to see any of these on the big screen? Sound off in the comments!
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