A lot can change between the drawing board and the big screen. Even superhero films — usually based in decades worth of art and imagery— can look entirely different during production. Comic book movies are so popular that most of what audiences get becomes iconic, but few people realize how different things can turn out. Discarded concept art is a fantastic window into what could have been... and sometimes it's much better that way.
For this list, we've collected some of the weirdest concept art out there to see just how much worse our favorite superhero movies could have been. To be clear, most of these entries only make the list because of how the art might fit into the films themselves, and not because of their artistic merit.
Most of these pieces are amazingly well-crafted, and are in no way "bad" art — they just aren't always appropriate to the final product. These artworks either don't suit the characters within, might clash with the tone of the films, or they simply feel... off.
Sometimes concept art is cooler than what actually makes it onto film. Sadly. this might not be one of those times. Here are 16 Unused Superhero Concept Art That Almost Ruined Movies.
16 Thrasher Batman (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)
One of the coolest Batman costumes ever made is Ben Affleck's armored suit in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Say what you want about the movie itself — that design is iconic.
Inspired by Frank Miller's armored Batman from The Dark Knight Returns, the combat-ready costume was specifically created to use against heavy-hitting enemies like Superman. While cosplayers have likely had a field-day with the design, it almost looked entirely different.
This artwork is an early version of the Bat Armor, but instead of paying homage to The Dark Knight Returns, it aims for something more recent — the Thrasher suit, from Scott Snyder's The Court of Owls. It maintains the bulky look of the former, but the red eye and sharp teeth are a modern influence. This probably would have ruined that visual homage to Frank Miller's classic story, so it was understandably left unused.
15 Aerodynamic Iron Man (Iron Man 3)
Tony Stark's full collection of suits is on display in Iron Man 3. Most of them are niche designs that only get seconds worth of screen-time, but there were so many left on the cutting room floor. This concept art features an Iron Man suit tailored to high-speed flight, with the hero looking less like a man and more like a supersonic jet.
It's a clever idea, but looks stiff and doesn't seem to boast the manueverability that Tony is used to.
The design itself also seems redundant considering Iron Man is already extremely fast. It's not the worst design on this list — not by a long shot — but it still seems like a pointless addition to Tony's already ridiculous collection. It wouldn't have had much time to shine and would have exploded by the end of the film anyway, so it's probably better that it was left out.
14 DIY Deadpool (Deadpool)
One would think Fox had learned from its poor design choices. Apparently old habits die hard. These early designs for Deadpool are a step up from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but they still don't hit the mark.
Instead of sewing his mouth shut and giving him laser-eyes, the creative team behind Deadpool experimented with less superhero-esque costume elements in favor of practical clothing. Perhaps the weirdest choice is the headgear — depicting the character with a hockey mask instead of a cloth one.
It vaguely resembles the Deadpool we know and love, albeit with less facial animation.
After his previous appearance, choices like these would have caused outrage among fans. Thankfully his final design is perfectly comic-accurate, so Fox likely dodged a bullet by abandoning this approach.
13 Old Man Rocket (Guardians of the Galaxy)
Not so cuddly anymore, huh? This concept design for Rocket Raccoon is vastly different from the final one. Instead of a youthful, nimble Rocket, this one is bulky, older, and way more grizzled. This hints at what could have been an entirely different personality for the character.
Imagine: instead of the reckless, bad-tempered Rocket we got, he could have been wiser and more experienced.
It's great in concept, but the movie doesn't exactly call for it. The older look likely would have clashed with the Rocket of the script, whose personality is way more brash and fiery. This design probably wouldn't help with merchandising either — as it's much harder to sell a mangy, long-haired toy raccoon than a simple and cute one.
Maybe Rocket will get a Logan-style solo film in the near future, but until then, Old Man Rocket is better off on this list than in the MCU.
12 The "Amazing" Redesign (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Sony's The Amazing Spider-Man had to stand apart from its predecessor franchise in as many ways as possible. To do this, concept artists provided dozens of new costumes for the web-slinger to wear. Among the many alternate suits designs is this bizarre gem — a design that resembles Spidey in name, color scheme, and little else.
This piece has Spider-Man don a new logo over his heart, a webbed-cape (something rare in the comics) and a distinctive mask design. The small eyes weirdly stretch to the back of his head, and the entire suit seems uncomfortably skin-tight. It's certainly unique... but it looks more Spider-Man Unlimited than original recipe.
The actual design they went with isn't much better, but it does resemble the friendly neighborhood hero better than this.
11 Horseman Magneto (X-Men Apocalypse)
If you thought Apocalypse looked silly, then at least be glad this Magneto design didn't make the final cut. In X-Men: Apocalypse, the titular villain recruits mutants to become his four horseman — Magneto being one of them. This concept design suggests his allegiance would have come with a new aesthetic similar to that of Apocalypse... and it is downright ugly.
Michael Fassbender's Magneto has had trouble maintaining a consistent look throughout the X-Men films, but this would not have been one to keep. Between the pale skin, otherworldly armor, and the painted-on soul patch, the entire design is just unsettling. It was probably a good idea on paper to have the horseman resemble Apocalypse, but who would have taken Magneto seriously with that makeup?
10 Alternate No Man's Land (Wonder Woman)
This artwork is fantastic, but it suggests a potentially movie-ruining change to Wonder Woman. The film's iconic "No Man's Land" sequence has Diana leading a charge into German frontlines; shedding her cloak, revealing her signature armor, and saving the day.
The concept art above depicts this same scene, but with Diana retaining the black cloak instead.
This piece could have been used to design the cloak itself, which isn't the biggest deal. However, if it was created to outline this sequence, it could have detrimentally altered the film's most empowering moment. Seeing Wonder Woman in her colorful armor for the first time is jaw-dropping, and her charge across the battlefield is one of the most uplifting scenes in superhero movie history.
Had she kept the cloak or removed it with less emphasis, it would have completely deflated the tone of the scene.
9 Techno-Goblin (Spider-Man)
While Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin has remained pretty iconic, his padded costume and helmet leave a lot to be desired. The team behind Spider-Man actually experimented with makeup and prosthetics (like an animatronic goblin mask), but they ultimately decided on a design that isn't too far from what is pictured above.
Unfortunately, concept art for the Goblin also veered towards "realism" that based the Goblin's appearance around technology rather than... well, you know, mutating into an actual goblin. This design is even further from comic book accuracy, using a green jumpsuit, safety pads, and antennae to simulate the villain's appearance. It seems to have influenced the Green Goblin's cameo in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and that didn't turn out well either.
The final costume isn't great but it's definitely a step-up from this. Who would have been afraid of Dafoe with those weird goggles?
8 Totally Terrifying Ninja Turtles (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Oh my god! What is that? Get it away! Is that an alien or a six-foot snapping turtle?!
Michael Bay's live-action reboot of the Ninja Turtles had to bring the reptiles into the modern age. No more rubber costumes in 2014 — they would be rendered in CGI, though not quite like this. The reboot chose to go with a more heightened, animated look and not one so... real? Anatomically correct? Horrifying?
While this concept artwork is an inspired take on updating the Turtles, it isn't the most pleasant to look at. It's hard to describe exactly why "realistic" mutated turtles look so weird, but the sharp feet and fleshy bodies are almost alien. Again, it's a cool idea, but this would some scare some children, right? Look at those cold, dead eyes and tell us otherwise.
7 Tribal Yondu (Guardians of the Galaxy)
Michael Rooker's swashbuckling space pirate, Yondu Udonta, has become a fan-favorite Marvel character. His eccentric swagger and style are key to what makes him so beloved, but concept art hints at a very different personality.
This artwork depicts a more tribal and dignified Yondu, instead of the duster-toting criminal we got.
Here, he wears a decorated chest piece with exposed midriff for armor, a cape, and golden armlets. Strangely enough, he sports hair instead of a fin and an unexplained eyepatch. Aside from some changes, the design is a nice throwback to his first comic book appearance in 1969.
As cool as it looks, though, the creative team thankfully went with something a bit more modern, as this would not have suited Rooker's performance or the bumbling criminal reputation of the Ravagers.
6 Zola's Body (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
It's so eerie that it's cool, but it just isn't right for The Winter Soldier. This concept art provides an alternate take on Hydra villain Arnim Zola, who briefly appears in the second Captain America film as an artificial intelligence hidden in an old computer system.
The art above suggests that he might have stuck around, giving him a a robotic body like his comic counterpart.
While the Marvel Cinematic Universe takes some huge leaps in logic — with ridiculous plot points based in sci-fi and fantasy — this may have been a step too far for the franchise's grounded spy thriller. Seeing as this would have been revealed alongside the twist that a secret society had been manipulating the world for decades, it might have been too much for the audience to take in and ruin the film's gritty tone.
5 Superior (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
Spider-Man: Homecoming decided to spruce up Peter's abilities with some gadgets and upgrades. Despite that, his final costume looks like the same-old Spidey, but this artwork shows that they were considering some alternate ones from the comics instead.
With the red and black color scheme, dark eyes, and a logo that fades into the lower half of the suit, the artist emulates Peter's outfit from Dan Slott's Superior Spider-Man.
In that comic, Doctor Octopus takes control of Peter Parker's body and by extension, the mantle of Spider-Man. Doc Ock makes many tech-based upgrades to Peter's suit (including some extra metal arms) and even sports a newer, edgier color scheme. It's a clever choice to help the third reboot stand apart from the rest, but with Spidey finally in the proper Marvel universe, the film was better served with a retro look instead.
4 Another Bland Doomsday (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)
Doomsday lacks his defining physical traits in Batman v Superman, but this concept art depicts something even less recognizable. Here, the villain towers over Superman — as he should — but he just looks like a generic giant. No spikes, no sharp teeth, nothing. Other than his height, the design isn't very intimidating, which is a huge problem for someone who is supposed to be able to kill Superman.
His final appearance isn't very distinct either, nor does it resemble his comic book counterpart in any meaningful way. Unfortunately, this design is just another step further in the wrong direction. What's so hard about putting some spikes on a big troll, and why are the creatives at Warner Bros. so against it?
3 Prototype Hulkbuster (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
While the second Avengers film is mostly considered unremarkable by fans, the one sequence people truly remember is the fight between Iron Man and the Hulk. To even the odds, Tony wears the Hulkbuster armor — an oversized suit built to survive an encounter with the jolly green giant. +=
This artwork portrays it in what looks to be its early stages, missing its armored panels, helmet, and paint.
Seeing the internal makeup of a giant Iron Man armor is pretty cool, but probably isn't the best design choice for something that needs to withstand the Hulk. With exposed wires and gears it can easily be torn apart, and the lack of the iconic look ruins the fun of seeing the Hulkbuster leap from comic pages. Another cool idea on paper, but one that might falter in execution.
2 Capeless Electric Superman (Man of Steel)
Man of Steel was already a divisive gritty reboot, but this concept costume is even grittier. The film didn't change much about his outfit, aside from removing the red underwear and adding some darker colors. The art above seems to suggest some other changes, though, including the removal of his cape, much longer hair, and what looks like an aura of smoke and electricity.
Due to the bright colors and lightning streaks, it looks like the artwork may have been inspired by Electric Blue Superman, a version of the character from the 1990s whose powers were based in non-solar energies. He wore a capeless blue and white suit, and was frequently drawn surrounded by sparks. Even comic fans have come to dislike that version of Superman, so its understandable (and fortunate) that this design approach was scrapped.
1 Half-Mask Black Panther (Black Panther)
Concept art for Black Panther is sparse (considering it's still in theaters), but from what has been revealed, T'Challa's costume underwent many variations. Pictured above is a minimalist take on his costume that features more fabric than armor, and most notably an open cowl. The idea is sound — a less restricting mask would let Chadwick Boseman emote more in his performance, and let the costume designers do more with less.
Unfortunately, a full mask is what often prevents Black Panther from looking like a visual parody of Batman.
Seeing his eyes and mouth takes away from his intimidating presence.
It's a neat idea, but one that might have done more harm than good. The final design makes a compromise by allowing him to retract his lenses and reveal his eyes, but we're glad it didn't go any farther than that.
Do you agree with our list? Maybe some of these should have made the cut after all. Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!