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MCU Concept Art: Exploring The Marvel That Might Have Been - Phase 1

Now over a decade after the launch of Marvel Studios, it is easy to look back and say that they were likely going to succeed, but that is an extreme case of hindsight being 20/20. You only have to look at The Mummy or Green Lantern to know that having the intent to launch an interconnected film universe does not mean that it will actually work out once the first film is released. Luckily for Marvel, 2008's Iron Man was a smash success and the rest of Marvel's Phase 1 soon followed suit, culminating in the release of what became, at the time, the most successful superhero movie of all-time, Marvel's The Avengers.

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However, before the Marvel Cinematic Universe became such an integral part of popular culture, there were many decisions to be made about the looks and designs of the initial films in the MCU. Many different concept art designs were made for each film and the designs that were not used could have taken the MCU in many different directions. Examining those unused concept art pieces opens up a whole world where you could ask the very Marvel question of, "What If...?"

RELATED: How Ant-Man and the Wasp’s Unique Look Was Inspired by MCU’s Earliest Days

IRON MAN (2008)

Since Iron Man was the first film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it naturally set the tone for the rest of the movies to come. That put a lot of pressure on people like Head of Visual Development Ryan Meinerding, the man mostly responsible for what Iron Man's armor would look like in the film. Recently, Meinerding spoke to CBR about the challenges inherent in the film:

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We were starting off trying to look at making Iron Man the most grounded superhero. He was the hero that was going to be able to base his powers in technology, so we could actually make it feel real. So, all the focus on designing the different circuitry around the boots, trying to figure out the RT, trying to make all that stuff feel as rounded as possible was the most important sort of touch down at the beginning, down to how they filmed it…

From a design point of view, it really always was just about the most real we could make the hero. Transitioning into the films that came after it, that sort of stayed as a hallmark. How real could we get it with as much detail as well? Like trying to push the limits of what people would expect for a superhero movie, so trying to find touch downs for each of the heroes that had kind of tech basis but also just felt like something that always existed in the world that they came from.

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One of the areas where you could see this at play is the decision of how bulky to make the armor. This one piece of unused concept art shows them debating whether it would make more sense to go with a much less sleek version of the classic look...

Besides the bulk of the armor, another debate within the design stage of the film included how resilient the armor would be in the film. As you can see from this Adi Granov concept art, at one point, the armor would show a lot more visible damage within the film...

The final villain in the movie was the Iron Monger, but at one point, it seemed as though Iron Monger would be called Crimson Dynamo, instead...

Finally, while Tony Stark showed up at a party in the film driving a 2008 Audi R8, originally, he was going to have his own Iron Man-style car, designed by artist Harald Belker!

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