The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been in the works for a very long time. And when the team behind each film pick and choose each character, multiple ideas are drawn up and visualized using concept art to decide what would work best for that specific film. It’s also a way of getting to see what each actor would look like in different variations of a costume. And that’s the most captivating part of examining concept art, seeing all the ideas of the writers, designers and directors come to life in a picture.
Because a costume can become the center of a storyline, it can be the thing driving a hero or villain and it can even be the very thing selling the audience the film. So it’s important to get it right. But when it comes to superheroes, many of them have several iconic looks that it’s hard for the team behind the scenes to choose which one to go with -- it’s fascinating to imagine what might’ve been. Some of these designs bring justice to mistreated villains, could have taken the story in a different way or just give us a costume we’ve never seen in live action before. Here are 16 alternate MCU concept costumes better than the original.
16 CAPTAIN AMERICA
During Civil War, Cap and the rest of his ‘Secret Avengers’ go on the run from the authorities and their fellow Avengers. And although Cap keeps his uniform during their fights, he was given another interesting look during the concept stage for the film. At first glance it’s just a black tactical suit with the Avengers logo on the chest, but looking closer, it’s actually a completely black version of the usual Captain America suit, without the overbearing star on his chest.
Although the lines on the suit could still be seen that way, and since we know that Steve has dropped the Captain America title, this suit would have been a great way of showing that. Leading the Secret Avengers as a black-ops group could have so much potential and it's something we may see in Infinity War.
15 THE WINTER SOLDIER
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is undoubtedly one of the best movies in the MCU to date. It was a slick superhero blockbuster, with a spy thriller undertone that worked perfectly. That largely came down the use of Bucky Barnes as a Hydra agent known as the Winter Soldier. His metal arm looks relatively normal (as bionic arms go), in fact it wouldn’t look out of place on an Iron Man suit.
But this concept art by Andy Park showcased a version of the arm that looked highly intimidating and capable of heavy duty work. The bulky size of it really embraces the machinery attached to Bucky. Whilst his leather jacket is decorated with distinctive yellow stripes. The inclusion of goggles as a domino mask like what his comic counterpart sports is a neat touch.
14 DOCTOR STRANGE
We all know that before Benedict Cumberbatch, there were many names thrown into the ring for the role of Sorcerer Supreme. Thankfully, the MCU’s Stephen Strange was a hit, feeling more like a fantasy movie rather than a comic book adaptation. His costume was an incredible way of piecing together the iconic look that Stephen Strange frequently rocks.
But this concept art gives us a different take on the tunic that Strange ended up wearing towards the latter half of the film. With the jacket crossing over and clipping together rather than being tied together as a robe. And although comic book Doctor Strange fans loved the large collar of the cape, this version imagines the collar in a practical way. Also, the fingerless gloves are a nice final touch.
Hank Pym and Scott Lang have had an interesting journey onto the big screen, and they’ve gone through many different iterations with the look of the iconic costume. These here designs by Andy Park give us some very different takes on the Ant-Man look, some embracing the antennae, some that get rid of it completely.
The final look that made it into the MCU feels like a combination of the initial designs. But one part that we really love is the way his mask has a mouth component that can open and close. It’s a smoother way of allowing him to talk to people rather than having to unclip the bottom half like in the film. The way the visors are designed give them an experimental space suit feel to them. Someone give Elon Musk a call.
12 THE IRON SPIDER
When it was announced that Spider-Man was going to make it into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s fair to say that the internet exploded. Finally, Peter would get to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the biggest heroes in cinema. But since we’d already seen two other live action Spideys over the past 16 years (at the time), their design would have to stand apart.
And it’s fair to say that they really considered every avenue when bringing the Infinity War Stark suit to life. We’ve all seen the Superior Spider-Man outfit adapted from when Otto Octavius inhabited Peter’s body in the comics, but this one brings the Ben Reilly suit to life and it’s incredibly impressive. We love the small detail that the spider’s legs flow into his belt and into the arms of the costume.
When Karen Gillen debuted in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, she was certainly impressive as the cybernetically enhanced warrior child of Thanos. She had many different mechanized components, including a facial piece and her arms being able to reconstruct themselves after being broken. She’s like the Terminator, except potentially more dangerous.
But this version of Nebula would tie her closer to her sister, Gamora. After all, the two were forced to fight for Thanos’ amusement as children. This artwork by Andy Park shows off a costume that resonates closer to Gamora than the slick outfit that Karen Gillen wore. Plus the facial piece, that clearly isn’t just skin-deep, is incredibly impressive. It’s a shame they didn’t fully embrace the body horror nature of Nebula and her history.
10 STEALTH SUIT
Throughout all of Tony Stark’s appearances in the MCU, we’re mainly used to seeing him in the iconic red and gold look. He briefly sported a few silver versions of the suit, and the House Party Protocol scene during Iron Man 3 did show us what else he had up his sleeve. But in this design from Phil Saunders, made before the release of the first Iron Man film, we glimpse what else they had in mind.
This ‘Stealth Suit’ definitely fits in more with Tony’s background as an arms dealer. It looks capable of heavy duty, with an extremely tactical approach to the Iron Man suit. Maybe it’s just the inclusion of the jet in the background, but why do we get the feeling this suit could fit inside some kind of aircraft before being deployed?
Whilst he spent the first Avengers film mainly being controlled by Loki, Hawkeye’s role as a member of the Avengers grew during Age of Ultron. This meant he was given more screen time and a better costume than the sleeveless look he was given at the end of the first film. His outfit this time around fits more with his winter wardrobe during the Sokovian fight.
His suit looks like a tactical combat coat with multiple layers that could be detached should a situation call for it. We like the inclusion of a hood on his suit, although that would definitely bait some Green Arrow fans if it had been included. The sleeveless version of the suit also looks impressive but we can’t help but feel wearing a tactical suit like that is made redundant if he has both arms out in the cold.
Before Chris Pratt made Star-Lord the iconic rogueish hero that he is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Peter Quill had a very different look in the comics than the one everyone is used to. Instead of the red leather jacket signature image, this outfit worked more with blue armored plating.
But the really impressive part is the way his armored costume seemingly works in harmony with his mechanical face mask -- it gives Quill a near robotic image. If it weren’t for his hair emerging from the top of his mask, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a robot. This version of Star-Lord by Andy Park feels more like a villainous bounty hunter rather than the anti-hero of the MCU. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t want to see Chris Pratt dressed like this though.
When Paul Bettany transferred from his voice only role as J.A.R.V.I.S. into the Vision during Age of Ultron, it clearly showed that the MCU was expanding its territory. Within Vision’s first appearance, we learnt he was worthy enough to wield Mjolnir. There is a definite god-like quality to him simply because of the Mind Stone embedded into his forehead.
And although the cinematic adaptation of the character mainly gets him right, this concept art by Ryan Meinerding brings an ethereal nature to the android that works a treat. The shimmering of his yellow cape is mysterious and flows perfectly into his costume. Whilst the idea that he liked Thor’s cape and copied the style is impressive, it’s clear Marvel were aiming for an other-worldly addition to the Avengers.
6 BLACK PANTHER
Let’s be clear, this is the suit T’Chaka wore as Black Panther in the opening of the film when he travelled to Oakland to find his brother. It’s a beautifully crafted suit, with gold trimmings instead of silver like T’Challa. The ears on the mask aren’t as defined and are a subtle touch, whilst still in keeping with the iconic look.
But let’s talk about the really interesting part of his costume: The collar and cape are a throwback to one of Black Panther’s most iconic looks. And although it wouldn’t have made sense for T’Challa to wear it in the film, as he’s more of a warrior spy, T’Chaka’s regal nature would have suited the collar and cape. We don’t get to see T’Chaka in much action, but this makes us want to see what else he’d be capable of.
5 MARIA HILL AND S.H.I.E.L.D.
When we first introduced to Agent Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. during the first Iron Man film, they were just black suit wearing operatives that didn’t dress to distinctive like their comic book counterparts. Since Iron Man was attempting to ground these Marvel characters in a semi-realistic world, that made sense. But once the MCU started to expand, we began to see more comic accurate designs and influences bleed onto the screen.
And although we did get to see tactical S.H.I.E.L.D. outfits during Iron Man 2 and The Avengers, they didn’t have the classic white and blue design like we were used to. Andy Park created a cinematic interpretation of Maria Hill that would’ve stuck closer to the iconic white tactical belts and armor we’re all used to. And the suits look fantastic.
Dave Bautista’s delicate brute, Drax, is one of the funniest members in the Guardians of the Galaxy thanks to his stoic nature and inability to understand sarcasm. But if this concept art had been brought to life, he would’ve worn an outfit more suitable for a warrior rather than just wearing pants.
His outfit in this artwork feels closer to the gladiators shown during Thor: Ragnarok fighting on Sakaar, especially with the leather straps and armored plating. It also seemingly omits his large tattoos, although there are some definite markings on his skin. It’s a shame that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 made Drax not wear anything on his top half thanks to his “sensitive nipples” because this look created by Andy Park is pretty impressive.
3 WAR MACHINE
Remember the days when we all freaked out that Iron Man 2 introduced War Machine? Well, here’s a sleeker version of the suit that Rhodey wore when he finally got the chance to jump in a Stark suit. Whilst the final version of the War Machine suit was quite bulky and was fitted with a mini gun and a variety of weapons, this is closer to Tony’s Iron Man suits.
Instead of the black and gray armor that Rhodes donned, here we have a predominantly black armor that looks more aerodynamic, with added fins on some of the plating. Adding attachments to the suit that would make flight easier makes complete sense when you remember that Rhodey was a pilot before he was an Avenger.
It’s fair to say that Thor: The Dark World is one of the most underwhelming Marvel movies to date. The storyline and character development weren’t very consistent, but the most disappointing part was Christopher Eccleston as Malekith, the leader of the Dark Elves. He looked nothing like the villain did previously, but Andy Park had clearly paid attention to what had come before this version of the character.
This artwork shows off the original style of one half of his face being an entirely different color. Thee version we love the most is the cybernetic enhancement that visually evokes the classic look whilst giving Malekith a creepily tortured vibe. If he had looked like any of these three images, there’s a chance the villain could have been redeemed.
We’re coming up to finally seeing Thanos in all his cinematic glory when Avengers: Infinity War flies into theaters. We know that when he’s not wearing his iconic armor, it’s because collecting all of the Infinity Stones is like a spiritual journey for him -- he doesn’t feel the need to be weighed down by his usual intimidating look.
But this concept art highlights the regal nature of his warlord status. Even though we briefly saw him on the floating chair during Guardians of the Galaxy, this hulking Thanos looks like he’s debating ways of murdering people with the Infinity Gauntlet. Maybe it’s the massive shoulder plates, but the Mad Titan already looks like he’s ruling the Galaxy. Hopefully we’ll get to see the titan in his warlord outfit during Infinity War.