Throughout the past decade, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has consistently delighted fans with its eye-popping character designs. That's a big accomplishment, considering that comic book crimefighters (and their respective villains) are generally outlandish individuals with a knack for theatricality and showy fashion choices. Bringing these characters complete with their powers and most importantly, their wardrobes, to live-action can be a bit, well... daunting. Designers create pieces of concept art to establish and gradually develop the look of any given character before settling on the designs we see on the big screen. With 20 films and over 10 television shows under its mantle, Marvel Studios is quite familiar with the laborious process that comes with bringing a comic book world to live-action.
Unfortunately, the studio doesn't have a spotless track record, because it's difficult to predict what will click with audiences and what won't. The MCU has given us visually-striking superheroes like Iron Man, Captain America and Captain Marvel. However, it's also had its fair share of controversial character designs, such as Whiplash, Hawkeye and Quicksilver. Overall, translating what's on a comic book page to the real world can have very different results. Some people may gravitate to certain designs, while others may see them as, in the end, underwhelming. Want to see how much better, worse or different concept pieces can be to their finished counterparts? Here are 10 pieces of concept art that improved on a character's final version, 5 that were worse, and 5 that could've changed everything about their respective films and franchises.
20 BETTER: HAWKEYE
Out of all the heroes in the MCU, Hawkeye is arguably one of the most disliked. One of the biggest complaints directed at the character is his costume, or the lack thereof. Comic book Hawkeye famously sported a colorful suit that stood out among his fellow Avengers. In the films, he mostly wears a black, sleeveless vest and black pants with subtle purple accents.
This has been a major letdown for many fans, but as evidenced by this Civil War design from Andy Park, the archer could have gotten a proper costume. The design didn't get past the planning stages, but if rumors are to be believed, it seems like Barton could get a suit as soon as Avengers 4. Fingers crossed that it ends up happening.
19 WORSE: WAR MACHINE
War Machine's debut in Iron Man 2 didn't disappoint. His armor, partly developed by Hammer Industries, looked like it was ripped straight out of the comics. It was elegant, yet still felt like a tank powerful enough to take on Tony Stark's high-tech suit. As you can see in this early piece of Iron Man 2 concept art, however, things could have turned out quite differently.
In the concept art, Rhodey's armor is essentially the MK II suit with a thin metal structure on top of it to support its added weaponry. This design lacks the cool factor of the War Machine armor from the comics and looks too similar to Iron Man. Luckily, the design evolved, eventually turning into one of the best-looking MCU characters.
18 BETTER: CAPTAIN AMERICA
Captain America has worn many costumes throughout the MCU's history, but one of his less popular outfits debuted in The Avengers. Despite its faithfulness to the source material, viewers criticized the suit for its look and seemingly cheap textures. The costume is expected to return in Avengers 4, but we could have had a spiritual successor to it much earlier in The Winter Soldier.
Designed by Ryan Meinerding, the suit was meant to be an updated version of Cap's Avengers attire. Going by the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo on his shoulder, this could possibly be an earlier version of Steve's stealth suit. While we're really happy with the costumes that were ultimately in the film, it could have also been fun to see Rogers sporting this design.
17 WORSE: ANT-MAN
Ant-Man's uniform is arguably one of the trickiest comic book costumes to adapt for live action. Marvel went through many different versions of the suit before settling on the version we saw in the 2015 blockbuster, and one of those versions was this one. Much of the final suit's essence is there, but there are some important differences between the two versions.
The most obvious one is the open mouth section. Despite being a callback to Ant-Man's classic version, the design choice doesn't quite fit in with the suit's realistic nature. Then there's the costume itself, which features some mechanical sections that make it look a bit bulky. Ultimately, the version that Marvel decided to go with was the best choice for Scott Lang.
16 BETTER: IRON SPIDER
At the end of Spider-Man: Homecoming, Tony Stark offered Peter Parker a high-tech armor loosely based on the Iron Spider suit from the comics. Despite initially rejecting it, the wall-crawler got to test out his new duds in Infinity War. The armor was well-received by audiences but its design left some some Spidey fans yearning for a faithful adaptation of Peter's original armor.
Well, as this concept art reveals, the idea of paying homage to the comics was floated around. Aside from a few notable differences between the two versions, the armor in the concept art is remarkably similar to its comic book counterpart. Even though Spidey's armor was embraced by fans, it would have been great to see Peter fighting Thanos in this suit.
15 WORSE: DAREDEVIL
Prior to Daredevil hitting Netflix, fans wondered how Matt Murdock's costume would look on-screen. The design we got was a great blend between armor and flexible fabric. The costume was aesthetically pleasing and perfectly fit in the show's realistic world. Before deciding on that costume, however, there were some less than flattering options on the table, such as this one.
The concept art depicts Daredevil's costume as armor-like and more militaristic, which doesn't seem quite practical for the hero. Then there's the mask, which features a gray piece on the nose section that makes it look somewhat incomplete. Overall, the design probably wouldn't have worked well in live-action. Don't get us wrong, the art itself is great, but the costume doesn't exactly scream "Daredevil."
14 BETTER: ULTRON
For as great of a villain as he was, Ultron's design in Age of Ultron was a bit... well, disappointing. The film ditched the character's expressionless helmet, opting instead for articulated eyes and mouth, as well as teeth. Despite having an imposing height and a vast array of powers, the advanced A.I. wasn't as menacing as he could have been.
For a time, though, it seemed like Marvel was considering a more comic-accurate look for the character. In this piece of concept art, Ultron has his signature expressionless face, which ramps up his intimidating factor quite a bit. His internal structure is also less exposed, making him look a whole lot more durable and powerful. Overall, there's a lot to like about this design.
13 WORSE: THANOS
Infinity War adhered closely to Thanos' comic book wardrobe. The Mad Titan's armor design paid homage to the character's classic look while also having a modern twist that allowed it to smoothly fit into the MCU's realistic aesthetic. Here's the thing: had another design been approved, the villain would have had a significantly different appearance.
This piece of concept art puts a different spin on Thanos' armor. Its spiky and ancient-looking design doesn't necessarily work for the MCU, as it feels like an armor better suited for characters in the Lord of The Rings or Game of Thrones universes. Of course, this is a great piece of art, but the armor depicted it in isn't quite as ideal as the one Thanos ultimately wore.
12 BETTER: KING T'CHAKA
Black Panther's opening scene showed a young King T'Chaka in his Black Panther costume. The suit was perfect, as it blended futuristic elements with more traditional influences, effectively setting it apart from T'Challa's own armor. It may be hard to believe given the quality of the costume, but things could have been much better going by this piece of concept art.
The piece depicts T'Chaka in a suit that evokes one of Black Panther's classic comic book designs, complete with added protection and a cape. As mentioned, the costume shown in the film was incredible, but fans would have probably also enjoyed this take on Black Panther's attire. Fingers crossed we get to see some version of it in the MCU down the line.
11 WORSE: CAPTAIN AMERICA
Infinity War had Steve Rogers stepping out of the shadows after becoming a fugitive in Civil War to help fight Thanos. Given his inability to stay up to date with his grooming habits, Steve sported a disheveled look complimented by a worn-out Captain America costume. Surprisingly, the initial plan for the character was to take his uniform away from him.
According to Ryan Meinerding, an early idea was to have Cap leaving behind his suit for a more militaristic-looking uniform, as depicted in this piece of concept art. It's a cool look, but it doesn't really fit Steve Rogers. Ultimately, the idea that he kept his costume after Civil War made a lot of sense and added to the comic book flare of Infinity War.
10 BETTER: DRAX
Drax (alongside his fellow space adventurers) got a makeover for his MCU debut in Guardians of the Galaxy. A green, hulking alien in the comics, the Thanos-hating goofball played by Dave Bautista was turned more gray-ish for the big screen. The change, while understandable given possible comparisons to the Hulk, was considerable, especially because Drax was originally designed as green.
This early Guardians of the Galaxy concept art closely adheres to Drax's comic book aesthetic both in terms of color and size. While there's little to criticize about Drax's movie design, he isn't the most intimidating fella, especially when compared to Ronan and Thanos. That's not a case with this piece, however, as it honors his "Destroyer" moniker by embracing his menacing appearance.
9 COULD'VE CHANGED EVERYTHING: LOKI
As far as villains go, Loki is as complex as they come. He's treacherous but deep down he's also caring, somewhat thoughtful and even loyal. This nuance helped him warm his way into the hearts of audiences all over the world. But while many are now familiar with Loki's complex personality, not many are aware that he wasn't always envisioned that way.
As you can see in this concept art, Loki was initially visualized as a more deranged individual by artist Charlie Wen. According to him, he created his design thinking of the villain as being "a bit off." Marvel ultimately went on a different direction, but can you imagine how things would've turned out if this version had made it to the big screen?
8 BETTER: HULKBUSTER
The Hulkbuster armor made its way into the MCU in Age of Ultron. Marvel brought the beloved armor to life in remarkable fashion, embracing its larger-than-life comic book roots while maintaining the distinctive Iron Man design that made Tony Stark such an aesthetically-pleasing superhero. Still, despite its awesomeness, the armor had room for improvement as proven by this piece of concept art.
Unlike the final Age of Ultron version, which had a more robotic aesthetic, this Hulkbuster looks more organic. The suit's curvier design also gives it a bulkier feel, further evoking the original Hulkbuster's appearance. While we're happy with the suit we got in the movie, there's no denying that seeing this scrapped version in live-action would have been fantastic.
7 COULD'VE CHANGED EVERYTHING: GHOST
Ant-Man and the Wasp introduced audiences to Ghost, a villain who, following a freak accident, gained the ability to phase through objects. Despite her name, there wasn't really anything scary about the baddie aside from her ability to give Scott Lang and Hope Pym a run for their money. Things were a bit different in this piece of concept art, however.
The piece portrays Ghost as a more frightening individual with a slimmer physique, insect-like helmet and claws. The design's other-worldly vibe points to this version being much scarier than the one we got in the film. It's unclear how far into the development process this design got, but it would have probably given Ant-Man and the Wasp a darker atmosphere.
6 BETTER: QUICKSILVER
Despite the little screen time he had in Age of Ultron, Quicksilver proved to be a promising character. Still, for all of his pros, he wasn't exactly perfect. Case in point: his costume. Pietro's suit boiled down to an Under Armour shirt, sweat pants and a pair of sneakers. Even though it didn't look bad, there was clearly room for improvement.
In this piece of concept art, for example, Pietro is given a proper superhero costume. It's slick, modern and features a great color combination that remains faithful to its wearer's comic book design while also working in a live-action setting. Unfortunately, Pietro perished at the end of Age of Ultron, so we probably shouldn't expect to see him get a new costume soon.
5 COULD'VE CHANGED EVERYTHING: THOR
Thor: Ragnarok was essentially a love letter to the great Jack Kirby. The film paid homage to the creator through its set and character designs, crafting a zany atmosphere evocative of Kirby's distinctive visual style. Early on in the film's development, Thor's costume was also expected to reference the artist, as you can see in this concept art.
While Thor's final costume in the movie ended up being similar to his classic armor, this would have taken things to another level. The suit is futuristic and colorful, not at all like the wardrobe choices usually associated with the God of Thunder. This design isn't better than what we got, but such a drastic change to Thor's attire would have likely impacted his style moving forward.
4 BETTER: ZEMO
Civil War centered around the conflict between Captain America and Iron Man, but it also had a main villain in the form of Zemo. Unlike in the comics, though, Zemo lacked his signature purple mask and costume. Unsurprisingly, the lack of a proper costume for the sinister baddie disappointed some comic book faithfuls who were eager to finally see him on the big screen
Well, while we didn't get to see him suited up in the film, this concept art gives us an idea of how he could have looked. The costume is remarkable, as it honors Zemo's classic aesthetic while also reinventing it for live-action. Still, as artist Andy Park explained, having a costumed Zemo wouldn't have fit Civil War's narrative.
3 COULD'VE CHANGED EVERYTHING: GAMORA
With how popular the MCU's version of Gamora has become, it's difficult to imagine her looking any different than she does (did?) now. As it turns out though, it seems that Marvel was initially contemplating a different take on the hero. This piece, designed by Andy Park, features Gamora as a purple/blue alien with a complex design pattern on her face and body.
It's an interesting "what if?" take on Gamora, but it was probably for the best that Marvel remained (relatively) faithful to the assassin's original appearance. Now, we don't know whether this alternate version also had a different personality than the Gamora we know and love. That said, it's interesting to wonder how this Gamora would have played out in the Guardians films.
2 BETTER: CAPTAIN AMERICA
Civil War starts out with Steve Rogers going on a covert mission with the Avengers to find Crossbones. In the scene, Cap sported his classic blue-and-red-costume, but an earlier design had him in a different uniform. Thinking about the importance of Rogers keeping a low profile in this type of situation, Ryan Meinerding created an all-black stealth suit for him.
In the comics, Steve has worn different outfits depending on his missions, so it would have been nice to see MCU's Cap get a wardrobe change for this occasion. Of course, the classic costume worked well in the scene, but we can't deny it would have also made sense for Steve to go with a less conspicuous suit for such a pivotal mission.
1 COULD'VE CHANGED EVERYTHING: GRANDMASTER
In the comics, Grandmaster is an openly cruel being with blue skin, crazy hair and god-like powers. In Thor: Ragnarok he's... well, Jeff Goldblum with blue lines on his face. Unlike his comic book counterpart, the MCU's Grandmaster doesn't seem to have any special powers (aside from immortality), and prefers to hide his psychopathic tendencies behind a charismatic persona.
Prior to Goldblum being cast, the character was still largely undefined, and so artist Aleksi Briclot created a piece of concept art of the Grandmaster with blue skin and a much sinister expression. Had this version of the baddie remained as the template for his portrayal in Ragnarok, it's easy to see that we would have gotten a much more frightening Grandmaster.