It’s no surprise that the creation of any movie -- let alone a superhero movie -- results in a lot of unused footage being left on the cutting room floor. In the age of director’s cuts, extended editions and deleted scenes however, fans of the superhero genre are treated to all the little pieces of plot, characterization and scene-setting that would’ve otherwise been stripped from the movie entirely. It’s a great way to ensure all the superfluous time and energy that goes into making these cut scenes feel worth it. But what about concept artists?
The sheer amount of concept art created for a feature film is truly mind-boggling, with even the smallest details getting pages and pages of potential designs. Some of the hardest working and least appreciated people in the business, concept artists pour their blood, sweat and tears into these projects, only for the vast majority of their work to never even see the light of day. It’s a real shame, especially when you stumble across little pieces of concept art that are infinitely more interesting than what appeared in the final product. In the spirit of that thought, let’s take a look at 15 pieces of concept art we wish made the movie.
15 STRUCKER’S SATAN CLAW
One of the more imposing members of HYDRA, Baron Strucker briefly appeared in Avengers: Age of Ultron. He was built up to be an important antagonist in the MCU, only to be unceremoniously murdered by Ultron after giving himself up the authorities in a way that just didn’t feel like the character.
This concept art for Strucker suggests that the character may have had a more antagonistic role at one point however, considering the inclusion of Strucker’s ‘Satan Claw’ in the artwork. For those who are unaware, Strucker’s Satan Claw is a cybernetically-enhanced gauntlet that gives him a whole host of superhuman abilities including super-strength, energy projection and the ability to deliver powerful electric shocks. Perhaps Strucker was supposed to come to blows with an Avenger in a physical confrontation at one point, only for the idea to be scrapped.
14 STAR-LORD’S VISION
One of the more emotionally satisfying moments in Guardians of the Galaxy comes at the movie’s climax, in which Peter grabs the Power Stone embedded in Ronan’s Warhammer to keep it from the villain’s grasp. As the sheer power of the Stone begins to kill Peter, he has a vision of his dead mother, who stretches her hand out to him and calls for him to take it in a call-back to the movie’s emotional opening scene.
It’s a great scene to be sure, but the concept art just looks that much more beautiful, with Peter’s mother appearing less as a normal human, and more as a nebulous collection of cosmic color and glowing stars. This would’ve served as a great visual metaphor for Peter sacrificing himself for a greater good -- and would’ve also fit the movie’s highly saturated color-palette and cosmic setting.
13 WEAPONIZED ANTS
After the creative tug-of-war behind the scenes of Ant-Man led to director Edgar Wright walking away from the highly-anticipated project, fans were rightly concerned about the growing strain between Marvel Studios and the directors it was hiring. While Ant-Man turned out just fine however, there’s still some cool concepts that didn’t quite make the film, and were perhaps holdovers from Wright’s time working on the movie.
Take this image of a weaponized ant for instance, which is undeniably bad-ass. Decked out in sleek-looking armor with what appears to be a laser on its back, it might be that Marvel decided to bank on the cute factor of the ants instead of the cool factor, which would’ve been obscured by covering them in giant, hulking tech. Given that Marvel is at its best when embracing the weird however, it’s a shame they didn’t go in a different direction.
12 COSMIC ANGLER FISH
While Guardians of the Galaxy and its highly successful sequel have no shortage of amazing creature designs, colorful locales and inspired characters, there’s one particular creature design in particular that would’ve been a fantastic addition to either of the movies.
This giant, space-dwelling angler fish looks absolutely terrifying, and while it’s unclear exactly what the role of the monster was set to be in the film, the amount of detail in the art suggests more than just window dressing. The idea of the Guardians facing off against this creature -- perhaps attempting to escape from its stomach Jonah-style -- has a lot of potential as a fun, scary set piece, and was likely scrapped for technical and/or pacing reasons. Still, there’s no doubt that it’d be great to see this creature make an appearance in future films.
11 SCARLET WITCH’S TRUE POWER
Anyone who’s ever read a comic featuring Scarlet Witch knows that she’s a ridiculously overpowered character. With vast reality warping abilities and command of chaos magic, Wanda Maximoff is a destructive force to be reckoned with. It’s no surprise then that Marvel decided to debuff the character for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, giving her generic energy projection abilities and limited mind-control powers.
While this makes sense narratively -- after all it’s well documented that it’s hard to make such a powerful character interesting -- it kind of undermines the core of Scarlet Witch’s character. That’s what makes this concept art of a much more powerful Wanda all the more interesting. Here it appears that she’s controlling the minds of henchmen on a mass scale rather than one-by-one as seen in the movies, capturing the sheer power of Scarlet Witch and what she’s truly capable of.
10 DEATH ZEALOT
Thought initially to be concept art for Mistress Death, it’s recently come to light that this beautiful yet creepy design was in fact supposed to be used in Doctor Strange, with the depicted characters intended to serve as minions of the film’s villain Kaecilius. Referred to as Death Zealots, it’s a mystery as to why these designs didn’t make an appearance in the final film given how well they appear to mesh with the film’s aesthetic.
Unfortunately, the minions that ended up in the film felt much more generic, and throwing a few of these Dia de los Muertos inspired characters into the mix would’ve made an already visually stunning film look that much more interesting, while expanding the mythos of the magical realms introduced in the movie.
9 SIX-ARMED ULTRON
One of the primary criticisms of Avengers: Age of Ultron from fans was that Ultron simply wasn’t intimidating enough. While Ultron’s certainly a powerful character, the majority of the film’s action focuses on his bots rather than the villain himself, and after the trailer promised fans a bitter, menacing villain, the ultra-quippy Ultron soon proved to be very much a product of his creator, deflating some of the movie’s tension.
Perhaps Ultron could’ve played a more active role in Age of Ultron’s physical confrontations with the team if he was given six arms as depicted in this incredible piece of concept art. Just picture Ultron battling Iron Man while he holds an unconscious Captain America in one hand and holds off Black Widow’s attacks with the other.
8 DOCTOR STRANGE’S FIERY ASTRAL FORM
Once again taking a look Doctor Strange, this concept art shows an alternative design for Stephen Strange’s astral form. While the final cut of the film presented the astral form as your typical blue-tinted, translucent spirit, the original artwork is much more eccentric in the best way possible. Clearly a horror-inspired design, Strange’s astral form takes on a glowing, fiery form here, with the brighter colors highlighting Strange’s skull in a weirdly disturbing but visually arresting way.
This, combined with the fact that Scott Derrickson -- the film’s director -- generally works within the horror genre, means that this idea could’ve worked brilliantly, making the film even weirder and more wonderful than it already was. Unfortunately, Marvel opted to go the safe route, but with any luck we’ll some similar concepts pop up in the movie’s sequel, which Derrickson is also expected to return for.
7 THE COLLECTOR’S MUSEUM
Okay, so this one might be cheating a little bit. The Collector’s Museum does make an appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy, and its design is similar to the concept art shown above. What the art does that the film doesn’t quite manage though, is depict the scale of the museum.
Sure, we do see encased lifeforms from across the galaxy throughout the museum, but the depth and height of the structure is pushed to the background, with the focus of the scene being on the first floor. This more or less gives the illusion that the museum is relatively small, even if you do catch small glimpses of glass cases further up in the building. All it’d take to remedy this would be one establishing shot that resembles this concept art, to give the audience an idea of just how expansive The Collector’s prized collection truly is.
While Wakanda is briefly visited in one of Captain America: Civil War’s post-credits scenes, our view is very much restricted to the inside of a lab, as well as one exterior shot of a stone panther surrounded by mist. It stands to reason that Marvel would want to play their cards close to their chest regarding Wakanda, given that the design of the nation might significantly change between Civil War and Black Panther.
Nevertheless, it would’ve been great to get a full view of a Wakandan city before T’Challa’s solo movie, simply as a means of whetting the audience’s appetite for the upcoming movie -- which after all is one of the cornerstones of a post-credits scene. As shown in the above artwork, the Wakanda that almost appeared is absolutely stunning, perfectly blending the nation’s unique aesthetic, which is a beautiful blend of organic, natural elements and highly advanced technology.
5 ALTERNATE DORMAMMU DESIGN
Although Dormammu’s appearance in Doctor Strange was a hell of a lot of fun, many fans were taken aback by the substantially altered character design of the villain, who appeared as a giant dimension-ruling entity made up of swirling purples and blues, keeping very much in line with the trippy visuals of the film.
It was an interesting choice, and one that makes sense on Marvel’s part, but it was still disappointing to see Dormammu portrayed less as the fiery demon he’s traditionally depicted as and more as a near-omnipotent cosmic entity. At one point in production however, it appears that Marvel was toying with the idea of implementing this more faithful design of the character. The gleeful cheesiness of Dormammu’s traditional design would’ve been a perfect, ballsy fit for the film, and would’ve made the Eater of Souls one of the more memorable and unique villains in the MCU.
4 ARNIM ZOLA’S FINAL FORM
Believe it or not, Arnim Zola was initially slated to appear in Ant-Man following his character’s return to the fold in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The capacity in which the character would have been used remains unclear but either way, it would’ve been both ridiculous and awesome in equal measure.
The concept art here looks really interesting. Adhering to the character’s classic design -- minus the giant camera for a head -- Zola’s consciousness has now been transferred into a robotic body, with an imprint of his face being projected onto a screen fixed to the robot’s torso. Now one of the longest running and most persistent of the MCU’s villains, it’s a real shame that Toby Jones didn’t get the chance to embrace the full absurdity that comes with his character. Here’s hoping that changes in the future of the MCU.
3 A WHOLE NEW ASGARD
There’s no question that Asgard’s design in both Thor movies is gorgeous. Opting to stick closely to the Norse mythology aesthetic, the artists responsible succeeded in making Asgard bright, grandiose, and spectacularly rendered. With that being said, why is it that the concept art still looks that much cooler?
It might have something to do with the fact that the movies present Asgard’s atmosphere as very similar to Earth’s, whereas the concept art adopts a much more stylized, cosmic look. Take the image above for instance; the clean white sand juxtaposed against the swirling cosmos above looks like something from a high-fantasy story in its uniqueness, which is exactly what Thor should be aiming for. It appears that the heavy metal-inspired Thor: Ragnarok is seeking to embrace more of this kind of imagery, so hopefully we’ll see more of this unique stylization upon the movie’s release later this year.
2 MINDLESS ONES
Although Doctor Strange’s villain Kaecilius dissolved into nothingness at the climax of the movie’s third act, concept art suggests that there were originally different (and frankly much more interesting) plans for the character. The concept art above shows one of the Mindless Ones, creatures who in the comic serve Dormammu in the Dark Dimension; and as their name suggests, have no individual thought, existing only to serve their master.
It’s also worth mentioning that the book this concept art originates from labels this image as ‘Kaecilius’ Transformation’, meaning Kaecilius’ evil machinations in the movie were more than likely a ploy by Dormammu, who was seeking to amass a giant army of Mindless Ones. This adds an additional layer of menace to the Lord of Chaos, and sets up a potential future big bad for the MCU; so it’s unfortunate it wasn’t included in the final product.
1 THE REAL BARON ZEMO
While Captain America: Civil War was almost universally praised, the film’s portrayal of Baron Zemo was one of the more divisive aspects of the film. While he stood out as a smart, sympathetic villain in his own right, he wasn’t exactly a faithful adaptation of the cartoonishly evil character appearing in the comics. And in many respects, that’s fine, especially considering that the character is much less one-note than his comic book counterpart.
Either way, due to the character’s namesake alone, many fans were waiting for Zemo to don his classic purple mask as shown in the concept art above, but that moment never came. It’s not a big deal, but it would’ve solidified the character as the Baron Zemo that fans love to hate, and it surely wouldn’t have been difficult to concoct a reason for the character to don his iconic outfit.
Did we miss any of your favorite pieces of concept art? Sound off in the comments below!