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Change of art: See how Marvel’s heroes almost looked

A version of this article appears in the March 16/23 issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands now. You can buy all 15 covers here, purchase the four most popular covers here, or see and purchase individual covers here. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

Ryan Meinerding, the head of visual development at Marvel Studios, has an Instagram account that’s essentially a record of what could have been. On the page, unused designs for a bearded Hulk in Thor: Ragnarok live alongside takes for a more tech-infused Rocket in Guardians of the Galaxy. While the sketches may just seem like a fun “What if?” they’re actually essential to the making of the MCU.

Marvel’s design process, which Meinerding runs, borrows something from the early days of Disney. To nail down a character’s look, artists like Andy Park and Josh Nizzi draft hundreds of pieces of concept art. During these first steps, they’ll dream up a wide variety of looks for Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther suit or James Spader’s Ultron, pinpoint which elements work — pending filmmaker approval, of course — and then continue in that direction.

“We’re just always trying to make it better,” Meinerding tells EW, describing the character creation process. “It’s as simple as that. It’s looking at what we have and figuring out different ways and creative solutions for trying to improve it.”

With Captain America: The First Avenger,

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