Charlie Wen, the co-founder and former head of visual development at Marvel Studios, has been posting some of his earliest character designs and concept art, and everything about these shares is a delight.
In response to enthusiastic comments, Wen is puting up more and more artwork as well as short videos about the thought process that went into his creations. Wen is responsible for a good deal of the now-iconic MCU looks we’ve come to love and cosplay.
When it came to designing Loki, Wen’s first sketch of him was spectacularly over-the-top—drawing Loki, as Wen explains, “as someone a bit off.” Fans of the classic Thor comics might find this mad Loki’s expression familiar. “Wacky Loki” is so much fun that I’m almost disappointed Tom Hiddleston’s Loki didn’t get to rock this initial look in the ‘Thor’ movies.
While the suit of armor also has some precedent in comics-Loki, Wen’s Loki here has a kind of futuristic feel, which makes sense when he describes that he was playing with the idea that “Asgard had magic based on science beyond human tech understanding.” While much of Asgard has a fantasy kingdom motif, the world is actually extremely advanced—their advancements just manifest differently than they do here on Midgard.
I have to ask, though: what is happening with that cape-cloak-thing? And are those metal retractable arms?!
Earlier today, Wen posted his design for Loki with the actor Tom Hiddleston in mind, a version that is much more familiar to Marvel movie watchers. It’s interesting to hear that Wen finished Thor’s design and then set out to create the other characters’ imagery as per their relationship to the central hero—I find the whole process and intentional interconnectivity of the characters on a visual level fascinating. Wen writes:
I’d just completed Thor’s design for the film (Thor), so a design language had been set. The rest of the characters needed to play off of the main character’s design. Every character’s colors, shapes, materials needed to not only be congruent with the story being told, but more importantly, needed to elicit specific emotions from the audience at particular points of the character’s arc in the film.
For Loki (as well as the other characters), I kept with the interweaving shapes motif in Thor’s costume. These interweaving shapes come from Norse symbols, which I referenced to some extent for all aspects of Asgard. The interweaving elements not only connected Thor’s world with its Norse origins, but it also alluded to the interconnectedness of Tho,. Loki, and Odin.
I designed Loki’s armor to be more overtly ceremonial than practical, showing that Loki’s gifts and attentions did not lie in the battlefield like his brother Thor, but instead, his focus was imagining and planning his ascension to Odin’s throne. The fabric elements have more pleating as well to further play up the ceremonial feel.
While Thor fans have often remarked upon the clear visual contrast between Thor and his brother (down to red and green costumes, colors in opposition on the spectrum), Wen’s commentary is illuminating—and it’s cool to know that he had so much of the characters’ motivations and strengths/weaknesses in mind when he set about deciding what they would wear and wield. In July, he shared the intense concept design process that went into creating the look of Thor’s hammer Mjolnir.
Be sure to follow Wen on Facebook or Instagram, where he’s still adding more and more intriguing designs from his Marvel days.
What do you think of Wen’s first Loki? Is this the Loki that we deserved?
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