ComingSoon Senior Editor Spencer Legacy spoke with Director of Visual Development at Marvel Studios Andy Park about Thor: Love and ThunderKang the Conqueror and Thunderbolts. The fourth Thor movie is now available on digital, 4K, Blu-ray and DVD.
“The fourth installment finds Thor on a journey unlike anything he’s ever faced – a quest for inner peace. But his retirement is interrupted by a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher, who seeks the extermination of the gods,” say Thor: Love and Thundersynopsis. “To combat the threat, Thor enlists the help of King Valkyrie, Korg, and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster, who – to Thor’s surprise – inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the mighty Thor. Together, they embark on a harrowing cosmic adventure to to unravel the mystery of God Butcher’s revenge and stop him before it’s too late.”
Spencer Legacy: You worked on every Thor film, what has the process of designing such a dynamic character been like, especially with the shift in tone and its different evolutions over time?
Andy Park: It’s been so much fun because I think it’s fun not only to be able to take inspiration from the great geniuses from Jack Kirby to Steve Ditko, Stan Lee—all the creators over the decades—but to be able to work with different filmmakers. We have the management at Marvel and the geniuses there, from Kevin Feige to … Victoria Alonso, Louis D’Esposito and all the producers, but then for each Thor films that are a different director, except for the last two with Taika [Waititi], so they all get their own voice. So even though it’s the same character, there are nuances. Obviously, we saw the big shift from the first two Thor movie until when Taika came on. It’s been a lot of fun, especially when Taika came on board. He just completely rocked the boat in a good way. It just made it so fresh.
And it felt like a lot of times when we’re working on a new character, it’s like, “Oh, it’s so much fun to create from scratch.” Like when we work on Guardians of the Galaxy, we help establish this world, this corner of the MCU that has never been mined yet. That kind of cosmic, crazy world with Thor … we’ve kind of been there with Asgard, but when Taika came, it felt like a new character again that we’re trying to establish with the look, the tone, the character, [and] the visual. So yeah, it’s been so fun to be a part of like his journey and his development.
In Thor: Love and Thunder, Gorr looks a little different than he does in the comics. How did you go about changing that design while still maintaining its memorable qualities?
When it comes to a character we’re re-designing, we always go back to the comics first. So a lot of times, because we’re an in-house department of artists who are here full time, we get started really early. For the most part, we work at the same time as they write the script. So many times nothing is established yet. So all that’s established is that they want Gorr to be the main villain, or at least they’re thinking of Gorr. So that’s when we’re off to the races. Myself, as well as the other artists that are here in the visual development department, as well as hiring freelancers … I’ll ask them to do different versions, and they’ll say, “Oh, so do you have any information on them?”
I’ll say, “Look at the cartoon!” Because there is no information yet, other than that they want to use that character… we will learn the nuances as we go along. It will help to influence our decisions in our design. So at first it tends to be pretty comically accurate. We’re going to do the tendrils coming out the sides and make him a little bit more alien and without the nose and the proportions to be like what Esad Ribić, the comic artist, designed in the comic series. So when we start having conversations with the filmmakers, with Taika in this case, then we start to find out who Gorr is. His backstory, how he is betrayed. And soon after we find out about casting.
So usually we make designs even before we know the casting. So when we found out about Christian Bale, we’re like, “Oh wow, that’s great!” And then pretty much after figuring that out, we’re told they’re going to see versions and look into how we don’t lose his performance. When you have an actor like Christian Bale, we don’t want to hide it. So we started taking a lot of designs that we’ve already done, also creating new ones and implementing Christian Bale’s face in there. The other reason is because there are a lot of characters that have been out there in other franchises that don’t have the nose or have those tendrils. From Star wars to Harry Potter, Voldemort, that sort of thing. When you’re designing things these days, it’s almost like what “hasn’t been done?” So you have to navigate to where it’s like … it feels too much like something, then it’s like, “Okay, let’s steer away from that.” It’s a journey to find and finally land on that design, but I want to mention that our amazing artists, John Staub, one of our in-house visiting vis-dev artists, did the final design that you see in the movie.
Another character is Russell Crowe’s Zeus, who has a design that is half mythic and scary and half really fun. So what was the process of designing him like?
It was designed by our amazing costume designer at Mayes Rubeo. So we have a good collaboration between the vis-dev department and the costume department. She was able – along with her artists – to take many of the gods that you see in The Almighty City. She could really just run with it and have fun. I enjoyed seeing the designs they did because it walks that line between coming up with something that’s epic, that’s worthy of Zeus, but then it’s kind of comical, right? So I thought she did a good job.
Your art gave everyone their first look at Kang’s more comical designs in the Quantumania art. What was it really like to showcase the next Thanos?
It was a lot of fun working on that project. I led the vis team on one and could tackle … I’ve worked on all of them Ant man movie. The first Ant man that I led was Ant-Man and the Wasp. So to be able to come back and work with Peyton Reed again, it was so much fun. To be able to introduce a character like Kang… I had a team of amazing artists. A guy named Constantine Sekeris did the final concept design for it. Then Sammy Sheldon and Ivo Coveney made the final Kang that you can see, the costume. Especially [with] an iconic character like Kang, right? Growing up reading Marvel comics, it was one of those… there are certain characters that are the big main villains that Avengers characters have always butted heads with. So Kang, you knew, would come eventually. So I can’t wait for you and everybody to see what we’ve all come up with because it’s a great visual, but it’s also just what Jonathan Majors’ performance and what the writers and what Peyton has brought out in these actors and in these characters. It will be something special.
Similarly, your Thunderbolts art was recently showcased and it really shows the personalities of the characters. How difficult was it stylistically to unite all these characters from different projects and phases?
That part is always fun because I think that’s kind of the magic, the key component, to the MCU that Kevin Feige was when he decided, “Okay, we’re going to create an interconnected universe of all these different characters , and then they all have to have their own movies, and they don’t necessarily want the same thing. They could be completely different from each other, but we have to find a way to bring them together The Avengersthe very first movie where all these different characters came together.”
That’s where the fun is. When you see that lineup, that picture that I illustrated while painting it, it’s really funny because at the time I painted it, we already had Black Widow movie. So we were introduced to Yelena and Alexei, the Red Guardian, as well as the Taskmaster. We know where they ended up in that movie. So it always begs the question, what’s next? What should happen to Taskmaster now? Now that she realizes and all that… all the questions that come up and you see The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. That’s where Bucky is, and that’s where US Agent is. And there is always tension there.
And obviously we all know the stories about Bucky from Captain America to Winter Soldier to Civil war further and all Avengers movie. Then you see Val being introduced the same way we saw Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury in the early days. Then Ghost in the Ant man world and see how her story ended. So to take all of that and bring them together as one team … it reminded me a lot of the early days when I was working at Marvel Studios 12 years ago when I was working on The Avengers, because I’m like, “Oh, these different characters don’t necessarily seem to belong.” And then to see them come together and you can imagine the interactions being fun, how they fight and whatever, whatever they end up doing.
That’s kind of where the fun lies, because you think, “How would a God interact with someone like Tony Stark?” Which is very snarky but also earth/science based. So in the same way, in a different way, we’re going to see it with Thunderbolts, seeing all these different characters from different franchises come together. It’s a different type of team-up movie that we haven’t seen. We’ve seen team-up, but mainly it’s always been that Avengers, right? So it will be fun.