Marvel's latest blockbuster, Captain America: Civil War, introduced us to Chadwick Boseman's Black Panther - and it's no exaggeration to say that he was one of the stars of the show! Black Panther's role is integral to the plot; he learns to reject revenge even as Tony Stark pursues it, and his visual aesthetic is every bit as impressive as his storyline. But how was that pulled off? Little by little, interviews and concept art are combining to give us a glimpse of the unique superhero design...
THE BLACK PANTHER COSTUME
It's no surprise that the Black Panther's costume was a major undertaking. Over in the comics, it's usually presented as a fairly simple affair; a form-fitting black bodysuit with distinctive muscle-tone. In Civil War, though, it was very different.
The original concept came from Marvel's visual department, with Marvel's visual director, Ryan Mynerding, working closely with costume designer Judiaanna Makovsky. Artist Jerad S. Marantz also worked on the concept art, and beautiful examples of their work are gradually being released on to the Internet.
The suit's actually made up of a stretch with three interwoven textures, and some molded pieces. The focus was more on getting the look and feel of a gymnast rather than your traditionally bulky superhero. Meanwhile, the level of detail is truly remarkable. Just look at this concept art for the claw alone.
This close-up really helps you to get a sense of the design. The central idea was that the suit had to look like a woven fabric - with vibranium woven through the material. Because vibranium is a metal, of course, it also needed to have a metallic edge. And those retractable claws are featured to devastating effect in the film!
THE BLACK PANTHER CGI
But Black Panther is also a celebration of CGI. Originally, Marvel had intended to have a live actor portraying the Wakandan warrior's moves, but during filming that plan changed. ILM visual effects supervisor Russell Earl told the Verge:
"We changed the bulk of his chest. We made his head a little bit smaller, because obviously, if you put a helmet on a guy it makes their head bigger than you want them to be."
From there, it was pretty logical to just go the whole way, and as a result the Black Panther of Captain America: Civil War is literally 100% CGI.
It's pretty amazing to see just how much work went into Black Panther. In the comics, Black Panther is ruler of Wakanda, a nation who represent the best of traditional tribal society and advanced technology. In the MCU, the character's success is due to a unique melding of traditional acting (and superb casting) with state-of-the-art CGI. It's appropriate.