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Review of Interview: Marvel Studios’ Andy Park on Designing Shang-Chi’s Costume

The hit Marvel film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is now available on 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD with a slew of bonus features.

Marvel Studios’ first Asian superhero-led movie is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. It will be led by Canadian actor Simu Liu (Kim’s Convenience) as Shang-Chi. The film also stars fellow Marvel Cinematic Universe newcomers Awkwafina as Katy, Tony Leung as Wenwu/The Mandarin, Meng’er Zhang as Xialing, Fala Chen as Jiang Li, Ronny Chieng, and Florian Munteanu as Razor Fist.

RELATED: Interview: Florian Munteanu on Playing Razor Fist in Shang-Chi

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke to Marvel Studios’ Andy Park about designing Shang-Chi’s costume, his past work on video games, and more.

Tyler Treese: Is there a particular artist or comic series that inspired you as a kid that made you want to go down this career path and work on comic books, concept art, video games, and films?

Andy Park: I grew up in the ’80s reading comic books and then that was right before Image Comics blew up. I fell in love with Marvel comics originally. Mark Bright and Bob Layton were known for Iron Man and that was the first character that I just completely fell in love with, especially the Iron Man Silver Centurion and then John Byrne. And then I just started discovering other artists and eventually when I discovered a guy named Jim Lee, it changed my world because his art was everything. Alan Davis is another one, but I had a whole shrine when I was in high school dedicated to Jim Lee with all his artwork. And then eventually Image Comics happened and I got hired by another guy. Those were my early comic book inspirations. I eventually drew comics for 10 years and then eventually made a switch into concept art in video games for the God of War series. And then I’ve been at Marvel Studios for the past 11 and a half years.

When you’re a creative first starting out, you imitate what you liked. How was the process of really finding your own style as an artist and not just trying to do your best Jim Lee impersonation, but really doing your best work and showing yourself through the art?

You learn back then just by copying. Every artist learns by copying. But I never wanted to be a clone. I never wanted to draw just like John Burn or Jim Lee or Alan Davis, but I’ll copy to learn. It’s like eventually when I went to art school and I learned how to paint, you do master copies, you’d look at John Singer Sargent and you’d do a Rembrandt and you’ll do a master copy to just learn, but you’re not trying to learn how to paint just like them or draw like them. So I’ve always had that mentality of not wanting to just be a clone. I think also another reason is because back then, especially in the early Image days, you would see certain artists and you could really see who their influences were and almost to a point where some people would even call them like a clone.

But then whenever you would say that, it was never like as good as that person that they’re imitating. So because I knew that, even if I ever tried to draw like Lee, am I ever going to draw better than him? No, I could only draw up to the point of being equal, but then even that’s like impossible. So I always try to be unique or at least try to have my own voice. So when I was drawing comic books, I did the same thing. I was mainly known for my Top Cow Marc Silvestri series that I did and Tomb Raider. But I didn’t necessarily draw like Marc Silvestri or Jim Lee. I tried to find my own voice and that still applies to this day in concept art. I definitely have influences through the decades, but I’m trying to have my own voice as an artist

You’ve shown some great concept art on your social media. What are some of your biggest contributions to Shang-Chi?

I had the honor of leading the visual development team. I got to have such amazing artists on the team and guide them and have conversations with Destin Daniel Cretton, Kevin Feige, and Jonathan Schwartz, the producer, and try to figure out this world. Anytime we were coming up with a new corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was always exciting. And being able to dive in the first Asian superhero in MCU was definitely exciting. So taking influences from the East, Chinese culture, Asian culture, and martial arts films throughout the years that I’ve loved and melding that all into the language that people are familiar with in the MCU, but coming with something fresh. That was an honor and exciting.

Specifically, I got to design the Shang-Chi hero costume. So that was really fun to try to take Simu Liu and try to figure out the story of what this costume was because it’s not just like a visual, there’s a story for every costume we do. So the idea of, as the story was developed, I came with the idea of incorporating the symbol that’s very prevalent in Chinese culture, as well as other cultures, the infinite knot. That’s very symbolic and has a lot of different meanings as well as the dragon scales or dragon skin that you see on his jacket. We looked at everything, even down to his shoes. Like that was an idea that I had because that the whole costume overall was given by his mom.

He’s a product of everything from his whole history, from his mom, which is basically his overall costume to his dad. Eventually, at the end of the movie, when the dad essentially relinquishes the rings and finishes his hero costume, the one thing I wanted to add to him was his shoes, which was his time in America. The 10 years he spent in America. That’s him being on his own, trying to find his own independence, who he is. So I wanted to have that one element where he kept his shoes, which is very western. So you have all those three things that kind of encompass this whole look.

You’ve worked on so many Marvel films at this point. I feel like it doesn’t get enough credit for the variety in terms of landscapes and the different genres. Does that help keep you refreshed? Because even though you’re staying in Marvel, you’re doing completely different things and jumping around.

Yeah, exactly. You hit the nail on the head because, as an artist, we’re very temperamental. We get bored. We need to continue to be inspired. Let’s say I was on the God of War video game. I was on that for five years, which was an amazing five years. But after five years of doing the same God of War, even though they’re different games, it was always in that Greek mythology. As an artist, I started getting antsy because I wanted to do something else besides like Greek togas and the same kind of Greek mythological animals. But I’ve been at Marvel Studios for 11 and a half years.

There hasn’t been a day, a month, a year that I’ve been bored or antsy because every single one of our films, even though it’s in the MCU, they all have their own genre, own flavor, and different tone. You add not only the visuals, but the directors that we get like Taika Waititi to Peyton Reed to James Gunn to Destin Daniel Cretton, all of these directors have different voices and different flavors. So how can you get bored? It’s almost as if you’re working for a whole new company or something very different, but there’s always the tying weave that keeps it all together, which keeps it exciting. You can’t get bored here.

You mentioned God of War. Working on those games, what is the biggest difference between the two mediums? And doing concept art for God of War, those games have such beautiful artwork and the scenes are amazing. Can you talk about how that has helped prepare you for this line of work?

God of War was amazing. I got hired by Charlie Wen who was the director of visual development at Sony at that time. I got to work for five years with such amazing artists and I learned more there than I did at art school because you’re just surrounded by amazing talent and the real-world designing, the challenges of concept art, and trying to get designs approved by a director. And video games, specifically for God of War, are fully fantastical. And we’re doing like these crazy creatures with these crazy power sets with these crazy visuals. It’s even less grounded than like the MCU or film because in video games, it’s kind of no-holds-barred.

You’re designing characters that are going to be made into 3D assets that are going to be played in-game. So you can kind of go wild and break a lot of rules, even with the way that you design costumes. You can go crazy. But the biggest differences when working in film, for live-action at least, we’re trying to make it look real. Like you have to make it look like it could actually happen outside your house and when you step out the door. Like this world can exist. These characters can wear these costumes. That creature can actually exist. And you’re going to believe it as an audience member. You don’t have to have that suspension of belief when it comes to video games because everything’s 3D.

That’s the biggest challenge in doing film because you always have to make it look real and believable. That’s not always easy. That’s why a lot of times you can go fully comic accurate, but then you get into a world of like, “Oh, now it looks cheesy and not real anymore.” So there’s that fine balance and that line you have to tread. How much can you push it here? How much can you push it there and make it accurate to the comics and respectful? But then, while doing that, also make it fully believable and something that people would be like, “Oh, that reminds me of the comic and I totally believe that.” And that’s versus if you go too far somewhere, you can be like, “Oh, that looks like the comic, but that looks cheesy.”

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