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Doctor Strange Animated Movie

Strange Creations: Steve McNiven's Doctor Strange Art

By Ryan Penagos and Nick Authenrieth

Early cover

Mark your calendars for August 14, 2007 because you need to see the Doctor Strange animated film as soon as possible! The first animated feature film to showcase the master of the mystic arts is sure to rock comic and movie fans to their foundations thanks to the titanic team-up between Marvel and Lionsgate. Packed with action, magic and all other sorts of coolness from its opening scenes to its special features, it also boasts some of the most amazing artwork ever to grace a DVD cover.

Sketch of the
final cover

A movie rife with incredible images and designs, it's no surprise that the movie comes packaged and adorned with stunning artwork you'll only see from the House of Ideas. Previous Marvel/Lionsgate collaborations have seen top flight Marvel artists grace the DVD covers and Doctor Strange is no different. ULTIMATES artist Brian Hitch tackled the cover art for both Ultimate Avengers movies and Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada drew the awesome images seen on the front and back covers of the Invincible Iron Man DVD. Now Steve McNiven, the immensely gifted artist who rocketed to superstardom with Marvel's groundbreaking CIVIL WAR has lent his talents to Doctor Strange.

pencils for
the cover

"I was just thrilled to be asked," says McNiven, the humble Canadian illustrator who first made his mark at Marvel with Marvel Knights 4 and was introduced to the project by Joe Quesada. "I was kind of intimidated. It's quite a big undertaking. I've never done anything like it before. When I first approached the DVD, I didn't think I could do animated stuff. But then again neither does Brian Hitch or Joe Quesada. And that definitely wasn't what [Marvel and Lionsgate] were looking for. They just wanted my style and I went for it." No stranger to the image of Doctor Strange, McNiven took on the project using the process he normally employs when illustrating a comic book or one of his dynamically signature covers.

cover art

"It was something I was actively involved in for about a month," says McNiven. "I guess, due to the nature of how many people have to approve things and that kind of stuff, there was lot more work on trying to get all of the different elements together. But it's basically using the same muscles, in terms of how you approach it artistically. You really want to make the thing shine as well as you can. It's fun."

Back cover

From a design standpoint, McNiven played around with a number of different cover layouts and character expressions. "I went through some different designs for Doctor Strange for the cover, some a little ominous, some I just tried to give that feel but make it a little bit more realistic than some of the drawings and comics that I do," comments McNiven, musing that he took this approach not for aesthetic purposes but "just for a little bit more of a challenge." Finding a unique look for the character can be difficult, however. "I really wanted to get a face down for Doctor Strange," McNiven notes, adding that he wanted to "make him look tough and not angry." Despite his years of experience, this wasn't a process he got on the first try. McNiven had many designs floating around--which is just business as usual for the artist. "I don't have the exact number in my head but we worked through at least a half dozen [cover concepts]," McNiven adds. "That was for the front. Maybe a little bit less for the back. Then we went back and forth just tweaking it." McNiven didn't have to go at it alone, though. Joining the process after the movie had already been completed, he worked off character designs created by the artists and animators who'd been handling the project from the get-go. "They sent me a ton of the design work they did and it was some beautiful stuff with great character design," McNiven gushes. "The monsters are great. The design guys did a great job with all the creatures. And they sent me the movie as well, so I got to sit down and watch that, which was cool. My daughter really liked it."

Back cover
final art

Now that the cover is complete, McNiven is ready to sit back and watch another of his contributions fly off the shelves, happily attached to DVDs in stores this August. "It feels awesome," he says. "I was really thankful they tapped me for it." For news, downloads, videos and more, check out the official Doctor Strange DVD page here on Marvel.com. And be sure to buy the Doctor Strange DVD.
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