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Art of Thor

Art of Thor: Ryan Meinerding

'Thor' Visual Development Supervisor Ryan Meinerding goes in depth on his designs for the film!

By Odin’s beard! We’re celebrating the May 6 release of “Thor” with a bevy of daily new content, from interviews with the cast and crew of the film to looks back at key stories from the comics and even more surprises! Visit Marvel.com every day for new Thor Month coverage, and mark your calendars for May 6 as the Odinson flies onto the bigscreen!

By Marc Strom

Fans will have the chance to go behind the scenes of the making of "Thor" with the upcoming "Art of Thor," in stores Wednesday, May 4, showcasing the art that went into the production of the film!

To give you a preview of what you have in store, we spoke with "Thor" Visual Development Supervisor Ryan Meinerding who, along with fellow supervisor Charlie Wen, helped define the look of the characters you'll see on the big screen.

While Meinerding may be relatively new to the film industry, he's already helped shape a number of Marvel films. Now you can hear his thoughts on "Thor" and see an exclusive design he did for Odin in the movie!

Odin concept art by Ryan Meinerding, from "The Art of Thor"

Marvel.com: To kick things off, Ryan, could you give our readers a little bit of background on yourself?

Ryan Meinerding: Let’s see--I started in the movie industry back in around 2005, and then a few projects later I ended up working on “Iron Man.” [Since then] I’ve been with Marvel. I didn’t work on “Incredible Hulk,” but I worked on “Iron Man,” “Iron Man 2,” “Thor,” [“Captain America: The First Avenger”] and [“Marvel Studios’ The Avengers”].

Marvel.com: All right. And then what did you work on with “Thor”?

Ryan Meinerding: For “Thor,” I worked on designing the costumes. [I] worked on Thor [but] didn’t end up doing the final design, worked on Odin, did helmet designs, and Odin’s final design. [I did] rough passes on all the characters, and then did quite a few key frames, [trying] to help elucidate the more important sequences.

Marvel.com: You mentioned the costumes earlier, and when you were working on those early passes, were there any specific visual touchstones you were using from the comics?

Ryan Meinerding: [Jack] Kirby’s Thor costume is fairly simple, so a lot of the stuff we were trying to pull in was more shape themes from Kirby’s Asgard and the crazier takes that he would have on Odin’s costume, trying to bring some of those angular pieces to Thor[‘s costume].

As far as more recent takes, the [THOR] covers that [Marko Djurdjevic] did I think were pretty inspirational, maybe more so in tone than actual resolve. I think how he ended up doing the arms--how he did the armor on the arms--definitely inspired the directions that we took some of that stuff. But yeah, I think the overall direction was trying to realize Kirby’s vision for Thor in a real world.

Marvel.com: When you think of Kirby’s designs of Thor and Asgard and all those costumes, they’re always very…well, huge, I guess, is the way to put it. Were there any instances where it was particularly challenging to morph those into the real world, or was it sort of the opposite, where it was actually simpler to bring to life than you would think?

"The Art of Thor" cover art

Ryan Meinerding: Well from a character design level you’re trying to create contrast between the characters, and that’s one of the things that a lot of the comic designs do very easily. [They] have great starting points for dynamically different characters. I mean, just look at Thor and Loki. Just their helmets create such a profound silhouette contrast. That sort of stuff was a very easy starting point. In terms of the more difficult challenges, I would say that with Odin’s helmet, trying to get the huge horns and the huge wings [on the same helmet] and have it not feel ridiculous was a little hard. They aren’t shapes that naturally go together. You’d usually think of having one or the other, so that was a challenge for me. Charlie [Wen] ended up designing the main characters Thor and Loki, [but] I had done some earlier takes on Loki and the horns coming off the head are not a simple challenge either. They have to be so dimensional and the curves have to be so perfect and so perfectly balanced with the rest of the design of the helmet.

Marvel.com: And Loki’s horns were something I also wanted to ask you about, because I noticed in looking through the "Art of Thor" book that the one common element between all of your and Charlie’s different designs of Loki is that they all featured those very, very large horns on top of them. Was that something that you knew from the beginning had to be incorporated to Loki’s helmet?

Ryan Meinerding: I don’t think so; some of Kirby’s early designs don’t have tall horns. I think we saw it as an opportunity to create something unique with him. I don’t know if it came through as a strict mandate to keep [them], but from an artistic point of view it was a challenge that we really wanted to try and accomplish, because it becomes such a powerful part of his costume. Thor has the six disks which will always identify him; six disks and the red cape. Loki’s specific design themes are a little less clear. I think there is obviously green and gold or yellow, but there’s not a huge amount of consistent design themes other than the horns, so trying to make that the statement of the costume were definitely things we were trying to accomplish.

Marvel.com: Earlier you touched on making all of the costumes unique, but while you want to make them all unique, you want to make them all clearly Asgardian and a part of that culture. How did you go about achieving that?

"The Art of Thor" slipcase art

Ryan Meinerding: The design direction that Charlie and I each started from was trying to take some sense from the iconic costumes, and then applying some sense of Norse things to them. Not in a traditional sense, but so that there's overlapping and weaving and trying to find something that felt like, but was not as readily identifiable as, Norse. I think Charlie was the one who really found that balance with the Thor costume, and once he found that, it really [was a matter of] overlapping and changing angles with metal around the disks or whatever we needed to be on the chest plates, and finding different ways of doing that with all the different characters.

Marvel.com: Coming off of “Iron Man” and “Iron Man 2,” which are very clearly grounded in Earth and technology-based, what was it like moving over to “Thor,” which is in a pretty different corner of the Marvel Universe?

Ryan Meinerding: I’ve got to say it was a little bit hard at first. Most of my designs are typically rooted a little more in reality than, say, Charlie, who can do the more fantastical things very easily. I usually try and find some sort of basis for grounding, and I think some of the designs I ended up doing for “Thor,” at least at the beginning, did feel down a more traditional, almost Viking-like route. But pretty quickly you understand that it’s just not the tone of the show, and you try and switch over and find the fantastical part of the work as opposed to the grounded reality.

On a very simple design basis, most of our “Iron Man” stuff is dependent on function, and “Thor’s” stuff is supposed to be function we don’t necessarily understand. Function doesn’t necessarily come into it; it’s more of a unifying aesthetic than anything, a fantastical concept of what these gods would wear out to battle and around the house.

Marvel.com: Was there a sense to you at all that, even though “Thor” is a very different animal than “Iron Man,” that it all still was existing within the same universe?

Ryan Meinerding: There’s definitely a sense of trying to make all of these characters come together for “Avengers,” [but] I think first and foremost all of these movies have to stand on their own. I think that the tones need to be similar enough to be in the Marvel Universe, but I think we were really conscious of designing the costume for “Avengers” to come together a little bit more, as opposed to back when you’re working on the Thor movie you’re just trying to make the best movie you can.

In the end we’re people executing the ideas or the design direction that we get from Marvel and the directors. So when you look at the direction that was coming in, I think the reason they chose not to do the more traditional Viking thing was probably because it would be harder to see a Viking standing next to Iron Man than it would a man in a more high tech looking chest plate. There are some really base level conceptual directions that we are given that are probably aimed towards those ends.

Marvel.com: You mentioned the key frames you did some work on, how did that came about and how was that for you?

Ryan Meinerding: One of my first experiences at Marvel was working on “Iron Man” and doing key frames for that show, and it was a really fun experience because no one knew what Iron Man looked like, no one knew what Tony Stark’s garage looked like, no one had any idea about what any of that stuff was and I was lucky enough to be in a position to do some of those key frames that helped define those places. I think I was brought on to “Thor” to kind of help in similar ways. Not specifically with sets and stuff because that had been designed for so long, [but] it was more about finding an emotional core to some of the moments in the script and try to visualize those. I think one of the most fun things on these movies is when filming is still months away, we get to be our own little directors and put forth shots like “this would be a great way to see this character and feel this moment.” I haven’t seen the final cut of the movie so I don’t actually know what was used or if any of it was used, but all of that stuff is as rewarding as working on costumes because you’re trying to find that emotional core that people end up resonating with.

For more Thor, visit the film's official site and our "Thor" movie page!

Buy your "Thor" tickets now on Fandango, Moviefone or MovieTickets.com!

Check out the list of Required Reading: Thor Collections, and find the best jumping-on points with Thor: Where to Start!

Directed by Kenneth Branagh, the epic adventure "Thor" spans the Marvel Universe from present day Earth to the realm of Asgard. At the center of the story is The Mighty Thor, a powerful but arrogant warrior whose reckless actions reignite an ancient war. Thor is cast down to Earth and forced to live among humans as punishment. Once here, Thor learns what it takes to be a true hero when the most dangerous villain of his world sends the darkest forces of Asgard to invade Earth.

"Thor" is from a screenplay by Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz and Don Payne and a story by J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich. Marvel Studios’ President Kevin Feige will produce the film. Alan Fine, Stan Lee, David Maisel and Marvel Studio’s Co-President, Louis D'Esposito, will executive produce.

In addition to "Thor," Marvel Studios will release a slate of films based on the Marvel characters including "Captain America: The First Avenger" on July 22, 2011; "Marvel Studios' The Avengers" on May 4, 2012; and "Iron Man 3" on May 3, 2013.


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