Entering Marvel Contest of Champions: Thanos


Thanos the Mad Titan makes his Marvel NOW solo series splash in Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato’s THANOS sporting an all-new look. The new threads come courtesy of the awesome team over at Kabam and their version of Thanos in the “Marvel Contest of Champions” mobile fighting game. We talked to Mike about using Kabam’s version of the character and to Kabam Art Director Gabriel Frizzera about what it means to see their work in comics.

Marvel.com: Hey Mike, Thanos is look really good in this book. I’ve heard that the new costume comes from Kabam’s “Marvel Contest of Champions” mobile game. How’d you learn about the outfit and what about it spoke to you enough to use for the comic?

Mike Deodato: I was Google searching a good reference for Thanos when I found this amazing image created by Kabam. They really nailed it. It’s the best version I’ve ever seen of the Mad Titan. The proportions are exactly as I would draw him, a heavy, blocky type with big hands.

Marvel.com: And Gabriel, as a mobile game based on a comic universe, obviously the Kabam crew is adapting characters and costumes and events for the digital space. How does it feel to have some of your team’s work actually influence the source material?

Gabriel Frizzera: We are very proud every time that happens! We have lots of “Omega Level” Marvel geeks here at the studio, so we try to be very respectful of the source material; but at the same time we are confident we understand the language of Marvel well enough to add our own humble contributions to this gigantic creative tapestry being created by so many awesome artists and writers. Thankfully we have great partners at Marvel that support us every step of the way!

On a more personal note, I’ve been a fan of Deodato’s work since I was developing as a young artist in Brazil (I still own some of his early independent stuff!). To have a fellow Brazilian create such great work for the major publishers was always a great inspiration for me, and to have him use my own work as inspiration for his art is a great honor!

Marvel.com: And Mike to take a step back, when you’re designing new looks for characters, new costumes, where do you draw your inspiration? 

Mike Deodato: I usually go back to my early influences that include all those great artists from Metal Hurlant magazine, like Moebius, Caza, Druillet and many others.

Marvel.com: Same to you Gabriel but maybe a little deeper, what is your philosophy on translating some of Marvel’s most recognizable characters to the game? What kind of things do you think about before bringing them to Battlerealm?

Gabriel Frizzera: Our philosophy is “Always Look at the Comics.” They are the source and the purest expression of these characters. We aspire to be an extension of the Marvel Universe, not only being authentic to it, but also expanding its reach to new fans. If we do our job right, players who never read a Marvel comic before will be interested in following the stories, and when they do, the experience will be as seamless as possible.
 

Marvel.com: Mike the costume looks a lot more technological than the standard blue and yellow cloth-looking material we’ve seen him wear for so many years. Are there any story implications for the upgrade, or was it based purely on aesthetics?

Mike Deodato: Aesthetics alone, I was just blown away by Kabam’s design.

Marvel.com: High praise indeed! Gabriel can you talk to me a little about Thanos’ “Contest of Champions” design? What was important to keep from Thanos’ original iconic look, and how did you guys make it your own?

Gabriel Frizzera: Thanks Mike! Well we started, as always, picking a favourite version from the comics. We loved Jim Cheung’s Thanos from “Infinity”, and that was our departure point in this case. But as in any character we adapt, we try to make it our own. First I changed the proportions of the body in a very simplified concept piece. That helped us visualize how the character will look in one of our character skeletons (in this case the XL skeleton), which has a bigger torso and arms, and smaller legs and head.

Then I “blockified” some of the details like the hands, muscles and face. The Contest of Champions characters inhabit a “sweet zone” between realism and comic stylization, and for Thanos wasn’t different. Finding the character’s main shapes and details and exaggerating them to make the character even more iconic is one of the things that makes our characters so popular. I also finished out some of the details that sometimes are only implied in comic illustrations, to help the modellers know what’s going on in all angles of the body. Cheung drawings are very “3D” already, so in this case it was not so hard.

Then, our lead character artist Gene Campbell took the concept and pushed to the next level. Our team of 3D modellers are very accomplished in 3D sculpting, so every step of the way the character becomes more and more tangible. Usually at this point I let then add their own interpretation of what makes the character work in 3D, only coming in to course-correct every once in a while if necessary. They’re pretty talented, so that makes my work much easier.

Then the final model comes to life with the textures and materials. The comics can take us only so far in that regard, so we took inspiration from the movies. Thanos’ nice golds and shimmering cosmic metals look very nice in Guardians of the Galaxy, so that was our main reference. But with a twist: we like to bring it all back to comics by stylizing the colors. Every character needs to be recognizable at a glance, and Marvel characters have very iconic 2 or 3 colors schemes. We pay a lot of attention to that.

Marvel.com: Is there anything else we need to know about Thanos’ outfit or the THANOS title dropping on November 16? Mike anything you want to say to the fine folks over at Kabam?

Mike Deodato: Collaborating with Jeff Lemire has been an absolute pleasure and I think it shows in my art. Readers are going to see some of the best work of my career. As for the Kabam folks, thanks a lot for the inspiration, keep up the wonderful work guys!

Marvel.com: Gabriel, how ready are you to go pick up Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato’s new THANOS title and see the team’s outfit in action?

Gabriel Frizzera: Hell yeas! As I said, I’m a big fan of Deodato’s work, and Jeff Lemire is one of my favourite writers out there… his voice is unique and I’ve been following his independent work before I saw his Marvel stuff. His Moon Knight is one of my favorite current books. I can’t wait to see where he takes the Mad Titan! And I just wanted to give a huge shoutout to the team that helped bring Thanos to life in-game: Luke Takeuchi, Melany Hamill, Cuz Parry, Gene Campbell, and Derek Ng-Cummings! Great work gang!

Watch out for Mike and Jeff’s THANOS when it drops on November 16 and stay tuned to Marvel.com for more “Marvel Contest of Champions” news and interviews.