Interview: Thor: Ragnarok visual development supervisor Andy Park on his Marvel journey and Thor being their “Love Letter To Jack Kirby”

Andy Park is, without a doubt, one of the finest artists and human beings that has walked in the nine realms for the last 20-Years of modern comics, video-games and now cinema.

Andy Park Marvel Concept Artist on Thor: Ragnarok

Starting his career with fellow comic artist Rob Liefeld at Extreme Studios and (then new) Image Comics and working on the Tomb Raider comic series, Andy was given the opportunity that led him to Sony Computer Entertainment and continued his amazing skill-set on the God Of War series of games. In time, that led him down a path towards working with Marvel and Disney.

Andy has been with all of us since The Avengers and moving into the future with Ant-Man and The Wasp and Captain Marvel. Andy’s not slowing down anytime soon. Before he sped up again, I got to chat with Andy about his time working as a Concept Artist and now Visual Development Supervisor for Thor: Ragnarok before its March 7th DVD, Blu-Ray & 4K Blu-Ray Release.

For those of you just in, this is the man that creates his style and vision that helps bring our favourite characters and scenes onto the silver screen that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it today. So, let’s chat!

 All the way from Extreme Studios/Image Comics to the big leagues at Sony Computer Entertainment with God of War and now Marvel and the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, which are now also run by Disney as well. It’s amazing how far you have come.

Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Thor Ragnarok was the last big film you were involved in with your lead Concept Art, I hope this doesn’t sound too mundane, but how? Other than being ridiculously talented, how did you go from comics to the film industry, especially a studio as big as Marvel?

I get that question a lot because it was quite a journey. I got hired by Rob Liefeld from Extreme Studios who is one of the creators of Deadpool. I drew the Tomb Raider for about ten years and during my comic book work, I took a two-year break from comic book career to attend an Art Centre College of Design in Pasadena, California.

That’s where I learned how to paint traditionally using paints, oils, watercolours, and acrylic. It was there where I learned to love doing cool artwork like full paintings. That’s when I went back to the comics and did more Tomb Raider work. After doing that for a while (as a penciler in the comic books just drawing with a pencil for years), I started really missing doing full illustrations. Around that time concept art was becoming a viable, relatively new career. I saw a lot on the internet, I started to really wanna make that leap with concept art. I started to build a portfolio, I had to learn how to paint digitally on my own, eventually I landed my first job in video games for the God of War series.

Hell yeah.

I worked on the God of War video game for about five years, that’s where I met Charlie Wen and Ryan Meinerding. Eventually, Charlie and Ryan got into Marvel, right before The Avengers was starting, Producers Victoria Alonso and Louis D’Esposito decided to give the reigns to Charlie and Ryan to create a team of in-house artists, knowing that they were going to be creating this huge universe of characters, Charlie and Ryan contacted me and I was the first one that they hired for this team. I’ve been working here for the past eight years, since 2010.

That’s incredible, your very own super hero team.

We have about six artists here total. It was a big journey, but I’m living the dream. It’s kind of full circle in a way.

You’re the man. Have you had anything to do with the new God of War at all or is that completely behind you now?

That is behind me, however, they did contact me soon after I finished Avengers. Cory Barlog the director, did contact me to be the art director for the new game, but I have a good gig here at Marvel now!

With your work on Thor: Ragnarok, it must have been so different to previous films that you’ve done in the Thor series, well, In any of them really, the wide range of styles and the bright colour palette! How do you start something like that from scratch? Do you have a general idea of where Taika (Director Taika Waititi) wanted it to go or did this all spawn from your original ideas?

That all came from Taika. That’s the great thing about working on these films, every director has their own flavour. Even though I’m still working for Kevin (Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios), Lou, and Victoria and using the same characters that are in past films, each director has their own vision, their own take on these characters. A Russo Brothers film is very different than a Joss Whedon Avenger. Taika Waititi story is completely different from Alan Taylor’s or Kenneth Branagh’s story.

Taika is very quirky and very funny, if you meet him, he’s always joking nonstop and the cast will never know when he’s actually serious or not. From the get go he really wanted to embrace Jack Kirby more so than any of our other films, even though a lot of them are inspired by Jack Kirby, this one however, Kevin Feige calls it, “Our love letter to Jack Kirby.” We looked at a lot of Jack Kirby, his really bright colours, his clunky more mechanical designs. That’s kind of the direction we’re going as extreme as we can go.

More so when I was designing Hella (the villain played by Cate Blanchett). I was with a lot of different artist throughout the years who have had their own spin on Hella. I’m taking different nods from different artists, then creating my own spin on Hella. Usually, when I’m designing someone like Hella with a big headdress, a lot of times in our job we’re trying to tone it down because you cut a lot of things in a comic that aren’t really realistic in real life. It looks good on a comic book page, so you would think those antlers would probably be something attached to her back, but not to her head. Taika was the one that was like, “No, no, no, I want it to be like the comic, attached to the head.” I designed it that way on her head, not exactly knowing, “Is this going to work?” I wasn’t sure, it’s amazing (How it turned out).

Then, you see what the visual effects supervisor Jake Morrison did along with Taika and all the crew, once they finally take the design that I did and made it real, it worked. That’s the magic of Marvel, they can take these things that you knew from the comic book and it comes to life in a way that just takes your breath away.

That must be incredible for you, seeing your creations come to life on screen. It’s just like a dream come true really. Are we going to be seeing any of your concept art and stuff on the Blu-ray? Do you know anything about the special features?

I don’t, I hope so. A lot of times they do, when they’re talking about things, that’s a good thing about working here. A lot of things that we do in the visual development department, they use our artwork for promotional things, marketing. We always do the San Diego Comic Con posters, we do their art book covers. This is really a special place to work at.

After Thor: Ragnarok, what have you gotten yourself planted into next? Did you have anything to do with the new Black Panther film or what else have you got coming up?

I worked a little bit on Black Panther, but Ryan Menerding lead that film. I did a little bit of stuff on Avengers: Infinity War, but again Ryan Menerding lead that one. The latest films I lead were, Ant-Man and The Wasp and now I’m working on Captain Marvel right now.

Brie Larson looks amazing in that suit already.

Yeah, that one’s really exciting. I’m really excited.

Can I ask if you’re going to get the classic colours out for Captain Marvel’s Suit? Everyone wants to know!

I can’t comment much on that.

That’s a good answer, means I’m asking the right questions.

I’ll just tell you that, people will be happy, fans will be happy.

I think you’ve got a good gig there at Marvel and working under Disney for at least a couple more years ahead.

What’s cool is last year at San Diego Comic Con Rob Liefeld had a twenty-five-year anniversary for Extreme Studios, I went to that panel and we had a dinner and we had a signing. It was really cool that we got to see a lot of our artists that we started off with. I was nineteen years when I got hired by Rob, he’s like, so proud of me, where I’m at now. I’m so proud of him with his success with Deadpool and Capes still coming up. It’s really a cool time.

Thor: Ragnarok is Out Now for Digital HD, March 7th on DVD, Blu-Ray and 4K Blu-Ray.