Captain America: Civil War was a landmark film for the MCU. Not only was it the culmination to the Captain America trilogy as well to long-running avenger’s plotlines, it was also the formal introduction to Spider-Man and to the Black Panther into MCU. Having to make these characters both fit in with the Marvel universe’s generally grounded aesthetic while also paying tribute to their rich comics history, the pressure to get these characters right was immense. Speaking to IGN, Civil War costume designer, Judianna Makovsky, spoke about how collaboration and insight from other creators at Marvel helped to bring these heroes to life.
“When you work with Marvel and there are all these other movies, you kind of have to collaborate with all these other films, or you know if it’s coming up and you don’t want to make too much of a statement for the next film so that they can do their own thing — particularly, Black Panther,” explained Makovsky to IGN. “So those kinds of costumes I work very closely with Marvel’s visual development team.”
Knowing the general direction they want to go in, such as having Spider-Man take up a more Ditko inspired retro look, gives each film’s creators to have a starting point that they are then able to flesh out. Though the studio gave Makovsky an idea of what they wanted for Civil War, how the characters will appear when they show up in the MCU’s future films is not something she’s made aware of.
“Marvel knows what they want, and they know what the next films are, and I don’t,” she said. “They kind of decide, with visual development and with me, which direction they’re going to go, which image from the comic is the one that they want to continue on. … Sometimes they sketch it, sometimes I sketch it. It’s a very amorphous project.”
Having to maintain some kind of cohesion with all of these various heroes and creators in one universe is no easy task. These films could have very easily have turned out to be a bunch of disjointed insular movies that don’t fit together instead of individual parts that make up a grand cinematic narrative. Much of the reason for Marvel’s clear and consistent vision lays at the feet of head honcho, Kevin Feige.
“The one thing I have to say about Marvel: they know what they want, and that is why these movies are so successful,” Makovsky said. “Kevin Feige has a vision, and he really understands these comic books. He gets it. You can’t argue with that when there is a true vision there.”
Allowing the directors to have their own spin on things in their movies while also making it fit the broader MCU narrative, is part of an immense juggling act. In creating Civil War, The Russo Brother’s lend themselves to a more naturalistic aesthetic that’s less comic-bookie than some of the other superhero offerings. But even bright and colorful characters like Spider-Man are able to fit in and match that particular film’s palette and then seamlessly appear in the next film in the line.
“The directors for each different film, they have a true vision of how to translate that to their film, and also what kind of costumes they want. What is the palette? What is the tone?” said Makovsky. “These characters go from my movie to somebody else’s movie, or their character comes in my movie. Absolutely you collaborate with these other designers and the other films. It’s a very unusual concept. Other films — when you’re not working for Marvel, it doesn’t work that way.”
While the Marvel method of movie making is a bit unorthodox, it’s proven to be wildly successful. The collaboration and coordination of storytellers are what allows the MCU to live and breathe. As for Makovsky, we will next see her work in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.