Before Thunderbolts gets underway and audiences learn even more about Alexei Shostakov, Marvel Studios shared what Red Guardian could've looked like upon his debut and which designs were abandoned.
10 Rejected Red Guardian Costume Designs
Marvel's Black Widow: The Art of the Movie included the following rejected concepts for the Red Guardian and his suit from this MCU blockbuster, along with additional commentary.
The book describes Harbour's Alexei Shostakov as "living off past glories" and "consumed by a one-sided rivalry" with Captain America, and that's certainly present in his early suit designs.
The first piece of artwork shows Red Guardian sporting a more subtle and functional suit than what audiences see in Black Widow, evoking Captain America's latter Infinity Saga looks.
Although it's red, the next design has Red Guardian's signature star against a dominant black palette.
The star is much bigger and bolder in this next image, likely to highlight Red Guardian's parallel with Captain America.
Note the hammer and sickle detail on his belt and the retro sci-fi inspirations for his helmet.
The next piece of concept artwork with its bold red and white colors is much closer to what audiences see Harbour wear in the film.
Harbour shared his own thoughts on Red Guardian, and possible inspirations for his suit, in the Marvel Studios book, saying:
“The great thing and the tragic thing to me about Alexei is that he gets in his own way a little bit. He’s got some problems. He didn’t become as famous as Captain America. Nobody really knows who he is. It’s the great tragedy of his life. He feels very underappreciated.”
In keeping with the Steve Rogers comparisons, Marvel also considered the following design which has similar vibes to Cap's Stealth Suit while still fitting with Black Widow's spy genre.
While the shield is a massive departure from the traditional circle and star, again, this suit is more in-line with what Red Guardian wears on-screen.
Harbour apparently enjoyed wearing the suit, even though it was intended to be a bit snug, calling it "beautiful" and confessing he thought he was "cool as a cucumber:"
“I think it’s beautiful. Like, I thought I was cool as a cucumber. Having a super suit - I mean, it is fun.”
This next batch of Red Guardian artwork consists of sketches and appears to focus on different ideas for his helmet and iconography.
Marvel's Black Widow: The Art of the Movie acknowledged that while Harbour's character was Russia's answer to Cap, the Red Guardian's suit is overall more utilitarian.
Harbour commented on this difference himself, pointing out his suit's "bulky clunkiness" and how it's not "quite as slick:"
“Captain America suits in the movies are pretty slick. But there’s a little bit of a bulky clunkiness to this one. It’s not quite as tactical, not quite as slick."
Harbour also highlighted the Red Guardian's helmet, which clearly went through multiple incarnations.
According to the actor, the Red Guardian's final helmet is "basically a football helmet:"
"His helmet is just basically a football helmet that he carries around, shoves on, and goes in for a fight. And I love that. So it’s very practical--and it’s beautiful.”
The Red Guardian's Thunderbolts Suit?
It's always fascinating to see Marvel Studios' original ideas for a character's design and the evolution towards what audiences eventually see on screen.
David Harbour's Red Guardian is particularly interesting since he needed to balance both Russian and Captain America influences, while also still having an outdated, and even outlandish, bit of flair.
It also looks like some of these early designs may find new life in the Thunderbolts as concept art for the film shows Red Guardian in a different suit and one that's dominantly red and black.
Perhaps a red and white Russian suit isn't the best choice when working for the U.S. Government?
It will be interesting to see how Alexei parts with his beloved Red Guardian suit while still finding a way to reflect his own unique style come 2024.
Black Widow is available to stream on Disney+; Thunderbolts arrives in theaters on July 26, 2024.