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Former Marvel Concept Artist Discusses Why His Creations Of Baby Groot And The Dora Milaje Are So Important To Him - Exclusive

Former Marvel senior visual development artist Anthony Francisco worked on well over a dozen films in the MCU in his nine years with Marvel Studios, including all three volumes of "Guardians of the Galaxy," three "Thor" films, and "Black Panther" and its hotly anticipated sequel, "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever." Add his work on character and scene designs to the first two "Ant-Man" films and its upcoming threequel, as well as "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame," and suddenly it becomes a major dilemma for Francisco to name a favorite.

"I have no real personal favorite," Anthony Francisco told Looper in an exclusive interview. "Everything has its own place in my heart."

That's not to say Francisco doesn't hold some special memories of his MCU work over others, particularly when they have personal attachments, such as his designs of Baby Groot and the Dora Milaje.

Baby Groot and the Dora Milaje have deep meanings for Francisco

Anthony Francisco told Looper that he's proud of his concept artwork on writer-director James Gunn's "Guardians of the Galaxy" because it was his first MCU film. His work on the film and its sequels also has a personal connection. Francisco, who is of Filipino descent, modeled Baby Groot after his young son and worked cultural aspects of the Philippines into the character's design.

Francisco's work on Baby Groot began at the end of the first "Guardians of the Galaxy" film and continued through "Vol. 2" and the upcoming "Vol. 3" as the character continues to grow. "I feel so lucky that I got to work on all the other films and maintain Baby Groot throughout all of his growth," Francisco enthused. "Plus, he's a representation of my son. When I see that Baby Groot running around, I feel like that's him! It has a good place in my heart."

The artist said his design of the Dora Milaje — the fierce group of female warriors in writer-director Ryan Coogler's "Black Panther" — also resonates with him as a person of color. "That was an important film for me because it has a lot of things that prove to the world that a Black superhero can make a billion dollars in a film featuring people of color," Francisco said. "Designing the most badass women warriors is something I really enjoyed, and I took a lot of pride in that. I put a lot of myself in that design."

Breaking down the designs of the Dora Milaje

There's a lot of thought that goes into the design of a character, including the symbolic meaning behind everything Anthony Francisco designs. As such, various aspects of the costume and weapons of the members of the Dora Milaje each have a background.

"Okoye's Dora Milaje uniform is more traditional, so she is more balanced and that is why her design is more symmetrical," Francisco explained. "However, Nakia's Dora Milaje uniform is asymmetrical with round weapons. I also designed it to symbolize that she is not that rigid and open to new ideas and technology."

Even Nakia's shoulder piece, which Francisco said was nicknamed "armadillo armor," has a story behind it. "I wanted to pretend that piece of technology resembled medieval armor because they would go on outreaches across the world and were given it as a gift, and in turn, they made that piece into a knight's armor," Francisco said. "I liked to imagine if Wakanda was the hub of warfare, they also could have influenced the Samurai armor, and this is also why I used that as an inspiration."

The Dora Milaje will be back in "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," which includes another character Francisco designed — the classic Marvel Comics character Namor.

"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" is in theaters on November 11. Anthony Francisco is currently working on his new multimedia project, "Creature Chronicles." Fans can follow his work on his websiteTwitter, and Instagram.