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Black Panther Cosplay

New York Times

Meet the Black Panther enthusiasts who are challenging cosplay culture inside and outside of their costumes. Story and images for The New York Times. 

“Black cosplayers have had to awkwardly insert ourselves into the canon of science fiction fandom,”

“Black cosplayers have had to awkwardly insert ourselves into the canon of science fiction fandom,”

Said Matthew Miller, 28, shown here simulating a jump inspired by the film “Black Panther.”

Mr. Miller discovered comic books in the early 1990s. “Thanks to my dad and uncles and siblings, I grew up studying and drawing comic books but also watching all the fantasy and fiction movies that I could,” said Mr. Miller, a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California.

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“Black cosplayers have had to awkwardly insert ourselves into the canon of science fiction fandom,”

“Black cosplayers have had to awkwardly insert ourselves into the canon of science fiction fandom,”

he said. “We can now be more confident that we belong.”

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Noah Trotter, 21, a Black Panther enthusiast

Noah Trotter, 21, a Black Panther enthusiast

“This film is a chance to help change the mind-set of the comic and Marvel world that are sometimes racist toward black people,” he said, citing online backlash that he has experienced, including people photoshopping and posting racially charged words and stereotypical imagery about the Black Panther.

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Mr. Dowell has found communities of online African-American cosplayers

Mr. Dowell has found communities of online African-American cosplayers

 “It’s harder for you to be seen when you don’t look like some of the characters that we see in the comic world,” he said. “You take it in stride, but we always put our own black twist on it when we perform and dress-up.”

“It’s harder for you to be seen when you don’t look like some of the characters that we see in the comic world,” he said. “You take it in stride, but we always put our own black twist on it when we perform and dress-up.”

“We’re redefining cosplay because we’re putting our own spin on it,”

“We’re redefining cosplay because we’re putting our own spin on it,”

said Ms. Walker, a Los Angeles native and Black Panther enthusiast who regularly organizes cosplay meet-ups through Facebook groups like Sisterhood of the Mother of Dragons. “We add a swag to nerd culture that wasn’t there.”

Ms. Walker said that the film stood out for its positive portrayal of Wakanda, an African nation that was never colonized by European nations.

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 “We’re celebrating the revolution and the culture right now,” said Tia Kaufman, 26, with Chuk Okafor, 28.

“We’re celebrating the revolution and the culture right now,” said Tia Kaufman, 26, with Chuk Okafor, 28.