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Hellboys and alien symbiotes: San Diego Comic-Con’s best cosplays ever

San Diego Comic-Con is back with a vengeance after a two-year absence, filling a gap that had remained wide open during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many consider Comic-Con the pinnacle of pop culture, and this year will prove the validity of that claim. Indeed, Comic-Con is the place where things happen as people gather to celebrate all things pop culture, from comic books to movies and television and everything in-between.

Part of what makes Comic-Con so legendary is the enthusiasm and anticipation that surrounds it. Fans from around the world come together, showing off their best cosplay in a vibrant and exuberant display of creativity, imagination, and sheer talent. Cosplaying is part of Comic-Con’s very essence, and every attendee knows it. Throughout the years, the famed convention has given us some of the best examples of the art of cosplaying, many of which will surely stand the test of time and become almost as iconic as Comic-Con itself. Read on to see for yourself.

The ultimate seal of approval

Prolific Mexican director Guillermo del Toro loves working with the gifted yet underrated actor and mime artist Doug Jones. Among the many memorable characters Jones has played throughout the years is The Angel of Death in del Toro’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Below, Jones happily poses with a cosplayer dressed as the Angel, giving them his approval in a pretty perfect picture that captures the essence of Comic-Con.

Doug Jones and a cosplayer dressed as the Angel of Death at the 2018 SDCC.
Doug Jones (left) meets with a fan ay 2018 Comic-Con International on July 21, 2018 in San Diego. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)

Open the gates!

The Gate Nothing is Coming features the original creature, The Gate. Forged in alchemy, The Gate can change into solid, liquid, and gas and “consume all matter into oblivion.” The Gate is an original character, and his presence at Comic-Con highlights how important the event is for up-and-coming artists and writers to introduce or showcase their creations.

A cosplayer as the original character The Gate at the 2019 SDCC.
Cosplayer Hex Mortis posrs as The Gate at the 2019 Comic-Con in San Diego. (Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)

Spread your wings and fly

Winged characters are always striking, and Velajuel from Summoners War is no exception. The original Fire Archangel from the action RPG is more on the cute side, but this cosplayer’s take on the character considerably ups the badassery. Walking through the hectic Comic-Con crowds might’ve been hard, but it was probably worth it.

Liam Nelson as Velajuel at the 2018 SDCC.
SLiam Nelson, part of the Howl FX team, poses for photos dressed as Velajuel from Summoners War during the first day of Comic-Con 2018 in San Diego. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

Shape-shifting at the con

It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say Mystique is the best character in the X-Men franchise. She’s duplicitous, complicated, self-serving, and engaging — a femme fatale if there ever was one. Mystique is also a favorite of cosplayers, even if she’s very hard to pull off. This cosplayer not only manages to nail the iconic blue makeup but makes things better by doing a half-and-half, literally bringing Mystique to life.

A female cosplayer as Mystique at the 2018 SDCC.
A cosplayer dressed up as Mystique from X-Men during the 2018 Comic-Con held at the San Diego Convention Center. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)

One big, godly family

The Dragon Ball franchise has been delighting fans for over 30 years, and the anime is still going strong. New characters like the gods Whis, Beerus, and Zeno keep things fresh and fun, reminding fans why the franchise remains so beloved. Here, a quartet of cosplayers captures the whimsy of the DB gods, bringing some welcome anime representation to the Con.

Four cosplayers dressed as Beerus, Zeno, and Whis from Dragon Ball at the 2018 SDCC.
Cosplayers attend Comic-Con 2018 in San Diego dressed as Dragon Ball characters. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/FilmMagic)

Spawn in the house

Arguably the most underappreciated antihero in comic books, Spawn is a favorite of cosplayers. The Hellspawn makes numerous appearances throughout Comic-Con history, but this fan stands out because of his uncanny take on the iconic character. One look at this cosplayer, and you might think he actually came back from Hell!

A cosplayer as Sapwn at the 2015 SDCC.
A fan dressed as Spawn attends Comic-Con 2015 at the San Diego Convention Center. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/FilmMagic)

The absolute power!

Disney villains are infamous for their queer coding, famous for their iconic designs, and fabulous for their songs, style, and all-around panache. The flamboyant yet sinister Jafar remains one of Disney’s best bad guys, memorable for his snake-like scepter, obnoxious red parrot, and mighty magical powers. This cosplayer perfectly blends Jafar’s creepiness with his undeniable flair, and the result would make the real sorcerer proud.

A cosplayer as Jafar from Aladdin at the 2019 SDCC.
A cosplayer dressed as Jafar from Aladdin attends the 2019 Comic-Con in San Diego. (Photo by Quinn P. Smith/Getty Images)

Let there be Carnage!

Venom and Carnage are among Marvel’s most brutally entertaining characters. The duo is often at odds with each other, but their connection is undeniable. As two of Marvel’s most iconic antiheroes, Venom and Carnage are also popular with cosplayers. Case in point, this duo of talented fans chose the two sworn enemies for the special 2021 edition of Comic-Con.

Cosplayers dressed as Venom and Carnage at the 2021 special edition of Comic-Con.
Cosplayers Jason Dieron as Carnage (left) and Justin Smith as Venom pose for photos at 2021 Comic-Con: Special Edition on November 27, 2021, in San Diego. Comic-Con International was not held in 2020 or the summer of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)

Spirited Away to Comic-Con

Spirited Away is quite possibly the greatest anime movie of all time. Timeless and celebrated, the film has a collection of characters that would be instantly recognizable anywhere. However, twin sisters Zeniba and Yubaba are especially notorious, and this cosplay proves it. Everything about this is perfect, from the rings to the dresses to the overly-large heads.

Cosplayers dressed as Zeniba and Yubaba from Spirited Away at the 2019 SDCC.
Cosplayers Chieko as Zeniba (right) and Chihiro as Yubaba from Spirited Away attend the 2019 Comic-Con International in San Diego. (Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)

The crossover we never knew we needed

Mad Max: Fury Road is arguably the best action film of the new millennium. Pokémon is the most successful franchise in entertainment history. Although these two properties have nothing in common, the talented artist Rannie Rodil brought them together by cosplaying as Immortan Joe and wearing Ash Ketchum’s iconic cap. She also incorporates a Pikachu and some Poké Balls into her costume, and the result is pure and beautiful chaos.

Artist Rannie Rodil in a cosplay mas-up of Immortan Joe and Pokémon at the 2016 SDCC.
Artist Rannie Rodil opted for a mash-up of Pokemon and Mad Max: Fury Road at Comic-Con 2016 in San Diego. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)

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