Comic-Con's Female Cosplayers Taught Everyone A Lesson In Badassery

Photographed by Lani Trock.
A lot went down at Comic-Con over the last several days. More than 100,000 attendees turned downtown San Diego into one giant, nerded-out party. To wit: There were surprise star-studded visits. Fans flipped out over Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool trailer. And general Star Wars hysteria took over.

But as action-packed as the lineup was inside the Convention Center, our favorite part of the event was catching sight of all the badass female cosplayers (that's slang for costume play, FYI) hanging out between panels. We hit the streets to photograph the most wow-worthy looks, and we truly struck gold with the snaps we scored. (When we say the ladies blew the men out of the water with their outrageously cool getups, we really mean it.)

Going one step further, we also chatted with the ladies about cosplay, strong female characters, and more. From Mad Max's Furiosa to the classic Cruella de Vil, ahead is the sickest cosplay you'll ever see.
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Photographed by Lani Trock.
Name: Shannon Kiang
Profession: Student
Costume: Mulan

What do you think makes for a strong female character/superhero?
"Hollywood seems to take the 'strong' identifier a bit too literally and has come out with a slew of one-dimensional warrior ladies and femmes fatales. That's all well and good, but it's also kind of boring. I think viewers are smart enough to be able to tell when a female character is shoehorned into a story purely for the sake of providing some eye candy or being a throwaway romantic interest, instead of actually furthering the plot."

Why did you pick Mulan?
"I chose to cosplay Mulan because she's one of my favorite Disney princesses and because we share a cultural heritage. Mulan is also a prime example of a strong female character: She saved China and brought honor to us all! She is strong in the literal sense (i.e. being a kickass soldier), but she also demonstrates tremendous fortitude, intelligence, and responsibility when she is off the battlefield."

What's your favorite thing about cosplaying?
"I love sewing and crafting, so personally I find that the primary appeal of cosplaying is the opportunity to express my creativity."
2 of 30
Photographed by Lani Trock.
Mulan takes Comic-Con.
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Name: Dorasae Rosario
Profession: Student
Costume: Static Shock

Tell us about your costume.
"Static Shock is one of my favorite comic characters of my childhood. Watching his cartoon show and reading the comics was so inspiring because he was one of the few black superheroes I knew. So I wanted to show my love for him — even if I made a female version — and support the character that inspired me as a kid."

Does cosplaying make you feel more confident and empowered?
"Cosplaying definitely is a very empowering thing! It helps me break out of my shell and cosplay really cool or bizzare characters. Getting to share that with other people is awesome and helps me grow socially as a person."
4 of 30
Photographed by Lani Trock.
All smiles.
5 of 30
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All hail, Thor!
6 of 30
Photographed by Lani Trock.
Names: Ariane Brandt (left) and Bridget Finch
Professions: IT and retail sales
Costumes: Sailor Uranus and Sailor Moon

Tell us about your connection with Sailor Uranus and Sailor Moon.
Brandt: "She is my favorite because she is confident, physically strong, and has a beautiful, mature relationship with her girlfriend, Michiru."

Finch: "Watching Sailor Moon as an adult (in the Japanese version), I really connected with a lot of the themes and characters, especially Sailor Moon herself. She's a little whiny and childish, but she has a really good heart. She gets all of her strength from her emotions and her bonds with her friends, and in the end she would rather fight with love than swords."

What do you think makes for a strong female character?
Brandt: "I think that there's more to a female superhero/heroine than just physical strength — it's being able to rely on themselves and have resourcefulness, confidence, and happiness in being themselves. I think that strong women are something that Western media can learn from Japanese media. While Japanese pop culture does have its problems, there is a much larger percentage of women as title characters, and a lot more comics written for women and girls."

7 of 30
Photographed by Lani Trock.
Strike a pose.
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8 of 30
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Name: Anu Tjarin
Profession: Model
Costume: Kitty Pryde

Why did you pick Kitty Pryde?
"Kitty Pryde and I have a lot in common: We love cats, love showing off our athletic, slim bodies, and we are both blissfully bi."

What's your funniest Comic-Con memory?
"My girlfriend was wearing a very short, sexy miniskirt and posed for a photo with BuzzFeed on an issue against sexual harassment... And she wrote the following on a placard for the photo: 'My eyes are not in my vagina!' We are still laughing over that one today!"

What inspired you to first get into cosplaying?
"I've been cosplaying for about three years now. I first got into cosplay for a big Halloween costume party, and after that I was hooked!"
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Photographed by Lani Trock.
Name: Lua
Profession: Model
Costume: Kida from Atlantis

How long have you been cosplaying?
"I've been cosplaying since 2012. When I went to my first convention back then, I took a bunch of photos with cosplayers and really admired their work. I was really inspired by them, and I wanted to push myself to do it more."

Why is Kida a positive female character?
"She is an incredibly strong female character and really amazing. I picked Kida because a group of my friends decided we would be cosplaying Disney princesses. Although she's not a technical Disney princess, I really loved her character and wanted to do her justice!"
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Photographed by Lani Trock.
Name: Callie Hall (left)
Profession: Diesel-technician trainee
Costume: Shiina from Angel Beats

Why did you pick this costume?
"I chose this character because Shiina is underrated and doesn't get enough limelight in the show. She's strong both physically and mentally, and I admire her."

What inspired you to first get into cosplaying?
"This is only my second time cosplaying. I got into it because when I'm dressed up as that character, I become strong and beautiful and I take on their traits. Cosplaying, in some ways, makes me feel more confident in myself because I don't have to be self-conscious — I practically become the character."
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Photographed by Lani Trock.
Name: Jenny Navin
Profession: Server
Costume: Super Snow White

Tell us about your costume.
"One day, I drew a sketch and just kept thinking, If Snow White were to become a superhero, what would it look like? I just went step by step: What the top would look like, the skirt, shoes, and accessories. It took about a year to find all the clothing and accessories to make Super Snow White come to life."

Why is Snow White a positive female character?
"To me, she is a strong character because she is taking things in her own hands and spreading kindness and happiness to everyone."

What's your favorite part about cosplaying?

"My favorite thing about cosplay is how positive and sweet people are. I love that every cosplayer I meet, I can go to them and ask for advice and they are open and are willing to help. When a con is over, I love looking back at all the people I made smile and laugh, and it makes me take the positivity and put that into my world and pass it around."
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It's all in the details.
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Name: Dallas Deza
Profession: Student
Costume: The Matriarch

Tell us about your costume.
"Veil of Maya is one of my favorite bands, and in their latest album, Matriarch, most songs are named after powerful female characters that the band members found interesting. The theme of powerful women carries on to the album's artwork, which is inspired by Kali the Hindu goddess of destruction. Her costume was elaborate and beautiful, and I loved the album so much I was inspired to re-create the costume myself."

What's your funniest Comic-Con memory?
"Probably when I took a picture with Tom Hiddleston dressed as Loki and didn't realize he wasn't just a cosplayer. I found out a couple days later, and it was pretty embarrassing and funny."
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Photographed by Lani Trock.
Name: Kinley Johnson
Profession: Student
Costume: Captain Marvel

Why did you pick Captain Marvel?
"Carol Danvers is a BOSS. She stands on equal footing with the men, and no one questions her abilities."

What do you think makes for a strong female superhero?
"I think a strong female character is a realistic and relatable one. I think there are a lot of great characters, but all too often we equate strength with masculinity. There needs to be more diverse women, not just the tough badasses. Women who cry, women who wear dresses, moms, etc. I just want some variety! Not all 'strong' characters need to be stoic and one-dimensional."

What's your funniest Comic-Con memory?
"At Dallas Comic-Con this year, a little girl stopped me in the middle of the con floor, sat me down, and made me meet all of her My Little Ponies and learn their names. I spent like 10 minutes on the floor in a Wonder Woman costume playing with plastic horses."

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Photographed by Lani Trock.
Name: Jess Lee
Profession: CEO of Polyvore
Costume: Suu from the manga Clover

Tell us about your connection with Suu.
"I'm a big fan of CLAMP, the group of artists that drew this manga. They often create cyberpunk or fantasy worlds and do beautiful character design. Suu has been locked up in isolation because her powers are dangerous. She escapes with the help of Kazuhiko, the character my husband is cosplaying. Unfortunately, the manga was never finished, so we have no idea what becomes of her character."

Does cosplaying make you feel more confident and/or empowered?
"Cons make me feel a sense of belonging. Even though I might not be dressed as myself, I feel more like myself because I can fully geek out and be myself. Con-goers are a super-friendly and accepting community."

What's your craziest Comic-Con memory?
"Camping out in line overnight for 16 hours to get into the Marvel panel at Hall H. It's like a sleepover with 7,000 of your closest friends. We made new friends and bonded over our shared love of Joss Whedon and the shared misery of being in line for so long."
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Photographed by Lani Trock.
Name: Leigh Edwards
Profession: Nurse
Costume: A stormtrooper

Why did you pick a stormtrooper for your costume today?
"I chose a stormtrooper because while I was growing up, my parents always bought my brother the cool Star Wars figures and toys and they would buy me the 'girly' figures like Princess Leia and Ewoks. I used to sneak my brother's stormtroopers to play with."

What's your favorite thing about cosplaying?
"I love Star Wars and have always wanted to be part of the 501st Legion, which is a charity organization. Their members donate their time to raise money for various charities while wearing their costumes."
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Photographed by Lani Trock.
Names: Nicole DeLoach (left) and Morgan Pratt
Profession: Entertainment-company owners
Costumes: Lady Tremaine, Cinderella's stepmother (left), and Cruella de Vil

What's the story behind your costumes?
DeLoach: "As far as villains go, in my mind she's one of the most evil, because unlike other characters, she's completely human. Her villainy stems from pure, unadulterated self-centeredness and hate."

Pratt: "I have a friend who started a Disney villains group and pretty much told me I was doing Cruella whether I liked it or not. Turns out I did! Also, I'm a cat person, so in a weird and twisted way, it makes sense that I'm the person who wants to make coats out of dogs."

What's your favorite Comic-Con memory?
"Last year, I ended up hanging out with Doc Hammer one on one for a couple hours. He's a writer for The Venture Bros., an Adult Swim show I'm a huge fan of. That's the coolest part about conventions for me: Getting to hang out with these people that you respect and look up to like you just ran into each other at your local bar."
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18 of 30
Photographed by Lani Trock.
Name: Amelia Swedeen
Profession: Story department at a film studio
Costume: Furiosa from Mad Max

How long have you been cosplaying and what inspired you to first get into it?
"My main character, Carol from The Walking Dead, was what inspired me to cosplay seriously. I started cosplaying her in 2012 because no one else was doing her. She's always been my favorite character, so I wanted to see her represented in the fandom."

What do you think makes for a strong female character/superhero?

"I think a 'strong female character' is frequently portrayed as a very attractive woman who has been transposed with typical male-hero traits. But having a hot woman use big guns to kill bad guys doesn't exactly bring them up to par with their male action-hero counterparts. Even when women are portrayed as strong, they're often still very two-dimensional, lacking depth or flaws. And they're more likely to react to the events around them than to proactively engage in the narrative. I love Carol and Furiosa for their autonomy, their growth, and the flaws. They aren't fantasies; they're real people who control their own fates."

Why did you pick this particular costume?
"This was my first day cosplaying Furiosa. She's also the first character I've worked on that isn't Carol. Mad Max combines my two favorite aesthetics: steampunk and post-apocalypse. Furiosa not only has an incredibly cool costume, but she also reminds me very much of Carol. Both characters came from abusive backgrounds and found their inner strength at the darkest points in their lives."
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Photographed by Lani Trock.
Name: Danielle Mamaril
Profession: Student
Costume: Flame Princess

Why is Flame Princess a positive female character?
"One of her greatest qualities is her strong value on honesty and trust, especially after living a life full of lies and misunderstanding."

Does cosplaying make you feel more confident and/or empowered?
"Whenever I cosplay, I feel like a different person, and I am more confident. Normally I'm shy when others take a photo of me, but when I'm in costume, I'll always stop and pose for whoever asks. It's even inspired me to lose a little weight, and that's helped my confidence a lot."

What's your funniest Comic-Con memory?
"I also cosplay Petra Ral from Attack on Titan — spoiler alert: she dies on a tree. One time, when I was dressed and getting lunch with my friends, I wasn't looking where I was going and actually walked into a tree! I felt like a real-life Petra Ral for a bit and actually took a few pics on that same tree because of how amazing that moment was."
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Orange is indeed the new black.
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Name: Al Lu
Profession: Student
Costume: Emma Frost from X-Men

What do you think makes for a strong female character/superhero?
"What makes a strong character is just being yourself, male or female. I'm glad more females are getting into cosplay. I'm a gamer, and I'm noticing a significant increase in women players and women characters. My favorite makers, Supercell, have female characters as their strongest troops. Cosplay is changing, and women are taking over!"

How long have you been cosplaying, and what inspired you to first get into it?
"A few years. I don't want to grow up and want to be a kid forever."

Does cosplaying make you feel more confident and/or empowered?
"I get to pretend I'm a superhero, and what's more empowering than that? Cosplay is fun to me. I can't stop smiling and laughing. Even at home alone, I dress up and run around."
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Photographed by Lani Trock.
Staying in this costume all day takes some serious dedication.
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Name: Andrea Valadez
Profession: Lawyer
Costume: Female Titan Annie Leonhardt

Does cosplaying make you feel more confident and/or empowered?
"It does, because I can be myself without anybody knowing who I am in real life."

What's your funniest Comic-Con memory?
"I got to meet the official master chief, and we were both wearing armors. He told me to eat my veggies so I could grow like him, and I laughed 'cause I can't grow anymore."
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Photographed by Lani Trock.
Name: Leah Rose
Profession: Costume model
Costume: Rogue from X-Men

What do you think makes for a strong female superhero?
"I appreciate the Bechdel Test and the quote from George R.R. Martin that says he writes women so well because he considers women to be people. Facetious and perfect. I do think that there's always room for improvement on the presentation of women in comics and their reception, but if you know where to look, there's a good amount of great characters for/by/about strong women — I recommend Aspen comics. More progress every day!"

What's your favorite part about cosplaying?
"I love the ability to bring people together over a common interest. When you see a fellow cosplayer, you're seeing someone who is creative, talented, and passionate, and it's easy to make new friends knowing that right off the bat."

How long have you been cosplaying, and what inspired you to first get into it?
"I've actually been cosplaying since before I really knew about this entire lifestyle or culture. My parents and grandparents helped little me dress up as Sailor Moon and Pokémon, and I really just never stopped."
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Photographed by Lani Trock.
Name: Melanie Jones (left) and Roanne Manzano
Profession: Administrative Assistant and Engineer
Costumes: Melisandre (left) and a Sand Snake, both from Game of Thrones

Why is Melisandre an admirable character?
Jones: "She has practiced magic for a very long time and is very confident in her powers and visions. She is a firm believer in her faith and truly believes in doing everything for the greater good, even if it means making difficult sacrifices."

What's your favorite thing about cosplaying?
Jones: "My favorite thing about cosplaying is finally wearing my costume at a convention and hearing people say so many nice things about it. I love making the costumes, but I always feel like it's not quite good enough. When people ask to take pictures with me and tell me it looks great, it can be such a confidence boost. It really makes me feel proud of what I've made."

Manzano: "I like it when people tell me I did a good job on my costume because I am not a professional costume maker, and this is just a hobby I enjoy."
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Photographed by Lani Trock.
Name: Christina Drake
Profession: Executive Personal Assistant
Costume: Belle

What do you think makes for a strong female superhero?
"Powerful heroes (or female characters in general) to me are those that not only have strong traits and independence, but also have genuine human flaws. There is so much pressure not to sexualize women that we in a way have also totally lost the character's femininity. Lara Croft, for example, is a male character with a chest I'll never have. I want a character that embodies the complexities I face as a woman. While I am independent, while I'm outgoing, I also need other support and sometimes need to have a good cry. The idea of strength and feminism, true female empowerment, is part of why we love characters like Harley Quinn, Belle, Oracle, Megara, Rouge, and Elsa."

How long have you been cosplaying, and what inspired you to first get into it?
"I have always been a girly geek, but I was not secure enough to get into full cosplay until a year ago. When my partner and I started dating, he really encouraged me to embrace my closet nerd."
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Photographed by Lani Trock.
Name: Lena Frostestad
Profession: Student
Costume: Briar Rose from Sleeping Beauty

What do you think makes for a strong female character?
"I think a strong female character is one who is true to herself. You see strong characters like Katniss Everdeen that others try to use as their pawn, and sometimes it takes some time for her to catch up and choose for herself who she wants to be. Or there's Sansa Stark, who despite all of the horrors she has endured, somehow has survived."

Does cosplaying make you feel more confident or empowered?
"Cosplay definitely makes me feel more confident. I get to feel Katniss' perseverance, Brienne's strength, Anna's optimism, Anastasia's independence, and Black Widow's quiet confidence."
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Photographed by Lani Trock.
Name: Kimberly Balcomio
Profession: Event Planner
Costume: Big Barda from DC comics

Why is Big Barda a positive female character?
"Big Barda is one of the strongest female characters to ever exist in comics, physically and personality-wise. She was raised as a warrior for evil and led a band of ferocious female killers. Eventually, she found the strength to walk away from that and start fighting against evil."

Does cosplaying make you feel more confident and/or empowered?
"Absolutely! For a few hours, I get to put on the image of some of the strongest and most compelling characters in popular culture. Who hasn’t dreamed of having their confidence, power, or impact?"

What's your craziest Comic-Con memory?
"There are so many! I think being painted green for a Hulk cosplay this year was one of the craziest things that I have done! It took about three hours to get painted, and people just went crazy when they saw me."
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Photographed by Lani Trock.
Name: Michelle Mackes
Profession: Corporate trainer
Costume: Lady Deadpool

Why is Lady Deadpool an admirable character?
"I've been reading Deadpool comics for about 10 years now, so when they created the Corp with Wanda Wilson, it was very exciting. Like Deadpool, she's a funny, fast-talking, highly skilled mercenary, but from a universe where everyone is in constant battle and so she needs to be tough. She's actually the Deadpool Corp leader because she's equally skilled but slightly hotter than Deadpool."

What do you think makes for a strong female superhero?

"I think unwavering principles, even in the event of certain death, makes for a strong female hero. I think there are plenty examples of strong female superheros in comic books, but the next step needs to be an increase of those characters in the cinematic universes, since those are marketed more towards our youth."

What's your funniest Comic-Con memory?
"When I walked up to three Deadpools getting their picture taken and they were super-excited I crashed their photo shoot, as they'd never seen a Lady Deadpool. We exchanged information, and it was the beginning of my cosplay life!
"
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Photographed by Lani Trock.
Name: Linda Nguyen
Profession: Designer
Costume: Lady Edward Scissorhands

How long have you been cosplaying, and what inspired you to first get into it?
"I have been cosplaying for five years now. I wanted to make my own costumes because I love designing and creating what's in my head."

Does cosplaying make you feel more confident or empowered?
"Yes, because I can make amazing work. It's not just lingerie that I added bits and pieces of cloth to — it's art!"
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