One of the most striking things we learned about Black Panther from the teaser trailer that dropped over the weekend is just how vibrant the movie’s costumes are going to be, especially compared to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The people of Wakanda, the Dora Milaje, even Erik Killmonger are all set to look absolutely fantastic in the movie. More importantly, though, Black Panther’s aesthetics are going to prove to be a treasure trove for the black cosplaying community.
For many black comics fans, cosplaying at conventions can be difficult a difficult and at times alienating experience for a variety of different reasons. For starters, there are the people who question the “authenticity” of a person’s cosplay because of the color of their skin. Even more annoyingly, there are folks who insist that a cosplayer is dressed up as the “black version” of a well-known character rather than just the character themselves.
All of that aside, there’s always the undeniable fact that there just aren’t as many well-known black superheroes that have had big-budget cinematic depictions for cosplayers to draw inspiration from.
While there’s no reason that cosplayers shouldn’t be allowed to dress up as whatever character they want, there’s something to be said for being able to see one’s self (or people that look like you) represented on the big screen in such an all-encompassing way.
As Marvel’s first movie with a predominantly black cast, Black Panther has the potential to give fans (and cosplayers) a broad spectrum of characters, personalities, and aesthetics to latch onto in a way that other movies haven’t. Black Panther’s costume designer Ruth E. Carter set out to give Wakanda a look that was both unique and clearly inspired by a number of real-world African cultures. Wakanda’s visual culture, Carter said in an interview with Lenny, is a celebration of the African continent as a whole while also paying specific homages to groups like the Maasai of Southern Kenya and the Suri of Southern Sudan.
With Wakanda, I’m sort of piecing together a puzzle. It’s the puzzle that is our history. Black history didn’t start with slavery or end with the civil-rights movement. I’m trying to put together that puzzle while considering everything that relates to us, including present stuff like the Black Lives Matter campaign.
When we talk about the importance of being able to see ourselves represented on screen, part of what we’re getting at is how the images that we see affect our ability to imagine ourselves in fantastical situations—a fundamental part of being able to enjoy comic books and the movies based on them.
It’s obvious from the deafening buzz of excitement emanating from the internet that people are pumped as hell to see Black Panther. A lot of that has to do with the fact that for the first time in a long time, folks are going to be able to see people like themselves front and center stage saving the day.