San Diego Comic-Con did not have its usual panel discussions for upcoming movies and shows as the writers’ and actors’ strikes continue.

For many fans, that did not deter them from doing the time-honored tradition of dressing up as their favorite characters.

De Los sent photographer John Gastaldo to capture the joy of POC cosplaying.

A man in an anime costume

Vincent Marquez as Chainsaw Man.

(John Gastaldo / For De Los)

Vincent Marquez

Chainsaw Man

Marquez has been cosplaying for 10 years, and he has “been lurking outside Comic-Con for eight years.”

This was his first year with a pass to the convention.

“[Chainsaw Man] was a lot easier than my other two. First day, I was a Warlock from Destiny, second day I was Issac Clarke from Dead Space,” Marquez said.

“I’ve always cosplayed characters that were not my skin color, like I cosplayed Scorpion from Mortal Kombat, and that character is Japanese … It’s just for the love of the characters that you’re cosplaying as. I don’t really think about race when I cosplay these characters, it’s just for the fun of it, it’s just for the love of the characters too, or the franchise.”

A person dressed as an anime character

Pepi Meneses dressed as Deku from “My Hero Academia.”

(John Gastaldo / For De Los)

Pepi Meneses

Deku from ‘My Hero Academia’

Meneses has been cosplaying for four years.

“I love to be a superhero and how [Deku] learns about everything … he learns how to handle his own power and fails and gets up and fails and gets up. I really like how he becomes a superhero over time,” Meneses said.

Kyle Robles cosplayed as the Great Saiyaman from "Dragon Ball Z."

Kyle Robles cosplayed as the Great Saiyaman from “Dragon Ball Z.”

(John Gastaldo / For De Los)

Kyle Robles

The Great Saiyaman from ‘Dragon Ball Z’

Robles atteneded his first Comic-Con in 2010, when he began cosplaying. This year, he went for a classic anime character.

“My character is one of the main characters that we see in the show. What I like about him is he’s kind of exuberant fun, like an old school superhero kind of character. When I’m here at Comic-Con, it’s kind of fun to see everyone react and get to do poses with them, cause everyone really enjoys the character,” Robles said.

A man dressed as a Power Ranger and a woman in costume

Maurice Cardoza, left, and Jasmine Rodelas came to Comic-Con as a Power Ranger and Fennec Shand from “The Mandalorian.”

(John Gastaldo / For De Los)

Maurice Cardoza and Jasmine Rodelas

Power Ranger and Fennec Shand

For Rodelas, this was her first Comic-Con, while Cardoza was on his second visit to the convention.

“I’m cosplaying as the white Power Ranger. I chose this character because recently the actor Jason David Frank passed away, so it’s kind of to honor him, and it’s also the 30th anniversary of the franchise,” Cardoza said,

“I’m dressed as Fennec Shan; she’s from ‘The Mandalorian.’ I like her because she’s one of the only Asian characters from the Star Wars universe,” Rodelas said. “I’ve always wanted to [cosplay], but then he’s my only nerd friend that I have, so since he started going, I feel comfortable going with him, not alone.”

“It’s important for people of color to cosplay, because we’re in a time where representation matters. So I think we can also inspire younger generations to cosplay as well,” Cardoza said.

“There’s a lot of predominantly white characters in the media. To know that there are characters for me to show up as, and you don’t need to necessarily, but there are characters that look like you,” Rodelas said.

A man and his daughter dressed as Star Wars characters

Alvin Cruz, cosplaying as Obi-Wan Kenobi, right, stands at the ready with daughter Zoey Cruz, who was cosplaying as Rey.

(John Gastaldo / For De Los)

Alvin Cruz

Obi-Wan Kenobi

Cruz has attended Comic-Con for 15 years. This year, he brought his daughter, and they cosplayed as two of their favorite characters from the “Star Wars” franchise, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Rey, respectively.

“I’m a huge Star Wars fan. I have five different Star Wars cosplays at home, but being able to live in that genre, in that movie and just escape into it, and pretend to live in Star Wars is really what drives it,” Cruz said.

“[Cosplay] transcends color and race … Anybody can dress up and be a character in their favorite movie. There’s no judgment.”

A family dressed as Super Mario Bros. characters

The Williams family came to Comic-Con dressed as “Super Mario Bros.” characters. Clockwise from left are Xyah Williams, Kevon Williams Sr., Marissa Wiliams and Kevon “Deuce” Williams.

(John Gastaldo / For De Los)

The Williams family

Super Mario Bros.

Kevon and Marissa Wiliams took their children, Xyah and Duece, to Comic-Con this year, and the family that wanted to emulate was an easy choice.

“My son is a big fan of the [Super Mario Bros.] movie, my daughter too. It spans generations. They loved the movie, so it’s a family affair,” Kevon said.

A man dressed as a spartan warrior

Emmanuel McConnell in cosplay as a spartan warrior.

(John Gastaldo / For De Los)

Emmanuel McConnell

Spartan warrior

McConnell says he began cosplaying in 2014 and started to attend Comic-Con in 2018.

“There’s a community of people that are like next-level game, and I want to be able to see what I can learn and experience from that and take part,” McConnell said.

“I’m an artist, and my artist name is ‘Spartan Artist.’ I do Spartan races and things of that nature, then I cosplay the characters that I draw; they’re usually warriors and hero types.”

“Cosplay is good for embracing self-expression,” McConnell said. “To dress up like a fool and be out in the things that you love, that takes a lot of courage, and that as an artist, if you’re able to have that courage, then there’s a lot of things that fear doesn’t hold you back from.

“I think that’s something that’s important for everyone to embrace, and there’s a lot of African Americans that are afraid to step into that light just for fear of judgment. I think it’s worth it, even if it’s just for a little bit, to try and get the experience and then kind of see what confidence in yourself gets pulled in because you’re also stepping outside of yourself when you cosplay, and just being the version of yourself that you want to be. It’s a good experience for everyone.”

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