Cosplay is a craze that swept through Japan in the 1990s, and it’s since taken the entire world by storm. In fact, nowadays no comic or sci-fi convention is complete without an army of fans dressed up as their favorite fictional characters. We’d argue that the most impressive and inspiring entries, however, have come from those within the disabled community. And these 20 fans have incorporated their disabilities into their costumes so creatively that they’ve taken cosplay to a whole other level altogether.
20. Iron Merman
A certain sense of ingenuity is needed for cosplay, and this Iron Man/Merman mashup has it in spades. The suit was created by army veteran Ronald S. – a.k.a. Aracknoid 3 – and showcases some amazing craftsmanship and pretty fancy features, including light-up gills.
19. Max Rockatansky
Engineering student Ben Carpenter took inspiration from the opening scenes of Mad Max: Fury Road for this gritty cosplay. Yes, Carpenter – who has muscular atrophy – looks absolutely ferocious as the film’s determined protagonist Max, while his friend Lindsey Benson brilliantly portrays the Warboy Nux.
18. Buzz Lightyear
Reese Davis wasn’t content simply to dress as his favorite character Buzz Lightyear. No, he went so far as to recreate his favorite Toy Story moment. This awesome outfit was developed by his parents’ charity, Walkin’ & Rollin’ Costumes, and incorporates a stunning version of the film’s claw machine.
Another Pixar-influenced design, this WALL-E costume comes courtesy of illustrator Peter Cook, who designed it for his son Jon. And while it looks pretty complicated, the suit is actually deceptively simple: it’s made entirely from paper, glue and poster paint.
Although cosplayers usually dress as their favorite superheroes, Kirsten Passmore prefers the villainous touch, as her Davros, from Doctor Who, costume clearly shows. Moreover, it seems that cosplay enthusiasts share her taste in costumes too, as the sci-fan – who also runs the cosplay website CosAbility – has won multiple awards for her efforts.
Waluigi is lesser known than some more famous Mario Kart characters, but he still holds a place in cosplayer James’ heart. And to this end, his mom Mary helped turn his wheelchair into a full-on kart using the front wheels of a real Powerwheel vehicle suit purchased on Amazon.
Amputee Josh Sundquist has a real sense of humor when it comes to cosplay, and his costumes find hilarious and creative uses for his remaining leg. For example, this flamingo getup sees Sundquist – a Paralympian and motivational speaker – display a heartwarming level of frivolity, as well as some serious upper-body strength.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s one incredibly inventive cosplayer who found a fitting way to pay homage to his hero. This charming Superman suit features a set of fake legs and a billowing cape to give the impression of the Man of Steel in flight.
12. Hiro & Baymax
Reese Davis and Walkin’ & Rollin’ make a welcome return to this list with another awesome Disney-inspired costume. Taking his cue from Big Hero 6, Reese dresses up as the animation’s protagonist Hiro, while his chair is transformed into the lovable robot Baymax.
One of Disney’s most famous princesses, Ariel, gets a stylish new spin with this Little Mermaid-inspired costume. And with her cleverly designed tail and flawless shell bikini, this cosplayer deserves props simply for the sheer amount of glamor she brings to the part.
10. Planet Terror
Many entries on this list feature family-friendly costumes, but this cosplay by amputee Lacey Henderson is definitely not for kids. Inspired by Cherry Darling – the stripper-turned-zombie-killing-hero of Planet Terror – this daring costume is both sexy and smart, and it landed Henderson a promotional job at Comic-Con.
9. King Bob
Anyone who grew up in the ’90s will no-doubt remember Disney’s Recess and its ensemble cast of colorful characters. This fan pays tribute to the playground’s monarch King Bob with a detailed cosplay that shows off every facet of the beloved cartoon creation.
8. Dr. Loveless
While 1999’s Wild Wild West may not be a particularly beloved film, this cosplay based on its villain Dr. Loveless is incredible beyond words. The costume was showcased at 2014’s Florida Supercon, where its steam punk design really set it apart from the rest.
7. Hiccup & Toothless
This How to Train Your Dragon costume was created by Ryan Weimer for his muscular atrophy-afflicted son, and it’s utterly enthralling. Indeed, this Hiccup and Toothless set-up isn’t Weimar’s only experience with cosplay – he also runs the charity Magic Wheelchair, which produces outfits for kids with special needs. And, by the looks of this costume, they do a very good job.
6. Shark Attack
With its bloody make-up and dark humor, this grizzly shark attack costume is definitely not for the faint hearted. This amputee’s costume, however, possesses a genuine sense of fun and is made especially cute by the addition of his younger sister as the offending shark.
5. Stacker Pentecost
Another great costume from Aracknoid 3, this suit of armor takes its inspiration from Pacific Rim’s Stacker Pentecost. And like his Iron Merman creation, this cosplay features exquisite and intricate detail as well as great additions like lights and fluid in the helmet.
Two-year-old Carter didn’t stop at simply dressing up as his hero Batman. No, he went all the way and had his turned into chair into the Batmobile too. But while his bat costume is undeniably great, the wrap-around shades are the pièce de résistance – and make little Carter look oh-too-cool for school.
3. Professor X
X-Men’s Charles Xavier may be an obvious choice for wheelchair-bound cosplayers, but this fan pulls off the character with panache. Furthermore, his decision to mimic the ’90s cartoon version gives him a few extra style points, in our humble opinion.
This snowspeeder costume is the envy of every child on the planet – not least because of its resemblance to The Empire Strikes Back vehicle. Plus, creator Ryan Miller – who built it for his son Jeremy – actually included working blaster cannons that fire glowstick-loaded Nerf darts!
1. Ant-Man and Anthony
Pint-sized superhero Ant-Man and his six-legged friend Anthony were the inspiration for this creative costume, which pays homage to the Marvel character’s 2015 film. Indeed, the suit – yet another fantastic design from Walkin’ & Rollin’ – is so impressive that it even received a shout-out on Twitter from the movie’s director, Peyton Reed.