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SDCC cosplay: The very best Comic-Con costumes from years past

Join us as we look back at the hottest cosplay we saw at San Diego Comic-Con over the last three years, from Harley Quinn to Hulkbuster, Davy Jones and Miles Morales.

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Tania González
1 of 41 Tania González/CNET

Avengers, assemble!

After four consecutive years of photographing cosplayers at San Diego Comic-Con, this will be my first year missing the opportunity to capture the creativity at the biggest comics convention in the world. In person at least. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, SDCC is all virtual this year

No doubt some cosplayers will still dress up at home, but there's nothing like seeing the incredible costumes up close. Here, I take a look back and highlight some of the standouts.

Let's start with this action shot from Marvel cosplayers during last year's Avengers photoshoot. We spent several hours together getting action shots. You can check out the full gallery here.

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Hulkbuster

Daniel Trevizo spent six months making this Hulkbuster from Infinity War. It's made out of high-density foam and PVC pipe. It was quite impressive to see him walking around, and even lifting his hand. 

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Miles Morales

Miles Morales is one of my favorite characters, and this 2019 cosplay from @Blackgokou is still one of my favorites. He definitely gets extra kudos for practicing his Spanish with me as he posed. (I grew up in Mexico.) 

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Star-Lord

@starlord_rulez had Peter Jason Quill down to a tee in 2019, with details like the Walkman, the boots and the overall Star-Lord moves.

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Doctor Strange

Christopher Gauntt's Doctor Strange costume in 2019 was highly detailed, but he added to the realism by practicing his moves. 

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Valkyrie from God of War

This costume took three months to prepare, and the cosplayer says the most fun part was making the feathers. You can appreciate all the details that made this a highlight of our 2019 cosplay coverage

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Fauno from Pan's Labyrinth

One of the best events to photograph during Comic-Con is the Masquerade, a cosplay contest that's a staple of the convention. The participants commit to very complex projects that bring favorite characters to life.

Let's start with Leah Thomas, a contestant at 2018's Masquerade. She made this impressive Fauno from Pan's Labyrinth, and seeing her walking around was out of this world. 

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Hawk Girl from Armored Vigil

Check out these incredible mechanical wings made by Julia Fields, with help from Chris Muise, for San Diego Comic-Con 2018.

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Labyrinth

I started hearing David Bowie's voice in my head when contestants Liz Todd and Heidi Schilling took the stage at the 2018 Comic-Con Masquerade. The details in both of these costumes were highly impressive and got them the Best In Show award. 

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Davy Jones

This jaw-dropping Davy Jones costume was designed and worn by Mexican cosplayer Jose Davalos in 2018. I highly recommend taking a look at this closeup of the face.

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Lumiere

Jose Davalos, aka Joo Skellington, has been very successful in the world of cosplay. Back in 2017, I got to photograph his Rococo version of Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast.

You can take a deep dive on his Instagram.

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Dude Vader!

If you're a Comic-Con regular, you probably recognize Dude Vader and his creativity. This photo is from 2018.

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Check out that helmet!

Last year, Dude Vader made a costume rendition to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

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Mil Máscaras

This cosplayer shows up every year to bring some "luchador," or Mexican wrestling, magic to Comic-Con. In 2017, he showed up as Mil Máscaras.

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El Santo

In 2018, I loved his version of El Santo, the most famous Mexican wrestler in history.

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Princess Leia

This is a picture from our Comic-Con 2017 cosplay coverage and her rendition of Princess Leia is still find it one of my favorites.

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17 of 41 Tania González/CNET

Harley Quinn

And the best classic Harley goes to @enasnivee

Harley Quinn has been one of the most popular costume since I started taking pictures at SDCC. And last year, I finally participated in the Harleypalooza photoshoot. I enjoyed the creativity and fun group shots.  

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Excelsior!

This cosplayer took a brief moment to pose for me last year. The best Stan Lee I've seen in four years. 

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Sokka, Aang and Appa

I think this Sokka was cosplaying as a fire bender, maybe? Let me know if you agree by tweeting me @taniaglezaz.

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Snow White

Looking back at the best cosplay from SDCC 2017, I found this amazing Snow White.

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Doctor Emmet has a message

Yes, Doctor Emmett Brown was walking around the San Diego Convention Center back in 2018, and caught the attention of Optimus Prime.

Check out more about this cosplayer at the hashtag #DocToTheFuture.

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Yondu meets Stormtrooper

I'm a big fan of cosplay that blends different universes, and this Yondu Stormtrooper from 2018 was right on point.

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Toga Himiko

It took cosplayer @toxicmelon a week to decide to finish up her take on Toga Himiko from My Hero Academia. The most challenging part of her costume for SDCC 2019 was the teeth. 

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Sub-Zero

The heat did not affect the coolness of this gender-bent Sub-Zero back in 2017.

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It

This was a hard picture to take because I am honestly scared of clowns and the one from the movie It is definitely the very worst of them all. 

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Pennywise gender bend

Cosplayer @clobbersmash showcased an impressive Pennywise from It Chapter 2, which got a new trailer at Comic-Con 2019.

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A very colorful Stormtrooper

I'm not sure what Vader would think of this, but I loved this colorful Stormtrooper from 2017. 

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Ahsoka Tano

Candice Dunlap crocheted her entire outfit -- lightsaber included -- and it took her six months. I took her photo right before the start of the 2017 edition of the Her Universe Fashion Show.

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Flash

Barry Allen posed for a few seconds back in 2017.

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Steampunk Tinker Bell

This cosplayer made her own costume for SDCC 2018 with help from her dad. Go dad! She designed the wings with her father and used a laser cutter to make them. 

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Sparta!

These guys transported me to the 300 movie, and of course I took a picture with them. It was the most liked picture of my SDCC coverage in 2018.

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Captain Phasma

That's an impressive piece of armor spotted at Comic-Con 2018. 

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Thor

Thor from Ragnarok was a fan favorite back in 2018. 

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Who you gonna call?

Back in 2018, The Ghostbusters seemed pretty busy chasing ghosts around downtown San Diego.

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Carl

Don't you love that makeup? This gender-bent Carl from The Walking Dead at Comic-Con 2018 was very impressive. Gotta love the commitment to the character.

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Cowabunga!

Leonardo, Mikey, Raphael and Donatello made an  appearance at SDCC 2018.

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Dumbledore

This is the best Dumbledore we saw at Comic-Con 2018, and it still the best one we've seen.

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Queen Cersei

A regal pose by the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Beautiful embroidery on her shoulders and back, created by Casterly Fox.

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Not today!

Last year, I had a lot of fun taking this shot that reenacts the Night King's death at Arya's hand on Game of Thrones. But first we had to do the sneak attack. Arya by @selunari.

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Daenerys and Viserys Targaryen

Game of Thrones fans gathered at San Diego Comic-Con 2019 not only to have fun taking pictures, but to re-create some of the most iconic scenes from the hit HBO show.

And we have to talk about Viserys (@jhampshire7) . This cosplayer's creativity took me right back to one of the most dramatic scenes of season 1, when Viserys Targaryen gets an unconventional golden crown.

The beautiful Daenerys cosplay is by @eiraina.

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Olenna Tyrell

The matriarch of House Tyrell also made it to San Diego Comic-Con 2019.

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