Over the past decade, Marvel and DC’s Cinematic Universes have rapidly expanded and allowed fans to watch as countless iconic heroes and villains made the leap from the pages of their favorite comic books onto the big screen. Some portrayals, like Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, have been universally praised and truly let viewers feel like they were watching a comic come to life before their very eyes. A select few characters, however, didn’t quite work in live-action and left fans disappointed.
Costume designers and make-up artists can work wonders these days, but even Hollywood’s top experts seem to struggle with certain comic book characters. Marvel had to rely heavily on CGI to create Thanos for Avengers: Infinity War, and there’s no way DC could have brought Doomsday to life in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice without some major assistance from technology. If those studios’ massive budgets can’t help create genuine live-action heroes and villains, what hope do cosplayers have when it comes to resembling those same characters?
Comic conventions across the world are filled with dedicated cosplayers who put countless hours into their costumes, and while most prefer to take the easy route and dress like a character they share some physical similarities with, the most talented cosplayers embrace the challenge of making even the most bizarre characters look realistic. Here are 20 Marvel And DC Characters That Are Impossible To Cosplay (But Fans Pulled It Off).
20 MARVEL: THANOS
Josh Brolin has done a fantastic job voicing Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far, but he can’t be fully credited for bringing his character to life. Instead of covering Brolin in purple make-up and finding some way to make his frame significantly larger and more intimidating, Marvel simply covered the actor in motion capture dots and used computer-generated imagery to create the Gauntlet-wielding madman.
This cosplayer didn’t have to resort to those expensive methods to make a convincing Thanos. His custom-made costume allows him to replicate the villain’s height and size, and he looks as much like the Thanos of Marvel Comics as the MCU’s version does. The young Gamora pictured with Thanos makes this cosplay even better.
19 MARVEL: APOCALYPSE
While the last several X-Men films received mostly positive responses from fans, Fox earned a lot of criticism leading up to X-Men: Apocalypse for their treatment of titular supervillain. The Internet was filled with people who thought the character looked more like Ivan Ooze from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie than the Apocalypse of the comics, and cosplayers criticized the studio for resorting to CGI at all.
This Cinema Makeup School cosplay of the first mutant proves that it is apparently possible to bring him to life without help from computer-generated imagery. He has comic Apocalypse’s muscles, costume, and the villain’s classic arm cannon, and looks far more realistic and powerful than the high-budget film’s take on En Sabah Nur.
18 DC: CYBORG
Cyborg is definitely one of the most difficult DC heroes to bring to life through cosplay. Victor Stone was a promising young athlete until an accident destroyed most of his body. His father replaced several parts of his body with machine parts, and it’s not like the average cosplayer has the resources to go out and buy those machine parts (if they even exist) to make their own version of the Justice League’s technological genius.
We’re pretty sure this cosplayer’s costume isn’t actually made of metal, but it certainly looks like it is. Everything from the silver shine of his Cyborg suit, to the design and even his face underneath, perfectly resemble the character we know and love from the comics.
17 MARVEL: MYSTERIO
Spider-Man’s rogues’ gallery is filled with unique villains who would be difficult to cosplay, but Mysterio stands above the rest of the wall-crawler’s adversaries as the one with the most bizarre costumes. When Quentin Beck is off using his mastery of special effects to commit crimes, he likes to don some green checkered spandex and a giant fishbowl helmet.
We’ve gotten to see how Marvel will be adapting Mysterio for their Cinematic Universe in Spider-Man: Far From Home, but this cosplayer’s take on the character is actually much closer to his look in the comics. He’s got Beck’s cape, spandex, and yellow gauntlets, and he’s somehow figured out a way to see through that fishbowl helmet.
16 DC: MAN-BAT
DC has released so many Batman movies over the past decade that just about everyone knows everything there is to know about the Dark Knight, but only the biggest comic book fans know about one of his more obscure and frightening adversaries, Man-Bat. When zoologist Dr. Kirk Langstrom developed an extract which could give humans a bat’s sonar sense and tested it on himself, he transformed into a hideous man-bat hybrid. It affected his sanity and the well-intentioned doctor became the enemy of Gotham’s vigilante protector.
It definitely can’t be easy to dress up as a half-human, half-bat monster, but this cosplayer figured out a way to create freakishly-realistic wings, a pale and muscular torso, and bat-like ears, hair and fangs which will surely frighten kids at every convention he attends.
15 MARVEL: VENOM
Even Sony struggled to bring Venom to life in a way that satisfied fans in Spider-Man 3, so its truly amazing that an artist named Karasu created this realistic and comic-accurate cosplay of the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler’s symbiote adversary. This costume features Venom’s incredibly long tongue, slick black alien skin, and gigantic fangs which stick out of his opened mouth in a manner which suggests he’s ready to hunt for his next meal.
He may not look quite as real as the CGI version seen in Venom, but he’s not too far off. It’s easy to tell just how much time and effort was put into making this costume, and we’re sure the cosplayer receives plenty of attention at conventions for his hard work.
14 MARVEL: NIGHTCRAWLER
Comic conventions are often filled with people dressed as popular X-Men like Cyclops, Jean Grey, Jubilee, and Gambit, but not as many cosplayers jump on the challenge of dressing up like the mutant team’s resident teleporter, Nightcrawler.
Nightcrawler has blue skin, yellow eyes, and white gloves which cover his three fingers on each hand. It’s a look that requires a lot more effort than most of Kurt Wagner’s mutant friends, but this cosplayer took on the challenge. He painted his skin blue, donned gloves that make it look like he has the same finger count as Nightcrawler, dyed his hair and eyebrows blue to resemble Kurt’s fur, and put on some creepy yellow contacts and blue lipstick to complete the likeness.
13 DC: MR. FREEZE
Fans of Batman’s iconic gallery of rogues have plenty of villains to choose from when it comes to cosplaying at their local Comic Con. It’s easy enough to throw on some green spandex and a bowler hat and claim to be The Riddler or wear a leaf-covered corset to become Poison Ivy, but not everyone has the talent to look like Mister Freeze.
This cosplay master looks like a real-life version of the character from Batman the Animated Series. He’s got Victor’s classic freeze ray, uniform, circular red goggles, silver skin and a helmet which helps keep his body at a constantly-icy temperature.
12 MARVEL: ANT-MAN
Anyone can go to a Halloween store and pick up a reasonably priced Ant-Man costume to resemble the fan-favorite MCU character, but it’s far more difficult to make it look like you’re capable of manipulating your size the way the hero can. This family figured out how to accomplish the impossible, though – just gather a group of friends or family members of notably different sizes and make them wear the exact same costume!
This cosplay group actually looks like they’re one Ant-Man who is in the process of altering his size through the use of Pym Particles. It’s a perfect idea for people who want to cosplay with loved ones.
11 MARVEL: HULK
Lou Ferrigno gave fans a live-action Hulk back in the old 1978 Incredible Hulk television series, but the strongest Avenger is more than just a muscular man with painted green skin. The MCU’s version of the Hulk looks far more realistic, but he’s almost entirely CGI. We’d never seen a truly realistic, lifelike version of Bruce Banner’s angry alter-ego until we saw this cosplay.
His muscles look incredibly realistic, and the wearer stands on stilts hidden inside of the costume’s legs which allow him to adopt the Hulk’s incredibly large frame. Marvel Studios should definitely take note, because he may actually look better than the version they use in their films!
10 DC: MARTIAN MANHUNTER
DC’s Arrowverse television shows are all filled with great representations of beloved comic book heroes and villains, but not everyone can afford to spend thousands of dollars on their costumes. This cosplayer’s version of the Martian Manhunter doesn’t look that different from the one we’ve seen on Supergirl, though!
His outfit includes the Justice League member’s cape and uniform, and his mask and make-up skills (assuming, of course, that he’s not really an alien shape-shifter) truly make it look like he came from another planet.
9 MARVEL: ROCKET RACCOON
When Marvel first announced plans for a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, fans expressed some serious doubts about whether it’d be possible for a hero like Rocket Raccoon to fit into the same Cinematic Universe as more realistic characters like Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. The film quickly eliminated those concerns, though, and now Rocket looks perfectly natural fighting alongside the Avengers in trailers for Endgame.
Doubters also didn’t think it would be possible for someone to create a realistic Rocket costume, but this young cosplayer again proved them wrong. He’s the ideal size for the character, his fur and claws look surprisingly real, his uniform perfectly matches Rocket’s, as does his weapon. If Marvel ever needs to cut down their CGI costs, they should call this fan in to play the beloved Guardian.
8 MARVEL: MYSTIQUE
When X-Men villain Mystique isn’t using her mutant shape-shifting abilities to take on the form of someone else, she’s got blue skin, red hair, and piercing yellow eyes. Plenty of cosplayers have donned skin-tight blue spandex and red wigs to adopt Raven Darkholme’s standard look, but few have pulled off a Mystique cosplay which actually makes it look like they’re mid-transformation.
This fan has ingeniously figured out a way to look half like Mystique, and half like an Army general whom she is using her powers to resemble. It’s a brilliant way of showing the iconic antagonist’s abilities in motion, without any help from computer-generated imagery.
7 DC: ATROCITUS
When rogue Manhunters invaded Green Lantern Sector 666, Atrocitus was one of only five beings in the entire sector to escape a tragic fate. He and the other four survivors formed an evil cabal known as the Five Inversions, which was bent on the destruction of the Guardians of the Universe and all who served them. He became a frequent enemy of the Green Lantern, and is one of DC’s spookiest and most formidable villains.
The failed live-action Green Lantern film proved it’s not easy to bring alien Lantern characters to life in a way that satisfies fans of the series, but Senses Cosplay created a uniform and mask which perfectly resembles the antagonist from the comics. Clearly, CGI doesn’t always yield as positive of results as simple costume and crafting skills.
6 MARVEL: HULKBUSTER
Age of Ultron‘s clash between the Hulk and Tony Stark’s massive Hulkbuster was one of the coolest fight sequences in Marvel Cinematic Universe history, but this cosplayer’s real-life version of the Hulkbuster might actually be more impressive.
According to creator Thomas DePetrillo of professional cosplay-building team Extreme Costumes, it stands at a massive 9.5 feet tall, and weighs about 100 pounds. Over 1,600 hours were put into creating it, and we definitely think those were hours well-spent because this Hulkbuster looks just as realistic as the version we saw on the big screen.
5 MARVEL: THE THING
Even though the fan and critical reaction to Fox’s first two Fantastic Four films was mixed, it’s hard to say that they didn’t do all they could when it came to creating the best possible live-action version of The Thing.
When he was exposed to radiation in a cosmic ray storm in space, Ben Grimm’s skin was transformed into a thick, lumpy orange hide, which gradually evolved into a covering of large rocky plates. This fan decided to give up on trying to make that look realistic, and instead transformed himself into what looks more like a life-size action figure of the beloved comic book character. Surprisingly, it works really well.
4 DC: PENGUIN
Danny DeVito did a fantastic job bringing The Penguin to life in Batman Returns, but not everyone is short and squat enough to look like a real-life version of Oswald Cobblepot. Robin Lord Taylor’s take on the character in FOX’s television series Gotham has been widely praised, but since he’s slim and fairly handsome, he doesn’t quite resemble Penguin the way DeVito did.
Both of those stars pale in comparison to cosplayer RJ Haddy here, though, as he looks almost identical to the notorious adversary of the Dark Knight. Everything from his rotten teeth, sharp beak-like nose and sewer-green skin to his monocle, cigar and round frame bring authenticity to this cosplay and make us hope he’ll be cast in the next Batman film.
3 MARVEL: M.O.D.O.K.
Marvel may have recently canceled all of their popular Netflix shows, but that doesn’t mean fans won’t have new television series to look forward to. Hulu and Marvel TV will be partnering on four animated shows based on obscure comic characters, one of which will star Advanced Idea Mechanics’ ridiculous-looking leader, MODOK.
It’s no big surprise that MODOK will be making his Marvel debut in an animated series instead of in a live-action show or film, because he’s basically just a gigantic head in a floating chair. It’s hard to picture him in real life, but this cosplay group did their best to make that happen. He certainly doesn’t look realistic by any means, but he does look identical to the character from the comics.
2 MARVEL: ICEMAN
Shawn Ashmore did an incredible job portraying Bobby Drake in the original X-Men trilogy, but when Iceman changed into his ice form, CGI did most of the work. There’s no way for someone to look like a genuine ice statue, but cosplayer Chris Villain got as close as we think is humanly possible.
With some blueish-silver face paint, matching hair dye and some chunks of make-up to make it look like their skin was freezing over, Chris managed to create a truly icy, superhuman look. Combined with Iceman’s exact X-Men uniform from the film, this cosplay is utterly flawless.
1 DC: HAWKMAN
Some fans may think that so few Hawkman cosplays appear in comic conventions because of the character’s lack of universal popularity compared to other Justice League members like Superman, Wonder Woman or Batman, but it’s actually because he’s just really, really difficult to dress up as.
Outside of his harness, Hawkman is shirtless, so cosplayers need to have a muscular body to do him proper justice. They also have to take the time to create massive feathery wings, which they will then have to deal with as they walk through the crowded convention halls. Luckily, this cosplayer had no problem with any of those issues, and went to Comic-Con with one of the coolest – and most seemingly-impossible – costumes we’ve ever seen.