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    Sep 30, 2015

    What Happens When The Internet Turns You Into A Superhero?

    Meet Shaquille Dent and Nikolas A. Draper-Ivey. After photos of their cosplay went viral, they realized exactly how powerful the nerdy parts of the internet can be.

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    The term "racebending" is often used negatively to refer to studios, publishers, etc., whitewashing a character from a popular comic, manga, or book.

    Paramount Pictures / Via wordpress.com

    But it can also refer to the wonderful world of cosplay, where people of color reimagine their favorite characters as different races.

    Krutika Mallikarjuna / BuzzFeed

    It's a huge thing and it has a lot to do with the way fans are pushing for better representation in TV, movies, comics, and literature!

    Krutika Mallikarjuna / BuzzFeed

    On this week's episode of BuzzFeed's Internet Explorer podcast, we spoke to two young men whose lives changed when their nerdy passions hit the internet in a huge way.

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    Meet Shaquille Dent, or "Black Goku," as the internet dubbed him. Dent started styling his hair to look like Goku, his favorite character from Dragonball Z.

    Shaquille Dent / Facebook

    His photos went viral and gained him worldwide attention. Though, he doesn't consider himself a full-fledged cosplayer — just a dude with anime hair.

    Shaquille Dent / Facebook

    "When I first started doing it, I’m not going to lie — people were shocked,” he told us. But people got used to it. He’s an animation major in art school, and anime has had a big influence on him as an artist.

    For Dent, having hair that garners a few double takes is about more than just liking a cartoon. “I really just want people to express themselves freely,” he advises. “If you feel like you can get outside of your circle and try something different, you should do it."

    And while Dent's journey into the world of internet celebrity is just starting, Nikolas A. Draper-Ivey has been cosplaying as Miles Morales, the new Spider-Man for over a year now.

    Before Draper-Ivey suited up, he was just a normal kid living in Savannah, Georgia. The internet lost its mind, though, when they saw photos of him and how much he looks like he character.

    He unveiled his cosplay right after it was announced that Donald Glover would be voicing an animated version on Disney XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors.

    DISNEY
    NBC

    Draper-Ivey told us that he also thinks his photos might have had a political edge to them, as well. He had parents and teachers messaging him and telling him how much their kids were inspired by him.

    “At the time, there was all this stuff happening in Ferguson, stuff happening with Eric Garner, and all this negative press on people of color. So to see a person of color as a hero, that just did something to people," he said.

    After blowing up, Draper-Ivey said his life changed. He's living in New York and he's building a career as a professional artist. He says he'd love to draw for Marvel someday.

    Sara Pichelli, the designer and co-creator of Miles Morales’ Spider-Man, even knows about his amazing new life as "the internet's Miles Morales." “You’re perfect,” Pichelli wrote on his Facebook.

    He attends conventions as Miles Morales and is slowly meeting all of his favorite artists.

    When we had Draper-Ivey in the office for our podcast he even shared with us this amazingly kick-ass drawing. Seriously, he just, like, did this for fun at the desk.

    BuzzFeed
    Nikolas A. Draper-Ivey

    Even more amazing! When he found out he'd be sharing the episode with Black Goku, he drew him too! "He looks like a character I would've drawn in my work. So I figured, huh.... what if I DID draw him? Really fun," he wrote.

    "You got kids looking up to you," Draper-Ivey said of his new life as the internet's Miles Morales. "You have to set an example. Especially as a person of color, you have to really set an example."

    Can't think of anyone better to wear the Spider-Man mask, to be honest.

    CORRECTION

    Nikolas Draper-Ivey was living in Savannah, Georgia, when he took the Miles Morales cosplay photos. An earlier version misstated the city.

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