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Costume Designer Ruth Carter took to the stage to accept the award, thanking people like director Ryan Coogler, Spike Lee (who gave Carter her start), Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, and long-serving Marvel producer Louis D'Esposito.
"Marvel may have created the first black superhero, but through costume design, we turned him into an African king," she said during her acceptance speech. "Thank you to the Academy, thank you for honoring African royalty, and the empowered way women can look and lead onscreen. Thank you to my crews around the world, who helped bring Wakanda to life ... Adding Vibranium to costumes is very expensive."
To really nail the movie's visual style, Carter and her team were encouraged by the director to take a deep dive into African culture. For instance, the costumes worn by the Dora Milaje (Wakanda's answer to the Secret Service) were inspired by the fashions of the Himba and Ndebele peoples.
"We're trying to explore that through every means of communication," Coogler said in December of 2017. "Through the music. Through the language. Through clothing. Through production design. Through the structures of the building and the color of the walls. And through the ugly stuff, too. Through conflict. Through weapons. It's all those things. We tried to look at both sides, and as you would with any human being or human society."
In the past, Disney's MCU scored nods for Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Most of these were for technical prizes like Best Visual Effects or Best Sound Editing, but none of them ever went the distance and won.
At 20th Century Fox, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Logan also obtained nominations, but did not take home the gold, either. In fact, the last superhero movie to win an Academy Award was the DCEU's Suicide Squad for Best Makeup and Hairstyling at the 89th Oscars.
Black Panther (co-written by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole) is also up for Best Picture, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song.
The MCU film made over $1 billion at the global box office and became a widespread cultural phenomenon, prompting Marvel to greenlight a sequel almost at once. Coogler is returning to both write and direct the Wakandan follow-up.
Another Marvel feature, Sony's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, is up for Best Animated Feature tonight.