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Kirby Dots

"Right, the war. We've been at war with Apokolips since forever and then some. It's had its ups and downs, frankly. (...) Although, I have to admit it... that time also introduced those strange, glowing black dots upon which our society is built. Would you want to live upon a dotless New Genesis? Right, I didn't think you did..."
Highfather, Mightygodking's Remix Comic of Death Of The New Gods issue #1.

Kirby dots are a method of showing a crackle of energy such as a lightning bolt or a Battle Aura. They've been widely used in US superhero comics ever since they were first developed, by influential artist Jack Kirby in the 1960s. Sometimes referred to as 'Kirby Krackle'.

The technique consists of drawing a series of overlapping dots along the edge of the energy effect in question, forming a fractal-like edge. It is used primarily in print comics, but is sometimes replicated in animation by particularly slavish adaptations.

There now exists a CGI tool for automatically creating Kirby Dots, and even animating them. Interestingly, an analogous technique called 'particle emission' is used in Video Game graphics for rendering fire, smoke, clouds and, not surprisingly, energy fields. This is, however, mostly because of technical limitations — it's just really hard and computation intensive to create a polygonal object that changes shape the way fire does. Particle emissions are merely the next best thing.

Not related to a dot named Kirby. Name is used as a Shout-Out by the Nerdrock Band Kirby Krackle.


Examples:

Comic Books
  • Marvel Comics' Sunspot becomes solid black and is surrounded by Kirby Dots when he powers up (originally. Lately, it's dark blue and mostly dotless.) X-Men: Evolution, despite not being a particularly slavish adaptation, especially visually, rendered the dot effect perfectly, much better than you'd think it'd work onscreen. According to the Official Handbook, the dots are his powers affecting the dust around him and turning them black. But yeah, the dots are basically there to offset his otherwise monochromatic and boring design.
  • Alexander Luthor Jr.'s powers tend to rely heavily on this. What they actually are is not elaborated on further than "dimensional abilities."
  • The Pain has used this to represent evil radiation.
  • One issue of Grant Morrison's JLA shows a container marked Kirby Dots in the League's trophy room.
  • The Marvel Apes version of the Watcher gets loaded off a beverage that includes Kirby Dots as an ingredient.
  • Galacta (daughter of Galactus) reveals offhandedly on her Twitter account that mere humans cannot perceive the Power Cosmic where it affects reality, and blanks it out in our minds. She further lampshades that some people call the visual result "Kirby Crackles".
  • The Spider-Man-Human Torch miniseries hung a lampshade on it. In the second issue, Spider-Man and the Torch trade 'beats' to see who has it toughest, and Spidey accompanies the rest of the F4 on a trip to another dimension.
    Spider-Man: AAAAH! Did you see that? The whole world went trippy! And those lights! And what's with the big black dots everywhere?
  • Iron Fist's trademark attack involves charging up his fist with red or golden energy. It just looks wrong whenever it is shown without the Kirby krackle.
  • In DC's New 52, this style of energy seems to be visual shorthand for things that tie into Fourth World stuff especially with OMAC and Earth 2's Al Pratt, characters whose powers are hinted at being consequences of New Gods tech. Perhaps only fitting, as it was Jack Kirby himself who originally created Fourth World and the New Gods.

Film
  • Deliberately invoked in the Disney film Atlantis: The Lost Empire, especially for the massive energy discharges of the mechanoid beast that guards the undersea passage to Atlantis. The director discusses their use and origin by name on the commentary track.

Pinball
  • Done with the playfield art for Black Knight 2000.
  • Appears in the Williams/Bally pinball game Firepower, along with one or two character faces that appear very Kirbyesque. As Jack Kirby isn't known to have been involved in any pinball game artwork, it's suspected that this was a case of plagarism.
  • In Genie, the jinn's manifestation is accompanied by a swarm of Kirby dots.

Video Games

Webcomics

Western Animation
  • Wizards has these from time to time, most visible when Avatar shorts-out Necron 99 after the latter kills Elinore's father. It's very much in keeping with the movie's general worship of countercultural 60's Comics.
  • Ben 10 has a bunch of Kirby Dots against a green background during most of Ben's transformations. Also, the 0 in Ben 10 has a bunch of dots in the middle. This makes sense, as the series was influenced by comics.
  • An episode of Superman: The Animated Series had Supes attacked by an Apokolips war machine with animated Kirby dots on its front panel.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold, being heavily inspired by the Silver Age, features Kirby Dots in several background instances, including Blue Beetle's power-up sequence. It's also very noticeable in the highly Kirby-inspired episode "The Last Bat On Earth!", as well as in Omac's transformation sequence. (Omac, of course, is another Kirby creation.)
  • Shego's energy powers exert this effect in Kim Possible.
  • In the 2003 TMNT series, they did a tribute episode to Jack Kirby, Kirby Dots and all.
  • In The Super Hero Squad Show Ms. Marvel calls Galactus's energy attack a "Kirby Krackle".
  • All over the place in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
    • The Hulk once saw a commercial for Kirby Kibble dog food, containing "Kirby Dots of real beef".
  • The short lived Silver Surfer animated series combined this with Conspicuous CGI with inconsistent effectiveness.

Other
  • Special mention goes to Kirby's renditions of God. See here.
    • Also, Jack Kirby himself in the cover of Comic Book Comics #4 is holding drawing tools glowing with his signature dots.
  • This Silver Age style fanart of Mega Man X contains it as a deliberate homage.
  • Sunspots appear on the surface of stars during periods of intense magnetic activity and appear as (wait for it) a series of dark overlapping dots. They may have been Jack Kirby's inspiration for this particular technique.

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alternative title(s): Kirby Krackle
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