Originating in Mayan traditions that weren't erased by Spanish conquest, Calacas are representations of the dead celebrated in Mexican art and holidays, particularly Dia de los Muertos.
If you find yourself in a Mexican-inspired Spirit World, chances are you'll run into these as living skeletons. For them being dead isn't all that bad at all, and in fact is not much different from being alive. Their "lifeblood" is tied to their living descendants' memories of them in the real world. They experience a final death when they are completely forgotten by the living. Until then, death is seen as a natural and joyous part of anyone's life cycle.
They are often depicted in festive colors, playing instruments, and surrounded by leaves and flowers. Calacas iconography in art, facepaint, costumes etc. is also fairly common. These dead can not only dance, they tend to be very good at it, and often play instruments as well.
- In the Harley Quinn solo title, Harley's enemy and later ally Harley Sinn has facial tattoos in a Calaca design.
- Coco: The Calacas are all skeletal, but their design include fully-functioning human eyes and small ornate markings. They are only allowed to venture to the land of the living when their living relatives have their photographs displayed on an altar during Dia De Los Muertos and can take the astral forms of inanimate objects (from food to guitars and clothes) back with them. Living humans that are brought to the afterlife can only be sent back from a blessing of a relative that is already there before sunrise lest they turn into a calaca permanently. Should the memory of them on Earth fade away completely, they themselves fade away into "the final death".
- The Book of Life: All those who have died and have people among the living who remember them live out their afterlives in an endless fiesta in the Land of the Remembered. They are usually white skeletons with colorful designs decorating them, their eyes glowing orange dots in their eye sockets. Should the memory of them fade away completely, they are then sent to the Land of the Forgotten, where they wander aimlessly - their bones blackened with glowing green eyes and markings - before fading away into dust..
- Dia De Muertos: The Calacas are skeletal and have blackened eye sockets. The tiny calacas and the giant one have neither eyeballs nor glowing dots. The other calacas have eyeballs in their blackened sockets. Many, but not all of them have colorful designs on their skulls. There are also horse calacas ridden by the two friends, Jorge and Pedro.
- Rob Zombie, his wife and the rest of the band in the music video "The Life And Times of a Teenage Rock God" wear face-paint that evoke the Calacas look, with Rob and the band dressed like a mariachi band driving in a flower-decorated car with Satan while Sheri Moon Zombie is dressed as Santa Muerte.
- Pathfinder: Two types of Psychopomps are based on Mexican calacas:
- Catrinas take the form of beautiful skeletal women, festively dressed and adorned with floral garlands. They welcome mortals into the afterlife — sometimes after easing a stubborn hanger-on off the mortal coil with a Kiss of Death — and work to ease their transition into the next world.
- Calacas are another type of skeletal psychopomps who, unlike others, deal with the living rather than the dead. Their role is to comfort and counsel those who mourn a fallen loved one, typically by promoting philosophical acceptance of death and through joyous celebration of the departed's life, and especially to discourage them from using necromancy to bring their loved one back. They typically wear formal or festive clothing to hide their skeletal forms and carry ornate guitars, in addition to antique weapons — usually pistols, sometimes sabers — to be used in extremis if all diplomacy fails.
- Grim Fandango depicts the dead as living skeletons. The society they established on the threshold of the true afterlife is equally inspired by the Day of the Dead and Film Noir.
- Guacamelee!: The Big Bad, Carlos Calaca, is a wicked skeleton who has sinister-looking red and gray markings on his skull.
- Overwatch: Sombra and Reaper, the two Mexican/Mexican-American members of the terrorist group Talon, both use calacas-derived imagery in their gear. Health packs and enemies hacked by Sombra display electronic sugar skulls, and she also wears calavera face paint in her Los Muertos skins. As for Reaper, his El Blanco and Mariachi skins replace his standard skull mask with a more elaborate calavera one.
- Super Mario Odyssey: Tostarenans in the Sand Kingdom are colorful skeletons wearing ponchos and sombreros, often seen carrying maracas.
- Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle: Calavera is a boss Rabbid who has his face painted to resemble one of these. He is fought in the spooky World 3.
- In Kingdom of Loathing, Calaveras feature as a variant "Skleton" encountered in South of the Border. They're noted to be ghosts inhabiting a life-sized candy (specifically marzipan) skeleton, a reference to sugar skulls.
- "Ladies and Skeleton", a segment of The Thrilling Adventure Hour "A Halloween Beyond Belief" episode, features Frank and Sadie Doyle confronting a Calaca. Here, the Calaca is described as a monster that kills via Involuntary Dance and, in the past, it killed and has since enslaved the spirit of Frank's first love. His victim gets away and, when it appears to take her back, speaks with a stereotypical accent with rattling noises in the background to suggest the bones. The Calaca can only be killed by a silver bullet. Frank utilizes a previous episode's Chekhov's Gun, literally the gun wielded by famed playwright and werewolf hunter Anton Chekhov, to dispatch it.
- Adventure Time: In "James Baxter the Horse", a skeleton animated by its former owner's angry ghost has a decorated skull.
- El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera: In "The Grave Escape", Manny and Frida end up in the Land of the Dead after a battle with supervillainess Santana of the Dead. With the help of Manny's superhero and super villain ancestors, they make it back to the land of the living and defeat Sartana's army of forgotten dead.
- In ¡Mucha Lucha! calacas visit the living world during day of the dead and return to their own land when they had their fill of food. The problem comes when one of them, a kid named Calavera Muerto, just wants to play videogames and refuses to leave Ricochet's house.