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Kirby Dots

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"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 Crackle'.

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 computationally intensive to create a polygonal object that changes shape the way fire does. Particle emissions are merely the next best thing.


Not to be confused with a dot named Kirby or the Nerdrock Band Kirby Krackle.


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    Comic Books 
  • Special mention goes to Kirby's renditions of God.
  • Jack Kirby himself in the cover of Comic Book Comics #4 is holding drawing tools glowing with his signature crackle.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • Galactus' Power Cosmic is represented with Kirby Crackle, having been first created by Kirby himself. In Silver Surfer (Vol. 8) #14, it's revealed the time-travelling Silver Surfer arbitrarily chose the Power Cosmic's signature to be red with black dots in the memory of his late wife Dawn Greenwood, whose clothing of choice was red with black dots.
    • Galactus' daughter Galacta reveals offhandedly on her Twitter account that mere humans cannot perceive the Power Cosmic where it affects reality and blank it out in their minds. She further lampshades that some people call the visual result "Kirby Dots".
    • The Spider-Man/Human Torch miniseries hangs a lampshade on this trope. 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.
    • New Mutants: Sunspot becomes solid black and is surrounded by Kirby Crackle 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. Officially these particles are referred to In-Universe as "Kirbons" by Nimrod the Greater and the Leader.
  • The DCU:
    • Infinite Crisis: Alexander Luthor Jr.'s powers tend to rely heavily on this. What they actually are is not elaborated on further than "dimensional abilities."
    • In the New 52, this style of energy seems to be visual shorthand for things that tie into Fourth World stuff, especially with O.M.A.C. 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 O.M.A.C., the Fourth World and the New Gods.
    • In Gotham City Garage, a green-and-white Kirby Krackle surrounds Big Barda every time she starts up her cosmic rod.
    • Superman:
    • Shazam! (2012): Billy Batson's costume has Kirby Dots within his lightning bolt Chest Insignia.
    • In JLA Secret Files and Origins, there's a two page story of Zauriel showing the reader around the Watchtower's trophy room. One of the things he shows us — but doesn't explain — is a glass cylinder filled with dots, apparently created by a Professor Kirby.
    • In Legion of Super-Heroes storyline The Great Darkness Saga, swirling masses of black dots surround the Master of Darkness at all times, a subtle hint of his true identity: Jack Kirby's character Darkseid.
  • Norby: In the Norby's Other Secret adaptation, black dots around Norby, showing that he's using his hyperspace teleportation, start showing up in chapter six. Anyone inside the "sphere" of bubbles is taken along with him.
  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe: Marvel USA's reprints of Doctor Who Magazine's comics used these on the cover art.
  • The Adventures of D & A: Kirby Dots show up around the electro-wrench in the third story, when Captain Tim hands it to Adam.

    Fan Works 
  • This Silver Age style fanart of Mega Man X contains it as a deliberate homage.

    Films — 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 '60s Comics.
  • 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. Considering that famously Kirby-influenced Mike Mignola of Hellboy fame worked extensively on developing the art style, it's not surprising for those who know his work.
  • The Emotions in Inside Out all have Kirby Crackle on their skin, which gives them a distinctive grainy texture.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Legend of Everfree: As part of Gloriosa's transformation sequence, there is an effect of black-and-white energy dots rolling over her clothes and turning them into Gaea Everfree's supervillainess costume.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse uses this extensively for its interdimensional portal effects. They are everywhere in scenes taking place when the super-collider is activated, especially in the climactic final battle.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • A rare live-action version of the Kirby Crackle appears in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) whenever the Infinity Gem is used.
    • Thor: Ragnarok, which was released during Kirby's centennial, uses the Crackle more blatantly. Most prominently in portals such as the one Hela first steps out of in her first appearance.
    • Eternals has its own take on Kirby Dots, showing the cosmic energy the titular race uses as being denoted by golden circular patterns.


  • 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 Crackle.
  • The cryogenic machine of Centigrade 37 is adorned with lots of Crackle and Power Glows.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Enclave of the Endlings in Sentinels of the Multiverse is one big love letter to Jack Kirby, so Kirby Dots are shown all over the place, most prominently on Venox, the Last Mubbloxian.

    Video Games 
  • As with every comics trope ever, the Freedom Force games feature this, most notably for the Energy-X that gave the characters their powers.
  • The Power Flight travel power in Champions Online surrounded the character with black Kirby Crackle. There was also the Krackle Aura, whose description explicitly mentions Jack Kirby.
  • Various powers and weapons in DC Universe Online, such as Hand Blasters, use Kirby Crackle.
  • Shortly before it shut down, City of Heroes added an aura that greatly resembled Kirby Crackle, called "Dark Matter".
  • In Marvel: Avengers Alliance, the Agent can acquire a set of Power Armor which grants a Battle Aura of 'bursting' colored dots. Smaller, darker dots hover at the edge of the main aura to suggest this trope.
  • In homage to his creator, Darkseid's Omega Beams in Injustice 2 have a Kirby Crackle effect when they impact.
  • In Tetris Effect, used in almost every stage as part of the particle effects that form some of the environments and entities.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Kirby Krackle