Kirby Krackle (also known as Kirby Dots) is an artistic convention in superhero and science fiction comic books and similar illustrations, in which a field of black, pseudo-fractal images is used to represent negative space around unspecified kinds of energy. Kirby Krackles are typically used in illustrations of explosions, smoke, the blasts from ray guns, "cosmic" energy, and outer space phenomena.
The effect is named after Jack Kirby, the influential comic book artist who created this stylistic device. While the Kirby Krackle in its mature form first appeared in Kirby's work during 1965–1966 (in Fantastic Four and Thor), comics historian Harry Mendryk (of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center) has traced the earliest version of the stylistic device as far back as 1940 to Jack Kirby and Joe Simon's Blue Bolt #5. As Joe Simon was the inker on that comic, he may have been partially responsible for look of the proto-Kirby Krackle. Examples of a transitional form of the Kirby Krackle appear in two of Kirby's stories from the late 1950s: The Man Who Collected Planets from 1957 (pencils and inks by Kirby) and The Negative Man from 1959 (inks attributed to Marvin Stein).
Philosophy professor and author Jeffrey J. Kripal wrote:
For Kirby, the human body is a manifestation or crystallization of finally inexplicable energies—a superbody. [...] What Mesmer called animal magnetism, Reichenbach knew as the blue od, and Reich saw as a radiating blue cosmic orgone becomes in Jack Kirby a trademark energetics signaled by "burst lines" and a unique energy field of black, blobby dots that has come to be affectionately known as the "Kirby Krackle" [...]. The final result was a vision of the human being as a body of frozen energy that, like an atomic bomb, could be released with stunning effects, for good or for evil. These metaphysical energies, I want to suggest constitute the secret Source of Kirby's art.
- Crowder, Craig (2010). "Kirby, Jack". In Booker, M. Keith (ed.). Encyclopedia of Comic Books and Graphic Novels. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. p. 353.
- Foley, Shane (November 2001). "Kracklin' Kirby: Tracing the advent of Kirby Krackle". Jack Kirby Collector. No. 33. Archived from the original on November 30, 2010. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
- Mendryk, Harry (September 3, 2011). "Evolution of Kirby Krackle". Jack Kirby Museum: "Simon and Kirby". Archived from the original on June 4, 2012. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
- Duncan, Randy; Smith, Matthew J. (2010). Icons of the American Comic Book: From Captain America to Wonder Woman: From Captain America to Wonder Woman. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. p. 353. ISBN 9780313357473.
- Scientists Confirm Existence of 'Kirby Krackle'
- Kripal, Jeffrey J. (2011). Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. pp. 286–287. ISBN 9780226453859.