Season 1 of Marvel’s What If…?, which came to a close earlier this week, introduced a wide array of new visual and narrative details into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Being the franchise’s first official animated series, it was safe to assume that it would offer some elements that haven’t quite made their way into live-action, and for eagle-eyed viewers of the season’s final two episodes, that absolutely proved to be the case. In the fighting styles of both Ultron (Ross Marquand) and Uatu The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright), What If…? utilized a visual tactic known as the “Kirby Krackle”, a unique pattern of dots that iconic comic writer and artist Jack Kirby often utilized in his work. Despite other live-action and animated properties adapting Kirby’s work and aesthetic, none have ever really translated the Kirby Krackle into motion — something that series director Bryan Andrews was eager to take on.
“I just wanted to do it forever,” Andrews told ComicBook.com in an exclusive interview. “And then I’ve always been bummed that they haven’t done Kirby Krackle on the live action movies, so I was like, ‘We’re doing it here, guys,’ and everyone was like, “Yay!” I think, now that we’ve done it and it looks amazing, I’m hoping that whatever weird thing that the visual effects people have been avoiding it for [is over] — I don’t know why they would. Come on guys. Bring it, bring it! So we’ll see. Maybe it’s a new era of visual effects.”
The Kirby Krackle originated in Kirby’s work in the 1940s, but really became popular during his work on Fantastic Four, as a way to illustrate high-level threats or significant amounts of damage in the right context. As those who have seen the last two episodes of What If…?’s first season know, the Krackle helped further showcase the immense multiversal power of Ultron and The Watcher, and also just result in some beautiful visuals. According to an interview Andrews gave before the season’s debut, What If…? almost homaged the art of Kirby and fellow Marvel icon Steve Ditko in its animation style, before going into the direction we saw onscreen.
“One of our first thoughts was to go straight-up Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko,” Andrews revealed back in August. “We ended up going in another direction, but we all grew up with those classic panels and compositions—it’s in our brains—so it comes out here and there.”
Season 1 of What If…? is now available to stream in its entirety on Disney+.