When I was a kid, one of the coolest science fiction films that came out in the Nineties was Men in Black, a comedy about secret agents protecting Earth and the human race from the bizarre aliens who walked among them in secret. It was witty, creative, and ultimately knew how to tell a good story of how a young NYPD cop becomes a serious MiB agent.
The Story: Wake Up, Drink Coffee, Fight Aliens, Write Reports, Repeat
This Saturday morning cartoon was set roughly after the events of the original Men in Black movie. We followed Agents K, J, and L on their various missions for the extraterrestrial agency, pitting them against the Bugs, the Fmecks, the Ixions, and the rogue MiB agent Alpha. Occasional filler plots included stories where some bizarre alien custom or technology gets mistaken for something innocuous, resulting in some episode-long side effect like male pregnancy, age regression, developing superpowers, or memory loss.
The Cast: New Designs, New Roles, And New Threats
In departing from the movie, Agent K stays on as J’s mentor and partner, while L gets a redesign and a more stoic personality. Other Agents are revealed in this story, some of them human and some not. Supporting characters like the Worms, Jack Jeebs, and Frank the Pug also get to shine more, even getting their own wacky subplots.
By far, one of the more interesting things about this show was its lineup of new villains. While the Bugs from the original film made a few comebacks, we got a lot more variety in the animated spinoff. My two favorites had to be Alpha (voiced by David Warner), a former MiB agent and K’s mentor who betrayed the agency and seeks to graft alien body parts onto himself in a quest for greater power; and Buzzard (voiced by Sherman Howard), an alien bounty hunter who often runs afoul of the MiB. I liked Alpha because he had David Warner’s voice and was often used as a credible threat to the agency because of his inside knowledge, and I liked Buzzard because, well, he kind of reminded me of the then-silent and badass Boba Fett from Star Wars.
The Style: More Comic Than Cinematic
The animation is pretty good, although I think the style of the show’s title sequence is worth the price of admission alone.
A lot of the main characters have been noticeably redesigned from the way they look in the film, although it’s nothing too jarring for a first-time viewer. And as far as consistency goes, well, it’s more about comedy than continuity.
Final Verdict: A Far Better Sequel Than Men In Black II
As a kid, this animated series was the only sequel I could ask for. It really expanded on the original premise of the film and allowed for both character consistency and growth from the main cast. That’s why I felt sad when I heard that they were releasing a new sequel and bringing Tommy Lee Jones… and are doing it again in 3-D next year. Maybe the third one will be better, but as far as my childhood goes, the animated series will still be the best successor to the original MiB film.
Bibliography: Men in Black: The Series. Executive produced by Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes, Richard Raynis, and Rafael Rosado. Produced by Kim Bass, Duane Capizzi, and Frank Paur. Adelaide Productions. The WB. October 11, 1997 – June 30, 2001.