With Men in Black International premiering in June of 2019, the MIB brand is coming back in a bigger way since the film's first release in the late '90s. While most people think of Men in Black as a trilogy of films starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, there is actually a lot more to it. The films are based on a series of comic books (very loosely) and an animated series.
Giving MIB an animated series is par the course for '90s and 2000s television. It seems like every blockbuster got a cartoon. Remember Robocop, Ghostbusters, and Ace Ventura? They all got an animated series. But what sets Men in Black: The Animated Series (MIB: TAS) apart from other animated series' is that MIB: TAS is actually a very fascinating, continuity driven series with a ton of merit that you, dear reader, probably forgot all about.
10. MIB: TAS Is One Long Series
MIB: TAS is a series that ran on WB for four seasons spanning 53 episodes. It was a fairly big success upon release, often drawing in regular viewership from its primary audience. The average animated series would last anywhere between 13 to 26 episodes (depending on if they merited one or two seasons). But four seasons? For a show everyone has seemed to forget about, MIB: TAS is pretty long. It's one episode shorter than the far more beloved Superman: The Animated Series, and it was the same length as Batman Beyond! This should give you an idea of how long the show lasted, which makes the fact that it has fallen out of public memory even odder.
9. Returning Actors
No, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones did not reprise their roles from Men in Black. I would love to see the creators approach Tommy Lee Jones to reprise his role of Agent K for a cartoon, given his notorious reputation as a curmudgeon. But actors from the original film do appear in the series.
Tony Shalhoub reprises his role in the first few episodes as Jeebs, the alien pawn shop keeper whose head blows up and grows back a lot. Vincent D'Onofrio does not reprise his role as Edgar since Edgar is brutally blown up by the end of the original film. However, he does appear as the Edgar bug's brother, as well as the Emperor Worm.
8. Loose Continuity
The continuity between the Men in Black films and MIB: TAS is very loose. They obviously wanted to maintain the dynamic from the original film to appeal to as big an audience as possible. In doing so, they created an alternate continuity where they could be fast and loose with the plot as they went on.
In this continuity, Agent K did not retire, but the events of the prior film still played out fairly similar to how they did in the film — right down to the Edgar Bug being slain and Agent L joining the team (though she would serve as a medical officer until the final season).
7. Tons Of Cameos
If you're familiar with the MIB film franchise, you know that Men in Black has an over-reliance on cameos from the first film to milk the nostalgia of the franchise. If a character appeared in the first film, you're gonna get a cameo from them here.
Frank the Pog? The worms? Agent L? Even dead characters like Edgar? Yup, they all appear at some point or another. Some are even fleshed out into fully developed characters. While Men in Black II may have failed to impress due to its over-reliance on cameos, here the characters are given character.
6. Alien Men In Black
One cool thing about science fiction is that it allows people to really explore the possibilities of imagination. While the original Men in Black did feature a ton of cool and unique aliens, it never did feature alien members of the Men in Black.
However, in this series, you see aliens join the organization. This in and of itself isn't a big deal. It isn't like aliens in the organization make this series some forgotten masterwork nor does it make it revolutionary. However, it does further establish that aliens aren't some monsters that need killing. As Tommy Lee Jones says in the original film: they're just people trying to live their lives. Some do this by joining the equivalent of Planet Earth Border Control.
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5. Surreal Cross-Marketing
MIB: TAS aired during a special time on Kids' WB. It was at the height of the DCAU and Pokémon. In order to cash in on their success, MIB: TAS was advertised alongside such shows, often with cross-promotional material meant to draw viewers into watching multiple shows at one.
So yes, that did mean you got to watch MIB agents talk to Batman. And yes, this is available online for you to look at if you are feeling particularly nostalgic about a show you've probably forgotten all about.
4. It Won An Emmy
Granted, technical achievements are often dismissed when looking at a show's award show wins, but MIB: TAS did win an Emmy Award.
In 2002, the series won the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Sound Editing. This is an achievement worth celebrating for a show that was essentially a cash-grab for a beloved blockbuster. It just shows that, on a technical level, this series was created with the blood, sweat, and tears of many people who rarely get enough credit for their hard work to entertain people.
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3. Original Villains
Let's be clear here: Men in Black the franchise is not known for its villains. Every villain in the films can be best summed up as such: mean alien comes to Earth, wants something, and the Earth will die if the heroes don't stop them.
While the show didn't necessarily deviate from that formula, the villains at least had some original motivations. Two stand-outs are the Queen Bug, the overlord of the Bug race who puts a bounty on Agent J for killing Edgar Bug in the first film. Alpha, a former MIB agent turned rogue, is also doing bad things for some pretty bad reasons. While neither villain is necessarily terrific, they offer enough unique flavor to stand out as a more complex character from the mainstream film antagonists.
2. Recurring Plot Threads
While MIB: TAS is primarily focused on Monster-of-the-Week type conflicts, there are recurring plot threads sprinkled throughout. Most notably, involving Agent K and J's pasts.
While K's past focuses more on his origins as an MIB Agent (which is very different from the origins presented later on in Men in Black 3), J's focus is on his life as an officer before joining MIB. While none of this offers a deep enough dive into their characters, it offers a bit of depth to a forgotten series that, to be fair, could have banked off the success of its diverse alien designs alone.
1. No Complete DVD Release
One reason you probably don't remember this series very well is because it was never given a good release. It took YEARS for even a full season of the show to be released on DVD, despite it being re-syndicated during the 2000s. Even then, season two only got a digital streaming release on Crackle.
But the rest of the show? Radio silence. Maybe if Men in Black: International becomes a hit, they may re-release this forgotten gem of an animated series. But, until then, MIB: TAS will remain a forgotten novelty remembered only as déjà vu and dismissed just as quickly.