One of the biggest blockbusters to come out of the ’90s was Men in Black. The sci-fi comedy starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones was an instant success and is still quoted and re-watched today. While most people’s knowledge comes from the four films or maybe even the animated series from 1997, they may not know the true origins. Men in Black originated as a six-issue comic series from Aircel Comics that ran from 1990 to 1991. Marvel Comics eventually bought out Aircel and ran their own MIB series to run alongside the films. While these Marvel-produced comics will be familiar to fans of the films, the original six 90s comics are shockingly different for several reasons.
7. They Weren’t Comedies
Men in Black may be known as a science fiction comedy franchise today, but initially, this wasn’t the case. One look at the original covers, and it is clear the direction the original stories wanted to go in. The series was original to pulp horror magazines such as Tales From The Crypt. The original Men in Black comics from the 90s were dark, unnerving, and often straight cruel. This original run was made for a very niche crowd, and that crowd ate it up. While the series was successful enough to be considered for a movie adaptation, things had to be changed. Had the films kept the same tone, odds are the movie wouldn’t have been nearly as successful, but it is interesting to imagine what could have been.
While the films impacted the pop culture of the late 90s and early 2000s, the Men in Black comics had a far less impact. As mentioned before, the comics were marketed toward a very niche group. The original six issues were destined to become cult classics, just like the pulp horror magazines that inspired them. MIB wasn’t without its fans, as to this day, there is a fan base of the original comics and their fascinating history. Even after shows such as X-Files had aired and were wildly popular, the dark and disturbing world of MIB just couldn’t break into the mainstream. Luckily for the franchise, it was popular enough to warrant a big-screen adaptation.
5. Agent J
The one thing that most people think of when they hear Men in Black is lead Will Smith. In the underrated Independence Day, and in MIB, Smith brought his signature charm and wit to the world of sci-fi comedies. Upon looking at the original comics, fans will quickly realize that the Agent J of the comics is far, far different than the one seen on screen. Outside of a difference in design, J in the comics joins the agency in a different and more sinister way. J in the 90s film has a choice. In the comics, he is in the wrong place at the wrong time and is given an ultimatum. Join the agency or permanently lose all of his memory, not just of MIB. J isn’t as witty and suave as Will Smith, and he is arguably a much better character on screen.
4. Agent K
Tommy Lee Jones‘ K and his gruff demeanor perfectly offset J’s character. While K is hardened and no-nonsense on the outside, the films show that he has a big heart at the end of the day. The K of the comics, on the other hand, is cold-hearted and cruel. He is certainly gruff and mean, but those traits run deep. K is a murderous, cold-blooded man who cares only for the mission. Unlike the film portrayal, little is known about the history of the comic counterpart. Perhaps this is for the best, as the comic interpretation has little redeeming qualities, adding to the dark tone found in the comics.
3. Aliens Aren’t The Only Threat
The Men in Black tagline boasts they are “Protecting the Earth From the Scum of the Universe.” The 90s film is good on this, as it is established that the MIB was founded to protect Earth from aliens looking to start trouble. While aliens are present in the comics, they are far from the only threat or even the biggest. Good on their pulp origins, the Men in Black comics are filled with all sorts of supernatural and otherworldly threats. Anything from demons to ghosts to aliens is dealt with. The 90s comics share more with X-Files than the films in terms of creatures. The agency in the films works with aliens as well as fights them. In the comics, anything non-human is seen as a threat and dealt with accordingly.
2. Extermination Force
If there is one word that can be used to describe the titular Men in Black in the comics, it is deadly. The MIB in the films isn’t afraid to use excessive force, but only when it is necessary. The agency in the comics will shoot first and skip the questioning. Their homicidal tendencies extend past the supernatural, as even human witnesses will be disposed of. While any human witnesses will be neuralized in the films, they are dealt with in a much more sinister way in the comics. In real life, the Men in Black conspiracy involves a group of people using sinister means to keep dirty secrets, which is closer to how they are portrayed in the comics.
One of the most memorable parts of the Men in Black film is the large selection of weapons and gadgets. The weapons used to take out aliens are creative and entertaining to see in a James Bond-esque way. In the comics, the weapons aren’t nearly as creative. The weapons in the comics are simply Earth weapons. The agents use the same kinds of guns one would see Rambo use. This is fitting, as the ultra-violent tone is expanded upon with the use of heavy weapons. When Marvel earned the rights, the 90s comics took on a style much closer to the films, which means the over-the-top alien weapons seen in the films made their way to the page.