This weekend we get the latest installment in the “Men in Black” movies, and I’m looking forward to seeing Josh Brolin’s take on a young Tommy Lee Jones. But let us never forget that Will Smith and Co. are not the only men in black to come down the pop culture pike. Feast your eyes on these guys.
Give it up for Lord Vader, the tragic centerpiece of the “Star Wars” mythology. Voiced by the immensely talented James Earl Jones, Vader is a villain for the ages.
Zorro, the heroic alter ego of Don Diego de la Vega, has been rocking the black hat and mask for generations. From Douglas Fairbanks and Tyrone Power to Antonio Banderas and the ever popular Duncan Regehr, there’s been a Zorro for just about every era.
“THE MATRIX” CREW
For all the cutting edge technology and funky spirituality at the heart of “The Matrix,” it’s also undeniable that part of the fun of the original film is seeing Morpheus, Neo and Trinity in their black-clad personas. “The Matrix” is sort of like the coolest clothing store ever.
What kind of guy would tie a pretty girl to a railroad track? Snidely Whiplash, of course. He was the gleefully evil counterpoint to Dudley Do-Right on the old Bullwinkle show. Part of the reason he was so memorable is because he was voiced by the terrific Hans Conreid.
Nobody looked more natural in a black tuxedo than Dino. He had a masterful ease and assurance, whether he was singing with Sinatra, clowning with Jerry Lewis or pretending he was hammered on TV.
Lots of comedians wear black, but Richard Lewis takes it to another level. Black is the perfect manifestation for his neurotic style of comedy and it brands him better than any catch-phrase. He’s a gem in a black jacket.
THE GRIM REAPER
You may also know him as Death. He’s a grim symbol of our impending date with…something, and he finds his way into everything from Charles Dickens to “Family Guy.”
Here’s another man in black from the “Rocky and Bullwinkle” stable. Bumbling spy Boris Badenov is hilarious, especially when he’s outsmarted by “Moose and Squirrel.” He’s actually charming in his badness.
RICHARD BOONE AS PALADIN
Few are likely to remember Richard Boone as the gunslinger Paladin on TV’s “Have Gun – Will Travel,” but he was wonderful. Boone’s character was a highly-educated, Shakespeare-quoting gun for hire who made the black outfit a statement in style and menace.
THE MAN IN BLACK FROM “THE PRINCESS BRIDE”
Here, the “Man in Black” is a Zorro-like character intended to instill fear by reputation, as well as physical prowess. Cary Elwes played him to perfection in one of the sweetest films of all time.
THE MAN IN BLACK FROM “LOST”
Sweet is not a word to describe Titus Welliver’s character on TV’s “Lost.” Welliver’s ancient, angry “Man in Black” is the malevolent force riding roughshod over that crazy island.
My apologies to those reading through this entire list thinking, “Where’s Cash? He’s got to include Cash, right?” In a word, yes. Johnny Cash is my favorite man in black. His scowl was black, his sneer was black, and often his songs were tinged with a darkness fueled by anger, passion or pain.
Those are my picks. Who are some of your favorite men in black?