HomeGrown: Lowell Cunningham, creator of 'Men in Black' comic series

2:35 AM, Jul 11, 2012   |    comments
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Before "Men in Black" Agents K and J "neurolized" the world on the big screen, they policed paranormal activity on Lowell Cunningham's comic book pages.

"I'm lucky," said Cunningham, "I got up to bat and hit a home run the first time!"

His talent dates back to childhood in Middle Tennessee.

"My father was the first of 12 kids to graduate from college and he encouraged me to read. I don't think comics were his favorite thing, but he never took them away from me."

That passion moved with Cunningham to college at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

"I can't say I had planned specifically to do comics. I had an interest in television and movies, but living here in Knoxville, it's far away from Hollywood."

But it was Knoxville where he first learned about UFO folklore.

"My friend Dennis and I were passing through Fort Sanders and a large black car drove by and he just looked over and said, 'That looks like what the men and black would drive.' And, it just really struck a chord. I was fascinated and got him to share the folklore that goes back decades if not even further."

It inspired him to create the comic book series, "Men in Black."

"Men in Black" is the first work I actually got paid for."

Cunningham produced six issues of "Men in Black." Just as interest was fading, Hollywood called.

"I realized "Men in Black" was going to be a big movie my first meeting in Hollywood when they rattled off the first list of people they were considering for the roles."

Cunningham spent a month in Los Angeles on set with actors Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. He even landed a cameo.

"I'm one of the short sleeve 'Men in Black'- the office worker."

"There are some iconic scenes in my comic that show up in the movies. The scene where Agent K will go and have a trunk full of weapons. The scene where the farmer confronts the aliens with the shotgun."

And of course, Cunningham's creation, the "neurolizer."

"The neurolizer is the device that lets them rewrite people's memories."

Sequels followed including the newest release, "Men in Black 3."

"I've been able to be semi-retired since the movie came out."

He does still dabble in movie making with Star Wars Parodies. And, Cunningham just published a new comic called, "Jack Ooze."

"It's kind of funny to think about the future because I'm actually living the future that I had aimed for."

Lowell Cunningham, born in Franklin.

This is where my friends and family are now. I don't think I'd want to leave that behind.

HomeGrown in Tennessee.

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