According to Redfern, Bender was a fan of horror and science fiction, and Barker strongly suspected that the MIB story was the product of Bender’s Gothic imagination. In retrospect, that should have been obvious from the first. In They Knew Too Much, Barker introduces Bender in the same breath as the so-called Shaver Mystery, about a spacefaring underground civilization, from Amazing Stories, the pulp magazine, but presented as real. Even while giving play to the imagined conspiracy to suppress the Shaver mystery, Barker hinted that he thought the whole thing was in their heads, fed by sci-fi: “If I were a psychologist, I would probably write a book also about organized science fiction fandom…” Barker came into contact with Bender thanks to the letters column of a science fiction pulp.
Redfern proposes that the imagery of the MIB was drawn from the 1949 Hammer Studios production The Man in Black, in which a cloaked fellow in a black hat serves as a Crypt Keeper-style narrator for a story of an attempt to gaslight an heiress in order to deprive her of her inheritance from her father, who died in a yoga accident. (Yes, a yoga accident.) Redfern finds a parallel between the men in black cloaks and hats to the movie poster of The Man in Black, released in the UK in January of 1950. He compares the image to an undated portrait that Bender made of a MIB.
It should be noted that this imagery is identical to a piece of artwork that Bender himself created and which hung on the wall of his attic-based abode in the early 1950s. The hat is exactly the same, as is the cloak. And, it’s important to note that we don’t often hear of the MIB wearing cloaks. Yet, Bender’s artistic rendition of a MIB was cloaked – just like the one in The Man in Black.
Nor is there anything special about the movie title. Stanley J. Weyman wrote a novel called The Man in Black in 1894, which was reprinted in 1949. “The Man in Black” was a popular name for the Devil, and so appeared in several studies of witchcraft, and presumably pulp stories based thereon. (Lovecraft, for example, referred to Nyarlathotep as the Black Man of New England witches.) Anyway, the name could be found in dozens of sources. As I alluded to above, the cloaked black figure was not unique to the movie but could be found with The Shadow, not to mention various images from Universal’s catalog of horror movies and other crime films. Heck, even the Looney Tunes featured more than one creeper with the same outfit, such as the villainous Bluebeard, who appeared in the 1949 Porky Pig Merrie Melodies short “Bye-Bye, Bluebeard.” More to the point, Hollywood often depicted gangsters and villains in black suits. William Faulkner once explained that he gave a character a black suit to be “symbolical of evil.” It would seem likely that a similar is subconscious symbolism manifested in the case of the MIB.