Cartoon Network and Adult Swim revealed yesterday that their cartoon saga Samurai Jack would be returning to the airwaves after over a decade off the air. The series, which followed a nameless samurai nicknamed “Jack” after he was flung into the future by the demon Aku, was as complete a package as an animated series could be in the early 2000s, with crazy action, gorgeous music, and some of the most iconic names in voice acting tying the whole thing together. Even with heaps of critical acclaim and a small but dedicated fan base, declining ratings led the series to be cancelled in 2004 with a cliffhanger ending and millions of childhood dreams crashed.
In this age of endless reboots, remakes, and reimaginings, Samurai Jack making a comeback seems to be universally agreed upon as a good thing, especially since it’s a continuation of the series and that original creator/executive producer Genndy Tartakovsky is along for the ride once again. We still have some time until 2016, but here’s a few things to know about the series while you’re (re)acquainting yourself.
1. Samurai Jack was voiced by Phil LaMarr
The series prided itself on “show don’t tell” principles when it came to Jack, but when he did speak, one of the most recognizable voices in the industry was behind it: Phil LaMarr. He began his career as Marvin in Pulp Fiction and became a regular on MadTV, but eventually came to voice many of your favorite Black characters, including Green Lantern on Justice League, Hermes Conrad on Futurama, and Static on Static Shock. There’s still no word on whether or not LaMarr will return to voice Jack, but we’d bet that he’s already in negotiations.
2. Will.I.Am. wrote and produced the theme song
That “Wachaw!” will live on in our heads forever. The leader of The Black Eyed Peas had a hand in writing/producing this gem. He also had a hand in making a few songs for Dexter’s Laboratory, also created by Tartakovsky, that found their way onto a compilation album called Dexter’s Laboratory: The Hip-Hop Experiment, which also featured De La Soul, Prince Paul, Phife Dawg, and Coolio. Really.
3. Aku’s original voice actor passed away
Mako Iwamatsu, the Japanese-born actor best known as Akiro the Wizard in the first two Conan the Barbarian movies and Iroh on Avatar: The Last Airbender, passed away from esophageal cancer in 2006. As the series’ main antagonist, Iwamatsu brought a special brand of menace to Aku that the new series will have a hard time replicating. RIP.
4. A comic book continued the series
In 2013, IDW Publishing announced that a Samurai Jack comic series would be coming to shelves, and it actually continued the story of the show by having Jack look for a mystical object called the Rope of Eons. The comic series ran for 20 issues from October 2013 – May 2015, so we’re excited to see if these new episodes are the comic brought to life or a new story altogether.
5. Cartoon Network wanted a Samurai Jack movie
Before Samurai Jack was cancelled, Cartoon Network originally planned to bring Jack to the big screen in 2002, but quickly shelved the idea once the less than stellar box office of The Powerpuff Girls Movie came back. Tartakovsky had tossed around the idea of a TV mini-series and even another movie in 2012, but the projects were all scrapped. A great fan film surfaced on YouTube this past June that you can watch above.
6. Genndy Tartakovsky directed the Hotel Transylvania movies
Aside from Jack and Dexter, Tartakovsky also created the severely underrated Star Wars: Clone Wars shorts and Sym-Bionic Titan. Eventually, he joined up with Sony Pictures Animation to direct the Hotel Transylvania movies, his first two feature-length directorial efforts.