Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy

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Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy
SpongeBob SquarePants characters
Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy.jpg
Mermaid Man (left) and Barnacle Boy (right)
First appearance"Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy" (1999)
Created byStephen Hillenburg
Voiced by

Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy are fictional characters in the Nickelodeon animated television series SpongeBob SquarePants. Mermaid Man was voiced by Ernest Borgnine from 1999 to his death in 2012, and Barnacle Boy is voiced by Tim Conway. They are a spoof of both Aquaman & Aqualad and Batman & Robin. Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy were created and designed by Stephen Hillenburg. The characters debuted on August 21, 1999 in the series' episode "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy".

Role in SpongeBob SquarePants[edit]

Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy are semi-retired superheroes in the fictional city of Bikini Bottom. Within the show's fictional universe, they are real superheroes. In addition to fighting crime, the duo has been extensively franchised throughout Bikini Bottom, including the television series The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy,[1] a long-running comic book series, trading cards, and kids' meals at the Krusty Krab. Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy currently reside at Shady Shoals Retirement Home. However, their two biggest fans, SpongeBob SquarePants and Patrick Star, convince them to come out of retirement in their first appearance.[1][2]

Mermaid Man[edit]

"What could you possibly describe about the character that has a thing all over his nose like this... and says "EVIL!"

Ernest Borgnine[3]

Mermaid Man is portrayed as a stereotypical elder, and appears to suffer from slight memory loss as he is easily confused by others' behavior, though this also could be partly credited to his hearing loss.[4] As a young adult, Mermaid Man had a muscular, athletic build, but the elderly Mermaid Man is obese and out of shape. As opposed to his sidekick, Barnacle Boy, he is slightly less grouchy and somewhat more tolerant of SpongeBob's ecstatic optimism, but only to a certain extent as SpongeBob's slips or mistakes have triggered serious consequences before in the past, and his partner seems annoyed with Mermaid Man's absentminded tendencies.[5] Despite this, Mermaid Man has maintained some of his abilities as a skilled crime-fighter, though some of them have comically been shifted in a fashion more appropriate with stereotypes commonly associated with his age; however, few of his admirers seem particularly bothered by this. It was revealed that through a series of meticulous and intricate events he and his friend were suddenly equipped with aquatically themed superpowers in their youth, and chose to dedicate their lives to brawling undersea crime as a result (it is implied that the backstory behind the duo's powers as described in Bikini Bottom media was in fact far different from the presumably actual backstory Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy remembered from differing perspectives).[6]

Barnacle Boy[edit]

Barnacle Boy is depicted as being the undercredited and underappreciated younger sidekick of Mermaid Man.[4] Grumpy and slightly ill-tempered, Barnacle Boy is notable for his brooding, moody disposition and exasperation with his partner's absentminded behavior as a result of old age, and even into his golden years, Barnacle Boy is still treated in a juvenile fashion, coddled in an infantile way.[4] He has largely maintained his nondescript slender physique over time. In the video game SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, it is revealed that Barnacle Boy has a son, a daughter-in-law, and four grandchildren which he notes to be his son's "four screaming children".



Series creator Hillenburg described the guest appearances of Borgnine and Conway as "so fantastic." He said "From the very beginning, the first real guest stars were [Ernest] Borgnine and [Tim] Conway[...] When you have a guest artist, you don't know how it's going to turn out. But Borgnine is the most animated guy on the planet."[7]

According to casting supervisor Jennie Monica Hammond, Hillenburg and Derek Drymon, the show's creative director, already knew that they wanted Borgnine and Conway to provide the voices when they were voice casting for Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy. They were on top of the list of actors they wanted to cast, and Hillenburg and Drymon were known to like them from their roles in McHale's Navy. Hillenburg and Drymon directly approached Borgnine and Conway, and the actors both accepted.[8]

Mermaid Man[edit]

A younger Mermaid Man (left) and Barnacle Boy (right)
"My voice cracked when I was giving that "EVIL!"

Ernest Borgnine[9]

On casting the voice for Mermaid Man, Ernest Borgnine's voice cracked when he was giving the "EVIL!" voice. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Borgnine said "By golly! We started something... and we kept it [the voice] in."[9] Borgnine described the voice-over as it is like "stealing money" whereas "your voice becomes the actor... you make that character come alive through your voice."[3]

On July 8, 2012, Borgnine died of kidney failure at the age of 95.[10][11][12][13] Following Borgnine's death, Nickelodeon honored him with a two-hour SpongeBob SquarePants marathon featuring episodes focused upon his character.[14][15]

The young Mermaid Man was voiced by Tom Kenny in the first season episode "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy," and by Adam West in the seventh season episode "Back to the Past."[16][17]

Joe Whyte voiced Mermaid Man for the video games SpongeBob SquarePants: Employee of the Month and SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom.

Joe Alaskey voiced Mermaid Man for the video games SpongeBob SquarePants: Lights, Camera, Pants! and SpongeBob SquarePants: Creature from the Krusty Krab.

The character has appeared on the series in the years since Borgnine's passing, but has been limited to non-speaking roles or portrayals by other characters, most notably SpongeBob.

Barnacle Boy[edit]

Barnacle Boy is voiced by Tim Conway, who co-starred with Borgnine in the sitcom McHale's Navy. In 2010, Burt Ward, together with Adam West as Mermaid Man, guest starred as the young Barnacle Boy in the episode "Back to the Past".[17]

In September 2018, SpongeBob showrunner Vincent Waller confirmed that Conway would not reprise his role as Barnacle Boy again. Waller stated:

Mr.Conway [sic] is having health issues. He came in for the 2nd SB movie and voiced a seagull, but it wasn't easy for him.[18]

As with Mermaid Man, Barnacle Boy's appearances have been reduced to non-speaking roles or portrayal by other characters (generally Patrick Star) since Borgnine's passing.


  1. ^ a b Writers: Paul Tibbitt, Mark O'Hare, Mr. Lawrence (August 21, 1999). "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 1. Episode 6a. Nickelodeon.
  2. ^ Writers: Casey Alexander, Chris Mitchell, Paul Tibbitt (October 7, 2005). "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy VI: The Motion Picture". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 4. Episode 67b. Nickelodeon.
  3. ^ a b "Ernest Borgnine Interview". Archive of American Television. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Writers: C.H. Greenblatt, Kaz, Merriwether Williams (June 1, 2002). "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy V". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 3. Episode 52b. Nickelodeon.
  5. ^ Writers: Chuck Klein, Jay Lender, Mr. Lawrence (April 8, 2000). "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy II". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 1. Episode 20b. Nickelodeon.
  6. ^ Writers: Casey Alexander, Zeus Cervas, Sean Charmatz, Richard Pursel (September 23, 2011). "Mermaid Man Begins". SpongeBob SquarePants. Season 8. Episode 163a. Nickelodeon.
  7. ^ Cavna, Michael (July 14, 2009). "The Interview: 'SpongeBob' Creator Stephen Hillenburg". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  8. ^ Hammond, Jennie Monica (2010). "The Oral History of SpongeBob SquarePants". Hogan's Alley #17. Bull Moose Publishing Corporation. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
  9. ^ a b Day, Patrick Kevin (July 9, 2012). "Ernest Borgnine won a new generation on 'SpongeBob SquarePants'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
  10. ^ Lloyd, Robert (July 9, 2012). "Ernest Borgnine: From Marty to McHale to Mermaid Man". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
  11. ^ "Ernest Borgnine, Voice of Mermaid Man, dead at 95—Watch Clips from His Best Work". Heavy. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
  12. ^ "Ernest Borgnine, of 'Marty' and 'Mermaidman' Fame, Dies at 95". Yahoo! News. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
  13. ^ Duggan, Fearghall (July 9, 2012). "RIP Ernest Borgnine: A Superhero In A Seashell Bra". Sabotage Times. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
  14. ^ Blair, Kevin (July 10, 2012). "Nickelodeon To Honor Ernest Borgnine With Two-Hour 'SpongeBob SquarePants' Marathon". Retrieved May 2, 2013.
  15. ^ Zahed, Ramin (July 10, 2012). "Nick Offers Special Borgnine SpongeBob Tribute". Animartion. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
  16. ^ "Voice Of Mermaid Man". Behind the Voice Actors. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
  17. ^ a b Arrant, Chris (April 7, 2011). "Nickeledon Announces Superhero-Themed "SpongeBob SquarePants" DVD". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved May 3, 2013.
  18. ^

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