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Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy

Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy are fictional characters in the American animated television series SpongeBob SquarePants. They were respectively voiced by guest stars Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway, who both previously starred in the 1960s sitcom McHale's Navy. Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy first appeared in the eponymous season one episode that premiered on August 21, 1999, and have since been featured as recurring characters. Following Borgnine's death in 2012, Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy were reduced to non-speaking roles.

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)
Last appearance"Man Ray Returns" (2017)
Created byStephen Hillenburg
Voiced byMermaid Man:
Barnacle Boy:

Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy are two elderly superheroes who live in a retirement home and are stars of SpongeBob and Patrick's favorite television show. Mermaid Man appears to suffer from memory loss and yells a prolonged "evil!" whenever he hears the word, while Barnacle Boy seems to be the more sensible and more irritable of the two. They are among the few humans who can breathe underwater and speak to the inhabitants of Bikini Bottom.

Role in SpongeBob SquarePantsEdit

Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy are semi-retired superheroes in the fictional city of Bikini Bottom. They are among the few humans who can breathe underwater and speak to the inhabitants 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 ManEdit

"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 stereotypically senile 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. The episode "Mermaid Man Begins" reveals 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 BoyEdit

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] In his later years, he slightly resembles Squidward Tentacles. He has largely maintained his nondescript slender physique over time. In the video game SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, Barnacle Boy has a son, a daughter-in-law, and four grandchildren which he notes to be his son's "four screaming children".


An early drawing of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy predecessor "Barnacle Bill" by Hillenburg


Series creator Hillenburg described the guest appearances of Ernest Borgnine and Tim 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 ManEdit

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, 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 death, but has been limited to non-speaking roles. In the 2016 episode "Mermaid Pants", SpongeBob dresses up in a Mermaid Man costume to play with Patrick.

Barnacle BoyEdit

Barnacle Boy was voiced by Conway, who co-starred with Borgnine in the sitcom McHale's Navy. In 2010, Burt Ward guest starred as the young Barnacle Boy in the episode "Back to the Past".[17] As with Mermaid Man, Barnacle Boy's appearances were reduced to non-speaking roles or portrayal by other characters (generally Patrick Star) since Borgnine's death.

On September 27, 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]

Conway died of normal pressure hydrocephalus on May 14, 2019.[19]


  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. ^ Waller, Vincent (September 27, 2018). "No, sadly not. Mr.Conway is having health issues. He came in for the 2nd SB movie and voiced a seagull, but it wasn't easy for him".
  19. ^ Lednicer, Lisa Grace (May 14, 2019). "Tim Conway, uninhibited crack-up artist on 'The Carol Burnett Show,' dies at 85". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 15, 2019.