Mermaid Man is one of the most famous versions of a male mermaid in pop culture, while not even being a real merman. In the series SpongeBob SquarePants, he is known as the elderly, retired superhero who is very forgetful and randomly falls asleep.
He was the main underwater superhero who used to fight crimes with his superhero partner Barnacle Boy when he was young. In this post, you’ll read 11 crazy facts about Mermaid Man.
1. The signature way Mermaid Man says “evil” was an accident
Mermaid Man is probably most famous for his reaction to anyone saying the word “evil”. He instantly falls into a state of alarm and shouts “eeevILL” himself.
The thing is, that the characteristic way in which he says it was more of an accident. When Mermaid Man’s voice actor Ernest Borgnine first recorded his dialogue and he said that word, his voice cracked and everyone broke out laughing.
So, that is how his hysterical superhero scream came about. In this video you can hear Ernest Borgnine speak about how it happened in more detail:
2. Mermaid Man is a parody of Aquaman (and Batman)
Even at his high age Mermaid Man gets himself into a lot of crazy superhero situations. The producers of SpongeBob Squarepants actually intended him to be a ridiculous and hilarious version of Aquaman, the DC Comics superhero who fights against villains underwater.
The best quote of Mermaid Man, that illustrates this ridiculous combination of an old, crime obsessed and meanwhile senile superhero is probably this one:
“Listen up, you villains. I wanna eat my meatloaf. If you don’t get out of here, then by the power invested in me, I now pronounce you man and wife!”
To make him more similar to Aquaman, Mermaid Man was given a similar costume: Tight green trousers and gloves as well as the bare-chested looking skin-colored shirt.
Furthermore, he wears a belt that says M for Mermaid Man while Aquaman often wears a belt with an A for Aquaman (e.g. also in the movie from 2018).
Here is a picture of an Aquaman costume:
Mermaid Man’s superhero costume got a few new details too though. He wears a seastar mask on his face and a scallop-shell bra on his chest.
And not to forget his comfy pink slippers! A trident like Aquaman’s is however not part of his costume.
But Aquaman is actually not the only superhero that Mermaid Man parodies. He also shares similarities with and makes fun of Batman.
Notable is that Mermaid Mans’s belt has a lot of powers just like Batman’s utility belt. Also, there are a lot of non-costume references to Batman. For example, Mermaid Man’s secret superhero operation cave Mermalair is a parody of the Batcave from where Batman plans his superhero moves.
Similarly, Mermaid Man’s invisible boatmobile, which he always has a hard time finding when it is parked somewhere, is a parody of Batman’s Batmobile, that can also turn invisible.
And not to forget, whenever Mermaid Man is on a mission and wants to go someplace he shouts the name of the destination just like Batman does or like he always did in the Batman TV show with his famous words “to the Batcave“.
Barnacle Boy, as his sidekick, is thus similar to both Aqualad and Robin, the younger companions of both superheroes.
3. Mermaid Man’s superpowers lie mostly in his belt
Even though he can summon and control sea creatures, swim at extremely high speed, make waterballs and has super strength, Mermaid Man’s powers mostly come from his belt.
This becomes apparent when Spongebob steals his belt in the episode “Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy IV” from season 3 and then accidentally uses the shrinking beam on Patrick and Taddeus, as you can see in this video:
This shows that even other people, or sponges, can use Mermaid Man’s powers when they get a hold of his belt.
4. One of Mermaid Man’s archenemies is a bubble
There are two main archenemies of Memaid Man and Barnacle Boy: Man Ray and Dirty Bubble.
The strangest villain is certainly the Dirty Bubble. It sounds funny that a superhero’s archenemy should be a simple air bubble. This is so ridiculous, it can only be part of the Aquaman parody!
When you dig deep into the Aquaman comics you will notice that Man Ray was inspired by the main villain in Aquman: Black Mamba. And in one comic book from 1977 (Adventure Comics #452) you can find him using a bubble!
Now, I did not find any confimation about this bubble being the inspiration for Dirty Bubble online, but this is how I think it came to be.
The scene in Adventure Comics #452 that involved the bubble is actually one of the most famous scenes of the Aquaman comics, particularly in regard to the villain Black Manta, who reveals his face for the first time ever and then commits one of the crimes which gave him the reputation as the cruelest of all the comic villains.
In the comic, Black Manta captured Aquaman’s baby son and enclosed him in a globe which he filled with air, like a bubble, leading to the suffocation of the Aquababy. Aquaman could not save his child in time.
You can see the page of the comic with the bubble here.
In my opinion, this sounds very similar to the Dirty Bubble in Spongebob and would explain why the directors of SpongeBob decided to make Dirty Bubble one of Mermaid Man’s archenemies.
Dirty Bubble is actually also more dangerous than it looks on first view. It can float around the ocean and swallow people/fish by trapping them inside of its body.
From there they usually can’t escape. And since it is and air bubble, the air inside of it could get seriously dangerous for the ocean dwellers who cannot breathe in air.
If first appeared in the episode “Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy II” in season 1 where it suddenly appears in front of the Crusty Crab Restaurant and swallows Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy. Thankfully Spongebob was running after his superheros with a sharp pencil to get an autograph and thus poped the bubble and freed them.
This shows the only weakness of the bubble, which are sharp objects that can make it pop.
Funnily, in SpongeBob this bubble is not even inherintly evil though, indicating that it was just a tool that was used and spoiled by the evil Man Ray. It turns evil whenever it gets dirty. As long as it is clean, it is just a friendly bubble (see episode “Dirty Bubble Returns” in season 12).
5. Mermaid Man might be older than you’d think
Mermaid Man is known for his forgetfulness and funny behaviour that results from his elderlyness but it is never stated how old he really is.
In the episode “Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy V” it was revealed that Barnacle Boy is 68 years old. Even though Mermaid Man’s exact age is not known, it is certain, that he was at least 70 or more years old since we know that he is older than Barnacle Boy, who was still a boy when they met.
Given that Mermaid Man’s voice actor Ernest Borgnine was already 82 when he first voiced Mermaid Man at the beginning of the show in 1999, he could be even older. After all Mermaid man behaves more like a sleepy 90-year-old.
6. Mermaid Man is one of the only three characters who retired from the series
There are only three characters who retired from the show because their voice actors passed away. Besides Mermaid Man’s voice actor Ernest Borgnine, who passed in 2012, this also includes Barnacle Boy and Granma Squarepants.
Out of respect for the voice actors, the characters won’t appear in the series again, except for appearances on pictures or as toys.
7. Mermaid Man was once a normal human guy
In the episode “Mermaid Man Begins” (the title is a reference to “Batman Begins”) from season 8 it is explained how Mermaid Man became a superhero in the first place.
In this video, we also learn that he was just a normal guy, or as he puts it “a young, handsome, muscular lad”:
He must have been in his 20s before his life turned around and he became an underwater superhero.
8. Mermaid Man was chosen by mermaids
As you can see in the video in point 7, it all happened when he was fallen asleep on the beach and a wave suddenly drew him into the ocean where he was sucked underwater by a giant whirlpool.
That’s when two mermaids appeared and rescued him by giving him his signature seastar which helps him breathe underwater!
And thus Mermaid Man was born.
But isn’t it strange that the mermaids took him to the ground of the ocean, instead of just rescuing him and leading him back to the surface like Ariel rescued Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid?
It seems like the mermaids knew that he was destined to be their underwater superhero and purposefully took him in. Maybe they even caused the whirlpool who sucked him underwater in the first place. Who knows!
This could be yet another parallel to Aquaman. Because Aquaman, who is destined to become the underwater king of Atlantis, also spends his first years on land, only to be then reintroduced to the underwaterworld by the merpeople.
Now, it is not quite clear how Mermaid Man got his powers, but since his costume and belt hold most of his power, it seems likely that he also got it from the mermaids.
9. Mermaid Man’s shell bra has no real purpose
Besides his seastar mask, the shell bra Mermaid Man wears definitely makes for his funniest superhero costume accessory.
There is no real reason why he would wear this bra, except that the mermaids gave it to him when they also gave him his seastar. In the video, in point 7 you can see the mermaids wearing the same kind of bras at 1:29 min.
It certainly helps with his image as a “Mermaid” Man though. Mermaids have long been associated with seashell bras, especially since Ariel The Little Mermaid, who wears ones as well.
The Little Mermaid movie was released 10 years before the SpongeBob series started (in 1999), so there is a good chance that Mermaid Man was influenced by Ariel’s looks in this regard.
Without his seashell bras, he would not look that much like a mermaid anymore after all, since he does not have a mermaid tail either. So instead of being useful or covering his chest, the seashell bra seems to mainly be a sign of his connection to the mermaids.
10. Mermaid Man turned Barnacle Boy into a superhero
According to the episode “Mermaid Man Begins” that I mentioned in point 7, Mermaid Man quickly became lonely living under the sea.
So when he noticed a boy drowning, he rushed to his help and rescued him by using his superhero powers to put barnacles into his lungs. Thanks to this the boy survived and Mermaid Man started calling him Barnacle Boy.
Since Barnacle Boy was forever stuck underwater, he joined Mermaid Man and they became a team fighting villains like Man Ray and others.
At least that is Mermaid Man’s and Barnacle Boy’s origin story how they they told it themselves.
During the episode, SpongeBob, Patrick and the two superheroes then continue to watch a TV special about a slightly different origin story in which the two superheroes were actually two old friends who ate radioactive popcorn out of a broken microwave which lead to their superpowers.
Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy act like that alternative story is ridiculous, but we never get a definite answer to which version was the real one in the show. Despite all the holes in Mermaid Man’s memory, I guess his mermaid story makes more sense though.
11. Mermaid Man shrunk underwater
Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy are one of the only humans who live in Bikini Bottom. But even though we have seen them with other humans on land (see point 7), they seem to have shrunken underwater.
When Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy appear next to Spongebob and the other residents of Bikini Bottom they have the same size as them.
But when Spongebob and his friends go on land in the episode “Pressure” from season 2 land, they are just tiny sea creatures.
As you can see in this video (from 1:44 min), they are smaller than a seagull:
So if Spongebob and the other underwater creatures do not change their sizes above the water but Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy used to be human-size and now are not anymore, it can only mean that they must have shrunk.
The question is if Mermaid Man shrunk himself in order to live or retire in Bikini Bottom. After all his belt has the power to shrink anything (see point 3)!