|First appearance||Thimble Theatre (1932)|
|Created by||E. C. Segar|
|Portrayed by||Paul L. Smith (1980 film)|
James Perrin (Brotherly Love)
William Pennell (1933–1935, 1943)
Harry Foster Welch (1934–1940s public events, 1960s Peter Pan Records records)
Gus Wickie (1935–1938)
Jackson Beck (1935–1936 radio appearances, 1944–1962 cartoons)
Floyd Buckley (1937 Bluebird Records records)
Pinto Colvig (1939–1940)
Jack Mercer (1939, 1942, 1943, 1954, 1960, 1983)
Tedd Pierce (1940–1942)
Dave Barry (1942–1944)
Mae Questel (imitating Olive Oyl in Shape Ahoy)
Bob McFadden (Popeye Meets the Man Who Hated Laughter)
Allan Melvin (1978–1988)
John Wallace (singing voice in 1980 film)
Tim Kitzrow (Popeye Saves the Earth)
Nicholas Omana (Popeye and the Quest For the Wooly Mammoth, Popeye and the Sunken Treasure)
Keith Scott (Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges, Pandemonium Cartoon Circus)
Billy West (Minute Maid commercial)
Marc Biagi (Slots from Bally Gaming)
Garry Chalk (Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy)
Dave Coulier/Seth Green (Robot Chicken)
Kevin Shinick (Mad)
Matt McCarthy (The Pete Holmes Show)
Joe Newton (Popeye's Island Adventures)
Tetsuo Nishihama (Popeye the Sailorman/Olive and Bluto's Race Song)
Bluto is a cartoon and comics character created in 1932 by Elzie Crisler Segar as a one-time character, named "Bluto the Terrible", in his Thimble Theatre comic strip (later renamed Popeye). Bluto made his first appearance September 12 of that year. Fleischer Studios adapted him the next year (1933) to be the main antagonist of their theatrical Popeye animated cartoon series.
Bluto is a cruel, bearded, muscular bully who serves as Popeye's nemesis and archrival for the love of Olive Oyl. He usually uses brute force and/or trickery to accomplish his various goals. His voice is very loud, harsh and deep, with an incomprehensible bear-like growl between words and sentences. This voice, as well as the dark beard, crooked teeth, and bulk, was similar to that of the villain, well known at the time, Red Flack in the 1930 film The Big Trail, played by Tyrone Power Sr.
Bluto, like Popeye, is enamored of Olive Oyl, and he often attempts to kidnap her. However, with the help of some spinach, Popeye usually ends up defeating him. Some cartoons portray Popeye and Bluto as Navy buddies, although in these episodes Bluto usually turns on Popeye when an object of interest (usually Olive) is put between them.
Bluto's strength is portrayed inconsistently. In some episodes he is weaker than Popeye and resorts to underhanded trickery to accomplish his goals. At other times Popeye stands no chance against Bluto in a fight until he eats his spinach. In yet other cartoons the two characters are closely matched, with Bluto eventually gaining the upper hand before Popeye eats his spinach and defeats Bluto. In some shorts Bluto is a match for Popeye even after he has eaten his spinach. Bluto is sometimes portrayed as having a glass jaw. He has, on occasion, been knocked out by Olive Oyl and even by Popeye's infant ward Swee'Pea. On rare occasions Bluto tries to sabotage Popeye before confronting him, such as when he tried to thwart his own defeat by using a forklift to steal Popeye's store of spinach cans and disposing of them in a garbage dump. In one case, Popeye forces a defeated Bluto to consume spinach, after which Bluto easily beats up Popeye, resulting in Olive pitying him and choosing him over Bluto.
In most cases, the name "Bluto" is used as a first name. In cartoons where Bluto portrays alternate characters, or "roles," the name can be used as a surname, as with lumberjack "Pierre Bluto" in the cartoon Axe Me Another and etiquette teacher "Professor Bluteau" in Learn Polikeness.
Bluto vs. Brutus
After the theatrical Popeye cartoon series ceased production in 1957, Bluto's name was changed to Brutus because it was incorrectly believed by King Features that Paramount Pictures, distributors of the Fleischer Studios (later Famous Studios) cartoons, owned the rights to the name "Bluto". King Features actually owned the name, as Bluto had been originally created for the comic strip. Due to a lack of thorough research, King Features failed to realize this and reinvented him as Brutus to avoid supposed copyright problems. "Brutus" (often pronounced "Brutusk" by Popeye) appears in the 1960–62 Popeye the Sailor television cartoons with his physical appearance changed, making him obese rather than muscular. He normally sported a blue shirt and brown pants. Brutus later appeared in the Popeye arcade game released by Nintendo.
The character reverted to Bluto for Hanna-Barbera's The All-New Popeye Hour (1978–83) and the 1980 live-action Popeye movie, as well as the 1987 Popeye and Son series also by Hanna-Barbera. The character was also named Bluto in the 2004 movie Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy.
It is generally accepted that Bluto and Brutus are one and the same. However, a 1988 Popeye comic book, published by Ocean Comics, presented the two characters as twin brothers.
In the Paramount theatrical cartoons, Bluto was voiced by a number of actors, including William Pennell, Gus Wickie, Jack Mercer, Pinto Colvig, Dave Barry, Tedd Pierce, and Jackson Beck, who took over the role in 1944. Beck also supplied the voice for Brutus in the early 1960s. In the 1980 live-action movie, he was portrayed by Paul L. Smith. In The All-New Popeye Hour and Popeye and Son, he was voiced by Allan Melvin. In Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy, he was voiced by Garry Chalk.
In the animated cartoons Popeye's foe is almost always Bluto functioning in some capacity (fellow sailor, generic thug, carnival hypnotist, sheik, lecherous instructor, etc.). However, in the Famous-era shorts there have also been "original" one-time characters with Bluto-like personalities and mannerisms such as the blond, beardless lifeguard in "Beach Peach". Jackson Beck voiced these characters using the same voice.
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Many an animation historian has tried to figure out which Popeye cartoons produced by the Fleischer Studios featured Jack Mercer performing Bluto's voice. His vocal characterization is so good that it's hard to identify which exact films he did. When the Fleischer Studios moved from New York to Florida, some of their voice personnel did not make the move. The Fleischers needed a new voice for Bluto and after unsatisfactory results in Ghosks is the Bunk (1939) and Customers Wanted (1939), a ruffer-sounding voice for the bully was heard in Wotta Nitemare (1939) and It's the Natural Thing to Do (1939). Based upon Mercer-voiced bullies of later vintage, it does sound like Jack Mercer's Bluto in Wotta Nitemare and It's the Natural Thing to Do, though there has been no documentation stating this. For Bluto's next few appearances during Fleischers' tenure on the Popeye series, a Mercer-sounding Bluto was heard in Shakespearean Spinach (1940), Me Feelings is Hurt (1940), Nurse Mates (1940), Onion Pacific (1940) and Fightin' Pals (1940) which some have attributed to voice-over artist Pinto Colvig. Mercer has stated it was difficult for him to voice both Popeye and Bluto in the same cartoon, so perhaps, after Wotta Nitemare and It's the Natural Thing to Do, other voice artists took over (a more sophisticated-sounding Bluto was heard in Stealin Aint Honest from 1940, provided by Tedd Pierce). Mercer's Bluto can be heard in a few lines, though Pierce and Dave Barry performed the role, in Fleischer Studio's Olive Oyl and Water Don't Mix (1942) saying, "Why that one-eyed Casanova," and "Watch me play sick," in Too Weak to Work (Famous Studios, 1943). Both times this occurred, the character's mouth didn't move and it appears Mercer's Bluto voice was dubbed in.
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- Rovin, Jeff (1987). The Encyclopedia of Supervillains. New York: Facts on File. pp. 36–37. ISBN 0-8160-1356-X.
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- Fortier, Ron (w), Dunn, Ben; Grummett, Tom, Kato, Gary (p), Barras, Dell (i). "Double Trouble Down Under" Popeye Special 2 (September 1988), Ocean Comics