In 2020 Popeye’s rival for the affection of Olive Oyl, Brutus, celebrates his 60th birthday. Brutus paid a special visit to Watertown Massachusetts in 1994. I contacted Jackson Beck who provided the bully’s voice asking if he could perform it for my cable access series Drawing With Fred. I sent him a blank cassette tape and payment for his time. He was kind enough not only to record Brutus’ voice but sent back my money. His kindness inspired me to tape a special episode featuring Brutus with children in the audience. Beck’s Brutus voice, for Drawing With Fred, can be heard at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5ZL1z6J7OQ
Jackson Beck was a veteran radio and television performer whose voice was utilized on countless productions.
For years the belief had been Bluto’s name was changed to Brutus because Walt Disney felt “Bluto” sounded too much like “Pluto”. I asked Beck about this and he gave me a piece of information which uncovered the mystery. Bluto was created for the Popeye comic strip in 1932 syndicated by King Features Syndicate. He was used in the Popeye theatrical cartoons produced by Paramount Pictures in 1933. King Features Syndicate decided to produce a series of color Popeye cartoons which would make their debut in 1960. Paramount Pictures was under the impression they owned the rights to the name Bluto. To rectify this problem, Al Brodax, who produced this new series of Popeye’s colorful adventures, created Brutus to harass Popeye.
Initially King Features Syndicate promoted Brutus as a new character. However, Jackson Beck’s vocal performance of Brutus was the same as his rendition of Bluto. Essentially Brutus was Bluto with the addition of a gut and minus his white sailor’s uniform.
In the Popeye strip and books the bearded bully was referred to as “The Big Guy That Hates Popeye” and “Sonny Boy” before the name “Brutus” was utilized. On Popeye related merchandise he was dubbed “Mean Man” and these items have become highly sought-after collectibles.
On occasion various writers and cartoonists have presented Bluto and Brutus as twin brothers. Bobby London wrote a hilarious storyline for the Popeye daily comic strip called “The Return of Bluto”. In this story Bluto intends on getting rid of the bearded bullies who have been impersonating him calling themselves “Brutus”. London drew the different character designs of Bluto/Brutus within one storyline.
Jackson Beck was a talented performer whose kindness will always be remembered by this Popeye fan.
A panel from The Return of Bluto storyline by Bobby London.