Bowser, also known as King Koopa, or Lord Bowser, is a video game character and the primary villain of Nintendo’s Mario series. In Japan, the character is known as Koopa (クッパ, Kuppa?) and bears the title of Daimaō (大魔王, lit. “Great Demon King”?). His Japanese name was also romanized Kuppa in earlier materials.
The leader and most powerful of the turtle-like Koopa race, Bowser is Mario’s archnemesis, usually kidnapping Princess Peach and attempting to conquer the Mushroom Kingdom. Since his debut, he or his son Bowser Jr. has appeared in almost every Mario series game.
Bowser was the creation of Nintendo designer and producer Shigeru Miyamoto. Miyamoto had first envisioned Bowser as an ox, basing him on the Ox King from the Toei Animation film Alakazam the Great. However, Nintendo designer Takashi Tezuka pointed out to Miyamoto that the character looked more like a turtle than an ox. Despite popular misconception, Bowser is, in fact, supposed to be a turtle, not a dragon. (Though an early advertisement flyer for the arcade version of the game did refer to “conquer[ing] dragons” as part of its gameplay.) Miyamoto and Tezuka then began to work together to define Bowser’s appearance. Since the character was in the turtle family with the Koopa Troopas, the two began to base his new appearance on them, creating a new illustration. In his final design, Miyamoto commented that he could make Bowser “look cool now”.
Miyamoto named him 大魔王 クッパ Daimaō Kuppa. Kuppa came from the Japanese name for 국밥, gukbap, a Korean dish. Miyamoto had also considered the names ユッケ Yukke and ビビンバ Bibinba, also Japanese names of Korean dishes (육회 yukhoe and 비빔밥 bibimbap respectively).Interestingly enough, the Korean name for the character Bowser/Kuppa is not Gukbap, but 쿠파 Kupa, which is essentially a phonetic round-trip translation. Kuppa is also said to be a pun on 河童 kappa.
In the early 3D Mario games, Bowser is voiced by Isaac Marshall. Marshall’s voice for Bowser consisted of various roars, grunts and growls. Marshall continued to provide his voice until Super Mario Sunshine in 2002, when he was replaced by Scott Burns. Burns was the first to provide spoken dialogue for Bowser. However, voice clips done by Marshall were used in some later games for Bowser’s roar. Most recently, Bowser has been voiced by Kenneth James in games such as Super Mario Galaxy, Mario Kart Wii, and Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story.
In the Super Mario Bros. film, Bowser, known as King Koopa at the time, was portrayed by Dennis Hopper. Makeup artist Jeff Goodwin tried to make Bowser look strange-looking, but not so much that it was obvious what was wrong with him. To accomplish this, he removed the eyebrows from the character, a trick he utilized on actor Gary Oldman in the film Track 29. He also gave Bowser red stipple on his eye sockets, while hair stylist Michelle Johnson designed his hair with a ruffle head hairdo. Koopa is given an elongated tongue, which was designed by putting a fake tongue on Dennis’ tongue, using computer generated graphics to make it seem like it was slithering. At the end of the film he appears in a realistic “de-evolution” to dinosaur form. This effect was designed and created by Rob Burman of Sticks & Stones Design Studio.