For a comic strip to survive long enough to enter its second decade says a lot about its content and creator. Sherman’s Lagoon, first syndicated in 1991, has benefited from both. While its never scaled the summit of pop-culture, it has done something few of its peers have managed: it’s remained genuinely funny, thoughtful, and, like any good haul of market seafood, consistently fresh. Its history of published collections have been somewhat sporadic over the years, but the arrival of a new one is always a happy occasion for comic collectors.
As the name says Here We Go Again is the eighteenth collection of Sherman’s Lagoon comic strips, presented here in glorious black ‘n white dailies and full color Sundays. On display is the strip’s surreal mix of nature vs. corporatism, one unlike anything else on the funny pages (or the internet, if that’s how you read them).
These are fish, turtles, crabs, and other oddities living and acting like what they are… until they don’t. Its here the strip goes full slapstick, something it acknowledges by happily busting through the fourth wall via the “magic of cartoons” whenever its convenient. Sherman & Crew will frequently wander out of the ocean and into the ‘real world’ to attend political demonstrations, grab a taxi, or take in a little gambling if the mood strikes.
The premise of Sherman’s Lagoon revolves around the fictional Kapupu Lagoon, situated right next to Kapupu Island in the South Pacific Ocean, and its aquatic troupe of characters. At front and center are Sherman and Megan, a married pair of great white sharks just trying to make a living, often with disastrous results. Sherman, the strip’s lazy and intellectually suspect hero, is the prototypical Everyman, navigating the pitfalls of marital bliss while playing alongside Megan’s equally-cluelessness. Together they confront consumerism, technophobia, politics, occasionally partaking in a few feeding frenzies.
I mean, they’re man-eating great white sharks, after all.
Other familiar faces include Fillmore, the bookish and hopelessly unlucky-in-love sea turtle who often serves as an unwilling foil; Hawthorne, the ever-scheming and possibly sociopathic hermit crab; the nerdy Ernest, Sherman’s best buddy and frequent traveling companion; and of course there’s Thorton, the world’s laziest polar bear.
There’s also a host of other incidental characters, many generalized friends and foes, as well as a never-ending buffet of tasty creatures for Sherman and Megan to munch on. One of the strip’s guilty pleasures is how easily it blends the macabre with goofiness, somehow making the constant death of the island’s vacationing hairless beach apes (humans) seem charming.
It’s a comic strip with a fairly sizable body count, which is about you’d expect from a book dedicated to “all the Sherman’s Lagoon characters that Sherman has eaten through the years.”
It’s also quite happy being a comic stip, one that’s found a nice balance of rotating gags with a constant stream of pop-culture influx for variety. A fun skit has the Great Kahuna transforming our heroes into miniature aquarium fish (Sherman thinks they’ve got it made), only to discover their owner is a lazy hotel heiress reality star (hint: it’s not Paris). Other bits include a few cheap nods at recent phenoms like Twilight (vampire squids) and The Hunger games.
Toomey, a noted environmentalist, often uses the strip’s reach to promote underwater causes that too-often go unnoticed by other media, though it ways that are anything but preachy. That’s captured here with stories of dolphins stuck in lobster traps, sea pirates, conservation, as well as a general sense we (i.e. humans) should be treating our environment with a little more respect.
Most prominent are the strips concerning the Aquarius Underwater Lab, the world’s only undersea lab, located in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and its loss of government funding. There’s also a ‘cameo’ from oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. It’s all in good fun for a cause that’s clearly important to Toomey, and those interested to learn more about Aquarius project can do so right HERE.
I really wish there was some standard when it comes to reprinting daily comic strips, especially for those of us that love to pour over the dailies and Sundays to mentally place their publication in time and space. Sadly, this is yet another collection that completely lacks any annotation as to when the strips were originally printed, or even proper notation as to what year(s) the strips first appeared. All indications point to them having appeared in 2012, so what’s what I’m sticking with.
Here We Go Again: The Eighteenth Sherman’s Lagoon Collection is exactly that; the latest in one of the longest-running comic strips out there, and makes a fine addition to any fan’s catalog of funnies. Toomey’s personal passions and workmanlike effort have kept it one of the funniest and most inventive strips in syndication, and certainly the most ecologically aware. There’s no real surprises, of course, but why fiddle too much when you’ve got such a good thing going?