Lunch Wore a Speedo is the nineteenth collection of Sherman’s Lagoon black ‘n white daily and colorized Sunday funnies, and the first since 2013’s Here We Go Again. While these things haven’t been published nearly as consistently as fans might like them to be just having a new one is reason enough to celebrate. For over twenty years (!) this is a comic strip that’s always delivered the goods, never stale and always fresh. Cartoonist Jim Toomey clearly enjoys his job and it shows. It’s downright infectious.
By all appearances, however, here is a strip that seems as milquetoast as they come; comically anthropomorphic sea creatures yukking it up via daily gags and family-friendly misadventures, day after day. But looks can be deceiving – just below its innocuously gentle surface lay one of the most morbid things in your daily paper (barring the editorial page and its own set of creatures), a comic strip completely lacking in pretension or hidden agenda.
At center are happily married Sherman and Megan, two man-eating (yet oddly lovable) sharks just living life to the fullest in the underwater tropical paradise near Kapupu Lagoon. The cast of regulars (who’ve yet to be consumed) are the bookish, loveless Fillmore (the turtle), the happily corrupted Hawthorne (the crab), nerdy Ernest (the smartest little fish in the lagoon), Herman (the sharks’ offspring), Thornton (the world’s laziest polar bear), as well as a host of others.
Extended gags here include the gang hacking a data-collecting robot into servitude, the Great Kahuna transforming our heroes (yet again) into grotesquely shaped humans so they can attend the Super Bowl (is that Flipper?), Thornton the Polar Bear’s nagging mother playing matchmaker, and even nerdy Ernest ‘fixing’ a copy machine to make clones. Regular skits in the mix include the popular Big Squid wrestling, fast food lovin’, epic undersea voyages, and all the other bizarro underwater suburbian tropes that fans have come to know and love.
This collection is surprisingly light on environmental gags or tie-ins, but scattered among the questionable pop culture references (“OPPA GANGAM STYLE!”) is plenty of ichthyological trivia (did you know what a Ampullae of Lorenzini was?). Can you believe there actually IS a walking shark out there crawling along the oceanic floor? Check it out right HERE!
As is my want to nitpick and gripe about such things, I’m sad to note this latest collection, once again, fails to provide any annotation when the individual strips were originally published. It’s true that Sherman’s Lagoon is hardly telling some grand, chronologically significant tale (hardly), but some indication as to where to place the daily and Sunday strips would have been lovely. The strips here apparently cover the year 2013, so let’s go with that.
In a world of unnecessary pop-culture comparisons Sherman’s Lagoon is more Adam West than Christian Bale, and the world of comic strips is far better for it. Lunch Wore a Speedo is the strip’s nineteenth collection that delivers exactly what fans have come to expect from Jim Toomey’s consistently funny aquatically themed menagerie of crazy sharks and comic shanties. Few of its peers have been able to keep focus for so long without getting a little ripe around the gills, but as long as Toomey manages to keep delivering, we’ll keep reading.