Cover of the second 'Sherman's Lagoon' book. Artist: Jim Toomey.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Original distribution: self-syndicated
First Appeared: 1991
Creator: Jim Toomey
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There was a time when you could count the daily and Sunday newspaper comic strips about …

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… cuddly, lovable predators who chow down on human flesh whenever they can, on the fingers of no hands. Then Sherman's Lagoon came along.

Cartoonist Jim Toomey has had a lifelong fascination with the undersea world, and has been drawing sharks (no relation), in particular, since he was a child (he's now in his 50s). The cartoons eventually became a comic strip about a great white shark named Sherman (a man-eater, when he can get it), his wife Megan (pretty much like him, except she wears pearls) and Sherman's buddies, Fillmore the Sea Turtle and Hawthorne the Crab.

Sherman and Megan think about the way sharks are imagined to think. Their attention spans are very short except when it comes to eating, which pretty much colors their thoughts about most things. They're a little less active than most sharks about pursuing the activity, but that may be because the Hairless Beach Apes who inhabit the nearby land area seem so easy to catch. The Hairless Beach Apes call the land and the lagoon Kapupu, part of the Palauan Archipelago. But the readers know it as Sherman's lagoon.

With a protagonist like that, one might suppose Sherman's Lagoon would be a pretty hard sell to a newspaper syndicate. That may be why Toomey syndicated it himself at first, using "Pacific Press Features" as the name of his "syndicate". The strip started on May 13, 1991, in exactly one paper, The Escondido (California) Times-Advocate. It was soon evident that despite any expectations one might form from the basic premise, a comic strip about the hilarious antics of a man-eating shark could find a good-size audience.

Within a few months, Sherman's Lagoon was being distributed by Creator's Syndicate, which also handles Momma, Andy Capp and other popular strips. It's been steadily rising in circulation ever since. In 1998 it switched to King Features Syndicate, where it seems in good company with Zippy the Pinhead, Sam's Strip, Krazy Kat and other offbeat features King has distributed over the years. It now appears in more than 200 newspapers.

At present, Sherman's Lagoon is seen only on the comics page and in an occasional book collecting the strips (the first of which, Ate That, What's Next?, came out in 1997). Toomey hopes to get it into animated form but so far … no bites.


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Text ©2002-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Jim Toomey.