Some people will never quite understand how the candles remain lit underwater.
"But, still, they accept that you can have two sharks sitting there at a table, eating chicken and talking," Jim Toomey chuckles.
When The Post-Star asked readers about our comic strip selection,Toomey's strip, "Sherman's Lagoon," showed a clear demographic split. It had plenty of fans, but they were almost all in the 34-and-under group.
"When I started the strip, I had no idea it would not appeal to an older audience," Toomey says."But I guess it doesn't. It does pretty well with younger readers."
It's apparently not as simple as older readers objecting to the fact that Sherman and his wife, Megan, occasionally dine on swimmers or that he gives his collections titles like "Poodle: The Other White Meat."
"I really think it's just not within the paradigm for comic strips, in terms of being like the ones that reach back into the older strips of history," he says. "It doesn't resonate well with the audience that grew up with AI Capp, 'Beetle Bailey,' 'Hi and Lois' and those others."
But the people for whom it does resonate are loyal, and Toomey's website www.slagoon.com, gets substantial traffic.
"I have about 20,000to 30,000 hard-core 'Sherman's Lagoon' fans," he says."I know that because they buy copies of the books. I know that, if I made up T-shirts, I'd probably sell 20,000 to 30,000of them." He pauses.
"Of course, if Lynn Johnston ('For Better or For Worse') made up T-shirts, she'd sell a million of them."
Toomey is happy to be making a living doing what he enjoys, of course, though he admits, "I think I could take being a huge success a lot better."
Still, his point is not specifically about selling a million T-shirts.
"I think the reward would be in being known more widely, being read more widely," he explains, adding, "But I'm not trying to sound too noble about it."
The strip combines his two loves: cartooning and diving.
"I was a paperboy from the time I was 8 years old until I was 10 or 11,and I'd read the paper on my route, especially the comics," he says."My love of 'Peanuts' goes back even farther. I think it began with the TV specials, then the books and finally the strips in the paper."
Toomey began drawing Charlie Brown and Snoopy for friends, who complimented his talent, which then sent him in that direction.
“I could always relate to Charlie Brown, but then I think Charlie Brown is a vehicle for people to relate to," he says. "One of a gazillion differences between 'Peanuts' and my strip is that Charlie Brown was the anchor character, and Child Schulz was Charlie Brown in many ways. I didn't build the strip around an anchor character, even though it's called 'Sherman's Lagoon.' It's more like 'Friends' in that it's a whole group of people and you might relate to one more than another."
Toomey's use of the word "people" for the sharks, turtles, crabs and fish who make up his cast recalls Darby Conley's Post-Star interview, in which he remarked that, once you get past the fact that the animals talk, his strip, "Get Fuzzy," is really about people.
Toomey feels the same way about "Sherman's Lagoon."
"Absolutely. They're like masks - it's like people going on stage in fish costumes," he agrees.
That may be a case of turnabout being fair play: Toomey puts on a mask to go among fish as often as he can.
"I've been diving since I was young enough that I had to lie about my age," he says."I was 12 when I got my first diving license, but I was a big kid and nobody thought to card me."
The "Sherman's Lagoon" website has links to various marine environmental groups, and Toomey is active in trying to preserve the oceans.
It is not so much a matter of paying back the scene of his strip, however, as integrating the things he cares about.
"My interests were always there," he says, "and, as a result, I came up with the strip."