Volume 23, Number 04, Summer 2005

Gesundheit, Dummy: The Best of Baloo

By Rex F. May

JoNa Books, 2000: $7.95
Reviewed by Max Jahr
July 2005

I stumbled across this small gem recently. Libertarians may know Rex May as the cartoonist, Baloo, whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Liberty, The Voluntaryist, and other publications. This slim volume (around 60 pages) gathers slightly over 150 cartoons, each a single panel in length. The humor in the cartoons, like the editorial woodcuts of old, often aim unflinchingly at government and its functionaries, but also skewers relationship issues, self-doubt, and other vagaries of life.

There are no storylines in these comics. Instead, we get witty snapshots drawn in quick, yet effective strokes. As William Shakespeare’s Hamlet once sardonically remarked, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Some favorites include the “L’etat c’est moi” themed cartoons, such as the king staring down at a peasant and stating, “This isn’t either a free country!” I’ve personally experienced the one where a judge sentences a person to punishment by bureaucracy: “The prisons are full, so I’ll just have the City Engineers tear up the street in front of your house.” Talk about cruel and unusual punishment. There are a few clunkers, but the vast majority of the cartoons made me laugh out loud. My main complaint is the slimness of this volume. Many excellent cartoons are missing. Future collections might rectify this, for the world needs more of Baloo.

One should also note that one of May’s forthcoming works is a collaboration with writer L. Neil Smith, in the form of a novel entitled Roswell, Texas. A combination of their humor and sense of satire should be devastating.

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