Dennis O’Neil: The Tao of Funny Books

Could we have heard that name correctly? Sounded like the guy on the television said that a nasty killer was named “Szasz.” Well sir, I knew of only two Szaszes. One was an upstate New York psychiatrist with some controversial ideas, and the other was a comic book character. Since the television program I was watching when I heard the name (I did hear it, didn’t I?) was based on comic books, it seemed logical that the teevee folk were paying some sort of homage to our fictitious hero. But our Szasz wasn’t a killer; our “Szasz” was the birth name of the guy who later called himself “Vic Sage” and later still adopted the identity of a masked vigilante, The Question.

Vic SageWhy call him Szasz? Um… I liked the name. I’d seen it somewhere, probably in the New York Times, and when my man Vic needed (another) moniker, there it was.

Does any of this give anyone an insight into the creative process? Are you now able to establish a connection between character’s names and their essence? Is symbolism lurking there somewhere?

Probably not.

But speaking of names; we take a short hop past them and what do we find? Titles. (Names, titles…almost the same things, no?) So here’s a title: The Tao of Funny Books.

You might be familiar with the practice incorporating “tao” into book titles. The first, as far as I know, was The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism, by Fritjof Capra. The subtitle tells you what the book is about.

I don’t know what the next ”tao” title was, but the next one I read (and reread) was The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff. This takes A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh and friends and uses them to illustrate and dramatize elements of a much older work, The Tao Te Ching, written some time in the sixth century BCE by one Laozi who, by the way, might not have existed. What he (or it, or they) offer is wisdom and advice and, I think it’s fair to say, a world view in some 5000 words and I wish every politician in the world would read those words.

After Hoff’s addition to the Pooh mystique came the deluge: The Tao of Philosophy, The Tao of Dating, the Tao of Healing, The Tao of Law…even The Tao of Badass and, O Lordy, The Tao of Kim Kardashian. What those have to do with Laozi’s work, I don’t know.

Nor do I know what kind of book I’d append to The Tao of Funny Books. I don’t want to dishonor Laozi (or Benjamin Hoff) by slapping just anything between covers and I do believe that everything is interrelated so it seems that comics and Laozi’s taoism should be able to share a theme or two. But so far…nada.

The Tao of Nobody Home?