GRAPHIC NOVELS

Nobody's Fool: The Life and Times of Schlitzie the Pinhead

ComicArts: Abrams. Mar. 2019. 256p. ISBN 9781419735011. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781683354529. Rated: T+. BIOG
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Griffith (Invisible Ink: My Mother's Love Affair with a Famous Cartoonist) presents an in-depth biography, based on research and interviews, of Schlitzie the Pinhead, a sideshow performer widely known for his appearance in Tod Browning's 1932 cult classic film Freaks. Born with microcephaly in 1901, Schlitzie (who's real name is lost to history but may have been Simon Metz) was sold by his parents to a Coney Island sideshow and soon found himself traveling the country as the star attraction of a variety of circuses. Alternately billed as male or female, sometimes promoted as the missing link between modern man and their evolutionary ancestors or a holdover from vanished civilizations, Schlitzie is here affectionately portrayed as a kind, warm-hearted performer behind the showbiz bluster. His story raises serious questions about the essence of fame, exploitation, and even the subjective nature of what it means to live a happy, fulfilling life.
VERDICT Griffith is renowned for his absurdist comic strip Zippy the Pinhead, inspired by Schlitzie's iconic image, and on some level this biography seems to be an attempt at restoring some dignity to a life he's mined for his own purposes. He succeeds wonderfully.

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