Nobody’s Fool

Bill Griffith. Abrams ComicArts, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4197-3501-1
Griffith (Invisible Ink) crafts an affectionate graphic biography of Schlitzie Surtees (possibly born Simon Metz, though this is uncertain), the real-life inspiration for Griffith’s long-running Zippy The Pinhead strip. Set in American carnivals, Griffith’s story depicts the history of freak show culture as well as an outline of Schlitzie’s life (1901–1971) out on the circuit based on interviews and other source material, starting with the painful scene of him leaving his mother. Schlitzie, billed as everything from “Tik Tak the Aztec Girl” to “Julius, the Missing Link,” would be ogled at by the audience for his deformities, prompted with simple questions by a carnival barker, and sometimes become furious when taunted. Unlike most of the adult performers in his shows (such as the “bearded lady”), he was mentally low-functioning, which required a variety of nurses, parent figures, and handlers to take care of him. Griffith details Schlitzie’s involvement in the cult-classic film Freaks, which inspired Griffith to create the philosophical Zippy character. With dense cross-hatching and lively, expressive character design, Griffith’s art straddles the line between absurdity and realism. Griffith gets at the central paradox at the heart of freak shows: while exploitative and demeaning, the shows created a loving, tight-knit community. The performers close to Schlitzie were fiercely protective and loving toward him. Much like in Freaks, the revelation found in this illuminating work is that the true monsters are the “normal” people who line up to laugh at or abuse Schlitzie. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 01/23/2019
Release date: 03/19/2019
Genre: Comics
Book - 978-1-68335-452-9
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