Friday, October 25, 2019

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

Bill Griffiths has long been known for his magnificent Zippy The Pinhead comics, but his latest excursion into the world of beautiful freaks takes a detour into the real world, telling the story of  Schlitzie the Pinhead.

And it's a fantastic biography, telling the life of this glorious freak with wit and compassion. It's a  biography that veers into personal memoir, as Griffiths injects himself into the narrative and revealing how his legendary Zippy character was born, but never loses sight of the real pinhead at the heart of it.

It's also really, really funny, especially with Schlitzie's non sequitur reactions to everything. Even when he is rejected and let down by society, and on the skids, his outbursts are still warm and hilarious. Schlitze didn't always have the best life, but was supported and loved, and with his truly idiosyncratic view on life, he's a true legend.

And Griffith's retelling of the pinhead's life is meticulously well-researched and incredibly easy to follow, with his straight-talking cartooning style bringing it all to life. Even as it spans decades of time and an equally sprawling geography, Schlitzie is always front and center, and bringing the reader along with him, as he really gets into doing the dishes.

We're so much more socially advanced now, apparently, and things like freak shows have been consigned to history, but Griffith's book makes it clear that there was also dignity in a life in front of a gawking public, and a real person behind that goofy grin.

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