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

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  130 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Nobody’s Fool follows the story of Schlitzie’s long career—from Coney Island and the Ringling Bros. Circus to small-town carnivals and big-city sideshows—which is one of legend. Today, Schlitzie is most well-known for his appearance in the cult classic Freaks. The making of Freaks and Schlitzie’s role in the film is a centerpiece of the book. In researching Schlitzie’s lif ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 19th 2019 by Harry N. Abrams
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4.15  · 
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 ·  130 ratings  ·  37 reviews

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David Schaafsma
Nobody’s Fool is an impressive biography of a disabled man who was labeled as a “freak,” sold to the carnival by his parents more than a century ago, traveled in carnival “Freak Shows” (that I think have been banned since the sixties?) all over the country and appeared in films for many decades. He went by various names associated with several crazy fictional identities: Schlitzie, Last of the Aztecs, The Missing Link (between apes and humans), The Monkey Girl, Schlitzie the Pinhead. P. T. Barnu ...more
Jon(athan) Nakapalau
The life and times of Schlitzie the Pinhead tells us as much about ourselves as it does about Schlitzie: the parade of people that lined up to take advantage of a gentle soul who was just looking for a family really made me feel sick. Bill Griffith has done a fantastic job of making Schlitzie a real person - not a freak to be gawked at. The story within this story is also how Griffith came up with Zippy the Pinhead - highest recommendation.
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: edelweiss, 2018
Honestly, this could have been edited down to about 50 pages. There's so much time spent with the various sideshows Schlitzie worked at that they just blur into the same few pages on repeat. I know Griffith decided to do this because his character Zippie the Pinhead is based on Schlitzie. But a better story would have been to give us the history of all the people to have appeared in Tom Browning's Freaks. This was the most interesting part of the book and what I was interested in most. Unfortuna ...more
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I would give this graphic novel 7 stars if I could because of how wonderful this true story was. The biography of Schlitzie-who was actually a sideshow freak-but was born disabled-and disfigured-and sold by his family to a circus performer. That he triumphed, and even thrived after this ordeal shows what an amazing personality that he had. Griffith's art is ingenious and stylistically resembles R. Crumb's artwork-and as R. Crumb states in his review of this novel, "The work is Boffo!"
Hannah Garden
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Aww I loved this. Wish I could buy Schlitzie a big hat with a long feather in it.
Kimberly Przybysz
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
As a fan of the movie “Freaks,” this offered an inside look at Schlitzie the person and character. Compassionate, sweet, and just a fun, informative graphic novel.
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received this book from Goodreads.

Nobody's Fool: The Life and Times of Schlitzie the Pinhead is a graphic novel that needed to be written.

Despite being sold to the circus at a young age, Schlitzie lived a remarkably colorful and lively life.

Originally named Simon, he was born September 10, 1901 to a poor, working class family that didn't understand his microcephaly, a neurodevelopmental disorder that left him with an unusually small brain and skull.
Because of this physical characteristic, he
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
My dad loves Zippy the Pinhead. I think it's... fine. When I'm in the mood for wacky non-sequiturs and overly intellectualized comic musings on American, it hits the spot, but mostly it feels like a bit of a relic to me. Although certainly I think it's closer to something important than the majority of the funny-pages pabulum of my childhood. Regardless, I am no student of the strip, so I'm not attempting to judge its four-decade tenure on the basis of some very sporadic attention.

Anyway. Becau
Gil Roth
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I can honestly say I did not think I was going to cry while reading the biography of a pinhead, but Bill Griffith's masterful storytelling and the tragic turns in Schlitzie's life did me in. Phenomenal book, even though I'd have liked more interspersion of Griffith's own story vis-a-vis Schlitzie, instead of the concentrated sections in the second half of the book. Not enough for me to knock off a star or anything.
May 19, 2019 rated it liked it

“Is it a he? Or a she? Some say Schlitzie is the missing link sought by scientists the world over! Or is he a creature from the reaches of outer space?”

This is one of those stories that could easily come under the 'stranger than fiction' category. I actually had no idea it was based on a true story when I picked it up and I have never heard of the main subject. It charts the life and times, or at least what is known about, the life and times of Schlitzie ‘Pinhead’ Surtees.

After being sold to th
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
In 1980, during a hazy week-long visit to Amsterdam, in addition to Van Gogh and the Dutch Masters, we discovered a comic book featuring Zippy the Pinhead. Now he's a nationally syndicated strip in many daily papers, running for decades, but at that time he was unknown beyond the narrow world of underground comics. Once we stumbled upon him, we had a new hero, quoting Zippy for the rest of the trip and for many years to come.

Bill Griffith was a student at Pratt in Brooklyn in 1963 when he went t
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
A strong four stars for this serious, but entertaining, graphic novel biography. The subject was microcephalic, and deemed a "pinhead" in the parlance of the carnie side-show. He was stuck with a career in a dress, with the simple act of standing on a stage and being gawped at as a "freak" – until he did become one of the most famous "Freaks" in history, in the film of that name which Tod Browning chose to follow 'Dracula' with. The awkward thing for some people was that he seemed to enjoy every ...more
Peter Landau
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
NOBODY’S FOOL: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SCHLITZIE THE PINHEAD is a cartoon biography by Bill Griffith, who knows a thing or two about pinheads. His Zippy the Pinhead strip is inspired by Schlitzie, who most famously appeared in the movie that ended Tod Browning’s career, FREAKS. Griffith got the name from another pinhead who traveled the freak circuit at the time, Zip the What Is It, and tries to clear a path through the carny mythos to reach the real man (often exhibited as a woman). He beautifull ...more
Oct 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
(Note: I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley)

Yes, the man known as Schilitze spent most of his life as an attraction in sideshows where he was paraded as an exotic spectacle. Yet at the same time, he enjoyed no small amount of success and in fact seemed to enjoy it very much. Also, it can't be denied that his character and spirit deeply touched those who knew him, especially in light of the lengths that many took to take care of him. This man's long career, to say the least, is a
Bill Griffith brings his talents to the story of Schlitzie Surtees, perhaps the best known "pinhead" in all of sideshow history -- you might recognize him from the Tod Browning film Freaks. Griffith draws on historical documents, interviews, and more to piece together a biography of Schlitzie that is at turns humorous, heartfelt, and downright harrowing - I didn't know that he was briefly (and miserably) confined to a county hospital before being returned to the care of Ward Hall and another sid ...more
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Nobody's Fool The Life and Times of Schlitzie The Pinhead

A biography by Bill Griffith is an enchanting graphic novel that I think you will find absolutely interesting. Released recently by ABRAMS this one is the story of an abnormal man born supposedly in Bronx in 1901. His name maybe was Simon. His family sold, without too much compassion this kid with evident big problems to a company. At the beginning of XX century, abnormal people, people with great health's problems, it could be a mental il
Engaging, compassionately told story of "Schlitzie" a microcephalic person born in the early 1900s who spent a life appearing in circus sideshows. Griffith is straightforward about the uncertainties of Schlitzie's backstory, presents both kind and violent treatment by his "owners" and other members of the circus, and visually portrays Schlitzie's life in detailed and understated line art.

Recommended for teens and adults interested in sideshow people and life and of people who are significantly "
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating, thoughtful, and oddly moving. Reading it, I felt bound to ask myself: had I been there, would I have been among those who were able to love Schlitze, or would I have been one of those who feared or hated him because of his strangeness? I would like to have been one of the former, but I don’t know.
Aiden McDonough
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I watched Freaks when I was younger and absolutely loved everything about it. Schlitzie was a lovable character in the movie for me. I have always had interest in the story behind historic “freaks” that were featured in the original sideshows. I think Griffith did an excellent job detailing Schlitzie’s life in such a way that portrayed him as a person all his on rather than a face lost in history. I think it also showed that he, along with the others featured in the book, are far beyond their he ...more
Edward Sullivan
A poignant, often heartbreaking, admiring and dignified portrait of the "human curiosity," Schlitzie Surtees who appeared in Tod Browning's cult classic film Freaks and in circus sideshows throughout North America for decades.
Carol Tilley
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics, biography
Masterful and humane.
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Having worked so long in the very small sideshow world, writing about the history of sideshow, and reading everything I could about its unique history, I was familiar with Schlitzie, his performance in Freaks, and his status as somewhat of a superstar like so many other early 20th century sideshow performers. I did not, however, know the specifics of his story, though it is a familiar one: sold by his parents to a persuasive sideshow owner, who convinced them that he could never live a regular l ...more
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully illustrated, well-told and -researched biography of sideshow performer Schlitzie the Pinhead. Griffith illustrates Schlitzie's life with compassion and dignity, and shows him as somebody who—though sold at age 8 by his family to a circus promoter—was loved and protected throughout his life, primarily by circus freaks and managers. The material record on Schlitzie seems scarce, and Griffith doesn't hesitate to show the profound emotional duress Schlitizie often endured, be it separa ...more
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Years ago when I was a teenager and found a copy of Freaks on VHS. I learned that in the movie there was no actors playing the characters with the disabilities. They were all people who had been found from traveling carnivals and similar shows. I'm so glad I was able to win a copy of this book! Before I felt sorry for the ones with the disabilities. Not only do you learn about Schlitzie's life, but also about a few of the other characters that appeared in Freaks. Great book!
Tracy Stuttler
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: misc-read
I won this book through Goodreads. Absolutely adored this book. Very fun but informative as well. Always been a huge fan.
Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Highly sensitive and care wrought chronicle. Look for it on year's best lists.
Kristen Olsen
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great book!
Adam Stone
Some biographies give me the feeling that the creator is too close to his subject matter to know what parts of the story are interesting, and what can be edited out.

That's how this felt to me.

The story of Schlitzie is interesting, but the transitions from sideshow to sideshow were all fairly similar, and they seemed unnecessarily repetitive from a narrative standpoint.

Overall, I felt that this was an enjoyable 100 page graphic novel that expanded into a 250 page passion project that will probabl
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