Who You Callin’ A Pinhead?!?

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. . . And if so, what’s so bad about being a pinhead? Bill Griffith does not punish the pin-ish. His new anniversary Zippy graphic novel shows why! Y’see?!

In 1971, Bill Griffith, who I’ve known since I was 17, created his classic comic strip “Zippy the Pinhead,” syndicated by King Features in more than 100 newspapers. Griffith’s inspiration for Zippy came from the cult classic film “Freaks,” produced in 1932, which featured a circus where all of the sideshow performers were real, not actors. Schlitzie Surtees (1901–71), aka Schlitzie the Pinhead, was a standout star in the film, and Griffith became fascinated with the real, legendary career of this singular performer, who started out in small town carnivals and eventually ended up performing with the Ringling Brothers Circus.

Zippy became a cultural icon now he’s celebrated in Bill Griffith’s Nobody’s Fool: The Life and Times of Schlitzie the Pinhead (Abrams ComicArts), a masterpiece of absurdity and humanity. After all these years Schlitzie still triggers laughter and tears.

In researching Schlitzie’s life, Griffith has tracked down primary sources and archives throughout the country, as well as conducting interviews with those who worked with him and had intimate knowledge of his personality, his likes and dislikes, how he responded to being a sideshow “freak,” and much more. The result is the exhaustive, celebratory, definitive, first-ever history of Schlitzie.


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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →