People may think of Thomas Alva Edison as the inventor of the lightbulb, Fyodor Dostoyevsky as the author of Crime and Punishment, and Clara Bow as the ''It'' girl of '20s Hollywood. But to Andrew Helfer, group editor of the DC Comics imprint Paradox Press, they are so much more. They're weirdos.
As are Howard Hughes (who saved his urine in jars), Vincent van Gogh (who, in a fit of madness, cut off his ear and sent it to a prostitute who had spurned him), the director Edward D. Wood Jr. (a transvestite with a fondness for angora), and some 60 other crackpots and visionaries in the comic-book collection The Big Book of Weirdos.
''With few exceptions, most of the weirdos we hold with some amusement and affection,'' says Helfer, who oversees the ''Big Books,'' which already include The Big Book of Urban Legends and will soon feature The Big Book of Death. ''We've tipped our hats to the greatness these people achieved and then dwelt on what made them weird. My hope is that each story will make a person wonder further.
''It's not until people are dead that you find out how weird they were,'' Helfer continues. A case in point: J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime ultra-right-wing FBI director, who was also, according to recent accounts, a cross-dresser. ''Comics allow people to visualize things,'' says Helfer, explaining the concept behind this latest entry in adult-oriented comics. ''You can read a biography of J. Edgar Hoover, but you can't see him in his 'Mary Hoover' dress.'' Well, you can now.