Book Review: Andre The Giant: Life and Legend (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, April 30, 2014
For children in the 1980s nobody was bigger than Andre the Giant. Hulk Hogan was the upcoming phenom, and the Ultimate Warrior the crazed loose cannon, but Andre was the living mountain from which these minuscule (by comparison) muscle bound men sprung, like Athena from the mind of Zeus. Not only was he an unstoppable wrestling machine, but also the lovable brute squad over achiever Fezzik in Rob Reiner's seminal classic The Princess Bride. These parts, and his tremendous proportions would, transform a quiet farm boy into a mythological creature for an entire generation.
There was quite a bit more to Andre Rene Roussimoff than just those two roles might convey, and yet there has never been a biography of his amazing and tragic life. Enter Box Brown, the Ignatz Award winner cartoonist, who has decided to suplex this treasured topic onto the canvas of graphic imagery. In endeavoring to do so he faced the same difficult decisions which all biographers do when they are likewise fans of the subject: is everything to be included, even the most unflattering life moments? To paint an honest and complete image of the man, Brown pulls no punches. This isn't a monument to Andre, sandblasted clean of all the unsavory barnacles for the simple sake of nostalgia. Here is a man's life, and extraordinary man for sure, but his complicated life nonetheless, laid bare on the paneled pages for posterity. It's scathingly honest, complex, and endearing.
The true strength of Brown's work on Andre the Giant: Life and Legend is that in spite of the less savory portions of his subject's life, there's a humanity shining through which readers cannot help but be touched by. Some of this emanated from the man himself, as the oft called "gentle giant" was a tremendously caring person. The true emotional evocation springs from Brown's endearing artwork, which has a retro chic feel that calls to mind Darwyn Cooke's take on the Richard Stark's Parker novels. These's a seeming simplicity to the art at first glance, but it becomes quite evident that this simplicity offers Brown subtle flexibility in his human gestures and facial expressions. These really sell the emotional highs and lows, delivering more power with the gut punch than flashier art with less subtlety.
For those who grew up following the exploits of the Eighth Wonder of the World, there couldn't be a more emotional roller coaster than Andre the Giant: Life and Legend. Wonderfully mixing interviews with famous costars, antecedents from secondary sources, graphical transcription of televised events, and diligent research packed with fascinating factoids, Brown delivers the definitive Andre the Giant biography. It's a sad and often lonely journey for someone so beloved by the masses, yet set so apart from the common man. This graphic novel will change your perspective on The Giant. This is a must purchase for die hard wrestling fans. It's also an easy recommendation for anyone who grew up in the 80s (Andre was a part of everyone's life back then, whether they know it or not).
Andre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown releases on May 6 from First Second Books as a Graphic novel for $17.99, and if you don't pick it up, I'll send the Brute Squad.
Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.
Mania Grade: A
Author: Box Brown
Publisher: First Second Books
Book Genre: Biography
Format: Graphic Novel, 240 pages