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4.0 out of 5 stars Legendary, 1 May 2014
By 
Sam Quixote - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Andre the Giant (Graphic Novel) (Paperback)
As a pre-teen, I was a huge WWF wrestling fan in the early ‘90s - I had the sticker albums, a bunch of taped matches, and loads of wrestling toys and a ring (or squared circle); I loved all that crazy stuff. I left it behind when I became a teenager and never went back but I remember a lot from that time. There was a fake barber with gardening shears called Beefcake, a Scotsman in a kilt who was also in movies, and literally dozens of colourful wrestlers from hitmen to bushwhackers. Arguably the most memorable was Hulk Hogan with his handlebar mustache and yellow outfit he’d tear before his matches with “I am a real American” playing as he entered the ring - and his most memorable fight was undoubtedly his match against Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania 3.

It wasn’t until a few years later after watching The Princess Bride that I looked up what had happened to Andre the Giant and found out he’d died in 1993 - oddly, about the time I was at my most obsessed with wrestling - at the relatively young age of 46 in his sleep. That was the last I thought about Andre for over a decade until I read this excellent comic book on the Giant’s life by the superb Box Brown.

The book follows Andre Roussimoff’’s remarkable life as a 7ft 4in tall man, how he got into wrestling and his rise to stardom. But this is more than a catalogue of events in a life; Brown imbues the story with Andre’s personality, a voice taken from anecdotes from friends, his numerous TV appearances and some artistic licence to make reading it more enjoyable. As a child, Andre was too tall to ride the bus so had to sit in the back of a pickup to be taken to school. Brown adds little touches like Andre’s dad giving the driver a bottle of wine for the ride, and the driver making jokes about his name, Beckett, and the famous playwright. Details like these - small, almost negligible - lift up this story and make it infinitely more personal.

While wrestling in Japan, Andre sees a doctor for the first time in his life and is diagnosed with acromegaly - a condition that means that, as big as he already is, he’ll continue to grow. The extra growth would add extra pressure to his joints, bones and heart, and the doctor grimly tells Andre he’ll be dead at 40 (he was out by 6 years). To illustrate Andre’s vulnerable physical state, he once broke his ankle just getting out of bed in the morning!

And while his condition is sad, and, as Hulk Hogan points out at the start, that wherever he went, he was ridiculed for his size, this book doesn’t sentimentalise Andre’s life nor make him out to be an untouchable saint - Brown gives us the full picture of the man he was. Andre was casually racist toward his fellow wrestler Bad News Brown (though they make up before Andre’s death), he fathered a daughter and only saw her 4 times in his life, the mother finally getting him to pay for child support after years of dodging payments, and he was frequently boorish, drunk and rude to friends. During a match with One Man Gang, a wrestler he knew to be a teetotaller, he snuck a beer into the ring and poured it down the unsuspecting wrestler’s throat!

After the filming of The Princess Bride, Rob Reiner discovers Andre’s bar tab was $40k and his lengthy drinking sessions are documented here - he reportedly drank over 100 beers in one sitting! Each of the main actors in the movie get a page with an Andre anecdote, my favourite being when Robin Wright was cold, Andre put his hand on her head, enveloping it entirely, and warming her up! Other famous moments like his Letterman appearance in ‘84 and his fight with Chuck Wepner (the boxer whose fight against Ali became the inspiration for Rocky) are also included.

Of course, the wrestling is written about the most and Brown explains the various wrestling terms so that anyone, regardless of their familiarity with it, will find the book accessible. Wrestlemania 3 was the biggest fight of Andre’s career, with the event selling 90,000 tickets, as Andre faced off against Hulk Hogan. Brown goes through the preliminaries of the fight, showing how the WWF (now the WWE, having lost a legal case with the World Wildlife Fund for the acronym) built up excitement for the match, staging a rivalry between the two wrestlers (in real life they were friends). Brown then goes through the fight, explaining how the two sold the action to the audience and how it was choreographed. Brown shows not only a strong understanding of wrestling but enlightens readers as to its machinations.

And while a common refrain from critics of wrestling is that it’s all fake, and it is, well, the wrestlers are really up there doing the heavy lifting. Hogan does lift Andre in the fight and that’s not fake, nor is the giant standing on Hogan’s back fake. More than anything this book shows that you do need to be in good shape to do half of what these guys do in the ring. One of my favourite scenes in this book is when Andre’s in a bar drinking and a coupla drunks talk smack about how wrestling is fake and that wrestlers are pussies, then run away when Andre stands up in front of them. He chases them out and tips over their car - with them inside, terrified - single-handedly!

Box Brown has created a wonderful book about the life of one of wrestling’s greatest, Andre the Giant, as well as a great book on wrestling itself. It’s well written and drawn in Brown’s understated yet delightful illustration style, and by turns informative, entertaining, real and heartfelt. If you’re unfamiliar with the guy’s work, check out his comics on his website which are absolutely terrific.

The book didn’t bring me back to wrestling but it did make me look up tons of wrestling matches from the ‘80s and ‘90s on Youtube which took me back to when I was a kid and in awe of wrestlers like Andre and Hogan. Andre the Giant: Life and Legend is a fantastic comic by an enormously talented cartoonist. Whether or not you enjoy wrestling, this is a thoroughly engrossing book that’s well worth reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A plane ride to nowhere, 15 Jun 2014
By 
M. A. PRITCHARD (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Andre the Giant (Graphic Novel) (Paperback)
There was an emotional and developmental sense of stasis, of inertia that made reading this fine, subtle book about the life of Andre the Giant a melancholic experience for this reader. Perhaps it’s just the nature of the perpetually adolescent pro wrestling industry itself, but my lasting impression is of the book’s final panel, of hedonism, emptiness and of wasting time by playing cards on an endless plane ride to nowhere. I didn’t get a real sense of who Andre Roussimoff really was, but perhaps that’s the real sadness behind the persona, that there was nothing there, just a massive, empty façade, and when the show was over there was nothing. Just endless drinking and embarrassing moments of rudeness caused by the alcohol consumption.

The man was not a hero, but he was not a villain either. He was just a man who grew too big, made some money out of it, and died at an early age (46 years-old) without doing all of the things in life that men are supposed to do. He had a child, but she interfered with his career, so he wasn’t interested. He wasn’t married and his friendships were based on him being a celebrity. There was a sad, shallow emptiness about everything he did. He had a ranch where he stayed when he wasn’t playing cards on an aeroplane. He wrestled, and he drank. The book shoots by so fast, with panels that have a childish sense of fun about them. Panels that have a cartoon simplicity, a lack of complexity that is perfect to depict a life far less interesting than you might think, the life of a pro wrestler. His life was not fun. It looked boring. I wouldn’t want that life. He travelled, but he was too big, and he was in constant pain, and when he finished travelling he died, alone on his ranch, in pain.

He was not a victim. He lived his life on his own terms. Selfish, empty and looking to capitalise financially and socially out of his size. He didn’t do it to feed his family. He did it to feed himself. It’s a story of a hollow life. Of a life only half lived, and it’s a lesson to men of all size. Life is not about appearance. Life is not about travelling. Life is not about hedonism. Life is about stages of development. If all you do is stay at one stage, never progressing and experiencing the other stages of life, what’s the point? Pro wrestling is the perfect metaphor for stunted emotional development. It is childish fun, but eventually you have to leave it behind, not just as a fan, but as this book demonstrates, as a performer as well.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a giant success !, 9 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Andre the Giant (Graphic Novel) (Paperback)
a beautifully illustrated book. the story flows beautifully, capturing both the hardships and fun times in andres life.
a must read for wrestling fans and fans of the medium
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Man Behind the Legend, 11 May 2014
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This review is from: Andre the Giant (Graphic Novel) (Paperback)
I was a big wrestling fan in the early to mid eighties and just thrilled to bits when I heard this biography of Andre Roussimoff was coming out. I'm so pleased that it met up with my high expectations. Andre the Giant is pretty much of a legend in the secretive wrestling world of the '80s making it very hard to know where the truth ends and fabrication begins. Using artistic license to bring us a story in visual form Box Brown has done a fantastic job of putting all the most reasonable anecdotes together with the verifiable facts bringing us an inside look at this tortured man's life. He was an enigma who brought wrestling to the mainstream audience, a man with a death sentence of a disease and one who lived with perpetual pain. Hard-drinking, rude and racist he was also a kind, gentle giant faced with discrimination and this graphic biography is a wonderful portrait of the man from all angles. At the end of the book the author has compiled a Notes section which details where his information came from and how he interpreted it, which also made for interesting reading.
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Andre the Giant (Graphic Novel)
Andre the Giant (Graphic Novel) by Box Brown (Paperback - 4 Jun 2014)
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