Andre Roussimoff is known as both the lovable giant in The Princess Bride and a heroic pro-wrestling figure. He was a normal guy who'd been dealt an extraordinary hand in life. At his peak, he weighed 500 pounds and stood nearly seven and a half feet tall. But the huge stature that made his fame also signed his death warrant.
Box Brown brings his great talents as a cartoonist and biographer to this phenomenal new graphic novel. Drawing from historical records about Andre's life as well as a wealth of anecdotes from his colleagues in the wrestling world, including Hulk Hogan, and his film co-stars (Billy Crystal, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, etc), Brown has created in Andre the Giant, the first substantive biography of one of the twentieth century's most recognizable figures.
So you don't care about "professional" wrestling or the WWF or have never heard of Andre the Giant? Well, be prepared to get interested. Andre was 7'4", and was in excess of 500 pounds when he died. He worked as a pro wrestler, became internationally famous for it, and that very size (and a disease he was said to have that kept him growing and prematurely aging) killed him at 46. If you liked Princess Bride, as millions do, Andre was in that film and best known for that outside of wrestling. He was also famous for feats of eating (he would eat two 2 dozen egg omelets at a sitting) and drinking (sometimes consuming 100 beers at a time). Brown does a very nice job pacing the life story of the Giant, and he is a lifelong fan of the "sport". He also balances Andre's story, letting us know his good points (he was generous, often friendly, a huge supporter of pro wrestling and fellow wrestlers), but not ignoring his faults (he had a daughter he only saw four times, he was often an ugly drunk, he wasn't always very nice to lots of people, womanizer). And others were mean to and about him, at his size, all his life.
A sad story, overall, but still, entertaining. When he was a kid and too big to ride the bus to school, Samuel Beckett (yes, that Samuel Beckett!) (who had a truck) would drive him to school. Cool factoid, eh? I find out there are many books written about him, one of the historic stars of pro wrestling and Princess Bride and other films and tv appearances. This has gaps, is not perfect, but it is good and balanced and the art is very good, elegant and spare, black and white and gray. I liked it quite a bit. It may be more for YA than other audiences, not sure. But I liked it.
I'm not a fan of professional wrestling, and I never have been. Nothing against it, it just isn't my thing. What interest I have in Andre Roussimoff comes from my many, many viewings of A Princess Bride. I was a little worried that I might not be able to follow all of the wrestling related stuff. I was surprised at how easy Brown made it for a non-fan like myself to understand what was going on. I could basically tell what was going on in the ring, which I didn't expect at all. Oh, I'm sure that anybody who'd been watching wrestling for the last few decades will get even more from it. They'll recognize more than just two or three names, for one.
This isn't a lightweight bio, either. Brown doesn't hesitate to show some of the less savory aspects of Andre's life. He was a heavy drinker, absent father, and sometimes unpleasant. And he was often generous, thoughtful, and took the business of wrestling seriously. It left me with, I think, a more real understanding of Andre than if Brown had written the good parts version.
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.
Andre the Giant is the biography of professional wrestler (and The Princess Bride actor!) Andre Roussimoff. Author & artist Box Brown is known for his well-researched stories (such as Tetris: Games People Play), and Andre the Giant is no exception.
The graphic novel spans from Andre's childhood in Molien, France (1958) to his time wresting in Japan (1991-92). Followers of professional wrestling will enjoy seeing their favorite wrestlers in graphic format. Fans of The Princess Bride will delight at the 'behind the scenes' coverage and memories shared by Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright, and Rob Reiner.
And anyone who enjoys gaining insight into the lives of other humans, will appreciate this graphic novel biography of "a normal guy who'd been dealt an extraordinary hand in life." - Diana F.
I have a soft spot for Andre the Giant (who doesn't?) so when I read about this in the NY Times I made a beeline for the library and eventually found it, banished in the Young Adult Room ghetto. For some reason, my library has half of its graphic novels in the regular popular library and half in the Young Adult Room and what goes where seems sort of arbitrary. So, as the kids of DC will soon find out, Andre the Giant was a hard living womanizer, a deadbeat dad, and a carouser who could put away prodigious amounts of alcohol and eggs. He was also living with the pain of knowing he had a terminal disease and constant reminders that he (literally) didn't fit into this world. You get the feeling that for the most part, he felt comfortable with his choices - maybe a few regrets, but ultimately that he felt he'd found a niche that allowed him to make the most of what he'd been given. Brown gives the impression that Andre didn't have a lot (or possibly any) close friends, and that his personality and maybe his circumstances caused him to keep his feelings mostly to himself - but that may have been partly a research and sources issue. We mostly learn about Andre through road-life anecdotes given by professional wrestlers who worked and went on tour with him and who may, or may not, have known him best.
The art and the dialogue are pretty simple, but effectively tell the story. And though it doesn't look like the author did much original research, he did do some digging and includes a helpful list of his sources in the back (mostly old interviews and bios of pro-wrestlers). The book felt really light to me and I breezed through it. I was interested, but wasn't lingering on pages like I do with art I really connect with. Minimalist art can be deceptively powerful and affecting - and, while the art was good, I didn't really get that feeling here. Still, the story of Andre's life and the illness that drove him was enough to keep me engaged and eagerly turning pages. In that sense, the book is a success - it tells an interesting story in an effective way that leaves you thinking more about the subject than about the artist.
This graphic novel/biography examines Andre's life from about the age of 12 until his death. Andre, like everyone has many things that made him great as well as plenty of things that he could have done better.
He was usually very endearing and tended to refer to everyone as, "Boss". When filming Princess Bride, he kept Robin Wright warm by gently placing his hand on her head (he generated a LOT of heat).
Since the drawing doesn't really do justice to how this might have looked, remember Andre's hand on Cary Elwes' during the movie?
His acromegaly and the damage from wrestling put quite the stress on his body. He had surgery on his back at one time, and they had to think outside the box for everything - from the stretcher, to the surgical instruments/hardware, to how much anesthesia he needed (the massive amounts of alcohol he could drink was legendary, so I can only imagine the amount of anesthesia that was needed).
He spent other times in the hospital for various other joint/bone issues and heart issues related to his condition.
He did plenty of flying for all of his wrestling. I don't know how he "held it" on those long flights...
I didn't know that Andre had a daughter named Robin. It seems as though he would have liked more time with her, but between his career and the strained relationship with her mother, and likely other factors, it just didn't happen. I wonder whether working with Robin Wright made him think of his own daughter since they shared the same name.
Andre remains in so many people's hearts for the Princess Bride. In a few years, when my boys are old enough, they will watch Princess Bride, and he will be remembered by a whole new generation.
This book starts off with a lot of promise. In the first pages, Hulk Hogan speaks poetically about Andre the Giant, and tells us (it is drawn in the style of a documentary interview, camera on Hulk) that though Andre could be gruff and short-tempered, he was, underneath it all, a solidly good human being who has suffered immensely.
The Hulk Hogan interveiw and the scene with Samuel Becket and the pickup truck (also in the early pages of the book) were the most compelling parts of the story for me.
In the end, the book is repetitive. It's a bit of a dog chasing its tail of a book and there's no arc to it. It doesn't seem to have much more to say than:
Andre drinks absurd amounts of alcohol all the time. When he drinks he gets belligerent and out of control and alienates people. When he's relatively sober he tries to make friends with them again. He travels a lot. He is in pain a lot.
According to the text, Andre gives next to nothing toward the financial support of the daughter he's met once or twice, and sometimes spends upwards of $40,000 bucks a night drinking. He is verbally abusive at some point to just about everyone he comes into contact with. Yes, it's hard being a giant, but that's not enough to carry a book, and it doesn't explain away his profoundly destructive behavior. Maybe there's just not enough information out there to write a more soulful book. I can't say I recommend this one.
I was in seventh grade in 1987. I was perhaps the perfect age for becoming desperately fanatical over the events leading up to Wrestlemania III. It was the perfect combination of soap opera and athleticism. My brother and I would watch WWF matches every Saturday morning. I would come to school the next week and exuberate over what happened, what would happen next, who were good guys, who were bad guys, and who would win the championships. Hulk Hogan, Nikolai Volkoff, George the Animal Steele, Adrian Adonis, the Honky Tonk Man, Billy Jack Haynes, the Junkyard Dog, the Iron Sheik, Hillbilly Jim, Captain Lou Albano, the British Bulldogs, Ricky the Dragon Steamboat, Kamala the Ugandan Headhunter, the Rougeau Brothers, Jake the Snake Roberts, Macho Man Randy Savage. And Andre the Giant. These men were the lords on the earth. They were tremendous figures—though their feuds often seemed concocted even to a seventh-grade me.
In March of 1987, Wrestlemania III took place in the Pontiac Silverdome to, apparently, record attendance. For whatever reason, my dad took the cue that we loved wrestling and got us tickets to watch on closed-circuit television along with a packed-out crowd at the Anaheim Convention Center. It was easily the most exciting thing I had experienced up to that point. We roared, we booed, we screamed. The hall was electric with fans who were deeply invested in the stuff. I, personally, was there for the Ricky the Dragon Steamboat vs Macho Man Randy Savage grudge match. I was furious with Savage and needed to see vindication for the injustices he’d earlier perpetrated against Steamboat. And honestly, it was the best wrestling I’d ever seen.
The headlining match in which Hulk Hogan was challenged by Andre the Giant was definitely a draw, but it was secondhand snuff by comparison. The problem was that I just didn’t like the Hulkster. He always felt a bit too big for his britches—he and his 24-inch pythons. So when Andre the Giant began feuding with him, I was like, “Good. Take his stupid belt. Devour him.” Really, I probably just wanted Ricky the Dragon Steamboat to take the belt. In any case, I was expecting a good match, just not a fantastic match. But man, we got a fantastic match. And Box Brown’s biography of the Giant spends a fair amount of time on Wrestlemania III and everything Andre did for Hogan in that contest.
I was worried that Brown’s work would have arrived too late for me. After all, my interest in the WWF and wrestling waned sharply after Wrestlemania III. My fandom wouldn’t even survive to Wrestlemania IV. I entirely lost track of all those characters and what they were doing or even whether wrestling still existed. I couldn’t be bothered. It all seemed a bit too infantile to eighth-grade me—an eighth-grade me who was still desperately longing for news of a potential X-Men cartoon that never materialized. Then a couple years later, I saw The Princess Bride for the first time. The movie was released years earlier, but still a kid, I was rather limited in which movies I had access to. And besides, what seventh grade boy really wanted to go see a movie with this for a poster:
But at last I saw The Princess Bride, and like everyone else in the world I came to adore Andre the Giant and his rhyming. And yet again, out of sight out of mind. I didn’t hear the news of Andre’s death in 1993 and wouldn’t discover it for another decade. The next time I encountered the man was in Shepard Fairey’s Andre- and They Live-inspired OBEY GIANT campaign. Fairey created the piece in 1994, but I didn’t take notice until 2000. By this point, I still didn’t know of the Giant’s death. All this is to sell you on the fact that I honestly couldn’t be bothered to care about wrestling or wrestlers or the welfare of those persons. It was like how I have no idea what’s up with Richard Adams, author of Watership Down. I just had other things going on. And I didn’t really ever see myself reading a biography of Andre the Giant (or for that matter, a Richard Adams biography either).
So when I tell you that I found Brown’s telling of the Giant’s life engaging and enjoyable and illuminating, you can be pretty sure I’m not writing from within the golden glow of nostalgia. Box Brown has composed a portrait of the imposing man’s life that draws together a number of fascinating pieces, illustrating the terror and wonder of Andre’s too-short life (he was six years older than me when he died of his giganticism. If I have one complaint, it’s that I wanted more. Another hundred-and-fifty pages of vignettes of this man’s life. Even though there’s a lot here, the Giant remains an enigma, as much a mystery as you or I.
What Brown does well is balance a variety of portraits of the wrestler in such a way that these contrary reports of the man’s actions and demeanor seem less a conflict and more a variegation of a life lived in the depths of unreal struggle. No matter how good and pure Andre may have been (and we want him to be good and pure), no one can stand up under the degree of fear he generated in those around him combined with wealth and power and popularity and come out shiny and clean. That he does so well as he does, remaining loved and remembered by a good number among his friends, is a reminder that despite the faults, he was generally a good-hearted man.
Still, those who wish to recall him wholly as the good-natured Fezzig from The Princess Bride may be disappointed with the scuffing to his reputation here. Heavy drinking, womanizing, disinterested and deadbeat fatherhood, and the occasional drunken racial slur (a la Mel Gibson). These are among the nicks on his armour. But interestingly, Andre is such an unreal figure that these very human flaws serve to humanize him.
And that’s probably the biggest power of Brown’s toolbox. He visually brings home just how ridiculously large Andre is in comparison to those around him. My wife is miniature set next to me. She is a foot shorter than me and I double her weight. The difference is striking when we stand closely together. I am not a small man. And yet, Andre had nearly a foot-and-a-half on me and was nearly three of me in weight. That would be daunting for anyone to confront. Brown’s work often invokes the term monster—and that’s exactly the sense that his drawings, for all their almost Ware-like simplicity, describe. Andre is monstrous. Yet for all that, Brown remembers to display how human he really is. Was. However we refer to the deceased who are also fictionalized characters in a book.
If visually Andre is a monster, Brown is careful to keep his fragility of spirit on display as well. Even in some of the exuberances of his personality (the drinking, the fights, the belligerence), it’s easy to interpret them as reactions from within the social prison his form created for him. Hulk Hogan himself even offers this perspective within the book. We see happy moments, sad moments. Moments from Andre’s perspective, moments from the vantage of his co-workers in the ring. It’s a solid mix and gives meat to the bones of his spirit.
Brown plays his storytelling rather straightforward. He jumps from location to location, skipping time liberally to cover forty-six years in a pretty brisk hop. He doesn’t seem to be playing any narrative tricks prompting nuanced or complex readings of the material, which is probably fitting. Andre, for all his mystery, is still a simple and straightforward picture, and anything that would distract from that would likely be a disservice.
Probably whatever you remember Andre for, that episode from his life will be represented. The pivotal pericope, however, intersects perfectly with my own experience of the Giant. While we get scenes from Andre’s rise in the wrestling world, his match with boxer Chuck Wepner, and the filming of The Princess Bride, it’s Andre’s title match against Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania III that occupies the most space and is perhaps most lovingly recounted. And Brown does a great job recreating the details and a kind of play-by-play of the contest while simultaneously providing background and insight into what was going on within the scene. He brought to life something I had once witnessed but didn’t quite apprehend—and that was a lovely thing to come across so many years later.
I mentioned earlier that I wished there had been more pages in Brown’s work here. That’s not to suggest that Andre the Giant: Life and Legend is poorly conceived or that it leaves too many strings untangled. Merely, I hoped to describe that my enjoyment of the book was such that I wouldn’t have minded more of the same. I often feel this way about graphic novel biographies. It’s such an easy, fluid means to access the lives of others that these lives can often feel as though they are flitting by too quickly—as if they are underliving their value. I felt this way with Ottaviani and Wicks’ Primates as well. (Though not, curiously, with Ottaviani’s Feynman, which was thick for its short page count and perfectly essayed.) All this is to say that if Box Brown decides to biographize the life of Richard Adams, I would not turn down the opportunity to happily read that one too. _______
Footnotes 1) Where they’ve held Wonder-Con the past couple years.
2) Fabricated, sure, but I was only tangentially aware of that back then.
3) Pro tip: it did still exist.
4) It was repurposed from an earlier campaign, “Andre the Giant Has a Posse,” after Fairey received cease-and-desist notice from Andre the Giant’s trademark owners.
5) Though if you’re a regular reader of my reviews, you may actually know more about me than I now know about Andre the Giant.
6) To clarify the point, this is non-fiction. But as in all biography, license is taken for the sake of story. Things are depicted in particular ways. The world bends to the storyteller’s pen so that this version of things might be the truest version of things. Truer than life is the goal of every thorough biographer.
I mean, I made that up just now, but I’m pretty sure it’s true.
...people don't get it. There was never a fork or a knife, even a bed! There was never a situation where he could be comfortable. He was a seven-foot-four giant. With all the injuries and everything he shrank down to under seven feet.
I watched him when he'd walk ahead of me at the airport. I heard people say horrible things and make fun of him.
He lived in a cruel world.
If you really understood what he went through and what he was all about, he was a gracious person with a kind heart. But he didn't put up with any games or chicanery.
Most people don't understand the big picture.
It turns out that being a giant kind of sucks. For the giant. For everyone else, it's sort of awesome. Rob Reiner has to explain Andre's $40k bar tab from a month of shooting in London, sure, but it's a great story. Samuel Beckett drove a young Andre to school after he grew too much and wouldn't fit in the school bus. Luckily, Beckett owned a truck and Andre could sit in the bed. Again, a pretty great story.
On the giant's side, there's a lot of pain, a lot of problems, and you're just about guaranteed to die young.
What I liked about this book was that it was an unvarnished look at a man's life. If you google around for Andre the Giant stories, lots of stuff about what a great dude he was, so kind and generous and all this. But the truth is that he pissed some people off. He was an ass more than a few times.
Andre's memory might be a case of widespread AJ Syndrome.
AJ syndrome is a term I coined based on this kid who died at my junior high school. I certainly wouldn't ever ever ever wish death on someone that young. Even then I didn't. But when I heard the kid died...well, I could only conjure memories of the kid being a complete jerk. Because that's the way he acted.
It's unfair to respond to the death of a teenager by saying he was a jerk. Because so was I, and I was lucky enough to have time to build new opinions of me. Now people can hate me in a much more informed way, and I'm able to be a more adult, more mature type of jerk to them.
However, what's also a bit unfair is to remember the dead as something they weren't. To manufacture niceness from someone because they are now dead. Especially when we're talking about an adult, even if that adult had a difficult life in a lot of ways.
This book, more than most of the other things I've read about Andre, seems to present the truth. Andre the Giant was a guy. A giant guy, a guy who drank over a hundred beers in a sitting, after which he passed out and was tucked under a piano cover, the only thing big enough to accommodate him. And he was also a guy who could be kind of a dick sometimes.
Yes, he's dead, and there's not a lot of point in saying bad things about the dead. EXCEPT that it makes me wonder...well, if a dead person is unassailable merely because he or she is dead, then what point is there in leaving a lasting legacy of goodness? We'll all die eventually, and by dying we ascend to a certain level of sainthood? No thanks.
So I appreciate this book for what it is. Painting the sometimes ugly portrait, but not without empathy for the giant's plight.
The storytelling was chronological but felt really disjointed. Sometimes not enough context/description given and other times way too much and not enough reliance on the reader or faith in the illustrations to communicate. For example: "Hogan, looking weirded out, acted as if his hand was crushed." Yeah. I got that from the drawing. The author is a wrestling fanatic and the vast majority of the bibliography is wrestling specific. There is a really slim section (six pages) on Andre's time filming the princess bride that is based entirely off of the DVD extras/special features.
A quick read but wouldn't revisit or recommend because ultimately I didn't think most of the stories were very interesting. Big takeaways: Andre the Giant liked to drink and play cards. Life could be difficult for him in predictably obvious ways because he was enormous.
What is not to love about a book that contains both Samuel Beckett and Mandy Patinkin?
This book is also full of all sorts of things about wrestling that I did not know previously, which was helpful, since I knew absolutely zero about wrestling. Yay being entertainingly informed about new things!
Above all, it's a fascinating look inside the life of a man who spent much of his time in the public spotlight . . . but had many facets that were not immediately visible to the world at large.
I keep reading things about the transparency of the internet in today's life, and wondering what we would have thought of Andre had he been keeping a public blog throughout his life.
I have been really looking forward to this book, and I've heard so much buzz about it, that I was a bit disappointed, to be honest. I love Andre the Giant. I used to watch the Hulk Hogan Saturday Morning cartoon, and I am a huge Princess Bride fan. I remember reading an article about him shortly after he died, talking about how he was in so much pain his last few years, had had so many surgeries, yet was still such an amazing guy that everybody loved. So, clearly, a biography about him in graphic novel form sounded like just my sort of book.
But this isn't really a biography of him. It's sort of a series of vignettes, illustrated.I would say that forty percent of the stories are about wrestling, forty percent about him drinking and hanging out in bars, and the other twenty percent is his life. It's only mentioned briefly that he loved The Princess Bride, yet in two or three articles I've read (the one about him, a couple about the movie itself) they talked about how he would watch it every day, and everyone traveling with him had to watch it, too. He had several surgeries and they removed huge chunks of bone from his knees so that they wouldn't grow together and make him unable to bend, but only one knee surgery and one back surgery are mentioned. And honestly, he comes off as kind of a jerk, but Brown keeps assuring us that everyone in wrestling respected him. But he doesn't show us why. There's not enough here for us to understand him. Why did he keep wrestling despite the pain? Why did they respect him long before that? Why is nearly ever other page him sitting and drinking? We get it: the guy could put away a lot of shots, but why do we care? And I think that's what really bothered me. If I didn't already care about Andre, I wouldn't care about him now. People picking this up who don't already admire him aren't going to admire him more, or be more curious about him. They might even be turned off.
PS- Although I know this is marketed for adults, I had wondered about giving it to my 10yo, who just recently saw The Princess Bride for the first time and loved it. But it's very much NOT for kids. Aside from the drinking, there's also sex and quite a bit of profanity, including the F-word. Just FYI.
People are just people, folks. We all have our own stresses, perspectives, lenses, experiences, biases, talents, desires, skills, challenges, weaknesses, and strengths. But we're all just people.
Andre the Giant was no exception.
Prior to reading this book, my primary reference point for him (like many people), was The Princess Bride. After reading this book, and googling a bunch of photos of the guy, I feel a bit more expert on the man. Andre Roussimoff's story makes me contemplate: Using potential challenges to your advantage Being in the public eye Where the line is between capitalizing on yourself and being a victim Stardom Sadness Alcoholism Professional wrestling He comes off as a well-meaning sweetheart, a tragic figure, affable, and practical.
I enjoyed Brown's approach and attention to the scholarship of his story - he includes a Foreword about Professional Wrestling, and Source Notes at the end. I really wish I could take it to middle schools, but decided that for me, it's more of a high-school book.
This feels like a book that was written from the perspective of a fan for a fan. As noted by other reviewers there is little noteworthy or new that is depicted. There is a superficial quality to this graphic novel and though we get a lot of Andre the Giant we get very little of Andre Roussimoff. Instead of any in depth analysis we get a chronology of his various matches and on the road escapades. There are a few interesting tidbits such as learning that as a young teen, Andre had an encounter with the playwright, Samuel Beckett. Also that in lieu of remembering names, Andre called everyone, "boss", almost reflectively.
For me, the biggest issue was the prevailing theme of Andre being a dick. It is important in depicting him to have a nuanced view, that does not rely on treating him as a saint but this swung far to the other side. Though, the author tries to show how being a giant in an average size person's world can be debilitating both physically and psychically, Andre's belligerence and downright bullying makes him an unsympathetic figure. His destruction of property and wanton use of racial epithets also does not paint a pretty picture. The manipulation of women and his strained relationship with his baby momma and daughter is another negative in his ledger.
Overall, while I enjoyed learning new things about Andre I do not understand who this graphic novel is for. For true wrestling fans it is too thin and due to the methodology of listening to shoot interviews is way too biased. For Andre the Giant fans it is no bueno, as it portrays him as a boorish lout who is often intoxicated. As for casual Andre fans or wrestling fans it delves more into the actual matches than the psychology of what it is be Andre the Giant.
This graphic novel was set up pretty strange in the fact that it wasn't in chronological order it jumped forward a lot, almost would seem like a highlight reel of Andre the Giants life in the ring and outside the ring. Starting from where he was treating like crap in his village by his neighbors due to his size to fixing a car that broken down, carrying a box up several flights of stairs as a moving man and then poof his a wrestler (all of this in the first 36 pages of the book). Then it goes on the regale us with the other moments of Andre's life from his travels in Japan and his wrestling there to his bouts in America. A cool thing that I learned while reading this was in 1976 he fought a boxer by the name of Chuck "The Bayonne Brawler" Wepner, and while Andre was under the impression that it was fun, no one told Chuck, just to keep his reactions "real". This whole match was then recreated in Rocky III, where Chuck is played by Rocky and Andre is played by Hulk Hogan. I had no idea that this came from real life and I thought it was just awesome. I love the Rocky movies. All in all, I didn't think it gave me enough information on the man to really tell me who he was. There's a part in the very beginning by Terry "Hulk Hogan" Bollea where he tell us that Andre was a sweet man but people though he was mean by the way he treated him, but giving the excuse that his a GIANT in a world where things aren't meant from him and that we should give him some slack was kind of a copout to me. eh.
Andre the Giant: Life and Legend is a graphic novel released by First Second written and drawn by Box Brown.
The graphic novel tell the story of Andre Roussimoff, better known as Andre the Giant - the 7 foot 6 inch tall and 600 pound wrestler. The book covers how Andre goi into the wrestling business and tales of his travels around the world. Because of the protection of the wrestling business, the tall-tales that former wrestlers tell, and stories passed around in the locker room, many of the stories about Andre may be more myth than fact, but they are still incredibly entertaining.
Enjoy the ride as you learn more about the man who just wanted to fit in and have a good time. Andre was taken from this world much too soon and I really wish he could have sat down to tell a proper story of his life because I believe his insights to the world would be eye opening.
Nice biography. Given pro wrestlers' penchant for exaggeration, Brown has attempted to get as close to the truth as possible. While there's certainly a bit of warts-and-all to this, it doesn't dominate. In at least some ways, Andre had a hard life and managed to do better than most at making the best of what he was given. Brown's quirky style is well-suited to this tale. Good stuff!
An interesting look at one of wrestling’s most famous performers. I was pleased that it showed both the good and bad of Andre. And while I believe Andre was a decent man, I’m sure he had his demons and could be difficult to those around you. The book is presented very respectfully but honestly.
I remember hearing that Andre had a great sense of humor, prodigious appetite, a great love for red wine, and he sounded like a nice guy despite the pain that comes with his size. However, this graphic novel also showed him as being kind of a bully at times and using his size to intimidate and get his way, all the while being harassed by the public; he had an illegitimate daughter that he did not provide for. The drawings were fun, showing just how massive Andre was. Literally larger than life.
This book showed a simple, humble man trying to get through a difficult life as best he could. He wasn't always gracious about it, and sometimes his patience would wear thin. It sounds like he faced many situations that he didn't quite know how to handle well, and he didn't always get the sound advice from those around him that you would hope for. I don't know if that's their fault, or Andre's for not listening or letting anyone get too close to feel that they could offer advice. It sounded like a lonely existence being a fighting giant.
I was hoping for a happy, carefree experience of a larger-than-life Frenchman, but instead it was the story of a lonesome giant trying to escape his woes.
It's a well done biography, although I'm in no position to judge its accuracy or selection of events to retell as I know little about Andre. I just wasn't very interested in his life.
I enjoyed the first bit when Brown chats about the 'wrestling is fake' dilemma. I enjoyed how wrestlers all have a code where they never reveal that wrestling is fake; that is until money got involved and a WWE manager admitted it wasn't a real sport in order to get out of paying sport taxes in a certain US state.
This book will interest people who want to read about Andre's life (which, I suppose, is saying the obvious).
[3.5/5] I love wrestling and I love comic books, this combines the two and shows how interesting the business can be while still being a fun read. especially as it focuses on one of the most unique men to ever live. it gives an interesting look into andre’s life, showing his struggles with his size and lifestyle as well as his not so great moments on top of literal larger than life career he had. it’s biggest negative in my book is that it ends up feeling like just a bunch of little andre stories glued together and it never really feels like a whole. that being said, some of the stories are presented in great ways and seeing that WM3 moment on the page literally gave me chills.
I'm not a fan of wrestling, but I love biographic comics, and this is one of the best I ever read. The writing and the art make possible to understand everything that involves the "sport", and the way of telling the story - with the good stuff in Andre's life, but also his deep problems - made the story relatable and touching. An excellent comic, and even people that don't read them would enjoy.