Comic Solutions

Book Review: Andre the Giant

Screen Shot 2014-05-09 at 10.11.13 AMAndre the Giant: Life and Legend
Box Brown
First Second
May 2014

Andre Roussimoff, better know as Andre the Giant, was a figure bigger than life. He was a heroic pro-wrestling figure and the lovable giant Fezzik in The Princess Bride.  At the height of his fame he was seven and a half feet tall and weighed over 500lbs (possibly topping 700lbs later in life.) He was this way thanks to a genetic disorder, acromegaly, that caused him to never stop growing…and ultimately led to his death at a young age. But who was he really? A hero? A wrestler? A monster to be scared of? In this graphic novel Box Brown draws on a variety of sources, including videos of colleagues like Hulk Hogan, and film stars such as Robin Wright, Billy Crystal, Mandy Patinkin, to craft the biography of one the most recognizable figures of the 20th Century.  Even if you never watched wrestling, this is still a tale to read.

This is not a traditional graphic novel as Box is drawing on a variety of sources, some reliable and some not, to tell the story of Andre the Giant. And unlike a traditional biography, we never get quite a complete picture of Andre. Instead we get slice of life moments, such as him working for a moving company or his fights with fellow wrestlers. They capture small stories in a larger tale about this giant. And yet…Box does an admirable job of giving us a sense of who Andre really is, with his quirks, his faults and flaws, and the good within his life. We see that while he was know as a hero across the world, that at his core he was as human as the rest of us. He could be quick to anger, he could be violent when drunk, he could say things that would hurt other people. And then other times he could be compassionate, giving money to the homeless and offering comfort at times of need. And that even with his money and fame and talent, he was content with the simple things of his life of being on his farm in North Carolina.

Box does an excellent job of capturing the variety of people in Andre’s life, ranging from Andre himself to Hulk Hogan to his managers and to move stars such as Mandy Patinkin. Although the drawings are simple black and white, Box gives them life by their facial expressions and the movements of their eyes. He does an great job in particular of capturing how Andre looked throughout the years, which can be a difficult task given that his genetic disorder caused him to age prematurely.

Box does a fantastic job of capturing this gentle giant, for all of his faults and flaws, as a human being. He shows us that all Andre wanted was to live his life and enjoy it, regardless of how others perceived him. It’s a fitting biography for one of the most famous figures of the 1980’s/90’s and one that is sure to be enjoyed by anyone that grew up watching Andre. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

ARC provided by Gina at First Second

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