Artist/Writer: Box Brown
Publisher: First Second Press
In the world of professional wrestling, there is no one larger than life than Andre The Giant.
Born Andre Roussimoff in Grenoble, France in 1946, Andre was a once-in-a-lifetime athlete. Suffering from a rare disorder, acromegaly, by the time Andre was 12 years old, he was over six feet tall, weighed 240 pounds and continued to grow well into his adult life. At his biggest, he was seven and a half feet and weighed over 500 pounds, earning him the moniker “The 8th Wonder of the World.” Throughout his life, Andre’s legend spread and the tales of his exploits were told by friends and foes alike.
Writer Box Brown compiled stories and recordings about Andre, but instead of reading like a proper biography, it reads like a patchwork of Andre facts. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of these stories are very cool; the problem is that Brown compiled all of these stories and patched them together into a disjointed narrative with no real story thread to follow. If this was a book of awesome Andre stories, that would be fine. But choosing to categorize his work as a biography of Andre’s life, Brown never really goes into Andre’s non-wrestling life.
Brown’s thick line art, though, brings a lot of life to these stories. One of my favorite moments is an account of Andre and World Wrestling Entertainment Hall-of-Famer Pat Paterson in Las Vegas, in which Andre picks up a lady for the night. It’s a story I’ve heard before from Patterson on WWE’s Legends of Wrestling, but Brown’s art adds a bit more whimsy to the tale — as well as strengthens the more serious passages. In some of the tougher moments, Brown does a great job conveying the pain that Andre’s frame imposed on him in the ring. The few times it doesn’t really work is when Brown tries to showcase some Andre matches and wrestling moves. For non-action, Brown’s art is great, but when he tries to create motion, it struggles.
I also have a small pet peeve about this book. Brown goes in-depth into two of Andre’s matches: one being the typical formula of a two-on-one handicap match of his early days and the second being his match against Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 3. The thing about wrestling is, the worst kept secret is that the matches are predetermined. “Winners” and “Losers” are decided before the fight starts. To go into the make-up of a match is fine. However, what Brown does is explain every backstage term, expose the roles of the refs, the opponents and what Andre did to drive the narrative of the match forward.
It’s feels like when the magician reveals his secrets. It’s even worse when Brown breaks down the Wrestlemania 3 match because of how important that match is to that era of wrestling. I had more fun just re-watching the match with Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura than Brown’s sloppy play-by-play.
As a wrestling fan, I was left a bit disappointed. I was hoping for a lot of new material I’d never seen or heard about before.
On the other hand, it was cool to see some of these stories brought to life through Brown’s art. For the fan who wants more Andre the Giant fun facts and trivia, or for people who don’t know much about him, I think this was made for them and they’ll have a blast.