Andre Roussimoff really was giant

Andre Roussimoff really was giant


Title: Andre the Giant: Life and Legend
Author: Box Brown
Publisher: First Second (May 6)
Price: $17.99
ISBN: 1596438517

It's pretty difficult to talk about Andre Roussimoff (a.k.a. Andre The Giant) without resorting to the hackneyed phrase "larger than life" because it's so apt. He stood seven feet, four inches and was one of the most beloved figures in the world of professional wrestling. Box Brown's bio-comic captures the man at the core of this legend, but without losing sight of all the wonder and spectacle that a life like his would entail. Told episodically, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend humanizes the eighth wonder of the world with the affection that only a fan could bring to the work, but also with honesty.

Andre suffered from a disease called acromegaly which causes the pituitary gland to produce excess growth hormone, and as Brown tells it, he owed everything to the disease that ultimately killed him. It made him strong enough to flip over a car, but crippled him to the point that he could barely walk. It made him one of the most famous entertainers in the world, but got him gawked at like a circus freak wherever he went. It gave him the opportunity to fly around the world, but made him too large to fit in an airplane bathroom. When he was diagnosed in his early 20s, doctors told Andre that he shouldn't expect to live past 40. As Brown depicts him, Roussimoff seemed determined to squeeze as much out of his diminished years as possible, while still remaining true to the industry that gave him so much.

Now, none of this is to say that Brown has written a total hagiography here. Brown doesn't shy away from the uglier aspects of Andre's life, such as his abandonment of his daughter or the cultural insensitivity that arises from his isolated upbringing. Brown does not deny Andre's flaws, but he does at least give them context so that we can understand them.

Brown's iconographic design sense keeps any of these proceedings feeling too ugly, though. His clean, even lines at first come off as a little too cool, but he is able to bring a surprising amount of emotion and life to his elegantly designed characters. It also, frankly, makes the book easier to take than it might be otherwise, because Andre was kind of an ugly-looking dude.

This graphic design makes it easier for the reader to identify with our hero. Instead of focusing on his distorted features and massive bulk, we're able to hear the story of the man himself, heroic and tragic. By abstracting him, Brown allows us to see Andre the Giant as he really was.