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Andre the Giant's larger than life story is told by Box Brown

Box Brown / First Second Books
The life story of Andre the Giant is recounted in a new biography by Box Brown.

Andre Roussimoff was born May 19, 1946 and was raised on a farm in Molien, France. But this was no ordinary farm boy growing up in a rural setting. By the age of 12 Roussimoff had grown so large that he was unable to ride the bus to school. Instead a local playwright picked him up and drove him in the back of his truck. Such was the beginning of the life of the man who the world would come to know as Andre the Giant.

In a new graphic novel biography from First Second Books, the story of the “Eighth Wonder of the World” is detailed through words and pictures by Box Brown the Ignatz Award‑winning American cartoonist. “Andre the Giant: Life and Legend” is a 240 page narrative exploring how it felt to be, at his largest, 7’5” and 600 pounds in a world that saw him more as a spectacle than a man.

Through the book Brown conveys his love of the world of professional wrestling, getting into the terminology that makes a fan an insider explaining language like “kayfabe,” “squash,” and “baby face” among others. What the story also does is show Brown’s love of one of the greatest legends the world of professional wrestling has ever known.

Brown’s biography is well researched including interviews with acquaintances and friends of the Giant. Brown combed through hours of footage to find the significant moments and on camera interviews with Andre such as late night appearances on “The Tonight Show” with guest host Joey Bishop and “Late Night with David Letterman.”

In this extraordinary life story, Brown explores the beginnings of the fame of Andre the Giant, and his time as a wrestler most notably for the World Wrestling Federation (now the WWE). But the excitement is not Andre’s time on top of the wrestling world as it became a cultural phenomenon with the start of Wrestlemania in the 1980s, but the road Andre took to be one of the main players on wrestling’s biggest stage.

Beginning his career as “Géant Ferré," named after a giant of French myth, Andre started wrestling in Paris when promoters saw the value of his size and strength. It was this that sparked the excitement and took Andre around the world. In 1970, he arrived in Japan to make his wrestling debut as “The Monster Roussimoff.”

It was in Japan that Andre saw a doctor for the first time in his life. He was told he suffered from acromegaly and that his life would be cut short due to his gigantism. Brown subtly illustrates how this event shaped Andre’s philosophy to live life for the now.

Brown’s narrative follows Andre back into North America where Andre’s legend takes off after he meets Vince McMahon Sr. the promoter and owner of the World Wide Wrestling Federation. McMahon was able to identify how to make the Giant more unique. The promotion not only made Andre a lot of money, but allowed wrestling to grow in popularity across all the various wrestling territories in North America and overseas.

Details about Andre’s life are discussed as well, from his reputation as a legendary drinker, to how when he did not want to be moved there was nothing that was going to move him, to his penchant to pick fights, and his desire to sit and play cards with friends. The story delves into sad moments in the life of Andre. Due to his size he could never be left alone in public. His body began failing him and he lived his life in agony. There were personal conflicts and demons Andre seldom spoke about that come through on these comic book pages.

Brown’s cartoon style artwork sets the tone for the story. His line work is simple but gives a clear and detailed account of the events in Andre’s life. This style works perfectly in recounting the larger than life moments of Andre from mimicking Japanese promotional posters, to Andre’s exploits within the wrestling ring. The artwork with its simplicity tells much about the emotional surroundings of Andre.

Through “Andre the Giant: Life and Legend” Brown is able to give a good approximation of what life must have been like for Andre the Giant. It was a life of fame, one that was lived fully and enjoyed. Andre seemed to be like Fezzik the character he portrayed in “The Princess Bride” a role that brought him great popularity outside of the wrestling ring. But he was a man in pain and being the largest athlete in the world came with its price and it was one that Andre dealt with until he died in 1993.