Tuesday, June 10, 2014
I also reviewed Box Brown's Xeric-winning debut comic, Love Is a Peculiar Type of Thing, for ComicMix when it was published back in 2009. So I might not quite be the platonic best reviewer for Brown's new comics-format biography of Andre, but I'm pretty damn close.
Andre the Giant is a full-scale biography of the man born Andre Roussimoff, told in comics, from his youth in rural France to his early death in 1993 at only forty-six. And Box Brown is the one to tell that story: he's been a huge wrestling fan since youth -- though he's a bit younger than I am, so he might have been one of those five-year-olds I disdained above -- and his strong, clean lines serve equally well for anatomizing some of Andre's most famous matches and for showing the talking heads of a life on the road: waiting, driving, eating, drinking, flying, drinking, drinking, chasing women, and, of course, drinking. Andre was a world-class drinker: he was gigantic to begin with, of course, had experience from very young, and spent most of his life with horrible chronic pain that the alcohol could only dull. But then Andre was world-class at everything he did seriously: wrestling, joking, women, booze. When you're seven-foot-four, you're going to stand out no matter what, but Andre stood out
The only possible major criticism of Andre the Giant is that Box Brown doesn't seem to have done any original research: he has an extensive list of sources, and he's clearly spent a lot of time combing through interviews with wrestlers and judging truth from kayfabe from self-aggrandizing stories. But there's no sign that he interviewed wrestlers, or actors, or anyone else who knew Andre in life. Many or most of the people Andre worked with are still alive, so interviewing them is possible -- for a writer with the time and budget and interviewing skills to get to them all and coax them to tell their stories. It still could happen: maybe Brown's excellent book will inspire some more traditional biographer to do that tough door-to-door work while the old crew is still around.
Reviews of biographies usually either devolve into a potted mini-bio of the book's subject or an extended essay on the better way the reviewer would have written the book: I don't want to do either of those. Andre was a big man with a big life, and Andre the Giant is filled with big stories about him: read it to learn them. He was so much more than a wrestler, or an athlete, or a performer: he was a legend, and a star, and an inherently tragic figure. Get this book to learn more.
Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index