Paperback, 104 pages
Published December 1st, 2015 by IDW Publishing
~Netgalley Synopsis (because it’s better than the Goodreads one)~
“He was one of the greatest performers in sports entertainment history, but his legions of fans around the globe barely know the man behind the legend of Andre the Giant — until now!
Jean Ferre. Monster Eiffel Tower. Fezzik. These were alter egos for the internationally acclaimed pro wrestling superstar known as Andre the Giant, who thrilled audiences worldwide with his unmatched charisma and remarkable athleticism. Despite his astonishing popularity, few really knew the man behind the curtain — the man born in the French countryside named Andre Roussimoff. Showing signs of gigantism at an early age, Andre decided to use his size to his advantage and entered the wild world of professional wrestling. From his first day in the squared circle, those close to him knew that a legend was born.
This lavishly illustrated authorized biography of Andre the Giant charts his entire life from the earliest days on his family’s farm to his blockbuster feuds with the biggest wrestling stars of all time, exploring the dark side of fame and fortune along the way.”
This is one of the rare interesting non-fiction graphic novels I happened to stumble upon. Somewhere around Christmas, I finally watched The Princess Bride, after having it on DVD for about 8 years now. An episode of The Goldbergs gave me the signal that it was time.
After seeing the movie (which is great by the way) I was interested in getting to know more about André the Giant, so I read a couple of articles on the internet and watched a few Youtube videos. The general opinion that I seemed to come across was that André was a giant asshole with a poor sense for personal hygiene. So when I saw this book, I felt like this would be a great opportunity to learn more of the true story. It did not disappoint.
The novel starts off with a foreword from André’s daughter, Robin Christensen Roussimoff. It drew me right in. The foreword ends with:
“I hope when people read this graphic novel, they will get answers not only to who Andre the Giant was as an entertainer, but who Andre Roussimoff was as a person.”
I think it very well did.
A lot of the novel involves André’s wrestling career and lots of names and facts were dropped on the reader. This could be a bad thing if you’re really not into the wrestling scene. However, I’m not into wrestling at all and I found it truly fascinating to learn about it. Who knew there was so much theatrics involved! I didn’t. I learned that the Japanese wrestling scene added a lot to the Western one. I learned how Wrestlemania and Hulk Hogan grew to be as famous as they are now. Very interesting! I’m pretty sure the combination of all these info dumps in a graphic novel is what does the trick. I highly doubt I would’ve enjoyed it this much while simply reading about it in a regular novel.
Another thing which makes it all so vivid (as opposed to boring) is that the author chose to tell the story from André’s point of view, which makes it a very personal experience. His thoughts are a red line throughout the book.
“Even at that young age, there was a part of me that was monstrous. Not in temperament, but in how others saw me.”
It’s really touching to see him reminisce about his past.
Incorporated pieces of a letter his daughter wrote to him gave it an extra layer of emotions. Even though I already knew he passed away at the young age of 46, alone in a hotel room in Paris after having attended his father’s funeral, I still almost had to shed a tear when the novel ended with André stepping in his bed.
The graphics style in itself isn’t something I’d usually go nuts about, but for the purpose of telling this story, it was perfect. Colourful, but not too colourful to draw away the attention of what’s going on.
After having read this book, I look at André now as a friendly giant, but definitely not a stupid one. His gigantism, acromegaly, strive for happiness and lack of moderation are what make his life a sad story, but never a truly depressing one due to the enthusiasm for his work, both as an actor and professional wrestler.
I’m giving this 4.5 brownies because it left such an impression on me that I won’t likely forget about anymore.
I’m ending this post with a clip of a famous match between André and Hulk Hogan. Eventually, André gave up his spot to Hogan by intentionally losing matches. When I occasionally saw wrestling matches on TV, I’d flip the channel, going “Ugh, gross.” But after reading this book, I can see the entertainment of it. It’s all a big show instead of just some brutal fighting.
An ARC of this book was provided by Lion Forge via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Links to the book: