It’s safe to say Andre the Giant needs little introduction. He was cemented in pop culture through both his extensive wrestling career and appearance in one of the most adored fantasy movies of the 1980’s, The Princess Bride. True to his namesake Andre was a behemoth of a man, larger than life in the every sense which is why fact and fiction usually became blurred. After all, being 600 pounds and seven and a half foot tall, one would be prone to rumour and embellishment, in both their private life and the circles they moved in.
Andre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown is an attempt to distil most of this down into a semi-autobiographical form. Inflicted with acromegaly, a condition that forced the body to continually grow due to a hormone imbalance, Andre was inflicted with constant pain to sometimes crippling degrees. The book chronicles his early years in France all the way to his eventual passing. In between it covers his rise to fame and the backroom turbulence that’s part of the wrestling industry but make no mistake, this is a truly human story. The conflict that his lifestyle brought, mainly by those around him, is the centrepiece here and for a man so at love with his work, it’s impossible to not to be sympathetic. An almost permanent life on the road ensured that an anything but ordinary man had to endure hardships with every facet in life. Drinking and conflict played a regular role in his day to day struggles.
As stated previously, Life and Legend is in no way a complete autobiography for obvious reasons. There’s only so much that can be fit in a graphic novel, but all scenes are referenced by source notes in the rear giving it solid legitimacy that’s certainly to the books credit. It seems inevitable that with the amount of research that the author has put into it that something new will be uncovered even by the most ardent fan.
What is remarkable here is that Brown has accomplished something that, technically, shouldn’t work. Serious events and tone are illustrated with simplistic line work, clever use of tone and perfect pacing. In fact, most of its charm is built upon the simplicity of the artwork, with noodle arms and sparse sharp lines. It’s a book that demands to be consumed from cover to cover in one sitting, a feat remarkably easy to do given the sum of its parts.
To this day Andre the Giant remains an icon. Life and Legend delivers something worthy of his legacy.