Andre The Giant: Closer To Heaven

Here’s a perfect comic to follow up my review of  Wonderous: The Adventures of Claire Sincliar, and it’s also fitting since Andre The Giant was just featured on last night’s episode of Young Rock (a sitcom that is way better than I imagined it would be), and since I have begun re-reading and reviewing early publications from Lion Forge Comics.

Released in December 2015, I believe this may have been the first print comic that Lion Forge published. I may be wrong, I don’t recall anymore, but it is the first (and only) print comic that I bought from them, even though I prefer digital, so I assume I must not have had the option to get it digitally at the time. And unlike Lion Forge’s other comics featuring real people (in addition to the Claire Sinclair series, they’d also published comics starring UFC fighter Rampage Jackson, which I’ll get to later), this didn’t attempt to re-imagine the subject as a superhero (although Andre would have made one hell of a superhero, now that I think about it).

This 104-page one-shot is a biography of Andre The Giant. Before reading this, Andre was someone that I knew of but didn’t know much about. I personally didn’t get interested in pro wrestling until I was well into adulthood, long past Andre’s heyday. But as a kid in the 1980s, many of my friends were into it, and Andre The Giant was a famous figure along with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Macho Man, and Rowdy Roddy Piper in those days.

Born Andre Roussimoff in a small town in France, Andre worked his parents’ small farm as a kid, and grew rapidly, reading 6 feet by the time he was 12, which naturally made him somewhat of an oddity. An old lady once told him that his height made him “closer to Heaven,” which comforted him. He kept growing, and at age 17 he became a wrestler for a local federation in France. And, basically, the rest is history. The book chronicles his rise from a young Frech wrestler to a global icon, traveling the world from Japan to Canada, eventually making it to America working for Vince McMahon Sr. and then later Vince McMahon Jr. Along the way he dabbles in Hollywood, taking roles on the Six Million Dollar Man TV show and in The Princess Bride film.

But this book doesn’t shy away from the less-glamorous side of life as a pro-wrestler. Out of the ring, Andre would engage in a lifestyle of hard drinking and groupies. He also had to deal with the realities of his physical condition, as we see him get diagnosed with a disease called Acromegaly, which is what caused his abnormal growth, and was told he was unlikely to live long past the age of 40. Sure enough, he would eventually die at age 46. The book also includes the birth of his only child, a daughter named Robin, whom he initially denied was his, as he’d been told that he would be sterile due to his disease, but even after a blood test proved otherwise, he never properly bounding with the girl.

Robin Christensen Roussimoff, who was 13 when her father died, writes the Foreward to this comic, and it’s clear that the pain she suffered from Andre’s absence from her life was strong.

Brandon Easton wrote the book, and he writes it from Andre’s POV. Easton does a great job of capturing Andre’s voice and making it feel as if Andre really is narrating his life story as we read it, capturing the highs and lows that the big man felt. I also particularly like how Easton really gets into the behind-the-scenes action of the wrestling business, with “Andre” explaining things like the importance of storytelling inside the ring, and how to work a match to get the crowd’s attention. And it’s all illustrated beautifully by Denis Medri. Together they make this a comic book that I think you don’t even need to be a wrestling fan to enjoy. Chacebook rating: FIVE STARS

Andre The Giant: Closer To Heaven 

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