The odds are that most of us only know Andre the Giant from his appearance as Fezzik in The Princess Bride, which is still the best fairytale ever committed to film (or in print, for that matter). But Andre the Giant wasn’t an actor - at least not in the conventional sense - his tremendous size, the result of a growth disorder caused by a tumour on his pituitary glands, made him one of the biggest stars in pro wrestling. Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven is a beautifully drawn, sensitively written portrait of Andre ‘The Giant’ Roussimoff’s extraordinary life, told in the first person in a voice that sounds uncannily true to the real man.
It follows him from his youngest days, growing up in a French farming community, through his experience of becoming a wrestling star in Japan, to the lure of the US and the formation of what we now know as World Wrestling Entertainment, but was then simply the World Wrestling Federation. In fact, this book tells us almost as much about the WWF and the McMahon dynasty that controls it as it does about Andre and his day-to-day battle with alcohol addiction, his relationship with a daughter he barely knew, and the tremendous physical pain which, in the end, rendered him almost incapable of walking.
To be honest, we didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as we did. Denis Medri’s artwork has a lot to do with that. While not exactly caricature nor naturalistic, his depictions of Andre and other familiar players in his life-story - Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan figure especially prominently, with guest appearances from Muhammad Ali and ‘Six Million Dollar Man’ Lee Majors - are all right on the money, with his backgrounds, country scenes and cityscapes being especially evocative. Writer Brandon Easton and editor Shannon Denton should also be congratulated for taking a rich and complex subject and creating a structure and a script that was always engrossing, constantly fascinating, but never became confused or meandering.
The touching forward from Andre’s daughter, who writes about him with warmth and honesty and obviously feels a lot of gratitude for the respect Medri and Easton have shown her father, also makes this book not only very special but also a deeply affectionate tribute to a man who, it seems, was the closest we might ever see to a real life superhero, with all the attendant weaknesses and neuroses the best superheroes share.
ANDRE THE GIANT: CLOSER TO HEAVEN / WRITER: BRANDON EASTON / ARTIST: DENIS MEDRI / PUBLISHER: IDW PUBLISHING / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 26TH