The IWC: Box Brown and Andre The Giant

3MB wants to Highlight The IWC; No Not that IWC. The Illustrated Wrestling Community 

Wrestling has always been a combination of truth and myth. Wrestlers are often billed as taller or larger than they actually are. Accolades are always exaggerated to the fullest. Ric Flair is the dirtiest player in the game. Chris Jericho, Lance Storm, Tyson Kidd and Natalya have all be dubbed, “the last survivor of the Hart Family Dungeon,” at some point in their careers. Most wrestlers had to wait until they got into the ring to get these titles (except for Mark Henry: before he was the World’s Strongest Man, he was the World’s Strongest Teenager). And then there’s Andre the Giant.

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Andre the Giant’s life has always been shrouded in a bit of myth. Everyone has an Andre the Giant story and, as we’ve pointed out, wrestlers are not above letting something like facts get in the way of a good story. Box Brown took it upon himself to tell the story of Andre in graphic novel format, which is very fitting. Describing a 7′ 4”, 550lbs giant is better with a visual aid. Unlike most Wrestlers, stories about Andre started from his youth; Brown depicts the probably very real problem Andre had going to school at age 12: the school bus refused to take him. Was he actually driven to school through the French countryside by famous playwright Samuel Beckett? I sure hope so: it makes for a much better story.

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But what Brown does is capture the truly human moments in Andre’s life, something that is often forgotten about everyone’s favorite giant. He was larger than … well everything. Brown depicts Andre holding full bottles like they are travel size. He holds wine glasses like like thimbles, extended pinky and all. This is the struggle that Andre faced with his gigantism and acromegaly.

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Andre’s condition gave him a time frame; Andre refused to accept it. He competed in the ring for decades even when he was advised against doing any strenuous physical activity. Andre chose to do what he loved, knowing the inevitable consequences.

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Of course, Box Brown includes some of the those Andre stories that have reached legendary status, most notably Andre’s reputation as the greatest drinker of all time. His size, naturally, gave him an advantage; Brown highlights the other aspect to this, that his size was also the reason he drank. While traveling, it became easier for Andre to stay up all night than it was to try and sleep in bed that was undoubtedly too small. Brown also sheds light on some stories people may not know, like Andre’s multiple trips to Japan, billed as a Monster.

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There is also the story of how Vince McMahon Sr. made the Giant grow: rather than showcase him at every show, Vince Sr. asked Andre to travel so that word of his size would spread from territory to territory, often preceding his arrival. On top of that, Andre was asked to tone down his movement. By moving less in the ring, Andre appeared to be more of a Goliath from another era rather than the top athlete he was. Less became so much more: by the time he returned to the WWWF, Andre became an unstoppable 12 foot monster. That power of storytelling must be a McMahon family trait. That is the Andre that ultimately passed the torch to Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 3, a key moment not only in the history of the WWE but in wrestling in general. Andre’s mythos transferred to Hogan that night, causing Hulkamania to reach new heights around the world.

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Come Join Us at Bergen Street Comics as we celebrate Box Brown’s excellent work!

Between his time in the wrestling ring and his time on classic films like The Princess Bride, Andre the Giant reach was even larger than he could’ve imagined. Box Brown captures not only the love of Andre the Giant stories but also the love that people to have in telling them, regardless of whether they look good or bad in the process. Recently, Cesaro shared a connection to Andre on the Talk is Jericho podcast: the person who “discovered” him also discovered Andre. True or not, that connection spurred Cesaro on to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania 30.

Three Man Booth also has a connection to Andre the Giant. We were not fortunate enough to see Andre in the ring (he retired in 1992, the same time we became avid fans). We were, however, in attendance – our first ever live wrestling show – at Madison Square Garden when the WWE announced that Andre had passed away. We didn’t understand the impact of Andre’s passing then but we felt the significance. We heard the 10-bell salute and witnessed the show of emotion from the wrestling community. Brown captures that same level of emotion in Andre the Giant: Life and Legend.

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