It took a graphic novel to tell the larger than life story of wrestler Andre the Giant

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: Finally today, remember AndrE the Giant? He was the extra large actor and professional wrestler who starred in "The Princess Bride." There's a new graphic novel about him called "AndrE the Giant: Life and Legend." His real name was AndrE RenE Roussimoff, born in France and, despite his fame, he didn't always have a great life. AndrE suffered from a medical condition that caused him to grow way beyond normal size. That meant living in a world that was too small for him, a reality that illustrator Box Brown tried to reflect in his graphic novel.

Box Brown: I wasn't super concerned about making him look accurately, the same size in every panel. I was mostly concerned with just making him the biggest thing in the room, the biggest thing on the page, the biggest thing in the panel. So I wanted people to get the feel of how enormous he was and how big his presence was. It helps when you add regular-sized objects in his hand and they look really small.

Werman: What about AndrE the Giant, the person? So much of what we know about him still seems to be embedded in folklore. How do you research somebody like this who died in '93? You have to kind of reverse-engineer it out of popular imagination and into reality.

Brown: I did the best that I could to get the truth and take from what's considered to be fact. But the nature of professional wrestling is to basically lie to the fans and the public, even in the case when the wrestler is giving what is known to be a "shoot" interview or a "real" interview. There's still something about these people that work in pro-wrestling that they can still be working the crowd, their audience, the promoter, each other. So they tend to exaggerate and you have to kind of just do what you think is right based on what you have.

Werman: You say they're lying because they're not really wrestling, it's entertainment, right?

Brown: Sure. It's a performance.

Werman: Did AndrE have issues with that performance, that kind of artifice?

Brown: I don't think so. Back then, it was a little bit different. Now, as we all know, it's a performance for many; most of the history of the business, it was something where the people involved always sold it to be a true thing, so he was very much living that part. You can tell from his work that he studied his craft and really knew what he was doing. He knew how to work the crowd. He knew how work a match and make himself look like a good guy and make himself look like a bad guy and how to make the crowd cheer and how to make the crowd boo.

Werman: There's one battle between AndrE and Hulk Hogan in 1987. I gather you went back and studied that match frame by frame. What did that show you?

Brown: I did that because I really wanted the reader to actually understand what a wrestler is doing in the ring. On face value, it looks like one thing. When you break it down panel by panel or frame by frame, you see that it's these two performers working together. It's improvisation in a way but I don't think the average person who sees the match understands what's actually happening in the ring.

Werman: How would you describe your new appreciation of AndrE the Giant?

Brown: I just think of him as a master artist and I think of him as a tragic figure who maybe didn't fit into this world the way that we all do. He had a very difficult life and he had his ups and downs like we all do. I think that I'm glad that I was able to express my appreciation for what he did for me, as a kid, and what he's done for millions of people across the world. I think he and other wrestlers need to be appreciated as artists, the artists that they are and the interesting people that they are.

Werman: Well you certainly helped in that respect, Box. Box Brown, the author and illustrator of the new graphic novel: "AndrE the Giant: Life and Legend." Thank you for your time.

Brown: Thank you so much.

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