It’s almost like the term tall tale was created when describing the legendary life of professional wrestler Andre the Giant.
We’re talking amazing, hard to believe stories, like ones about his epic drinking ability — it’s said that he once drank more than 100 beers in a night.
Cartoonist Box Brown, a lifelong wrestling fan, has taken up the challenge of chronicling the life of the seven-foot-four wrestler in his new book, “Andre the Giant: Life and Legend.” He’ll be chatting about the book this Friday at Bergen Street Comics in Park Slope.
amNewYork spoke with Brown.
How did you come to doing a book about Andre the Giant?
I am a lifelong wrestling fan but had kind of fallen off the map for most of the 2000s. At some point, probably around 2011, I found myself getting back into wrestling and found that all my favorites were now giving interviews about their lives as pro-wrestlers. I found these to be really fascinating. Sooner or later I found myself looking up stories about Andre and stumbled across the story about him getting a ride to school from Samuel Beckett. I thought: this has to be a comic.
Grantland’s wrestling writer David Shoemaker said to me in an interview that “Everything that anyone knows about Andre the Giant is a myth. His entire life story is inflated to fit the mythology of the real world monster and I would rather it be that way than the truth.” What is your take about that and how did you go about assembling his life story?
I think Mr. Shoemaker is spot on. … The truth in pro-wrestling is hazy at best and nonexistent at worst. Add to that the fact that any actual story about Andre is naturally unbelievable due to massive size. How often do you see a guy sit down and drink a few cases of beer like they were six packs? The research was certainly difficult to navigate. I just used my best judgment.
Were you a big wrestling fan, and where does Andre stack up in terms of your favorite wrestler?
Now I’d have to say that yes he is my favorite, but it wasn’t like that when I was growing up. He was a heel when I was a kid. He ripped Hulk Hogan’s shirt and crucifix off! As a kid I liked the babyfaces and hated the heels, which is actually how it should be. So my favorites were Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior. Now I appreciate all of the roles that are played.
Do you have a favorite moment from Andre’s life?
There are so many. I would say probably WrestleMania III where he fought Hulk Hogan. Andre was in a lot of pain but I think he put his all into that match and they really turned out a gem. And, I think Andre was in his glory.
What was the most amazing thing you learned about Andre while doing this book?
I think there were so many things that were unbelievable. His ability to consumed food and beverage, his amazing strength, etc. But, I think what a learned most about him was how difficult it was for him to navigate this world that’s all set up for people of our size. I think that was much more difficult for him that people expect. He was so big and seemed so strong that I’m not sure the average person was as sympathetic to that part of his life.
What do you see as the legacy of Andre the Giant?
Andre’s legacy in many ways is all that we see before us. There may be an argument to make that says that Hulk Hogan would never have been as big as he was without Andre and the current history of pro-wrestling stems from Hulk Hogan. I think he should be celebrated as the legend that he was.
If you go: Box Brown will be at Bergen Street Comics on Friday at 7 p.m., 470 Bergen St., Park Slope, 718-230-5600