Brandon Easton (Text) Denis Medri (Artist)
An impressive effort this, Eisner Award nominated writer Brandon Easton and illustrator Denis Medri manage to take us right into the world of Andre The Giant in this graphic biography, one part tribute, one part journalism – the impressionistic world of the comic book is a perfect setting for something as absurdly weird and wonderful as pro-wrestling. Here we get crucial back story, Andre’s “gigantism” condition, acromegaly and we get some mention of the daughter that Andre barely knew in his lifetime. She contributes a foreword which speaks to the endorsement of the family and estate.
Andre was huge, larger than life, a pop-cultural icon in his lifetime and a legend thereafter. As actor, a legendary drinker, as “The Eighth Wonder of the World” and before any of that as one of the hardest working, biggest travelling ambassadors for the “sport” of pro-wrestling.
He worked Japan and America hard across the 1970s and 80s, he travelled the world to showcase his rare skills (standing dropkicks from a man then standing close to seven feet tall and weighing over 400 pounds) and his natural charisma.
Even people who have never watched wrestling know Andre – perhaps from his role in The Princess Bride – and from other TV and film appearances.
Closer To Heaven tells his story in wonderful economy, but it manages to offer more than the text-only biographies on the market. Heart, warmth, a sympathetic ear – this isn’t the parading of a freak-show (how so many of the bios and docos mostly end up coming across). But at the same time this, as with a previous graphic novel version of Andre The Giant’s life does trade on some of those well-known anecdotes. He was a world-record-holding drinker. He did used to warm up Robyn Wright on the set of The Princess Bride by taking her entire head in his hands.
And by the time he had filmed Princess Bride and then been slammed in the main event of Wrestlemania III the pain was close to unbearable. Andre was continuing to grow even though his skin and muscle had already been stretched to breaking point. He was slow now, too big, in pain constantly and his forehead and jaw bulged, his height became stooped, his will to live sapping as he made it past the predicted death-age of 40, but only lasted another half dozen years from there.
Closer To Heaven fills in gaps even if you think you know the full Andre story. And it celebrates the hero but shows that there was a sadness permeating it all.