Andre The Giant The 8th Wonder Of The Comic Book World

Welcome to Rotten Ink’s main event for the night as we witness First Second Book’s own Box Brown step into the ring with the one and only 8th wonder of the world, Andre The Giant! It’s no surprise that growing up I was a huge fan of pro wrestling, and you long time readers know this about me.  One of the biggest names around when I was a kid was Andre The Giant who was always billed as the biggest man in the world and seeing him dwarf the likes of King Kong Bundy, Big John Studd and Killer Khan was a sight to behold. So this update will be all about the man, the myth, the legend known around the world for being the biggest athlete in sports entertainment, Andre The Giant! So get ready to cheer for Andre as we take a look not only at the bio comic but also the man who was the true giant of pro wrestling!

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Andre Rene Roussimoff was born on May 19th 1946 in Grenoble, France, and by the age of 12 he weighed 240 pounds and was 6’3” and dropped out of school by the 8th grade to work on a farm as well as other manual labor jobs. By age 17, he became a pro wrestler after a promotor saw that he could make money off Andre’s size and the fact he was a true giant thanks to the fact he had gigantism. Going under the name Great Ferre, he wrestled for promotions in France, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Africa. In 1970 Andre, under the ring name Monster Roussimoff, dominated the Japanese federation International Wrestling Enterprise even winning the tag team titles with Michael Nador. After Japan Andre went to wrestle in Canada as well as a few dates for AWA (American Wrestling Association)  In the US, he meet Vince McMahon Sr. who turned him into Andre The Giant and changed the character into a unstoppable monster, and together they made lots of money in the WWF as well as off other federations that Vince would lend him out to. Andre The Giant started WWF in 1973 as one of the company’s top good guys and had many great feuds with many great and talented wrestlers like Killer Khan who he defeated in a Mongolian Stretcher Match, Big John Studd who he had a body slam challenge match against as well as had his long afro hair shaved off by Studd, Ken Patera and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. King Kong Bundy and Big John Studd even got Andre suspended during this run, and he returned as a masked wrestler called Giant Machine and teamed with the tag team The Machines. Durning this run as a good guy Andre was also the king of Battle Royals even winning one at Wrestlemania II by throwing out Bret Hart. Beloved by fans, Andre was a top draw as well as a main attraction for the WWF, but something was about to change!

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In 1987, Hulk Hogan was WWF Champion, and Hulkamania was in full swing.  On Piper’s Pit, the interview segment hosted by Rowdy Roddy Piper, Hogan was given a trophy for being champion for three years. And during this time of celebration Andre The Giant came out with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and ripped the shirt off Hogan as well as his cross necklace and challenged him for the title, changing himself from a fan favorite to a heel in the matter of minutes! Hogan and Andre clashed at Wrestlemania III, and Hogan won under some controversy. After Hogan’s win, he also began a feud with Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase who could not beat Hogan but wanted the title.  So DiBiase hired Andre to win the belt for him, and he did in 1988 making it the first and only time Andre was the WWF Champion.  But this win was also very controversial, and the belt was taken away from him and put up for grabs at Wreslemania IV in a tournament that was won by Randy “Macho Man” Savage. This sparked fights between the Mega Powers (Hogan & Savage) and the Mega Bucks (Andre & DiBiase) that ended with Mega Powers getting the upper hand and would spark the next major feud for Hogan as he and Savage split off. Andre from this point on was stuck in tag team matches and feuds with such superstars as Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Ultimate Warrior. He would also team with Ted DiBiase for a while as well as Haku, who he would win tag team gold with under the name The Colossal Connection. In 1990, they lost the belts to Demolition at Wrestlemania VI, and at this point Haku and Bobby Heenan turned on Andre who ended up beating up his partner and turned from Heel to Face.  This ended Andre’s major role as a full time wrestler for WWF. And besides some angles with Earthquake and Jimmy Hart, Andre’s health was so poor that he left WWF in 1992. His last TV appearance was for WCW during their Clash Of The Champions XX event on TBS. This is the era of Andre that I remember the most, and boy when I was younger, I thought no one could beat him.  When they did, I was awe struck! I mean other wrestlers in the back would call Andre The Boss because they all respected and some feared him. Andre was a strong good guy but in my opinion was a way better bad guy and his feud with Hulk Hogan was legendary. Now being a grown up and watching old matches on VHS and DVD, I find some of his later in ring work very sad to watch as you can tell he was in pain just barely moving around and had to use the ropes to walk around the ring. It’s sad to see Andre The Giant in that kind of shape, and you could really tell he was in the twilight of his career and his health was in decline. I should also say that sadly Andre died in his sleep on January 27th 1993 from heart failure while in Paris to attend his father’s funeral. This update is dedicated to Andre who entertained this pro wrestling fan all through my youth, not just in the ring but also in movies and TV.

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So I should get a little more into Wrestlemania III, the pay per view event that shattered attendance records for a live sporting event as well as truly brought WWF into the main stream culture. Wrestlemania III took place on March 29th 1987 at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan in front of 93,173 fans locking it in as the largest recorded attendance for a live indoor sporting event in North America! The card was filled with many great matches like Ricky Steamboat vs. Macho Man Randy Savage for the Intercontinental Belt, Billy Jack Haynes took on Hercules in a Full Nelson Match and Honky Tonk Man took on Jake “The Snake” Roberts who had rockstar Alice Cooper in his corner! But the main event was Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant for the WWF Championship, and I can remember all the build up for this match.  All the while WWF did a fantastic job of making Hogan look like the underdog having Andre best him on many altercations that happened before the match. During the match, it was clear that Andre was not in the best of shape and Hogan was having to carry the match for the most part, but when Hogan tried to slam Andre for the first time and buckled under the weight and was almost pinned, the odds really did look against the champ! But later in the match when Hogan slammed Andre and hit him with the atomic leg drop and got the three count, the torch was passed and Hogan’s star shined brighter. I can remember many kids from school who were WWF fans talking about the slam heard around the world and the feat of Hogan picking up Andre seemed something straight out of a comic book or greek myth, but as I grew up and became wiser to the world of pro wrestling I found out Hogan had slammed him before when Andre was good and Hogan was bad early in his career.  Also to slam Andre was El Canek and Harley Race. No matter who you were in 1987, you knew that Hogan slammed Andre, and WWF was the major force in pro wrestling.  But we have covered Andre in wrestling so it’s only right we cover his acting career briefly!

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Besides being a pro wrestler, Andre was also an actor, and one role I remember him playing was the Bionic Bigfoot in the TV show The Six Million Dollar Man. Andre played Bigfoot in two episodes called “The Secret Of Bigfoot I & II” that had Steve Rogers running into the famed creature and after doing battle with it finds that it’s a robot! The original episode aired in 1976, and the follow up aired in 1976 as well. Even after Andre stopped playing the role, the Bionic Bigfoot continued for three more episodes and was played by Ted Cassidy, better known for playing Lurch on The Addams Family. The episodes and character of Bionic Bigfoot were so popular that action figures at the time was made based on his likeness. If you watched Six Million Dollar Man, I am sure you remember Bionic Bigfoot like I do!

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Andre’s most popular acting role was the 1987 comedy fantasy film “The Princess Bride” where he played Fezzik the loveable giant friend of Inigo who helps in the kidnapping of the Princess as well as later helps rescue her along side Westley the film’s lead. Fezzik turns from a bad guy to a good guy and was loved in the film for being loyal to his friends and having a big heart. Growing up, I loved this film and watched it many times.  One of the best Andre lines from the movie has him offering peanuts to other characters. It’s funny to think that in 1987 Andre was in this move as a loveable character and also turned on Hulk Hogan and became one of the most hated men in pro wrestling!

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One role many people do not know about that Andre The Giant played was that of the horn God Dagoth in the 1984 fantasy film “Conan The Destroyer”! That’s right, one of the world’s top pro wrestlers wore a rubber suit and fought Arnold Schwarzenegger who was playing Conan in a fake blood drenched scene….and I must say that’s awesome! And in fact, I did not even know Andre played that part until recently, and this helps add to my enjoyment of this film. I loved the Conan movies, and I will tell you readers this when the new Conan movie comes out in the coming years, a Marvel At The Movies Conan edition will be going up!

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Andre The Giant was also an animated superstar as he was used in the fun Saturday Morning Cartoon “Hulk Hogan’s Rock N Wrestling” as one of Hogan’s good guy friends along side the likes of Junkyard Dog, Wendi Richter, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Hillbilly Jim and a few other WWF wrestlers. The cartoon would have Hogan and the gang having to stop evil plots by the bad guys lead by Rowdy Roddy Piper and aired for 26 episodes lasting two season starting in 1985. The series was made by DIC Entertainment who also made such cartoons as M.A.S.K., Jayce And The Wheeled Warriors, The Real Ghostbusters, COPS, Camp Candy, The Legend Of Zelda, Swamp Thing, Street Sharks and so many other classics that entertained the youth. Andre in the cartoon was portrayed as a dimwitted giant who would fumble and bumble around all the while never meaning to harm nor break the stuff he did.  So in looking back, he was the slapstick goof of the cartoon.  He was voiced by Ron Feinberg, who also lent his voice to such characters as Ming The Merciless in Defenders Of The Earth and Vladimir Goudenov Grizzlikof in Darkwing Dunk. Growing up I loved this silly cartoon and watched it any chance I got and that was mostly on USA Cartoon Express.  While Andre was silly and goofy, he still was one of the characters I liked. While the cartoon has long been off the air and has not been released on DVD or Blu-Ray, you can find episodes on VHS and the grey market.

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So Andre was a part of TV shows, movies and even cartoons, but he also tackled music videos when he had a cameo in the video for Cyndi Lauper’s hit song “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” where he played a genie from a bottle who runs off debt collectors played by the likes of Roddy Piper and Iron Sheik! This video is epic for many reasons, and I will share them all with you real quick! The first thing about this video that I loved when I was younger was Cyndi Lauper herself as I found her cute as well as fun to watch as she could sing her heart out and never took herself seriously. The second thing was the fact that it starred Pro Wrestlers as characters and some of the WWF’s best bad guys were great running around as pirates…imagine Iron Sheik as a pirate! The third amazing thing about this video is that it’s attached to The Goonies, one of the most iconic adventure kids films of the 80’s and one I loved, not to mention The Goonies themselves show up to help Cyndi get away from the pirates! I guess I should also explain what the music video is about; Cyndi and her family own a gas station and are about to lose it when Piper and the rest of his goon squad show up to take it away! Cyndi has a map to treasure that could help save the gas station, but while on the hunt Piper and goons become pirates and try to stop her until The Goonies show up and help.  In the end, she uses a lamp and frees Andre The Giant dressed as a genie who runs off the bad guys, and they save the gas station. It’s a great music video for a catchy song that will get stuck in your head after you hear it.

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Honeycomb was a popular kids breakfast cereal in the 80’s, and the one and only commercial made about it that would air during Saturday Morning Cartoons that I remember had Andre The Giant playing a giant and trying to grab kids and their robot while they were eating Honeycomb in their club house. The kids are scared of the giant, but when they share some Honeycomb with him, he mellows out and they gain a new friend! I should also say that after they share the cereal, the cheesy jingle starts that goes “Honeycomb’s Big….Yeah Yeah Yeah! It’s Not Small…No No No! Honeycomb’s Got..A Big Big Bite! Big Big Taste In A Big Big Bite”…you’re welcome. The jingle will be in your head all day now. I always liked seeing Andre in this commercial, and it has always stuck with me; thanks to Youtube I can watch it again!

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Because he was one of the biggest superstars in WWF history, Andre had a lot merchandise come out that used his likeness, and much of that came out via WWF itself and could be bought from their catalog like posters, magazines and the classic t-shirt with his red handprint on the front. LJN had three Andre The Giant figures come out for their WWF Wrestling Superstars series.  One Andre had the afro hair, the next had short hair and the third was the bad Andre. Hasbro made an Andre The Giant action figure come out via their WWF line, and not to mention tons of other stuff like VHS tapes, trading cards, drinking glasses, DVDs and much more! My favorite Andre toy I owned was the short hair LJN figure that I would bring to school and win matches during the WWF events we would have at recess, a great figure with Andre’s good guy smile intact. So if you like Andre The Giant, there are some great collectibles out in the world for you.

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Andre The Giant has also been in some video games, starting with WWF Wrestlemania for NES and even in the most recent WWE Game, WWE 2K15. Also Andre was in the arcade game WWF Superstars that had your team having to will a series of matches to take on Andre and Million Dollar Man to win the game. But the one I played the most was WWF Wrestlemania made by Acclaim in 1989 for the NES, and I must say Andre was one tough cookie to beat and Hulk Hogan was the only character that was able to slam him! One odd Andre The Giant in video games has to be the 2011 THQ game WWE All Stars where Andre was overdone as were all the wrestlers, who look like cartoon characters. So if you’re a gamer and like wrestling, there are many games out in the world that you can play as the one and only 8th Wonder Of The World.

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Before we get to the comic, I should also talk about the underground phenomenon known as Andre The Giant Has A Posse created by Shepard Fairely for the skateboarding culture and beyond as an experiment of phenomenology. Stickers, flyers and posters of Andre The Giant with the phrase Has A Posse began popping up in Rhode Island and then went around the USA and spread like wildfire. The craze went on for many years and even when WWF tried to sue over it, the stickering did not not slow down. Over the years the sticker has changed and now has a closer image of Andre’s face and instead of him having a posse, it now reads “Obey”. I can remember seeing these stickers around town when I was younger and always getting a chuckle from them.

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So now that we have talked about Andre as a wrestler, actor, video game character and everything in between, I think we are ready to look at him as a bio comic character! I need to thank Mavericks for getting this graphic novel in stock for me and also should remind everyone that I will grade this on a standard 1-4 star rating and base it on how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So let’s lace up the boots and step into the ring with the 8th Wonder of the World, Andre The Giant, and First Second Books.

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Andre The Giant: Life And Legend  *** Released in 2014   Cover Price $17.99   First Second Books   #1 of 1

Andre lives in France and when he was 12 years old, he already was a giant and could not even ride the school bus and had to catch rides in the back of people’s pick up trucks. Years pass, and Andre just keeps growing and taking odd jobs around town.  By the late 1960’s he became a pro wrestler in his homeland and became a major attraction cause of his large size. Andre leaves the European wrestling behind and heads to Japan to make a name for himself and then goes to Canada where he starts out as major star selling out events, but his attraction starts to run thin and he finds that fans are sick of seeing him. Andre goes to the United states and with the help of Verne Gagne and Vince McMahan Sr., he becomes a super star as they travel him around from territory to territory and make him unbeatable in some cases even beating two men at the same time! This also starts Andre’s run working for WWF, where he was one of the company’s top baby faces. But while things were looking good for Andre, around this time his health began to decline.  He was drinking a lot, and he had many run-ins with fans and fellow wrestlers like Bad News Brown and Black Jack Mulligan outside the ring. During a feud with Big John Studd and Bobby The Brain Heenan, Andre takes some time off to get surgery on his back to release pressure and pain due to the fact his giantism disease is causing him to still grow, causing much pain in his joints and bones. During his time away from wrestling, Andre also takes a role in Princess Bride, and then he gets the call from Vince McMahan Jr. that he wants him to come back to WWF and be a bad guy and wrestle Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania III! Andre comes back to wrestling and becomes one of the company’s biggest bad guys and is in pain but does so due to his friendship with Vince. Andre sticks around in the WWF for a while even after his feud with Hulk Hogan ends until his body just can’t take it any longer and the fans could see the pain in Andre’s face when he moved. Andre after WWF went to Japan one last time and did a few gimmick matches before his death in 1993.

The first thing I want to say about this comic/graphic novel is that the artwork is not what I would want for this style of comic, but it does hold a very Jason Young of Veggie Dog Saturn look to it so that makes it a little cooler. But while I feel the artwork is a little weak. I know many fellow comic readers who loved its style though.  What makes the comic good for me is the fact that the story of Andre’s life is nicely wrapped up in a little 240 pages bundle and most of his life highlights are showcased. In fact my write up leaves some elements of his life out as I would really encourage you, if you’re a fan, to give this graphic novel a read. One thing I really enjoyed about this comic is that lots of it focused on Andre’s life outside the ring from his medical issues all the way to how he treated fans showing that while he was larger than life in the world of Pro Wrestling, he still was real person with issues. At times Andre comes off lovable, while other times he comes off a a jerk by being rude to his fans, starting fights at parties and even telling inappropriate jokes on the tour bus that cause drama among some of his fellow wrestlers. One thing I learned from this comic is that after leaving the WWF for the last time, he did a few matches in Japan and was in no shape to do so but did them for a paycheck. The book ends on a higher note with Andre on a plan playing poker against a fellow wrestler and only in a small paragraph mentions that he passed away from heart issues.  This was the right way to end it as I feel to go all the way to his death would have really been a downer. It also has lots of humor like Andre watching Princess Bride with Terry Funk over and over again while Funk kept falling asleep! Box Brown did a fantastic job with this Bio-Comic, and I would love to see him do some more like it based on wrestlers like Macho Man Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior or even Big John Studd. Reading this made me very nostalgic and miss the days of classic wrestling.  So if you’re a fan of independent bio comics or of Andre The Giant I would recommend checking this one out I am glad I did.

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Even if you don’t like Pro Wrestling, or as it’s called now Sport Entertainment, you still have to respect the performers who go from town to town and entertain the crowds of people who pay to see them. Much like the Road Warriors, this update was one comic I was happy to bring to you, and I can safely say look for other wrestling-inspired comic updates in the future. One other thing I should bring up about Andre The Giant is that I remember when Hulk Hogan and Andre had to sign a rematch contract for Wrestlemania IV.  With the encouragement of The Million Dollar Man, the 8th Wonder Of The World used Hogan’s head as the stamp of approval and tipped a table over on him.  Now that’s when wrestling was wrestling! Well our next update will take us out of the squared circle and into the woods along side comic strip icon Andy Capp.  So with that I am going to end this update with Rest In Peace Andre The Giant, and thanks for all the memories.

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