I love professional wrestling, don’t try to change me. I have fond memories of watching wrestling, going back to when I was a kid, some of my first memories in fact. And of course, watching those old VHS tapes, one of the men that sticks out the most is Andre the Giant, the Eight Wonder of the World. So, combine my love of wrestling with my love of comics, and a comic about Andre is a no brainer to read.
Now, I have already read Andre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown, so I thought I’d give this comic a chance. As a side note (I might review it in the future, I don’t know) but I really loved Box Brown’s book about the giant. I recommend reading it.
Closer to Heaven is a book (a sort of first person biography) published by Lion Forge Comics. I think this is the first thing I’ve ever read from them. It was written by Brandon M. Easton and illustrated by Denis Medri. Besides this being a comic about wrestling, I wanted to review something with an author and illustrator who weren’t the same the person. The last couple weeks have all been cartoonists who write and draw, so I wanted to shake things up a bit.
OK, let me start by saying this: this book is not strictly about wrestling. I mean, yes, much of the book covers Andre’s career, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a huge wrestling fan to read it. It is a biography; it’s about the ups and downs of a literal giant, framed in the context of wrestling. That being said, there is quite a bit of wrestling. However, reading this book and not expecting some good ol’ wrasslin is like reading a book about Jimi Hendrix and being surprised by all the guitars. I digress. If you are a wrestling fan, you will love the story of this book. There are wrestlers from the past highlighted in this story (Hogan, Piper, Jake the Snake, Inoki, etc) that I all have great memories of, guys that, when I was growing up, were heroes. There’s also a lot of stuff about the inner workings of wrestling; the technical stuff, as well as the theatrical. This was really cool for me to read, because I am already interested in it, and it’s not often I’ve seen beyond the in ring stuff in fiction.
That being said, if you are not a big fan of wrestling, I thought that this book did a good job of explaining everything we saw. It talked in a level that explained to the uninitiated, but didn’t dumb it down for those who already knew.
It was really cool to see Andre’s entire life and career in this story. It focused quite a bit on his pre WWF (now WWE) career, including his time in Japan. As a true wrestle nerd, I’m a fan of New Japan Pro Wresting, where Andre spent some time, so it was really neat to see that mentioned. Then seeing his part in the formation of the WWF as it started to become what we know today, and his place as the old wrestling system of territories turned into the new empire, that was really interesting for the wrestling fan in me.
But, as I said, it is a story framed with wrestling. At its core, it is a story that showcases the life of Andre; that is, it highlights his success, but also his struggles. It shows the often unhappy life of a man who just wanted to fit in, but never could. The life of a man with a disease that would one day kill him, and how he coped, or didn’t, with that. It helped to show that, in reality, this legend was human too. My only complaint about the story was that there were some parts that didn’t go quite long enough. Andre had a daughter that he never claimed, but this was only covered briefly. I would have liked several incidents to have seen extended, as they came off feeling a little rushed. But, in the end, you can feel that both Easton and Medri are true fans of the sport, with respect and love for Andre.
The art in this book was probably the strongest part. The portrayal of Andre was very life like. I loved to watch how he evolved physically throughout the story, from style and height, until his disease, acromegaly, kicked in. I found the drawing to be quite expressive, never second guessing what Andre was feeling. I also loved seeing all the other wrestlers depicted in the pages. Seeing the ring, the backstage, the wrestlers, it was a very believable setting, thus proving the creators’ love for the sport. The art was also colored very nicely, tinted in different colors in different sections. I took this to be a style effect of this story being recalled like memory. I thought it was a cool touch.
I do have to note, however (and I hate to be negative, because I want you to read these books, too) but there were sometimes that the lettering in this book didn’t work for me. It was the biggest problem with the story. There were times where the words physically on the page would take me right out of the story. I don’t know what it was, but they just didn’t seem to flow right sometimes. Most of the book was fine, but there were times I just got really caught up on the lettering. I don’t know if this is because I was reading digitally or what.
Oh, also, this book taught me that once Andre played Bigfoot on The Six Million Dollar Man. As if I didn’t have enough reason to love you already, boss.
So, this book is worth a read. Especially if you are a wrestling fan. I think you’ll have a deeper appreciation if you are. Anyone can read it, though. And I think it’s worth a look.