With his graphic novels Andre The Giant: Life And Legend and Tetris, Box Brown has established himself as one of the most compelling cartoonists for nonfiction stories, bringing historical events to the page with humor, compassion, and intense specificity. Brown always has a deep passion for his subject matter, and that enthusiasm elevates his work and makes it feel personal to him, revealing what he appreciates most about what he is covering. His latest First Second graphic novel, Is This Guy For Real?, explores the life of one of the most idiosyncratic comedians of the last century, tracing Andy Kaufman’s journey from a young TV and Elvis Presley obsessive to a major force in entertainment as a wrestler, stand-up comedian, and TV star. It’s a book that showcases Kaufman’s incredible, wide-ranging talent, and the tragedy of his early death to lung cancer at 35 is all the more devastating because there was so much more that he could have done with his ability if he had more time.
This exclusive preview of Is This Guy For Real? begins with Andy at a major turning point for his life, when he gives up drugs and alcohol and fully dedicates himself to his art. Good things start to happen as he embraces transcendental meditation and a daily mantra of self-actualization, including a brief interaction with his idol in Las Vegas. Andy waits in a kitchen closet to hand Elvis Presley a story he wrote about him, titled “God”, and Brown captures both the sweetness and creepiness of what Andy is doing. He’s totally good-natured, but that panel of Andy’s eyes peeking out from the darkness behind the door has an eerie quality that ends up creating a very funny punchline for the page. Elvis’ two companions are in silhouette for the meeting, which reinforces the quick but powerful connection Andy feels in that moment, and he’s beaming when Elvis steps away. This trip to Vegas changes Andy in many ways, and readers can discover how by picking up Is This Guy For Real? on February 6.