Too Cool to be Forgotten
by Alex Robinson
Top Shelf Productions
Alex Robinson is best known for his popular comic book Box Office Poison, originally published as 23 issues by Antarctic Press from 1996 through 2000. In 2001, Top Shelf released BOP as a mammoth 608-page collection that earned Robinson an Eisner Award (the Oscars of the comic book industry) for “Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition.” He followed BOP with the likewise critically acclaimed 2005 graphic novel Tricked. These books established him as one of the premier so-called “slice-of-life” cartoonists, whose subjects deal with the mundane, funny, and depressing aspects of real life. Too Cool To Be Forgotten is his latest graphic novel released by Top Shelf, and his most mature and successful work to date.
Too Cool is the story of the middle-aged Andy Wick, who tries hypnosis to quit smoking. The hypnosis takes Andy back into his body as a high school sophomore, where he re-experiences two memorable days of his youth with his adult consciousness. It is the most unexpected and memorable time travel comic I’ve ever read. Robinson takes the tired genre of high school stories and adds a fresh perspective by approaching the high school interactions from a 44-year-old’s mindset.
BOP was an insanely fun read, but lacked focus at times (due to it initially being a serialized comic) and occasionally entered the realm of cliché in the issues the characters dealt with, but in Too Cool, the story is much more concise and this focus is rewarding. Robinson’s mastery of character development and dialogue nails the inane content of high school conversation so well that any reader could relate the characters to his or her own teenage friends. Andy maintains an inner dialogue about reliving his past and dealing with teenagers and his family, which may sound a bit convoluted, but it is fascinating and works wonderfully. Too Cool is one of the rare comics that makes you think about how you’d act in the protagonist’s shoes; it draws you in and makes you think about your own life choices.
The undersized format of the book and its mere 125 pages add to the work. Matt Kindt deserves recognition for the wonderfully appropriate cover design, which adds substantially to the overall impact of Too Cool. Robinson’s line work is much stronger than in his BOP days and he successfully experiments with his page layouts, adding to the weight and depth of the story. Robinson’s art continues to improve; he uses negative space skillfully and the expressiveness of his characters’ faces is impressive. The panel layouts in Too Cool are more interesting and effective than his earlier work, and some of the more trippy pages are brilliant, reminiscent of Dave Sim’s Cerebus in its prime.
Too Cool to be Forgotten solidifies Robinson as one of the top contemporary American cartoonists. Expect to see an Eisner nomination for best graphic novel, and dare I say, a win.
Top Shelf: www.topshelfcomix.com