*Too Cool to Be Forgotten — Recommended

Alex Robinson (Tricked, Box Office Poison) is best known for his mastery of handling a sprawling, connected, soap opera-style cast. In his new graphic novel, Too Cool to Be Forgotten, he changes gears to focus on a single protagonist.

Andy Wicks is a middle-aged man who, when he undergoes hypnosis to stop smoking, finds himself back in high school in 1985. It’s a common fantasy, to wonder how things would go if you had the chance to do it all again. (One of my favorite examples is Never Been Kissed.) How much better, one thinks, high school would have been if I’d have had mature knowledge in the young body and circumstances.

Too Cool to Be Forgotten cover
Too Cool to Be Forgotten
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Well, not really. Andy goes from accidentally revealing the future of others (which helps no one) to getting himself in trouble by acting inappropriately for a teenager to actually trying to make a difference. Which makes less of a difference than you’d expect. The real meaning of his life turns out to be found elsewhere.

I was impressed with the strength of Robinson’s graphic language. Much of the book is told through typical rectangular panels. When he breaks this pattern, it really draws your attention to what he’s conveying (which is the point). Early on, we get a full-page look at his application to the hypnosis center, which gives the reader a lot of background information about the character in a condensed space. Even when the panels aren’t as unusual, the size and space controls the pacing, as when reactions and asides are put in smaller, page-ending boxes.

The tour-de-force, though, is the transition under hypnosis. A full-page consists of nothing but words, arranged in an outline of Andy’s face, literally getting inside (and around) his head. Then he awakens back in the high school library — another full-page panel but in this one, the words are mostly meaningless — and the point is the setting and characters and their old-fashioned hairstyles. Later, he shows Andy’s reactions to finding out what’s happened to him almost wordlessly, letting the body language carry the emotions. He’s also not afraid to use the currently out-of-fashion thought balloons, a necessity in showing us how Andy feels about his situation.

The lesson of the whole piece is how unexpected factors wind up shaping your life. What you think will be important isn’t; what seems like a throwaway choice may cause years of repercussions. It’s unpredictable, and only with hindsight does it all make sense. Robinson portrays these life lessons in an involving and well-designed way.

Robinson has been interviewed about his intentions and influences. Rob Clough has also reviewed the book. Too Cool to Be Forgotten is due out July 25. It can be ordered from Amazon at the link shown or your local comic book store with the code MAY08 4159. A complimentary preview copy for this review was provided by the publisher.


5 Responses to “*Too Cool to Be Forgotten — Recommended”

  1. Max Says:

    I was just thinking about this little fantasy the other day (going back to high school knowing what I know now)! I can’t wait to read it. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Johanna! I’ve been soooooo out of the loop for the last 6 months…

  2. Jeff Says:

    Just finished reading this last night, and found it surprisingly moving (it might help that I was 15 in 1985, too), and in a way, heartbreaking. Very good stuff.

  3. B o n e v i l l e » My favorite comics of 2008 Says:

    [...] Too Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson from Top Shelf A wish fulfillment story about a forty year old who gets hypnotized in order to quit smoking but finds himself back in his fifteen year old body reliving high school. Alex weaves in and out of the wonders and horrors of teenage existence without being maudlin and always being truthful.  My favorite comic of the year. A review here on Comics Worth Reading. [...]

  4. Film Production Company Invests in Top Shelf » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] first project now in development is based on Alex Robinson’s Too Cool to Be Forgotten, a graphic novel about a guy who goes back in time to his high school self when stop-smoking [...]

  5. SPX Programming Posted — Come See My Panel » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] on Alex Robinson (Box Office Poison), since I’ve enjoyed all of his graphic novels I’ve read. That’s Saturday at [...]




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