Too Cool To Be Forgotten

By Alex Robinson
128 pages, black and white
Published by Top Shelf Productions

“What if you could go back and do it all again?” It’s a pretty familiar question, one asked both in real life as well as in fiction. Generally speaking, my immediate reaction has always been, “Why on earth would I want to?” With his new graphic novel Too Cool To Be Forgotten, though, Alex Robinson has found a satisfactory answer to that question and in a way that actually makes me wish I really could go back.

Andy Wicks is on the verge of turning 40 and has tried everything possible to quit smoking. He’s finally agreed to his wife’s suggestion to try a holistic center’s approach, where they’re going to hypnotize him to try and curb his addiction to cigarettes. When Andy closes his eyes, he expects to open them back up with the urge gone. Instead, he finds himself back in high school, but with all of the knowledge that he already possess as an adult. Does he need to change his life so at the fateful party where he first tried smoking, he instead asks out and kisses the hot girl he has his eyes on? Or is it a little more complicated than just that?

Too Cool To Be Forgotten really has two different stories going on at the same time, although at a glance it may at first seem like there’s only one there. On the surface, it’s about Andy fumbling his way through high school a second time, trying to use what he’s learned since then to do things better and smarter. So he’s trying to reach out to the outcast kid, standing up for himself against bullies, and take chances where in the past he’d missed out on out because he was afraid. It’s an interesting end result, with some attempts being more successful than others. On that level, it’s a fun book, with Robinson putting Andy in the same sort of dilemmas that most of us would also be in were we to travel into our past. It’s worth a few chuckles, and it’s nice that Robinson recognizes that a sudden change of heart won’t automatically fix everything if given another chance.

At the same time, though, there’s a much more serious story that’s going on in Too Cool To Be Forgotten. It’s clearly present throughout the entire book, although a casual reader might miss some of the hints and clues left by Robinson until it all finally comes to a head in the conclusion of the book. That’s where Too Cool To Be Forgotten really grabbed me, providing a good reason to want to go back into our own past. It’s the emotional core of the book, and it’s told in a very heartfelt and strong way; while in some ways it comes out a little rushed as the book heads towards its conclusion, but I think that’s almost the way that Robinson needed to tell it. All of Andy’s emotions pouring out of him in one fell swoop fits, and makes the moment more believable in how someone would really act in that situation. The end result is a much more satisfying ending than simply, “I stopped myself from smoking in the past” with something that makes much more sense, both intellectually and emotionally.

Robinson’s art in Too Cool To Be Forgotten is up to his normal standards. Robinson does a good job with keeping his teenagers looking like, well, teenagers. They’re drawn as gawky, stumbling, still-growing kids; you know, exactly what you’ll find in high schools around the world. From Andy’s mop of hair to his braces and huge glasses, he both looks a little silly and also sympathetic at the same time, and it’s a fun visual take on the characters. Robinson thankfully doesn’t go overboard on ’80s fashions, something that would have been very easy to do. Instead it’s there but restrained, not drawing attention to itself. For me, though, the high point of the art is when Andy goes to the big party; it’s such a spot-on perfect depiction of a high school party with the mix of people and activities going on in both the foreground and background that it brought back my own flood of memories from that time period. It’s startling spot-on, and perhaps also a reminder that some things are universal no matter who you are or where you were.

After his lengthy Box Office Poison and Tricked, it’s nice to see Robinson tackle something smaller in page size like Too Cool To Be Forgotten and show that he can handle that length story as well. It’s a strong final product, and something with which to be proud of. Robinson fans will definitely be quite pleased with the book, and if you’ve never tried out Robinson’s books in the past it’s certainly a good way to begin. Too Cool To Be Forgotten is scheduled for a July 2008 release

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