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Indie comic convention hits New York

If the New York ComicCon, which filled the Javits Center for a weekend in April, is the Jerry Bruckheimer film of comic conventions, then the MoCCA Art Festival 2008 is the Wes Anderson.

This weekend, the finest minds in the indie-comic scene will descend upon the Puck Building for workshops, discussions, signings and more.

MoCCA veteran Alex Robinson has been creating comics for years, starting with his seminal opus, "Box Office Poison" through to his latest graphic novel, "Too Cool to be Forgotten." He's been attending the show from very start ­ and his wife, Kristen, actually was the one who came up with the idea for the festival.

"MoCCA is one of the best places to see a lot of different things that comics are capable of," Robinson says. "It's generally a young hip crowd, [and] it's an art form that¹s finally ... getting recognition. MoCCA is on the forefront of letting people know what¹s out there." And even though Robinson has released a couple of high-profile graphic novels since the show has began, this is the first time he¹s been able to actually debut a book at the show.

For his new book, "Too Cool to be Forgotten," the 38-year-old Manhattanite, born and raised in Westchester, remembered his teen years.

"I graduated from high school in 1987, so last year was my reunion and I thought that was a good excuse to examine high school and why it looms so large in my personal psyche," Robinson says.

The story starts with the 40-something lead character, Andy Wicks, trying to quit smoking. After some failed attempts, he turns to hypnosis. When he wakes up, he¹s his 15-year-old self and back in his high school.

The book fits in well with Robinson¹s back catalogue, with a thoughtful, introspective character at its center, but it represents a major departure in one aspect ­ the size.

"Box Office Poison" clocked in a 608 pages. The follow up, "Tricked," was 320. "Too Cool to be Forgotten" is a mere 128 pages.

If you still want to sink your teeth into a hefty tome after you devour "Too Cool," there¹s a young, upstart artist picking up the slack.

Dash Shaw, 25, a recent transplant to Brooklyn from Richmond, Va., has a new book out, "The Bottomless Belly Button," which clocks in at an astounding 720 pages. The story takes place over a 6-day period at a strange, remote beach house and centers on The Loony family. After 40 years of marriage, the parents of the clan are planning a divorce, and the book follows the family exploits in coming to terms with the divorce and finding the reasons behind it.

"It's very atmospheric," Shaw says. "The scenes are very meditative, not thrilling or anything." Don¹t let the lack of thrills keep you away from the book ­ it¹s a monstrously enjoyably read ­ all 720 page of it.

"It's nice to see another thick gigantic book out there," Robinson says, laughing. "The competition is getting stiff these days. I got everybody on my tail."

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