“Poems For Profit” : Josh Frankel Disperses The Verse

Sometimes, all it takes to appreciate the ludicrousness of something is to nudge that something in a different direction, to shift it ever so slightly so that what should, by rights, be blatantly obvious absolutely is. 45 degrees here or there can sometimes be all it takes to restore focus to something that somehow loses it when it’s front and center.

Case in point : the collector mentality, especially the comic book collector mentality. The kind of “thinking” that compels people to drop ridiculous sums of money for cheaply-made periodicals that are essentially disposable by design, and then to not even engage with them on the level people who paid a quarter (or less) for them did, which is to say — the collector doesn’t read that “holy grail” comic he (and yes, it’s almost always “he”) just dropped a huge chunk of his life savings and/or year’s salary on, he encases it in a thick mylar sleeve, seals it away under vault-like conditions, and derives any dubious “satisfaction” he may incur from owning the thing simply from, well, owning it. Can’t take it out of the bag, after all — that would expose it to the elements and reduce its value.

Laid out plainly like that, of course it’s an absurd way to “enjoy” one’s purported “hobby,” but to a comic book collector it all makes a kind of perfect sense — whereas the idea of actually reading their books seems flat-out nuts. Poking fun at this insanity is rather like shooting fish in a barrel, it’s true, but by doing that slight shift I mentioned at the outset here in his latest self-published mini, Poems For Profit (billed on the inside cover as the first issue of a new series called Incessant Comics), Josh Frankel — a cartoonist I’ve been focusing on quite a bit as of late, and for good reason — is able to not only point out the bevy of bizarre notions that underlie the collector mentality, he’s able to do so in a way the eschews the easy traps of mean-spiritedness and cruelty and instead have fun with the whole exercise. You know, like these collector guys are supposed to be doing with their comic books.

In fact, Frankel knows the mindset of the collector so well that my suspicion — which may even rise to the level of being an assumption — is that he likely was one himself at some point, and that our host for this ‘zine, one Meter Mike, is therefore an authorial stand-in of sorts. Certainly the “advice” he gives to prospective poetry “investors” may as well come straight out Wizard magazine circa 1992, albeit transposed into and onto a different medium : Mike, for instance, says to be on the lookout for the first appearances of key words rather than characters, to make sure the poems you buy are written/typed on paper with sharp corners, to “authenticate” any coffee stains a poet left on his or her work. It’s an eight-page mini, so I’m not going to give any more of the jokes away just out of fairness to Frankel (nor any of the art — instead find a self-portrait, of sorts, of the cartoonist, and the cover of another of his minis recently reviewed around these parts, Grim Nutrition, reproduced below), but I will say that they are all funny, and that the deliberately “cartoonish” art style used for this one is pitch-perfect for the subject matter.

As both a reader and critic I’ve found myself drawn to tightly-focused projects of late that demand a high degree of discipline from artists and don’t offer them any opportunity to meander or to over-indulge any dubious sensibilities they may have. In short, stuff that is short, and proves that they know how to get in, get out, and hopefully create something that’s at the very least amusing, and if they’re good maybe even downright memorable, in the process. This mini ticks all those boxes and stands as a prime example of what can be achieved in this format if one is committed to working within, rather than against, its admittedly tight strictures. Of course it’s a proverbial “one-trick pony” — but that’s precisely what it’s supposed to be.

It’s also, however, probably not the sort of thing you’re supposed to talk about for 600 or 700 words or whatever it is I’m at now, so I’ll bow out here and simply say get it, you’ll be glad you did, it’s smart and funny — and right on the money.

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Poems For Profit is available for $3.00 from Josh Frankel’s Storenvy site at https://jfnexus.storenvy.com/collections/68671-all-products/products/31502773-poems-for-profit

Review wrist check – Traska “Freediver” mint green dial/black ceramic bezel model riding its factory-issue stainless steel bracelet.

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