The most interesting anthology in comics right now isn't a big book with a spine, or even a pamphlet with staples. Nope, it's Smoke Signal, a free newspaper published and distributed online by Brooklyn comics shop Desert Island, a blast of dirty, inky purity where alterna-comix stars share page spreads with total unknowns. Like all the best anthologies, its quality varies wildly from page to page (though this is definitely the most consistently excellent issue yet). What remains the same is the tone, the sense of freedom and experiment, and the high quotient of ideas informing the work of every artist included.
Where previous issues of Smoke Signal were pretty New York-centric, this one spreads out a bit, incorporating stellar work from a nationwide sampling of art-comics' finest, and even a few international voices. The result is something like an ultra-low-rent issue of Mome or even Kramers Ergot; a place for ersatz work by viciously talented artists, for sure, but also a vehicle for no-pressure fun from creators who can let their hair down a little in such a welcoming venue. We get free-flowing sketchbook pages from the usually meticulous pen of Tom Gauld and delightfully crude shit jokes from the typically uber-witty Michael Kupperman. There's a looseness and spontaneity to everything here, the feeling of a roaring comics party -- right down the pulpy, slightly smeared paper the stuff is printed on.
The highlights are numerous, especially given this issue's stellar inclusion of a few multiple-page stories in addition to the usual center spread. Michael DeForge's sweaty strip is a nightmarish blaze through birth, adolesence, and YouTube where smiling baby faces and cute dogs and ducklings become sinister totems of doom. Benjamin Marra steps out of his usual gritty "Miami Vice"-on-PCP milieu for a dangerously steroidal, sexualized barbarian short. Tim Lane crafts a labyrinthine, epic noir packed to the gills with dwarves, transvestites, French sailors, and, uh, a Desi Arnaz cameo. Gabrielle Bell and Malachi Ward do their usual strong work. Appropriately, though, the showstopper is found in the color centerfold, where Taylor McKimens comes on like a Brendan McCarthy for the recession-dried, post-everything 2010s, turning crayons and an obsession with gushy textures into weapons across 33 gloriously sludgy day-glo panels.
The best thing about Smoke Signal, the thing that really makes it something worth paying attention to and seeking out (and writing about on Newsarama) isn't the work of one creator. It's the strength it speaks to, the showcase it provides for the obscene amount of talent lurking in the current non-Diamond distributed art-comics scene. There's something for literally everyone in these pages -- it's an affordable, democratic, completely unpretentious exibition of the very best the medium has to offer. Whether you're the world's biggest comics fan or a man on the street, you can't help but be impressed by the material compiled here, and I'll wager I'm not the only one who gets excited by the issue's last three words: "To be continued"....
the preceding review originally appeared on www.newsarama.com
"The nation's #1 source for awesomeness" - Johnny Ryan
Our ongoing newspaper comic anthology Smoke Signal features artwork and stories by world-famous cartoonists and illustrators, and has gained readership with every issue. With only comics and illustration, Smoke Signal has a long shelf life. And we give it away for free! Who doesn't want free comics?
We are now accepting advertising in Smoke Signal. If you want to reach out to our readers, we will help find an artist to illustrate your ad at no extra charge.
sample ad drawn by Matthew Thurber:
Circulation: 2,500 - 3,000 copies