As many of you know, last week I headed back home to Chicago to attend the first ever Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE), and let me tell you guys – it was the best. Since it was a first year show, I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect, but the CAKE organizers really pulled together a fantastic event. There was an impressive list of exhibitors from all over the place; it was awesome to see everyone come together, and in the city I love, no less! I showed up pretty early in the morning to set up and was immediately impressed by the space. I can easily say I have never seen such a spectacular view from the venue of a comics show.
I’m used to shows being in giant windowless rooms with buzzing fluorescent lights that are either overly air-conditioned and frigid, or not air-conditioned enough and sweltering. Spending all day in rooms like that makes me go a little crazy… without windows, I tend to lose track of time and the chatter from the convention floor in high-ceilinged rooms creates a horrible din that just leaves me feeling really exhausted by the end of the day. The space at CAKE was far more intimate, with lots of natural light, and carpeting to absorb some of the sound. If CAKE continues to happen every year, I anticipate the show will grow out of this small setting and require a larger venue. That’s a shame in some ways, but ultimately I’m rooting for this show to become a big successful annual event for many reasons, not least of which being homestate pride.
When I arrived at the show I found that the guy who was originally supposed to share the other half of my table had cancelled, but was pleasantly surprised to discover that they had been replaced by the wonderful Sarah, creator of the online comic Hey Pais and so many adorable cat-related sundries. She and her husband Tom were fun to hang out with all weekend, particularly when it got a little slow on Sunday, and we chatted a lot and Tom drew some stuff for his very awesome webcomic. Sarah had all kinds of cute things at her table – for cats and people alike, and I picked out a few of her hand-crocheted catnip mice to bring home to my furry little dudes (they love them).
On the other side of my table was Virginia from Sparkplug Comics & Books, a small press publishing and distributing company based in Portland. Virginia was fun to hang out with as well, and gave me some advice about moving to Portland, which was much appreciated. The Sparkplug table was packed to the brim with some really awesome work, including a couple books by Julia Gfrörer and Eroyn Franklin, both of whom I met at the Stumptown Comics Fest this year and whose work I really enjoyed. Virginia quickly sold out of Sparkplug’s newest book, Katie Skelly‘s Nurse Nurse and got a steady stream of people coming by their table all weekend. From what I could tell, everyone in the corner where I was sitting did pretty well – especially considering this was the show’s first year. I’d showed up with perhaps, admittedly, low expectations, but I left really very impressed.
I was a lot slower on Sunday than it was on Saturday (possibly because it was Father’s Day? I’m not sure…) and that gave me the opportunity to wander around a little and check out the rest of the exhibitors. I was so excited to see so many familiar faces tabling at the show, and to meet so many new ones. I found a good mix of people from the east and west coasts, which I guess shouldn’t be much of a surprise. When I lived in Chicago I always thought it was strange that the city didn’t have a major alternative comics show. It’s conveniently located right in the middle of the country, accessible to everyone – not to mention the home of Quimby’s, quite possibly the greatest comic shop ever maybe. Earlier in the week, before the show started, I swung by Quimby’s and dropped off some copies of SPAZ! #5, so in case you didn’t make it out to the show, you can pick them up there!
Wandering around the show I met a lot of interesting people producing great artwork, who were all very friendly and gave the impression that they were excited to be there. Being from Chicago, that made me really happy. There was a good mix of people selling DIY minicomics like myself, a few big names, and an assortment of small press publishers. Another thing I found wandering around the convention was a staff & exhibitor lounge, with free coffee and bottles of water and snacks and all that other stuff you sometimes forget to bring when you’re supposed to stand behind a table for seven hours. On the second day they had sandwiches, which was really amazing as I was very hungry at the time. This was by far one of the more exciting and novel perks of the show for me, truly embodying at that moment the clichéd role of the starving artist (OMG SANDWICHES?!?! *cue giant sparkling anime eyes*). They also, of course, had cake.
Despite being horribly broke, I did manage to grab a few things at the show. I made sure to pick up a copy of Gabby Schulz‘s new book Weather, which debuted at the show. I also grabbed a copy of Noah Van Sciver‘s The Death of Elijah Lovejoy from the 2D Cloud table. I met Tyrell Cannon who is currently working on a true crime comic about Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, which I look forward to reading alongside Jonathon Case‘s graphic novel following the same case from the detective’s point of view. I also got a print from Marnie Galloway, who is working on her Xeric award-winning project In the Sounds and Seas. Based on what I saw, it promises to be a really very lovely book when it is finished. You can buy the first two volumes of the story here.
I got a whole bunch of other really awesome looking minicomics, none of which I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and read yet because I am an asshole. Everyone at the show was great and I managed to buy and trade for a lot of terrific work. I had an outstanding time at the show last weekend and it was the perfect excuse to come back home and visit some old friends. I really hope this show is able to happen again next year and every other year for a long time. I have no doubt that if the CAKE organizers keep up the good work, they’ll continue to be able to draw talent from all over the country and make this a highlight of the con season.