This coming weekend is CAKE, the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo. I've had the privilege of joining the team of organizers last summer to put on the show this year, so my request that you come to see the show is even more heart-felt and earnest than the last two years when I was enjoying the show as an exhibitor. I don't want you to come out to the show this weekend to support me and my little table of books; I'm going to be running around making sure the show runs smoothly. I want you to come out to the show this weekend because you're going to have such a great time. Here are 10 more reasons:
1. The comics/books/art at CAKE will blow your mind. In several separate conversations with artists, the idea recurs that we are in a golden age of alternative comics and alternative comic shows. Though alt comics as a genre has a rich and varied history, the sheer quantity and quality of new work, the innovation happening in the form right now, boggles the mind. There is an electricity at alternative comics shows, an urgency and immediacy to the work being published, which somehow--miraculously--translates into excitement and friendly community rather than the zero-sum competition that I have seen in other art worlds. And because distribution remains a tricky problem for artists who self-publish (which is the heart of alternative comics), it can be hard to find this work outside of expos like CAKE. Not every city has a Quimby's, and not every Chicagoan makes the regular pilgrimages to the store that one would need to keep up with the work being made. Even if you camp out at Quimby's or its ilk, you won't get to chat up 20 of your favorite artists in one afternoon. Come to CAKE to meet some utterly lovely people, and prepare to have your world changed by the work they're sharing.
2. The special guests are next-level amazing. Oh no big deal, you guys. Just Tony Millionaire, Edie Fake, Anya Davidson, Ines Estrada, Lizz Hickey, Hellen Jo and Nobrow. If you're not an alt comics aficionado, take some time and click through the links and try not to sweat out of your shirt with excitement. I'll let you gather yourself for a minute.
3. Programming: what, you mean I'll get to hear the special guests + equally thrilling artists talk about their work?! YEP! Check out the full schedule here. There are three panels in the afternoon on both Saturday and Sunday; I will be moderating the first panel on Sunday, chatting up Tony Millionaire, Liz Prince and Tucker Stone of Nobrow about making comics for kids and teens.
4. CAKE isn't just Saturday & Sunday: related events start Thursday night! Thursday night at Galerie F, 2D Cloud hosts a night of comic readings; Friday from 5pm - 7pm Tony Millionaire is signing books at Graham Crackers on 77 E Madison; Friday starting at 6pm is an Adventure Time artists panel at the DePaul School of Cinema at 14 E Jackson, LL105; Friday at Quimby's starting at 7pm is a series of readings by Elisha Lim, MariNaomi and Mike Dawson.
5. After all of the CAKE excitement, you should take a week-long workshop with John Porcellino to learn how to make comics from life! SAW, the Sequential Arts Workshop, is joining up with CAKE and ChiPRC to offer a week-long workshop from comics legend and super nice dude John Porcellino. There's still some room in the class, and CAKE is offering two scholarships for participants: sign up now! More information on how to apply here.
6. If you are a comic artist, there is a secret exciting announcement from CAKE this weekend--shhh! Come to the show to check out what we've been working on before everyone else, or drag your feet and wait to learn about it on Monday June 2 like all the other suckers. But seriously, this is an exciting one.
7. The artists have poured their hearts & souls in to the show. If you're reading this, it's probably because you know me; I have seen the piddling analytics on this little blog, and data indicates that we're probably related. Hi, family! If you know me, you know how much hard work goes in to making comics. It's months, or depending on the size of the book, sometimes years of making work from beginning concept to final product. It's writing and drafting, proofing and scrapping concepts that had promise but didn't work out. It's thumb-nailing, building mock-ups, sketching, inking, coloring, lettering, scanning, building files, working with printers or publishers. Every page is touched so many times by work and thought and care, and it's only for a select few who can do that work full-time. This is often a labor done on top of a day job that pays the bills, on top of caring for children, on top of all of the other necessities of life. The folks who table at shows like CAKE are there because they love it. Every half-table is a life of work, and we've got a whole floor full of tables. Come out and say hi.
8. The organizers have poured our hearts & souls in to the show. Ben, Jeff, Max, Neil, Grace and I, with Edie on the front half and Ness and Candace lending so much help with volunteer coordination and promotions expertise, make the show happen because we believe in CAKE. Contract negotiations, taxes, drafting and editing press releases, answering questions from media, budgeting, picking up orders from printers, putting up posters, designing the program, jurying the show, drafting and editing exhibitor emails, cold-call sponsorship solicitations, organizing and staffing fundraisers, maintaining social media presence, special guest pick-ups from the airport, brainstorming new ways to better serve the exhibitors, and on and on: every half-sheet flyer was cut in half by one of us. Since last summer and through the darkest of this past winter, we meet every week to bring you one weekend of fun. We volunteer our time and energy because we love alternative comics, and we believe that Chicago deserves damn fine show. I think this year, like the last two years, we've done you proud.
9. IT'S FREE. FREE, YOU GUYS. Get off the Addison red line stop, walk around the corner to Halsted, pick up some organic kombucha or whatever at Whole Foods, and take the elevator to the third floor of the Center on Halsted for a one-of-a-kind event. If you haven't made it out to CAKE in years past, this is the year to do it.
10. It's really, really fun. Q.E.D.