CAKE Chicago: Review

Posted in: Iowa City Owl
As we traveled to Chicago, my two friends, my girlfriend and fellow writer, and I, last Friday evening, to participate at CAKE (Chicago Alternative Comics Expo), we were unprepared for the exceptional competence of its staff, the multitudes of amazing indie-comic artists, and the overall jubilation from the throngs of con-goers to this first-ever event.

The staff of CAKE hosted not only the main event itself but multiple gallery shows, a rocking house-show, and a post-expo barbecue. On Friday night, along with the artist collectives Trubble Club and Brain Frame, the pre-party hosted live music accompanying readings of comics plus a cabaret-style puppet show and live drawings projected onto a wall. It set the mood well by bringing together nearly 100 people into the gallery space, encouraging the excitement of the weekend to come.

Saturday was the first day and as we rolled in our books to be sold, the staff immediately greeted and directed us to our table, offering their help in anything we needed. I began to feel like they had memorized all of the artists' names and faces as anywhere we went, with or without our badges on, we were recognized and treated with the utmost respect and friendliness. 

The expo took place on the top floor of a Columbia University building, comfortably tabling almost a hundred artists, along with housing a large auditorium (with another on the first floor) where panels ranging from autobiographical comics, to discussions about the use of vulgarity in the medium were hosted. Tables were covered in a kaleidoscopic array of comics: simple xeroxed mini-comics sat alongside hardcovers, silkscreen editions became friendly with newspaper-style anthologies. Overall, as comics creators young and old, famous or unheard of, sat together, there was a sense of camaraderie. We were all there to share in the selling of our own unique works.

That night, we were treated to a house-show in the Little Village district, which was the unofficial after-party for CAKE. Again, due to the impeccable capabilities of the organizers, who seemed to be everywhere we needed to be in Chicago that weekend, we were ushered in, foregoing the cover charge. The main band was a wild noise-rock group, ONO, fronted by an affable yet commanding gay, African-American man in his late 60's who legendarily wears wedding dresses at his shows but that night wore tights and boxer shorts. It was a hell of a show.

Sunday saw less general public, but the moods were still high. I learned a lot about what items attract customers (having goods range across a scale from $1 to higher helps sell merchandise to all types) and what to do at the next convention I attend. More importantly, however, I was able to make new friends and converse with artists I've long admired. The best feeling was glimpsing a portion of the indie-comics world and seeing, though it can always improve, how prolific, successful, and inclusive it is. 

Even if I'm accepted to participate as a creator-dealer next year, nothing is going to stop me from going. Thank you CAKE for an all out fantastic weekend.
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