(credit: Laura Park/http://singingbones.com).

by Mason Johnson

Chicago Alternative Comics Expo
Columbia College Ludington Building
1104 S. Wabash, 8th Floor
Chicago, Il 60605
Saturday & Sunday

CBS Event
Facebook Page

Cake puns… I need cake puns. For the title. That’s how articles are written, right?

I’m awful at puns though.

And writing articles.

Titles, in particular.

How do you do it? How do you say, “Hey, look at this, it’s CAKE–Chicago Alternative Comics Expo–a celebration of comics that’s happening this weekend in Chicago, and if you miss it, you’ll probably regret it, you’ll be crushed underneath the metaphorical weight you’ll feel once CAKE passes you by, so don’t miss it,” all in the form of a pun with the word count restrictions of a title?

Maybe these titles would have been better:

  • Have Your Comics, And Eat Them Too! CAKE
  • CAKE: Layers of Comic Book Goodness
  • Comics: The Frosting On Your CAKE
  • CAKE Really Takes The Cake!

No. Those wouldn’t have worked.

Regardless, CAKE is happening this weekend, and you should go. A free comic expo with a focus on the independent, underground and alternative corners of the comic world, CAKE is bound to be a friendly, diverse and fun experience.

From ‘One Year In Indiana’ (credit: Kurt Dinse/www.pungentbasementart.com)

The Peoples

The con floor! Where the people are. The energy! The exhibitors! This is where you want to be. For those who have never been to anything like this, it will essentially be a room filled with tables, a creator behind each one, art in front of them that is likely to grab you on many levels. Not only will there be names you know, but names you haven’t heard yet, too. There’s nothing better than walking from table to table, never quite sure what kind of art you’re going to see. See the full list of exhibitors and guests here.

The 8th floor of the Ludington Building is full of talented people. Two that I know for a fact rock are Kurt Dinse and Marian Runk. Kurt writes and illustrates One Year In Indiana, a cartoonish look at the life of a lead singer of a metal band trapped in a college town. Marian will be debuting her second issue of The Magic Hedge at CAKE, which, if it’s anything like the first, will have an art style that’s simple in a really nice way with sparse black lines that stand out and the occasional, warm pop of color that catch’s the eye.

There are special guests too, who are different from exhibitors, because… they’re called special guests. I’m excited about Lucy Knisley, Meredith Gran and Nate Powell. Lucy’s work can both be seen on the web and in print. Her cartoons she releases on the internet every month are these giant pages that speed through her life in an enjoyable, cartoonishly exaggerated, but still believable manner. Meredith Gran is mostly known for her webcomic Octopus Pie. With her simple drawing style, she is able to write personable stories through the use of opposite characters, an old device that she makes seem new. Nate published one of my favorite books, Swallow Me Whole – a beautifully drawn story about teens, hallucinations, bugs and growing up. He’ll have his newest work at CAKE with him, Year of the Beasts, which is written by Cecil Castellucci and illustrated by Nate. Check it out!

Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown (credit: Jeffrey Brown/www.jeffreybrowncomics.com)

The Happenings

There are a number of panels during CAKE. Places and times where you can see creators share and develop opinions that will tantalize your mind. Probably. They’ll tantalize mine, at least.

There are a bunch. See ‘em all here. Here are two:

Real Life: A Round Table on Women and Graphic Autobiography

with Rina Ayuyang, Julia Wertz, Leslie Stein, Marian Runk, Keller Roberts and Lucy Knisley
Saturday 12:30-1:30, 1st Floor Conaway Stage

A bunch of ladies talkin’ about writing and drawing things about themselves. Doesn’t sound so bad. There are a lot of great things comics bring to the world of autobiography, a pseudo-reality you can create between panels that shows life in a way books and movies can’t. Come hear the interesting things these interesting women have to say!

Jeffrey Brown: Draws a Minicomic

12:00-1:30, 1st Floor Conaway Stage

No. It doesn’t seem like it’d be particularly entertaining to watch someone creating a mini comic. Throw Chicago’s comic sweetheart, Jeffrey Brown, into the mix, and the equation changes! Though a bit bashful, he keeps things light, having conversation with those around him. Plus, it’s just nice to see someone’s process, especially if you’re just starting to make your own comics. There’s lots to learn for those curious.

Eat Before We Eat You (credit: Keith Herzik)

Other Happenings

CAKE-proper isn’t the only time you can find entertainment. There’s a series of events going on before and after the show.

The Friday before there’s “Anders Nilsen: Adam and Eve Sneak Back Into the Garden to Steal More Apples” in Elmhurst, where you can see pieces of Nilsen’s comic, Big Questions, on display. There’s also “Brain Trubble” at the Happy Dog Gallery (1542 N Milwaukee Ave, 2nd Floor), a comics reading and live drawing featuring Trubble Club and Brain Frame, which is the official kick off of CAKE.

On Saturday, there’s a reception after CAKE at the Morpho Pop Up Gallery (208 S Wabash). “Eat Before We Eat You,” curated by Paul Nudd and Onsmith, will display CAKE-related art for those who didn’t quite get enough at the show.

See the full list of events here.

Yeah, that’s a lot for one weekend. It’s not like CAKE happens every day though, ya know? In fact, this is the first time something like this is happening in Chicago. There’s never been such a strong presence of alternative and indie comics on display in what is supposedly one of the biggest, most diverse cities in the nation. Everyone should give a pat on the back to CAKE’s organizers, Neil Brideau, Edie Fake, Max Morris, Grace Tran and Jeff Zwirek for giving Chicago something it was missing and desperately needed.

They just spent a whole lot of time making this city a little bit better, the least we could do is repay them by going to the damn thing!

Mason Johnson, CBS Chicago