This past weekend’s CAKE show in Chicago was important for a few reasons, but mostly because CHicago has a rich vibrant indie/mainstream comics scene, and having an event to take advantage of it is a boon to the entire Midwest. The show had a stellar guest list, so we’ve been eagerly awaiting word on how it did.
So, from reading a few reports the word seems to be: great show, so-so sales but awesome atmosphere.
First, local boy Kiel Phegley has one of his insanely detailed and cogent reports:
Though it was held almost entirely on the eighth floor which also served as partial home to the Zine Fest (some CAKE panels took place on a stage downstairs), the layout for the festival distributed the well known talent and first timers evenly in a circular pattern. So while one room may lay off the main stretch of tables for the show, it would be anchored by the likes of Jeffrey Brown, Kevin Huizenga and Ted May. Meanwhile, the hall stretch on the far side of the auditorium was the weekend home of Anders Nilsen, Box Brown and Charles Forsman. Moves like that meant that fans of Gabrielle Bell or Julia Wertz or whomever was set up at CAKE would circulate around, and there were few complaints of dead spots or “no man’s land” areas for the festival.
This observation is actually refuted in what we consider the Romanesko of the indie comics world, the Secret Acres report. It too is overall positive:
But the truth is that nothing went horribly wrong this past weekend in Chicago, and the CAKE gang are due some deep thanks and heartfelt congratulations from the comics world. For its inaugural weekend, CAKE was meticulously organized and executed, and pretty much everything that you’d hope for with a debut comics festival.
But also frank about some shortcomings:
Sales were soft. We’re not going to gloss over that one, so it might as well be the first thing we hash out in the blog. Some tables did well, but most people we talked to were at least mildly disappointed in their earnings. While traffic was generally steady over the course of the weekend, there were some major lulls in activity. We weren’t wowed by our own earnings, but we weren’t crushed, either. It was right in line with how we did at our first Stumptown or our first BCGF. Taking into account airfare, hotel, shipping books and table fees, we ended up a bit in the red, but it doesn’t sting much considering we went to Chicago with CAKE being a total unknown. We could have hedged our bets, waited for year two, or put all the chips on the table and treated CAKE like a proper festival. Because our guy Edie Fake was working on CAKE, this was a no-brainer for us. We’d follow him into hell. We debuted Gabby Schulz’s Weather, flewSean Ford out to promote his Only Skin, and generally behaved as if we were going to SPX(minus the banners and our mini-comics ranch, which was a mistake on our part, but we’ll get to that). The fact that we didn’t come home with cash to spare strikes us as eminently tolerable given that this was the first CAKE ever and we were high rollin’ it a bit.
Secret Acres take is that the show is incredibly promising, and that kind of enthusiasm will hopefully give it the support to get to the level it should be.
And finally, Gabrielle Bell also attended and reports in the way only she can:
Kiel Phegley, Secret Acres AND Gabrielle Bell. On the basis of elite level con reports, this is really the icing on the…uh. It’s a good thing, is what we’re trying to say.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.