WE JUST KNOW you’re reading this to find out how abysmal Chicago’s first annual CAKE convention really was, and it’s common knowledge that Secret Acres pulls no punches in its reportage. You want to hear about the table mix-ups, artists being forced to censor their book covers, prohibitive and unannounced entrance costs, food truck stomach viruses, and unbearable AC malfunctions. You need to hear that everything that could go wrong at an upstart comic convention, in fact, went horribly, horribly wrong, because it’s more thrilling to read a convention horror story, peppered with violent and often unintelligible comment threads. 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. Haters to the left.
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, flew Sean 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.
We heard some complaints from exhibitors tabling in breakout rooms that they felt removed from the show and subject to less foot traffic. Whenever we traveled to the side rooms, they did seem a little quieter than the rest of the show, so there may have been something to that.
Based on what we saw, CAKE was more of a mini-comic show than a big, fat graphic novel show. Attendees seemed to gravitate toward the floppies and newsprint comics. The crowd was a younger, more heavily inked incarnation of the folks we see at the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival each year, and those BCGF kids are young. There was a smattering of people with strollers and a few solo olds, but most everyone was in the (well) under thirty demographic. Our sales could have been boosted significantly if we’d brought along the fine, fine minicomics that we distribute in our online Emporium.
All of the TCAF-ish components of a good comics show were in place at CAKE:
1) helpful, friendly volunteers
2) access to change for exhibitors
3) a comfortable, temperature-controlled, easily accessible venue with an appropriate amount of space for panels and foot traffic
4) water and snacks for volunteers and exhibitors (and actual cake!)
We felt right at home amidst the other exhibitors and completely overwhelmed by the density of comics talent all in one place. Friends like Chuck Forsman, Melissa Mendes, Dane Martin, Colleen Frakes, Penina Gal and Damien Jay were there, along with compatriot small press/distributors like Koyama Press, Tugboat, Sparkplug and Spit and a Half. We were happy to see the familiar faces of some of the former Pizza Islanders and the Closed Caption Comics gang. We got to meet and rub elbows with a whole mess of comics folks that we’ve only interacted with online or remotely: Angee Lennard, David King, Noah Berlatsky, Annie Murphy and Raighne Hogan amongst others. Nate Powell was just a few tables away from us, selling books to attendees by the armful. He let us in on some of the secrets of convention sales, and no, we are not sharing any of them. We were pleased as punch to say hello to Lark Pien, Rina Ayuyang, Grant Reynolds, Nate Beatty, Lilli Carré, Hellen Jo, Brian Ralph, Corinne Mucha, Jon Chad, Chad Sell, Ben Catmull, Zak Sally, Michael Deforge and Kevin Huizenga. Getting an idea of what an amazing crew of cartoonists were at CAKE now, aren’t you? That’s just a small sampling. Despite the fact that it was the first serving of CAKE, a shit ton of veterans were in attendance. Without much effort, we also had the honor of talking at length to two of the co-organizers of the convention: Grace Tran and Max Morris.
As a distraction to the comics extravaganza that was happening indoors, the Acres posse was treated to a little sexytime pool action at the hotel across the street from the convention that we could see from our table. It was blazing outside and the pool looked delicious. We wouldn’t blame anyone for taking full advantage of it.
Like most fledgling shows, we expect CAKE to get bigger each year. Just about everyone we spoke with intends to return. For us, it had the star power of SPX, the organizational mastery of TCAF and the vibe of BCGF. Without Fantagraphics, D&Q and the other Front of the Armory publishers in attendance, it also had an intimacy that made it unique among comic shows (with the exception, perhaps, of PACC and maybe Expozine). It’s not yet Everything You Want From a Comics Show, but it’s pretty damn close. We wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes as high profile as SPX or BCGF in a minute. We’ll never miss it. CAKE suits us just fine.
We haven’t heard a peep from reviewers on Gabby Schulz’s new comic yet, but the reviews for Sean Ford’s Only Skin continue to roll in, including some kind words from Greg McElhatton at Read About Comics.
Now that CAKE is past us, expect Secret Acres to be relatively quiet for a bit unless the aforementioned PACC returns this summer. Hopefully, those guys are listening. We’re not quite ready to make a formal announcement, but if you live in the U.S.A. and like those Koyama books, get ready to be happy. Meantime, we’ll be keeping our heads down and prepping four more new comics for you to devour this fall – including a very special, very big, very hard SPX debut. Because we’re total teases, there’s a teeny, tiny bit of the cover at the top of this post to keep you tantalized until September.
Leon and Barry
@TribeXX Between this and Mr. Met's bare ass, you are on a roll today.
- Tuesday Mar 11 - 5:23pm
@HeyAnnieMok There must be a list someplace. Meaning: make a list, please, Annie.
- Wednesday Mar 5 - 9:03pm
@HeyAnnieMok YES HE IS. (jk)
- Wednesday Mar 5 - 9:02pm
@TribeXX They are indeed!
- Wednesday Mar 5 - 3:50am
"That sounds like fun! The front..." on their own link.
At last, our first post-con post of the year on our first trip ever to the LA Zine Fest. Short version: it rocked. The LAZF is not strictly a comics show, but it sure felt like one. There were lots of unfamiliar faces, which is refreshing, since it meant there were people who weren't sick of us yet. Quite the opposite, we were welcomed with open arms. Also, when you grow up in New York, you are sort of trained to hate Los Angeles. Despite the lines around the block to pet Shia LaBoeuf, hating on LA seems silly now. Obviously, we should all hate San Francisco instead. Alas, there was plenty we didn't get to do in LA, but we did party with some of our old friends, who have gone all Hollywood, hanging out at celebrity bat mitzvahs and stuff. Speaking of parties, we've got the first bits of news on our MoCCA Fest related shenanigans in this here post - and you're invited! But more on that later. Go on, read up already.
Hi there! Just wanted to tell you to look for us at MoCCA FEST!. Great stuff here!
It's been a long, long time. Actually, going by the length of our usual winter hibernation, we're up early on our Scuttlebutt blog. We have a good reason, though! We are headed out to Los Angeles, aka LA, for the LA Zine Fest! It's our first trip to that show and our first west coast trip in forever (if you don't count Seattle's Short Run shows, but is that really the west coast if there's no rap battles of yore there?). It seemed like a good idea at the time, but we're still rockin' our winter fat and it's like eighty degrees or something over there. No matter, we have Sar Shahar, of Sequential Vacation, joining us, along with Special Guest Damien Jay! We've also got a first ever peek at some new stuff by Sean Ford and Edie Fake, and, finally, the new kid, Corinne Mucha, has her very own page. No more sausage party at Secret Acres. We'll back for the LAZF wrap up next week, promise. Now off to Lalaland...
WOWOWOW, this is fantastic! It's an Edie Fake MOVIE! Pardon our freaking out; it's with good reason. The Comics Journal is currently hosting a short documentary called Rad Queers: Edie Fake. It was made by Graham Kobleins, who will now be enjoying eternal favored nation status with us, whether Graham knows it or not. Anyhow, Edie talks about Gaylord Phoenix, of course, but we also get Shannon Michael Crane from Printed Matter talking about their now decade long relationship, and Thomas Robertello, whose gallery held the legendary Memory Palaces show - which will soon be coming to you as the very first Secret Acres art book. So artsy! The real reason you have to watch this is because Graham and Edie walk through Chicago and drop the (sometimes real, sometimes imaginary, but always gorgeous) Memory Palaces buildings right over their actual Chicago streets! Seriously!