OKAY. We’re going to do this out of order a little bit. On Sunday at CAKE, aka the Chicago Alternative (K)omics Expo, we unfurled our table cloth and Secret Acres flag to face day two of the big show. Our ginormous, loaner iPad was on the fritz, so we used our phones as cash registers because wonders never cease. The texts and e-mails came fast and furious. An “Americanized,” “self-radicalized,” “radical Islamist” shooter unleashed the most savage mass murder in American history, which really says something.
It’s strange when the Real World pops the bubble of a day at a comics show. It generally means terrible shit happened. This one happened to gay people at a gay club. We’re gay guys and we were talking comics at CAKE at the Center on Halsted in Chicago during Pride week. As gays, we’re used to being politicized. As Americans, we’re used to seeing mass murders and we’re used to seeing them politicized, too. “Americanized” is generally used to described Muslims in America, which, like any sane person, we find disgusting, ditto the term “self-radicalized” and whatever the fuck people mean by “radical Islam.” If only “Americanized” meant stockpiling violence upon fear mongering upon endless war, nuclear war, slavery and genocide, it would be an honest word, at least. So we were momentarily consumed by hatred for our own country.
Then we remembered who we were and where we were: CAKE was the place to be. After scrolling through the news, we walked into Sunday’s panel, a “Celebration of Sparkplug Comics.” The panel, an intimate affair, quickly turned into a celebration of Dylan Williams, in memoriam, at what was the last show ever for his publishing company, wrapping up after 14 years of great work and five years after we lost Dylan himself. The day we heard Dylan was gone, we happened to be at SPX, the Small Press Expo. We wrote then about what a blessing it was to be surrounded by so many people who loved him.
At CAKE, and in an LGBT center, post news of the massacre, we listened to stories of Dylan’s unending love for comics and the people who make them and the people who read them. Dylan told everyone what they needed to hear, and on Sunday, it was Austin English who said what we needed to hear. He talked about a time, on a road trip with Dylan, when he felt deeply discouraged and conflicted about complaining to Dylan: how do you get so wrapped up in comics when there are people dying by the thousands in Afghanistan? Dylan told Austin it was good to take it all seriously because comics were so important to him. That’s important to us. We’ve said this so many times, but it’s so easy to forget, and some sad souls might even forget that this is a community: our community is made of the best people on the planet and there are a lot of us.
Lucky us to be in the same room with a good chunk of the beautiful people. Yes, we were selling comics, but if you believed like Dylan did, this was a holy act, too. We sold a decent amount of comics, but with everything else going on in the world and in Chicago, the turnout suffered a bit. Speaking of being in the room, how we longed to be in the big gym, despite our prime real estate, and nosey neighbors like the Uncivilized gang, our own Sean Ford, and Tin Can Forest. We did catch glimpses of Corinne Mucha and Reid Pslatis. We snuck in a little cuddle time with our favorite Martian, Marian Runk. We chatted a little bit with Tom Devlin and giggled with Jessica Campbell at Quimby’s. We received a killer submission of sorts from Chris Gooch. We picked up the new Lale Westvind. We leaned on Zak Sally like a crutch. We hugged the King Cat, John Porcellino. We stood on a rooftop watching the sunset while Eddie Campbell read to a packed house downstairs. We peed in peace and comfort in genderless bathrooms. We ate cake. We saw hundreds of naked people riding bikes through the streets. We celebrated the first anniversary of our gay marriage. This is all to say a thing like CAKE is a community event, not a market, and we’re grateful to have participated in it. Thanks, everybody, especially to all the volunteers, who make these things happen for all of us.
But back to Reid Psaltis. We promised a big reveal and reveal we must. Coming in September to the aforementioned SPX, will be the debut of the newest Secret Acre, Reid Psaltis. It’s called the Order of Things. Yes, it’s a bestiary. You’ll read and you’ll learn something, but pay attention, because Reid is going to mess you with you and the animal kingdom in equal measure. Reid boasts some serious science chops in addition to being a world class painter. In fact, you can find some of his work on display at New York’s own world famous American Museum of Natural History right now. Everyone say, “Hi,” to the new kid!
The there’s the old kid, Brendan Leach. We’re bringing Leach back to SPX, too, and bringing his Ignatz Award winner, Pterodactyl Hunters in the Gilded City back to print. Yep, everyone’s walking the dinosaur. Pterodactyl Hunters is a stone cold classic, like the Red Badge of Courage meets pterodactyls in turn of the century New York. We fell in love with Brendan at our first sight of the old newsprint version, so we’re pleased as punch to resurrect it out of a mosquito trapped in amber. Our dino-sized, hardcover, spot-glossed edition lands in your hands this fall.
Meanwhile, check out the starred, glowing review of Gabby Schulz‘s Sick over at Publisher’s Weekly. We discussed this a bit with old Gabby at our CAKE table. We appreciate the universal, glowing praise Sick has received–but, but, but it’s an argument against human existence and everyone who’s written it up describes nodding along while reading it. We adore Gabby and Sick, sure. If only he were more wrong!
Anyway, go forth and make love while it’s nice out. See you in a few.
Barry and Leon
P.S. Thank you, Gene Kannenberg, Jr. for the use of your picture of Gabby at the 25th Anniversary of Quimby’s! We owe you one.
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