Here’s what I thought about CAKE (speaking, of course, as an individual fan and not as a journalist):
- For an event in its second year, CAKE is pretty incredible. To have guests like Chris Ware and Kim Deitch so early on is remarkable - there are festivals that have been around for over a decade that can’t pull names like that. And pulling names like that helps out the smaller names that need shows like CAKE to build an audience.
- I haven’t lived in Chicago for 15 years, but the humidity is something that never quite washes off your skin, so as gross as the air inside the fest was on Saturday afternoon, there was something nostalgic about it for me.
- I missed all the programming. I only had a day to spend there, and I wanted to maximize my time walking around the show and talking to people. That may have been a mistake, but at least there’s video of the panels.
- Somewhat ironically, I spent a lot of time looking at stuff from West Coast cartoonists - Ed Luce’s new Wuvable Oaf comic is amazing (I ran out of money, but I’ll be buying it shortly), Gabrielle Gamboa had really reasonably priced original panels, and Joseph Remnant’s original pages from Cleveland are outstanding, especially at the prices he sells them for.
- One of the nice things about attending a fest outside the Bay Area is that I got to meet some people you keep hearing about, like Chuck Forsman and Michael Deforge. Oh and Annie Koyama. Plus, I bought a lot of work from artists with whom I wasn’t previously familiar, and that’s always fun.
- Just because Chance Press didn’t have a table doesn’t mean our work wasn’t represented there: Paul Hornschemeier had copies of the still-available The Daily Forlorn for sale. That was pretty cool to see.
- This is how you know I was having a good time - I completely missed Chris Ware’s signing. (Although it was a bummer having D&Q tell me that his line had been capped after traveling across the country in part because Ware was going to be there.) I guess I’ll have to plan better next time.
- I really like this trend of the official Tumblr of whatever show highlighting debuts going into the fest. Of course, shitty APE will never do this because they couldn’t care less who exhibits at their convention, but it’s great for getting publicity for artists, and it helps to orient attendees like me. It was nice to go up to tables having seen clips of books online, rather than just being assaulted by all the quality work bombarding my eyes.
- I would have supported more struggling artists if Kim Deitch hadn’t brought a box of original art to sell. I didn’t get too carried away, but I did come away with a couple pencil layouts from Boulevard of Broken Dreams, including the famous “Not bad at all!” panel from the end. Pictures to come soon.
- As it usually seems to happen these days, Fantagraphics won the Best Big Publisher Award. They are on such a roll these days, I don’t know what to say. I was talking to my friend Chris the other day about how I really don’t know when’s the last time Fantagraphics put out a “shitty” book. By “shitty,” I mean a book that looks like a throwaway book, with cheap binding, unpleasant paper, bad printing, etc. Even something like TEOFTW, whose pocket size and unprintable title suggest cheap-o pulp books, is printed, designed, and bound with extreme attention to quality. The Gilbert Hernandez Venus book is another example - it’s $10, but it still has nice paper, hefty boards, and no skimping on the design. This isn’t really specific to CAKE, but to see all the books spread out on a table and piled high is something to behold. Especially when other publishers* are incorporating thin/rough/newsprinty paper, sloppy binding, and generally low quality even for books by major authors.
- Of the new books I bought, I’m definitely most exited about reading the new Kim Deitch book, although Eye of the Majestic Creature isn’t far behind. Plus, Leslie Stien did a great sketch in my copy, even though her face was all busted up, which was pretty badass.
- The new Neil Faber/Michael Dumontier book Animals with Sharpies was my favorite thing D&Q brought to the show. It’s a book of fine art one-panel gags, and if that wasn’t a thing, it is now.
- Closing thoughts? I had a great time and will probably be back next year. The fact that my family lives right in town makes it kind of a no-brainer. I didn’t have the feel like I’ve heard described at BCGF or SPX that something incredible was in the process of happening, but I think that’s okay. It was humid enough as it was.
- I’ll be posting pictures of all my cool stuff once I get around to taking them - I just got back to El Cerrito tonight and have to get back to working on Chance Press now.
*Edit: I don’t mean “all other publishers do this all of the time;” I mean that some other publishers do this some of the time, and Fantagraphics is unique in that they never do this, despite releasing a shitload of books.