Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

June 3, 2014

Festivals Extra: Caitlin McGurk Reports In From CAKE

Caitlin McGurk of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum made the trip from Ohio to Illinois for last weekend's CAKE and promised to send me a graph for use because I had no other eyeballs to put on the growing arts/alts focused show. A participant, she was extremely positive.
image"I like CAKE! No in fact, I love CAKE. Few other American comics shows come to mind -- other than Short Run, perhaps) where I have felt energized the entire time by the homegrown, we-can-do-this-if-we-try attitude that their entire organization is fueled by. Young fans and cartoonists that are clearly dedicating themselves to this year after year just out of the love of it, and have rather impressively pulled off a professional and well-oiled-machine within only three years of operating. Their website is tight and cohesive. Their programming is original, satisfying without being overly-ambitious or packed in, and doesn't just cater to big names but commits to exposing lesser-known folks.

Speaking of panels, they are the only indie comics show that I am aware of -- and please correct me if I'm wrong -- who actually pay their moderators. As someone who is frequently asked to moderate or interview folks for part of a convention's programming, I know just how much time, energy, and cash -- from purchasing the artists' books -- goes into researching and preparing for that kind of event, and it's an enormous help to be passed $100 or so as a sign of thanks and appreciation. Especially for those of us who moderate but otherwise have no place at a convention beyond being a fan and picking up work.

Unfortunately, I can't speak to how the sales were as I haven't tabled at CAKE, but late-Saturday and throughout Sunday seemed fairly busy, and morale remained high. Both the programming venue and the exhibitor areas are beautiful, well-lit, comfortable and well located in a friendly neighborhood with plenty of good food. The after parties are always a blast, and it's nice to go to a convention where basically everyone at the show actually does go to the official after-party, rather than dispersing throughout small parties in the city. In short, keep doin' it right guys. And thanks for another great festival."
Thank you, Caitlin.

I talked to about a dozen people on hand that reported good but not spectacular sales from a slower Saturday and better-than-expected Sunday; no one was willing to say so for attribution, though, which is pretty much par for the course these days. The Chicago scene strikes me as a solid one not just for its Midwest destination identity -- it's where all the cool kids with whom I grew up in Indiana wanted to live -- but for the fact of the schools that are teaching comics there now and the relationships forged in such a setting. It's always been a great comics-reading town, and has always had some of the best retail.

I honestly don't know if CAKE is the only show to pay its moderators. I assume someone else does, or has. I would also guess that this is still a rarity across the board. One of the big stories of the next 36 months will almost certainly be conventions providing more and more seed money for guests, moderators, special attractions. It should be intriguing to see where that ends up.
posted 12:35 am PST | Permalink

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