Chicago has a long and illustrious alternative comics history, from the now-canonical 90s old guard like Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes to influential minicomic icons like John Porcellino and on through important current creators like Lilli Carré and Edie Fake. Quimby's is one of the country's top alternative comics stores, but until the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE) debuted two years ago, the city didn't have a convention of equal stature to match.
Headquartered at the Center on Halsted in Boystown, the festival is playing host to a dizzying array of cartoonists, publishers, and events in its second year. Special guests include CAKE cofounder Fake and other familiar Chicago faces like cartoonist Anya Davidson, as well as out-of-towners Inés Estrada (cartoonist and editor of the comics section of Vice's Mexico outpost), Lizz Hickey, and Cartoon Network storyboard artist Hellen Jo.
This year's headliner is Maakies creator Tony Millionaire, an alt-comics institution. He'll appear in conversation with Caitlin McGurk at noon on May 31, and at noon on June 1 will take part in a panel about children's comics with Alone Forever creator Liz Prince and Nobrow Press rep Tucker Stone, who's best known online for his cheerful eviscerations of mainstream superheroes. The panel "Magikomix, Queer Comics, and Visionary Cartooning"—featuring Fake, Eric Kostiuk Williams, and Elisha Lim— focuses on comics as a sort of magical fellowship. And that seems like a good thumbnail description of CAKE itself: a community of comics celebrating comics as community.