Within minutes of the doors’ official opening, most of the crowd had assembled. They stood in bunches in the open area near the projector screen, moving to look through rows of artwork or to find a good seat. The show wouldn’t start until seven, but that was beside the point—“CAKE FRAME 2,” a collaboration between the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE) and Brain Frame Comics Performance, was as much a place for Chicago comic artists to mingle as it was a space for them to display and auction off their work.

Hosted in the Co-Prosperity Sphere, the event combined both CAKE and Brain Frame’s usual offerings into a two-and-a-half hour show. For CAKE, the evening represented their final fundraiser before the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, which begins on May 31. For Brain Frame, a group that is the brainchild of “CAKE FRAME 2’s” host Lyra Hill, this hybrid show is one of the last before Brain Frame ends its regular bi-monthly comic readings.

CAKE co-organizer Marnie Galloway spoke to the importance of the event, citing it as “critical to [CAKE’s] ability to continue growing to keep up with demand.”

The evening began with two Brain Frame performances, in which comic artists Kevin Budnick and Jen Rickert read aloud selections from their published material. Budnick, whose drawing style was as frank as his performance, presented an autobiographical tale of self-imposed isolation, doubt, and existential discomfort. Rickert’s lively art and passionate reading investigated Miley Cyrus’s personal renaissance as a psychological acknowledgment of “otherness.”

After the performances, the show segued into the auction: upwards of eighty lots were presented by the end of the night. The auctioned items, though all comics-related, varied widely; some were special print editions of published work, others series of books, and others still included original artwork made specially for the auction.

Lyra Hill, dressed in a shimmering, corseted bodysuit, guided the evening through its numerous phases. In the moments of transition, she kept up a stream of banter with the largely familiar audience. During breaks and pauses in the show, the audience conversed in their seats. A high school French teacher, a North Side gallery attendant, and a college student turned web-comic artist discussed their professions. In the main column of seating, two artists collaborated on a twelve-frame story while simultaneously bidding on pieces in the auction and observing its proceedings.

Towards the end of the night, one attendee extended an open invitation to a bi-monthly comics discussion frequented by several of the night’s artists and performers. This spirit of inclusion is central to the Chicago comic community. In the words of Galloway, the community is full of “good-spirited, open-hearted affection, mutual admiration and fandom between the artists.”

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