The 40th anniversary of the Time Out brand couldn’t have come at a better time for us. Back when founder Tony Elliott was launching his seminal London weekly in 1968, Chicago was being rocked by riots of both the race and police variety. The whole world was watching, as the DNC protesters kept chanting, and it didn’t like what it saw. What a difference four decades have made. Today, Chicago is North America’s city ascendant. We proudly lay claim to Batman and Barack—a Dark Knight and a leading political light, both playing to huge worldwide audiences hungry for inspiration and change. Yes, Chicago’s in the midst of quite a cultural winning streak, bidding hard for the 2016 Olympics, crowning a Top Chef and seizing the Pulitzer for drama in a year when the Cubs promise a dramatic finish of their own. As part of Time Out’s global anniversary celebration (click here for a glimpse of the notables our sibling Time Out titles are bringing to the shindig), we’re honoring 41 of Chicago’s true cultural heroes, people who continue elevating our flat prairie metropolis to even headier heights. Arrayed in no particular order—how could we logically rank an Alpana versus an Albini or a Lupe versus a Letts, after all?—this sampling of cultural kingpins underscores the stunning breadth and depth of Chicago’s art, entertainment, culinary and political scenes. After whetting your appetite here, go to timeoutchicago.com/heroes for in-depth honoree interviews, many of them in video form. Then stick around to debate the merits of our selections. Just remember: This is a party, people, not the kind of hair-yanking free-for-all TOC honoree Jerry Springer regularly hosts on his TV show (not that there’s anything wrong with that). If Carol Marin, a paragon of journalism ethics who once quit a newscast that offered Springer a commentary slot, is a good enough sport to pose here with the ever-avuncular Jerry, we hope you won’t get too sore over our omission of a few local cultural titans—especially the one whose name rhymes with “Pope rah” and who scores enough accolades from her own magazine every month to make Olympian Michael Phelps look like a pool boy. Besides, aren’t such differences of opinion a big reason gatherings like this one are so much fun? And did we mention there’s cake?