by Max Douglas and BK Munn
Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird has announced that his charitable Xeric Foundation will no longer award publishing grants to struggling cartoonists and will instead focus on supporting other charitable organizations.
Laird reasons that the internet and webcomics have essentially eliminated the need for print publishing aids. Since 1992, his foundation has given out over $2 million to cartoonists, including many Canadians –notably Bernard Edward Mireault received one this year in May, for his long-in-the-works Graphic Novel, “To Get Her“, and an earlier amazing cohort of 5 Canadian cartoonists in 2010.
In a letter posted on the Xeric website July 14th, Laird stated,
“Roughly twenty years ago, I started something called the Xeric Foundation. It came about because, with the success of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” property that Kevin Eastman and I had created back in 1983, there were a lot of people asking for money. Many of these requests were legitimate and came from real need, and I wanted to find a way to deal with them in a fair and organized fashion.
I also wanted to help out struggling comic book creators. Having started TMNT with Kevin as a self-published venture, I knew very well how critical even a relatively small amount of money could be for success at that nascent stage.
The Xeric Foundation accomplished all that. The Foundation was able to give many grants to self-publishing comic book creators and local charitable organizations. To date, those grants have totaled more than $2,500,000, and those funds were split equally between the two aforementioned categories.
When I began the Xeric Foundation back in 1992, things were very different. The Internet — and web-based publishing — was in its infancy. This has changed, radically, and the Xeric Foundation needs to change accordingly.
The advent of essentially free web publishing has forever altered the way aspiring comic book creators can get their work out into the public eye. With this in mind, I have decided that it makes sense that the Xeric Foundation will no longer provide grants to self-publishing comic book creators, and instead devote all of its available grants funds to charitable organizations. “
There is one more round of grants to go…
“There will be a final comic book review in May 2012. Details can be found at the following link: FINAL GRANT APPLICATION. Please note that the November review is cancelled [sic], allowing creators more time to prepare and present their best work.”
“Good luck to all of the dedicated self-publishers. Get in there and show us what you’ve got during the last round of comic book grants!”
Reaction from many creators naturally laments the lost opportunity for future grants.
Marcel Guldemond - “As someone who’s received a Xeric Grant, that’s pretty sad news. It’s also true about the internet & Kickstarter changing the game, but really, I love print editions, especially creatively well designed ones, so it’s still sad.”
Patrick Joseph - “I cherish my rejection post card from the Xeric foundation. Seriously.”
Troy Little - “I received a Xeric way back in 2001 and it was a BIG DEAL to me starting out. News of this ending saddens me.”
It will certainly mean future emerging talents will have to try other routes. While this complicates things for the lucky who would have gotten backing from the Xeric–around 13 or so a year for the last half of the ’00s –representing a lot of great work. But one could argue it won’t keep others from getting in print if they’re willing to take advantage of some kind of digital self publishing or POD in the mix.
Laird’s perspective seems to be accurate. We do seem to be at the point where someone can develop and prove work on-line, and get it to where putting something in print either on your reader base alone if you have one large enough, or by using something like kickstarter to co-fund a book with a small publisher the way people often did with Xeric, is within reach.
The same people can take advantage of that if not a wider group than could have benefited from their grants. Even barring those options for finely crafted tomes –something new to comics historically. We’re still only 10 years from a time were 90% of what was published only ever appeared in a cheap pamphlet. Far from being a closed door, now anyone going to a small press or comics festival also has few excuses for not putting together a handful of copies themselves with what you can do DIY or in a copy shop with two or three hundred bucks.
And as Danny Hellman puts it…
” Look at it from the perspective of a wealthy person who wants their money to make a difference in the world: would you give to help feed the hungry, or would you bankroll print editions of weird comic books…?” - “Hopefully his turtle money’s going to help fund a robot that’ll scrape white hot radioactive waste off the bottom of the Sea of Japan.”
Salgood Sam- “Don’t think we’ll seen the end of print by far, I just think the dynamics have changed when it comes to how you get there, if you want to get there. I also feel like I snoozed on that one, missed an opportunity. But looking around I don’t think anyone will really miss a chance.”