Nothing For Granted
Last night the news made the rounds that the Xeric Foundation, founded by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird in 1992 to help out fellow struggling self-publishers, would no longer be giving grants for comics following the May 2012 review period (and November 2011’s is cancelled). Which, OK, it’s his money, he can do what he wants with it.
What gets me is the assertion in the announcement that:
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.
Again, it’s Peter Laird’s dosh, he can spread it however he sees fit. But it seems to me he’s basically blaming webcomics for why he can’t bring himself to help out self-publishers. Makes no sense: the rules of the Xeric Grant already prohibit awarding of grants to anything published online. So, y’know, sounds to me like he already had it out for the medium. But “essentially free?”
I think we need to dispel the myth that webcomics are “free.” There’s a cost. Nothing in comics is free. Server space costs. Domain registration and upkeep costs. The magic Cintiq? Costs. Time is a cost. Many webcomickers (hell, many non-web comickers!) need to hold down straight jobs, or take commissions, to pay for their comicking.
I would love if I could present to you more than one page of KEEPER per week. LOVE IT. Problem is, I work a straight job, Jeff Simpson has a baby to care for daytime, and Jim Campbell does this for free in between his paid lettering gigs. It’s all we can do, to even do this one page. Throw in some money, and….?
Same thing with Hadron Colliderscope. You know why we only do 1-3 page stories typically? Because any more and we’d have to pay artists, with money we don’t have. Because time, art supplies, etc.
You know how many real, actual comics, web or otherwise, I’d have out right now if I could, y’know, PAY the artists I’m trying to woo? A lot more than I have now. And it’s still, STILL, the mark of whether or not a webcomic has “made it” is if you find printed copies of them for sale. Hello Penny Arcade, Freakangels, High Moon, PVP, Gunnerkrigg Court…
So, yeah. A means by which comics can be made is gone. Webcomics are out there, but it’s not the Magick Free Cure-All many people on both sides of the fence make (or mock) them out to be. And yeah, there’s Kickstarter, but don’t get me started about that.
It’s a shame that now there’s one less option for self-publishers, one which has launched careers. But all the best to those in the running for the May 2012 final grants.
[NOTE: A lot of this came from a rant on Twitter last night.]