After 20 years and a total of hundreds of thousands of dollars spent granting committed comic creators in the United States and Canada with funds to pursue self-published projects, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird's Xeric Foundation is committing solely to charitable work.

According to the Xeric Foundation's official site, final grants will be awarded in 2012, giving applicants until May of next year to complete their work.

The list of influential creators spurred by Xeric grants is a long one. Gene Luen Yang, Nick Bertozzi, Tom Scioli, Farel Dalrymple, Daniel Way, John Pham, Hans Rickheit, Dennis Tucker, Jordan Crane, Derek Kirk Kim, Neil Kleid, Jai Nitz, Ryan Dunlavey and Fred Van Lente, Josh Neufeld, Jeff Lemire, Lars Martinson, and many others kicked off or augmented notable careers beginning with Xeric grant funding. There's also Adam Hines, whose 2009 Xeric grant-funded Duncan the Wonderdog CA named Best Comic of 2010.From the Xeric Foundation's official announcement:

"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.

I'd like to thank all of the people who applied for (and sometimes received) those comic book grants, for their participation in an art form of great merit, as well as those who have applied for (and sometimes received) charitable grants. But I'd especially like to thank all the people who have served on the Xeric Grant committees, both those for the comic book grants and the charitable grants, who have worked without pay all these years, giving of their time and energy, reading and evaluating piles of grant applications. I would like to thank them by name, but -- as it has been since the beginning of the Xeric Foundation -- they prefer to remain anonymous. So... thank you all, from the bottom of my heart!"

--Peter Laird, July 14, 2011

It's hard to argue with Laird's logic. Digital illustration tools and the infinite canvas that is the internet have armed burgeoning creators with tools that simply didn't exist 20 or even 10 years ago. The rise of social media alone has forged a landscape wherein a comic can reach thousands of eyes at virtually no print or distribution cost to the creator. While the adage that "time is money" will always be true, avenues like KickStarter and Etsy will have to stand in the Xeric Foundation's stead as a means to provide driven creators with the kind of revenue streams needed to produce and publish projects.

Despite the new opportunities the Digital Age affords to creators, the Xeric Foundation's many years of support to the comics community is something that can't be replaced. After all, Xeric grants not only supplied money for projects to creators, but also served as a stamp of legitimacy for readers. That said, its absence as a trusted means of fostering talent is eclipsed only by the good it has done and fortunately will continue to do with its considerable charity work, which seems to fund environmentalism, literacy and the arts in communities across North America.

[Via CCS]