“Timing,” Peter Laird proclaims wistfully, “in a lot of ways is everything.” A quarter of a century after first introducing his most famous creations to the world alongside long time co-conspirator Kevin Eastman, the artist has had plenty time to reflect on such things. It’s hard to argue with the sentiment. The introduction of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a black and white comic in the fall of 1983 was about as perfect as timing gets.
Three years after the release of that first book, the Turtles had been successfully translated into an animated series and action figure line. Soon after that, Eastman and Laird’s creations would become a bona fide cultural phenomenon.
Even after the cartoons, and the movies, and the breakfast cereals, however, the duo have never forgotten their roots as struggling independent cartoonist who, in the face of rejection from power house publishers, Marvel and DC, took a leap into the often rocky world of self-publishing. Eastman, for his part, launched Tundra in 1990, publishing works by artists like Jim Woodring, Scott McCloud, and Mike Allred. Laird took things a step further, creating the Xeric Foundation, which since 1992, has been a major force in self-publishing, having issued grants to such future big name artists as Jason Lutes, Adrian Tomine, Tom Hart, Jessica Abel, and Gene Yang.
We had the fortune of bumping in Laird in amongst the gauntlet that is The New York Comic Con Artist Alley. We spoke to the artist about his journey from self-publishing to pop-cultural icon.
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