|We have our first entry, Steve Keeter with a great memory.|
In 1972, I had only published a couple of fanzines-- one, THE WORLDS OF EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS was inspired by Camille Cazedessus' wonderful publication ERBDOM, and the other was a superhero comic called GALAXY COMICS, which introduced my long-running character Sunwing. This latter zine had one page inked by Chuck Robinson II, the editor of one of the day's finest ditto zines COMIQUE. I met Chuck when he moved to my hometown of Edenton, North Carolina and he was teaching English in the local high school there, having just relocated to this small town from West Virginia. And, although I had some awareness of a comics fandom, it was he who opened my eyes to just how vast it was becoming, and it was also he who first told me about the Blue Blaque Publications co-op.
CBRII had heard about me from students, who, having little real concept of what quality comic book artwork was, told him that I was drawing comics in class "just like the real ones!" Well, I was doing a lot of comics at the time, mostly in pencil on lined notebook paper, when I should have been studying. And I wasn't in any of Chuck's classes, but, similarly, I was told of this comics publishing teacher, so I ventured over to his classroom one day just after school had let out, and we began to talk.
Chuck told me about COMIQUE, and the BPP co-op, which boasted some of the best-by-golly fanzines and comics of the day. I was fascinated with this info. We soon became very good friends, and I would often visit his home-- where he showed me vast collections of both Golden and Silver Age mainstream comics, the things that had influenced him, and classic small press comics and fanzines of the 1960s and early 1970s. CBRII saw potential in the comics I was doing, and encouraged me to contact then-BPP chairman (and the creator of the original small press co-op) Carl Gafford about my prospects for becoming a BPP member.
With Robinson's help, I managed to put together a pretty decent fanzine, OM #1, which featured work by CBRII, Steve Shipley, Charlie Smith, and other small pressers of the day. As the final touches were being put on the zine, we received word that Gafford had pulled the plug on the BPP group, it had ceased to exist... and in the same letter (written to Chuck, and he showed it to me with some sadness), Carl announced that I had been voted into the co-op, only just a tad too late. But OM #1 was complete by this point, and Chuck Robinson's frontcover included the distinctive BPP symbol, making it the final publication of Gafford's original co-op.
It would have all just died there, a footnote in fandom history. But Robinson encouraged me to keep publishing, and, as I worked on OM #2, I had this nagging realization that I had just been voted into one of the finest fandom groups ever, but that it just didn't mean anything... because now the group was kaput! And it occurred to me that this was a real shame, Gaff's co-op was something really special, and it just couldn't be allowed that the Blue Plaque Publications group would have to fade into obscurity. And besides, I was darn proud of being placed, by vote, in the same company as Chuck Robinson and Carl Gafford and Dwight Decker and Ed Romero and Gordon Matthews and others of the finest zine publishers of the day. I knew I wasn't yet in their league, but I was miffed that I wouldn't have the chance to prove it!
So, after some lengthy discussions with CBRII, I decided to try to revive the BPP co-op all by myself. I typed up a crude BPP NEWSLETTER, Vol 2, No. 1, announcing my intention to revived the BPP, boldly volunteering to be the new chairman, and sent this simple 2-page sheet out to the original members of the group, and to two other talents who, similarly, had been voted in just at the moment the group collapsed: Mark Proskey and Frank Miller (yes, Frank Miller, he was a BPP member for a split second).
The response was deafening... in its silence, that is. Only Prosky and Miller responded at first , the new kids on the block, and they elected me chairman of a revived BPP. I actually was discouraged, and let the matter lie for a few months. But in 1973 I became determined to try again, and sent out another BPP NEWSLETTER to a number of faneds who had impressed me with their zines, and who I thought would make fine members of a revived group, including Jim Main, Steve Shipley, Jack Monninger, Brent Anderson, Frank Cirocco, Kurt Erichsen, Rod Snyder, and a couple of others. I had seen seen material from all of these individuals; some were referred to me by Chuck Robinson, based on zines or contributions of letters of comments he had received (Jim Main, Steve Shipley, Kurt Erichsen). Others had seen OM #1 and sent me their own books in trade (Rod Snyder, Jack Monninger). And of these, Kurt Erichsen, Jim Main, Jack Monninger, and Rod Snyder joined with me to create the core membership of a brand new BPP co-op, which we soon re-christianed the Blue "Phoenix" Publications (indicating a "rising from the ashes"), and soon after, the United Fanzine Organization.
Carl Gafford soon gave his blessing to the revived BPP, and some of the original members returned to the ranks, albeit for brief periods, including Mike Raub, Ed Romero, Charlie Smith, and Chuck Robinson himself.
The United Fanzine Organization (UFO), as well as a new and different version of the BPP co-exist today, and both groups have many fine and talented members. I'm please and proud to be a member of both of these co-ops even today, some 34 years later. (Honorable mention to the Small Press Syndicate, a fantastic co-0p in its own right, of which I am also honored to be a member).
It's been a long, exciting ride for this old small presser, I've made many great friends and seen tons and tons of talent in this magnificent small press network of ours. And that old sense of wonder still comes back when I think of my early small press publishing days-- days of discovery and excitement, and of a time when I was fortunate enough to follow in the footsteps of Carl Gafford and bring back the fanzine co-op... a concept and a reality that continues to this day.
As some of you know a while back Jim Main was taken ill and is recovering. Steve Keeter wrote this about Jim in another Forum and with his kind permission I reprint it here.
Jim Main has been a great friend, and a great influence for almost as long as I've been in small press. We first became acquainted in 1972, when I was trying to work out a revival of Carl Gafford's BPP group. Jim was a charter member of the reformed co-op, which was to evolve into what is today the UFO (United Fanzine Organization). And when that group disbanded again a few years later, it was Jim who revived it a second time, which is why the UFO exists to this very day. And Jim called me one night in the late 1990s and had this great idea for reviving the original BPP in yet another incarnation, which led to the creation of the new BPP group of today. No one except Carl Gafford has had as big an impact on the co-op scene than Jim Main has had. And Jim has published some of the finest and most memorable small press comics and zines ever published, including his classic *PPFSZT! comic which has been around, on and off, for over 30 years. His impact is undeniable.
More than that, for this old fan, is the friendship and support he has given me for over 3 decades. I might have quit small press a number of times, if not for his support. So, on a personal level, I owe much to "Grim" Jim, and I wish him the very best, the speediest of recoveries. And hope to see my old pal up and publishing again soon. Knowing Jim, and just how durable he has been and is, I'm sure we'll be seeing exactly that before too long. Get well soon, Jim!
Our second entry is Rick Olney of the MMC, he has some great rememberances!
I was there at the very start. I wandered New York City looking for old book stores and scrounge shops to buy up back issues. I went to the cons hosted by Phil Seuling. Back in the 1970s, there were frequent notices in Marvel Comics' Bullpen Bulletins about their softball team. They'd talk about the games, mention them when talking about specific staffers, etc. It sounded like they were having a lot of fun, despite not winning a lot of games. I was on the phone with a friend talking about that and we thought it'd be a great idea to have a team of comic book fans to play against them. Fans vs. Pros! What great copy! But we knew we'd need a sponsor. One name came to both of us immediately: Phil Seuling. Besides having a fannish personality, Phil was the man who made comic conventions what they are today. Fans have almost canonized him since he passed away; I could easily do an entire article just on Phil..
Phil Seuling put on these great little weekend shows with no guests, but his best known event was his huge July 4th conventions, but those monthly cons without guests, just dealers and fans (called Second Sunday, then renamed to Comic Book Marketplace) were superb!
Then Stan Lee came into my life as a fan. Do you know that I believe I STILL maintain the record of most interviews with Stan Lee? And I discount and exclude Mark Evanier. Heh, heh... He's a pro.
Stan Lee, one of the men who started Marvel Comics. One of the men who created all those great characters and stories. Stan still had an active role in the company back then, was still writing. He didn't always attend the cons. I was at the Seuling con where Vaughn Bode drew what would be his last poster, and meeting for the first time people I had only corresponded with, among other things.) Bode, by the way, was origianlly from Utica, New York. I recalled meeting him back in the late 1960s before I was legal for the draft.
That was Vaughn Bode's last convention. Wow! The next time I'd see him was in meeting his son, now grown, and doing a stint at Kevin Eastman's WORDS & PICTURES Museum. ORCA was a organizational member of the museum and we'd take groups of our members from upstate NY to the museum in Northhampton, MA., which seeing Mark, in my mind, was like seeing Vaughn.
I visited Marvel nearly every trip to NYC back then. Also had contacts and friends at Warren Publishing (the publisher of Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella and Famous Monsters - Nick Cuti, who probably has forgotten me.
A few years later I became friends with Archie Goodwin. Saw Archie at Marvel twice before he left for DC Comics. I used to hang out a little at the Spring St. comic shop, I would have been soooooooooo depressed back then to find it closed. Thank you for asking. It brought back many memories."
In closing, fans and kids today are ROBBED of having things like this to enjoy. So, yeah, I advocate for younger readers and take a lot of crap for it.
My small press memories are nearly all connected to my exeriences, stange as they were, with Bob Elinskas and his little collective of tenny bopper self creative types back then. It wasn't until I founded the ORComx APA that I really found my creative side. That exists today. Ever see an issue?
GAWD! I just had a memory flashback of Mark Gruenwald.
Ha!Ha! Nobody like that in comics anymore...
_________________ Sincerely, --Rick
"Lux Mentis, Lux Orbis"