Minicomics Co-Ops: The United Fanzine Organization, or UFO, is a co-op of minicomic creators that has existed since about 1968. The group was created by Carl Gafford as an entity for trading and promoting small press comics and fanzines. Gafford was the publisher of a comic called Minotaur. The original name of the group was Blue Plaque Publications, or the BPP for short. Among its earliest members were Chuck Robinson II (publisher of Comique), Dwight Decker (Freon), Ed Romero (Realm), and Gordon Matthews (Coffinworm).
The BPP was the first small press minicomics co-op. The term co-op has often been confused with amateur press associations or apas. The difference is that an apa is helmed by a central mailer, to whom the members send copies of their publications. The central mailer then compiles all the books into one large volume, which is then mailed out to the membership in apazines. Some APAs are still active, and some are published as virtual "e-zines," distributed on the internet.
In a co-op, however, there is no central mailer; the members distribute their own works, and are linked by a group newsletter, a group symbol that appears on each member work, and a group checklist in every member zine.
The original BPP disbanded in early 1972, but was revived later that same year by Steve Keeter, who had been the last of the original members voted in before its collapse. During Keeter's tenure as chairman, the name was changed to the UFO, and a new constitution was adopted. Notable members during this second phase of UFO history included Jim Main, Kurt Erichsen, Larry Johnson, and Rod Snyder.
When the UFO again disbanded during the early 1980s, it was revived yet again by Jim Main. The group has continued ever since, and many of the finest publishers in the comics small press have been, and continue to be members. Chairmen have included J. Kevin Carrier, Nik Dirga, Sam Gafford, John Yeo Jr., Bob Elinskas, and Jason DeGroot.
There have been a number of other co-ops created over the years, including the SPS, or Small Press Syndicate, the SPL (Small Press League), founded in 1986 by Liam Brooks, Andrew Roller and Will Dockery, Pizazz, the Self Publisher Association (SPA), founded by Ian Shires, and a new group, sporting the original BPP name, that was begun by Jim Main and Steve Keeter in 1999. While each of these groups has its own distinctive character, they all follow the basic co-op format that was established by Carl Gafford decades ago.