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solid writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 2
total score 8
oracle comix _ Oracle Comix 2
Oracle Comix #1
Oracle Comix #2
Oracle Comix

1980-1981 / Thru Black Holes Comix

Mike Roden and his publishing venture Thru Black Holes Comix produced a lot of mini-comics through the 1980s and after an extended hiatus returned to produce even more in the 2000s, but full-size comics were a relative rarity for him. The two issues of Oracle Comix are not quite full size (7 x 8.5"), but they're pretty close. While this title may end up being listed in the small press comics library when it's built, it's reviewed here because it also qualifies, by my definition, as an underground comic.

For those familiar with Mike Roden's publications, you already know that they're not like most other comics. He routinely invited a number of artists to contribute to his books and frequently collaborated with them to produce panels, pages or entire stories. He often incorporated collage into his work, mixing in 19th- and 20th-century etchings with his own original ink illustrations. The primary theme in most of his comics is horror, but he rarely included bloody scenes or acts of violence. Roden's comic world is filled with strange creatures and bizarre mutations of humans and monsters. Stylistically, he is reminiscent of Basil Wolverton, with hints of the naiveté of Rory Hayes and, especially in his early work, the mystical bent of John Thompson.

Except for their relatively large size, the two issues of Oracle Comix are quintessential examples of Roden's early comics. Cosmic themes, semi-psychedelic imagery, atmospheric landscapes and collages with etchings of insects, furniture, doll parts and people from a distant era. As usual, there is limited text and whatever stories exist are unconventionally structured.

Because the narratives often have few words, it's expedient to thumb through the pages without paying heed to the imagery, but readers should resist that temptation. As much as anything, Roden is a stage designer who crafts scenes that take us on a journey through a peculiar and eccentric world. The beguiling ambiance created in these surreal habitats are worth contemplation.

Roden's parents died in their early to mid fifties and he was also plagued with multiple health issues by mid-life. After contracting colon cancer, he passed away in June of 2007. A few months before his death, I procured an extensive interview with Mike Roden that provides some insights on his life and career in comics.