Mr. Block


“BoSsEs KnOw BeSt!”

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The Subversive Comics and Writings of Ernest Riebe

By Ernest Riebe
Edited by the Graphic History Collective with Paul Buhle and Iain McIntyre
PM Press

Before the Golden Age of comic books, there was Mr. Block: a bumbling, boss-loving, anti-union blockhead, brought to life over a hundred years ago by subversive cartoonist Ernest Riebe. A dedicated labor activist and member of the Industrial Workers of the World, Riebe dreamed up his iconic, union-hating anti-hero to satirize conservative workers’ faith in the capitalist system that exploits them. This wickedly funny anthology of Riebe’s writings and comics is a treasure trove of radical 20th-century art and an essential addition to the bookshelves of comics lovers, historians, and labor activists alike. As income inequality skyrockets and the collective power of the working class is undermined, the lessons from Mr. Block’s misadventures and misbeliefs are as relevant today as ever. Building the new world from the ashes of the old demands many tools—and laughter will always be one of them.

“Mr. Block is legion,” wrote Walker C. Smith in 1913. “He is representative of that host of slaves who think in terms of their masters. Mr. Block owns nothing, yet he speaks from the standpoint of the millionaire; he is patriotic without patrimony; he is a law-abiding outlaw … [who] licks the hand that smites him and kisses the boot that kicks him … the personification of all that a worker should not be.”

“As we take pleasure from the spare look and wicked humor of these send-ups of the retrograde worker and the even more retrograde institutions that ensnare him, how they teach deserves attention too. We need to learn the lessons regarding church, state, and boss that Mr. Block refused. Equally, we need to think about how the artist skewers the destructive actions and beliefs of fellow workers without letting their rulers off the hook. Study and chuckle.”—David Roediger, author of The Wages of Whiteness

“When it comes to getting schooled and laughing along the way, there’s nothing like the satirical comics of Wobbly Ernest Riebe. His legendary Mr. Block series comes back to life in this funny, smart, and timely new collection.”—Peter Cole, author of Ben Fletcher: The Life and Times of a Black Wobbly

“More than a hundred years ago, Ernest Riebe used Mr. Block to diagnose the critical diseases that afflicted working people: capitalism, government of, by, and for the boss, co-opted political parties, and labor bureaucrats. The diseases are still with us, and so Riebe’s antidote has lost none of its potency: a labor movement that is militant, radical, and democratic. The cartoons have lost none of their accuracy or relevance, and this collection, accompanied by more recent historical analysis and appraisal, is a valuable tool for activists, organizers, and educators. It’s also a lot of fun.”—Mark Leier, labor historian

“Ernest Riebe’s Mr. Block was one of the first radical comic strips, and it remains one of the best. This book is a treasure for activists, historians, and comic enthusiasts alike!”—Kenyon Zimmer, co-editor of Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW

Additional information

Weight 16 oz
Dimensions 10.5 × 8 × 0.5 in



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