Mr. Block

Mr. Block

The Subversive Comics and Writings of Ernest Riebe

Edited by Graphic History Collective, with Paul Buhle and Iain McIntyre


Shop Local

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 labour 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 labour 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.

More by this Author

  • The Bund

    By Sharon Rudahl and Paul Buhle

  • 1919

    By Graphic History Collective

  • Direct Action Gets the Goods

    By Graphic History Collective, with Althea Balmes, Gord Hill, Orion Keresztesi and David Lester


“It is both refreshing and demoralizing how many of these jokes could have been written today. Sharp, funny, absurd—we can see the end to Blockism within our lifetime.”

– Michael DeForge, author of Birds of Maine

“The strange thing about reading these comics from over a hundred years ago is that they don’t seem all that old. Our country is still full of people who believe that the best way to improve their situation is to go along with what the system tells them to do: to blame their troubles on immigrants or criminals or unproven conspiracies, rather than finding out what’s really going on. We continue to be a nation of blockheads.”

– Seth Tobocman, founding editor of World War 3 Illustrated, author of War In the Neighborhood

“Ernest Riebe’s Mr. Block stands alone in cartoon history. He’s a character who votes against his own self-interest and adamantly believes he’s an apprentice to millionaires. If he just does as he’s told by the man on top, he can storm the Capitol and grab those Benjamins. Old Mr. Block remains a hilariously modern knucklehead who reminds us why we need solidarity against oppressive hucksters and to not forget the power of a good laugh along the way.”

– Peter Kuper, founding editor of World War 3 Illustrated, author of Ruins

“Mr. Block is back and just in time for a new generation of militant workers at Amazon, Starbucks, and beyond! Three cheers for Paul Buhle, Iain McIntyre, and the Graphic History Collective for this powerful recovery of working-class history and humour.”

– Marcus Rediker, co-author of The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic

“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, University of Kansas, author of The Sinking Middle Class

“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 labour 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, labour historian, Simon Fraser University

“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


Preface by Paul Buhle
Introduction by the Graphic History Collective
Selected Comic Strips and Illustrations, 1912–24
Mr. Block—He Shows His Superiority, 1912
Mr. Block—He Tries the Courts, 1912
Mr. Block—He Tries Political Action, 1912
Mr. Block—He Meets Others, 1912
Mr. Block—He Invests His Savings, 1912
Mr. Block—He Don’t Favor Sabotage, 1912
Mr. Block—He Celebrates Christmas, 1912
Mr. Block—He Works in the Woods, 1912
Mr. Block—He Fails to Connect, 1913
Mr. Block—He Reads of a Good Job, 1913
Mr. Block—He Peddles Signs, 1913
Mr. Block—He Becomes a Salesman, 1913
Mr. Block—He Gets Pinched on Suspicion, 1913
Mr. Block—He Becomes a Victim of Charity, 1913
Mr. Block—He Scabs at Lawrence / He Tries to be a Union Scab, 1913
Mr. Block—He Learns that the A.F.L. Is Known in Montana, 1913
Mr. Block—He Gets Scabunionitis, 1913
Mr. Block—He Learns Something about Craft Jurisdiction, 1913
Mr. Block—He Was One of the Victims, 1913
Mr. Block—He Gets Hurt, 1913
Mr. Block—He Makes a Bum Detective, 1913
Mr. Block—He Finds that Charity Covers a Multitude of “Skins,” 1913
Mr. Block—Before and After the Election, 1913
Mr. Block—His May Day Dream Didn’t Come True, 1913
Mr. Block—He Learns the Power of Gold, 1913
Mr. Block’s Mind, 1913 / Mr. Block in Pamphlet Form, 1913
Images from Mr. Block: Twenty-Four Cartoons of the Mr. Block Series, 1913
Mr. Block—He Gets Out of the “Can” Again, 1913
Mr. Block—He Takes His Flag Along / He Gets Stung, 1913
Mr. Block—He Fails to Interest Mrs. Block in Democracy, 1913
Mr. Block—He Has Some Uplifting Done, 1913
Mr. Block—He Almost Loses ’Em, 1913
Mr. Block—He Has an Awful Dream, 1913
Mr. Block—He Inherits $2000, 1913
Mr. Block—He Busts the Alarm Clock, 1913
Mr. Block—He Becomes an Employer, 1913
Mr. Block—He Goes Broke, 1913
Mr. Block—He Goes Harvesting, 1913
Mr. Block—He Gets a Job, 1913
Mr. Block—He Goes to the Dakota Harvest, 1913
Mr. Block—He Finds a Place to Flop, 1913
Mr. Block—His Patriotism Is Appreciated, 1913
Mr. Block—He Leaves the Harvest with His Stake, 1913
Mr. Block—He Joins the I.W.W., 1913
Mr. Block—He Becomes an Editor, 1913
Mr. Block—He Isn’t Afraid of the Boss, 1913
Mr. Block—He Is One of Those Cascarets, 1914
Mr. Block—He Is Rewarded for Helping His Boss, 1914
Mr. Block—He Waits for a Job at Ford’s, 1914
When Block Meets Block, 1914
Mr. Block—Bull Con Keeps Him Going, 1914
The Thinker! 1914
Mr. Block—Insults Members of the I.W.W., 1914
Mr. Block—He Races for a Job, 1914
Mr. Block—He’s Against Organization, 1914
Mr. Block—He Loses His Job, 1913 / He Receives a Christmas Present, 1913
Mr. Block—He’s Still Waiting for Better Conditions, 1919
Mr. Block—He Is a Member of the A.A.A.A., 1919
Mr. Block Has the Blues, 1921
Mr. Block and Mr. Bone, 1924
Mr. Block and Mr. Bone, 1924
Mr. Block and Mr. Bone—They Use California Products and Receive Compensation, 1924
Mr. Block and Mr. Bone—Mr. Block Fails to Lick the Master’s Boots and Feels Regret, 1924
Mr. Block and Mr. Bone—Mr. Block Forms an Acquaintance with a Millionaire, 1924
Mr. Block and Mr. Bone, 1924
Mr. Block and Mr. Bone, 1924
Mr. Block and Mrs. Block, 1924
Mr. Block and the Profiteers, 1919
A Job / Political Bunk, 1920
The Majority: A One Act Play, 1921
Mr. Block lyrics by Joe Hill, 1913
Introductory by Walker C. Smith, 1913
Ernest Riebe and Mr. Block essay by Franklin Rosemont, 1984
I Object to Anarchism in this Boxcar comic strip by Nick Thorkelson, 2005
Mr. Block reprint by Bryan D. Palmer and Dylan Miner from the One Big Union exhibit, 2019