Forgotten Masterpiece: The Block

In the course of his comic book career, for all that he had a bombshell-like impact upon the field, pushing the boundaries of what could be done graphically in comics, Jim Steranko only produced a small handful of stories. Many of these have been reprinted time and again over teh years,,attracting new audiences. But this particular story has largely flown under the radar and been forgotten–despite the fact that it may have had a larger print run than any of the others.

The Block wasn’t published as a comic book at all, but rather was done as a stand-alone educational pamphlet which was circulated to schools in the Philadelphia area and else where in 1971. Its purpose was to warn particularly inner city children of the dangers of drugs and gang life, as there were rising concerns about both. The project was apparently conceived by Byron Preiss, a publisher who frequently dabbled in comic book crossover projects. Seeing the opportunity, Preiss approached Steranko about crafting the story, which Jim did on a pro-bono basis.

The Block isn’t as graphically innovative as much of Steranko’s other work, but that really wasn’t the mission statement here. And it also isn’t all that subtle in its message. But it is a well-told tale with more than a hint of Will Eisner’s work to it.

A few years later, Steranko reprinted The Block in the fourth issue of his broadsheet publication COMIXSCENE, exposing it to a somewhat-different audience. But COMIXSCENE was a news-based fanzine, and that combined with its size and the cheap paper it was printed on kept copies from circulating all that much throughout the years.

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