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Dilbert

Dilbert (first published April 16, 1989) is an American comic strip written and drawn by Scott Adams. Dilbert is known for its satirical office humor about a white-collar, micromanaged office featuring the engineer Dilbert as the title character. The strip has spawned several books, an animated television series, a computer game, and hundreds of Dilbert-themed merchandise items. Adams has also received the National Cartoonist Society Reuben Award and Newspaper Comic Strip Award in 1997 for his work on the strip. Dilbert appears in 2000 newspapers worldwide in 65 countries and 25 languages.

Themes

The comic strip originally revolved around the engineer Dilbert and his "pet" dog Dogbert in their home. Many plots revolved around Dilbert's engineer nature or his bizarre inventions. These alternate with plots based on Dogbert's megalomaniacal ambitions. Later, the location of most of the action moved to Dilbert's workplace at a large technology company, and the strip started to satirize technology, workplace, and company issues. The comic strip's popular success is attributable to its workplace setting and themes, which are familiar to a large and appreciative audience; Adams admitted that switching the setting from Dilbert's home to his office was "when the strip really started to take off.

Dilbert portrays corporate culture as a Kafkaesque world of bureaucracy for its own sake and office politics that stand in the way of productivity, where employees' skills and efforts are not rewarded, and busy work is praised. Much of the humor emerges as the audience sees the characters making obviously ridiculous decisions that are natural reactions to mismanagement.

Themes explored include:

Characters

Dilbert in popular culture

The popularity of the comic strip within the corporate sector has led to the Dilbert character being used in many business magazines and publications (he has made several appearances on the cover of Fortune).

The Toronto Star (in reruns), The Globe and Mail, Montreal’s La Presse,The Gazette, the Florida Times Union, the Indianapolis Star, the Providence Journal, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Brisbane Courier Mail, the Windsor Star, and San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications, run the comic in their business section rather than in the regular comics section, similar to the way in which Doonesbury is often carried in the editorial section due to its pointed commentary.

Criticism and parody

Norman Solomon believes the strip is insufficiently critical of top managers and disrespectful of ordinary working people (The Trouble with Dilbert: How Corporate Culture Gets the Last Laugh, Common Courage Press, 1997). The idea that white-collar workers might be in need of more respect contrasts with a common belief that white collar career is a free choice, but downsizing and some of the pressures on Dilbert have been predicted in the 1970s by Harry Braverman (Labor and Monopoly Capital, Monthly Review Press, 1998 being the most recent re-issue). Dealing with those pressures would require Dilbert to be more blue-collar in terms of strife over his work process, but in Dilbert the boss can be lampooned but has to be obeyed. Solomon’s argument followed a similar one made by his cover artist Tom Tomorrow in his weekly comic strip This Modern World. Adams responded in the 2/2/98 strip and in his book The Joy of Work, simply by restating Solomon’s argument, apparently suggesting that it was absurd and required no rebuttal.

Bill Griffith, in his daily strip Zippy the Pinhead, used his strip as a forum to criticize Adams' artwork as simplistic. Adams again responded on 5/18/98, this time having Dogbert create a comic strip called Pippy the Ziphead, “cramming as much artwork in as possible so no one will notice there’s only one joke...[and] it’s on the reader.” Dilbert notes that the strip is “nothing but a clown with a small head who says random things” and Dogbert responds that he is “maintaining his artistic integrity by creating a comic that no one will enjoy.”

In the late 1990s, an amateur cartoonist named Karl Hörnell began submitting a comic strip parodying both Dilbert and the Image Comics series The Savage Dragon to Dragon creator Erik Larsen. This soon became a regular feature in the Savage Dragon comic book, titled The Savage Dragonbert and Hitler’s Brainbert (“Hitler’s Brainbert” being both a loose parody of Dogbert as well as the Savage Dragon villain identified as Adolf Hitler’s disembodied, superpowered brain). The strip began as a specific parody of the comic book itself, set loosely within the office structure of 'Dilbert', with Hörnell doing an emulation of Adams' cartooning style.

A parody by Tristan Farnon, creator of Leisure Town, was entitled “The Dilbert Hole” and was a parody of Dilbert. The parody spread virally; sites had trouble hosting the comic during the height of its popularity, as United Feature Syndicate and its lawyers clamped down on it due to its use of the original Dilbert art.

A comic strip of Luann depicts Brad DeGroot holding up a Dilbert tie, evident by its signature curve.

In April 2008 dilbert.com used Adobe Flash and required Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X to be installed. After heavy protests, a flash-free version was created.

Language

Terms invented by Adams in relation to the strip, and sometimes used by fans in describing their own office environments, include “Induhvidual.” This term is based on an American English slang expression “duh!” The conscious misspelling of individual as induhvidual is a pejorative term for people who are not in the DNRC (Dogbert's New Ruling Class). Its coining is explained in Dilbert Newsletter #6

The strip has also popularized the usage of the terms “cow-orker”, “splendsmartful”, and PHB. The word “frooglepoopillion” is occasionally used for an extremely large number, a word coined by the marketing department at the company where Dilbert works, in a strip where it was revealed that the company owed so much money that no word existed to describe the number.

Some fans have used “Dilbertian” or “Dilbertesque” to analogize situations in real life to those in the comic strip.

The short dialog "You had ones? Lucky you, all we had were zeros!", commonly used in IT industry, also originated in a Dilbert's comic strip.

Management

In 1997, Scott Adams masqueraded as a management consultant to Logitech executives (as Ray Mebert), with the cooperation of the company’s vice-chairman. He acted in much the way he portrays management consultants in the comic strip, with an arrogant manner and bizarre suggestions, such as comparing mission statements to broccoli soup. He convinced the executives to replace their existing mission statement for their New Ventures Group, “to provide Logitech with profitable growth and related new business areas,” with “to scout profitable growth opportunities in relationships, both internally and externally, in emerging, mission-inclusive markets, and explore new paradigms and then filter and communicate and evangelize the findings.”

To demonstrate what can be achieved with the most mundane objects if planned correctly and imaginatively, Adams has worked with companies to develop “dream” products for Dilbert and company. In 2001, he collaborated with design company IDEO to come up with the “perfect cubicle”, a fitting creation since many of the Dilbert strips make fun of the standard cubicle desk and the environment it creates. The result was both whimsical and practical.

This project was followed in 2004 with designs for Dilbert’s Ultimate House (abbreviated as DUH). An energy-efficient building was the result, designed to prevent many of the little problems that seem to creep into a normal building. For instance, to save time spent buying and decorating a Christmas tree every year, the house has a large (yet unapparent) closet adjacent to the living room where the tree can be stored from year to year.

Awards

In addition to the National Cartoonists Society Reuben Awards won by Adams, the Dilbert strip has received a variety of other awards. Adams was named best international comic strip artist of 1995 in the Adamson Awards given by the Swedish Academy of Comic Art.

Dilbert was named the best-syndicated strip of 1997 in the Harvey Awards and won the Max & Moritz Prize as best international comic strip for 1998. In the Squiddy Awards, Dilbert was named the best daily strip of 1996 and 1997, and the best comic strip of 1998 and 2000. The strip also won the Zombie Award as the best comics strip of 1996 and 1997, and the 1997 Good Taste Award as the best strip of 1996.

Media

Comic strip compilations

Books in bold indicate special compilations or original strips.

  1. Always Postpone Meetings with Time-Wasting Morons16 April 1989 (first strip) to 21 October 1989
  2. Build a Better Life By Stealing Office Supplies
  3. Dogbert's Clues for the Clueless
  4. Shave the Whales22 October 1989 to 4 August 1990
  5. Bring Me the Head of Willy the Mailboy!5 October 1990 to 18 May 1991
  6. It's Obvious You Won't Survive By Your Wits Alone19 May 1991 to 13 December 1992
  7. Still Pumped from Using the Mouse14 December 1992 to 27 September 1993
  8. Fugitive From the Cubicle Police28 September 1993 to 11 February 1995
  9. Casual Day Has Gone Too Far5 February 1995 to 19 November 1995
  10. Seven Years of Highly Defective People — 1997; strips from 1989 to 1995, with handwritten notes by Scott Adams
  11. I'm Not Anti-Business, I'm Anti-Idiot20 November 1995 to 31 August 1996
  12. Journey to Cubeville1 September 1996 to 18 January 1998
  13. Don't Step in the Leadership12 January 1998 to 18 October 1998
  14. Dilbert Gives You the Business - Collection of favorites before 1999.
  15. Random Acts of Management19 October 1998 to 25 July 1999
  16. A Treasury of Sunday Strips: Version 00 — 1999; color version of all Sunday strips from 1995 to 1999
  17. Excuse Me While I Wag26 July 1999 to 30 April 2000
  18. When Did Ignorance Become A Point Of View?1 May 2000 to 4 February 2001
  19. Another Day In Cubicle Paradise5 February 2001 to 11 November 2001
  20. What Do You Call A Sociopath In A Cubicle? Answer: A Coworker
  21. When Body Language Goes Bad12 November 2001 to 18 August 2002
  22. Words You Don't Want to Hear During Your Annual Performance Review19 August 2002 to 25 May 2003
  23. Don't Stand Where the Comet is Assumed to Strike Oil26 May 2003 to 29 February 2004
  24. It's Not Funny If I Have To Explain It — 2004; strips from 1997 to 2004, with more of Adams' handwritten notes
  25. The Fluorescent Light Glistens Off Your Head1 March 2004 to 5 December 2004
  26. Thriving on Vague Objectives6 December 2004 to 11 September 2005
  27. What Would Wally Do? — 2006; strips focused on Wally.
  28. Try Rebooting Yourself12 September 2005 to 18 June 2006
  29. Positive Attitude - 19 June 2006 to 25 March 2007
  30. Cubes and Punishment - 2007; a collection of comic strips on workplace cruelty.
  31. This Is the Part Where You Pretend to Add Value - 26 March 2007 to 5 January 2008
  32. Dilbert 2.0: 20 Years of Dilbert - 2008; 576 pages, ±4000 strips, and Scott Adams' notes from 1989 to 2008.

Business books

Other

  • Telling It Like It Isn't — 1996; ISBN 0-8362-1324-6
  • You Don't Need Experience If You've Got Attitude — 1996; ISBN 0-8362-2196-6
  • Access Denied: Dilbert's Quest for Love in the Nineties — 1996; ISBN 0-8362-2191-5
  • Conversations With Dogbert — 1996; ISBN 0-8362-2197-4
  • Work is a Contact Sport — 1997; ISBN 0-8362-2878-2
  • The Boss: Nameless, Blameless and Shameless — 1997; ISBN 0-8362-3223-2
  • The Dilbert Bunch — 1997; ISBN 0-8362-2879-0
  • No You'd Better Watch Out — 1997
  • Please Don't Feed The Egos — 1997; ISBN 0-8362-3224-0
  • Random Acts of Catness — 1998; ISBN 0-8362-5277-2
  • Dilbert Meeting Book Exceeding Tech Limits — 1998; ISBN 0-7683-2028-3
  • Dilbert Book Of Days — 1998; ISBN 0-7683-2030-5
  • Work—The Wally Way — 1999; ISBN 0-8362-7480-6
  • Alice in Blunderland — 1999; ISBN 0-8362-7479-2
  • All Dressed Down And Nowhere To Go — 2002; ISBN 0-7407-2931-4
  • Dilbert's Guide to the Rest of Your Life: Dispatches from Cubicleland — 2007; ISBN 0-7624-2781-7

Merchandise

  • Corporate Shuffle by Richard Garfield — 1997; A Dilbert-branded card game similar to Wizard of the Coast's The Great Dalmuti and the drinking game President
  • The Dilberito, a vegetarian burrito with 100% Daily Value of 23 vitamins and minerals
  • There was a line of dilbert mints which had names along the lines of Manage-mints, Accomplish-mints, Perform-mints and Improve-mints.
  • Dilbert: the Board Game — 2006; by Hyperion Games; A Dilbert-branded board game that won Games Magazine Top 100 Games.
  • Day-by-Day calendars featuring the comic strip are available every year.

Animated series

Dilbert was adapted into a UPN animated television series, which ran for two seasons from January 25, 1999, to July 25, 2000. The first season centered on the creation of a new product called the "Gruntmaster 6000," including the idea process and testing by one Bob Bastard. The second season had no connecting story arc; plots varied from Wally finding disciples ("The Shroud of Wally") to Dilbert being accused of mass murder ("The Trial"). The second season two-episode finale included Dilbert getting pregnant with the child of a cow, a hillbilly, Robot DNA, "several dozen engineers", an elderly millionaire, and an alien, eventually ending up in a custody battle with Stone Cold Steve Austin as the Judge. Featured voice actors included Daniel Stern as Dilbert, Chris Elliott as Dogbert,and Kathy Griffin as Alice.

New Animation

On April 7, 2008 Dilbert.com presented its very first Dilbert Animation. The new Dilbert animations are animated versions of original comic strips produced by RingTales and animated by Powerhouse Animation Studios. The animation videos run for around 30 seconds each and are added every weekday. Dilbert.com has done a reshuffle of the early videos so now the launch date would appear to be April 11, 2008 despite initial launch originally on April 7, 2008. The first animation titled Year End Spending is now slotted in to April 16, 2008.
RingTales's website now host the first ten animations and a random animation from May 2, 2008.
The animations are hosted at videos.msn.com if you search for "RingTales" which brings back over a hundred results of Dilbert and the New Yorker, however a search for Dilbert returns all existing Dilbert Animations including, as of May 30, 2008, one currently exclusive to MSN Video. Note: The animation titled "Source of Methane" from May 13, 2008 is titled "Dogbert the Green Consultant" on MSN Video. Tip for UK users, visit The US MSN Video Site for the Dilbert Animations otherwise no search results will be returned. If the link still brings back no results then you'll need to go to Regional Options in Control Panel and change your locale from English (United Kingdom) to English (United States) and restart your web browser.
On May 22, 2008 dilbert.com accidentally re-uploaded the animation titled "The Key to Happiness", however MSN Video had uploaded the correct video titled "Stone of Quality", dilbert.com has since corrected this mistake. On May 30, 2008 dilbert.com never uploaded a new animation, however MSN Video uploaded a new animation titled "Yoga Prodigy". On June 2, 2008 dilbert.com uploaded a new animation titled "Exploding Head", with still no sign of Yoga Prodigy. On July 11, 2008 dilbert.com took down the previous two animations for unknown reasons. The withdrawn animations titled "Cube Farmer - Reproduce" and "Work or Drink" can still be found on MSN Video, dilbert.com has since corrected this mistake.
76 of the animations are available on YouTube under the user "dilbert", which appears to be the official user for RingTales. The 76 animations are condensed into 38 videos.
The animations are also available as a Podcast on iTunes running two weeks behind, for more information visit the RingTales website.
On July 18 or 19 2008 the animation page on dilbert.com got a redesign. The archived animation are now easier to access as they are now sorted by month in an easy to use drop down menu. There's also an option to subscribe to an RSS feed.

"Drunken Lemurs" case

In October 2007 the Catfish Bend Casino in Burlington, Iowa, notified its staff that the casino was closing and they were going to be laid off. Seven-year employee David Steward then posted on a bulletin board the October 26, 2007 Dilbert strip that compared management decisions to those of "drunken lemurs". The casino called this "very offensive"; they identified him from a surveillance tape, fired him, and tried to prevent him from receiving unemployment insurance benefits. However, in December 2007 an administrative law judge ruled that he would receive benefits, as his action was not intentional misbehavior. Scott Adams said it might be the first confirmed case of an employee being fired for posting a Dilbert cartoon. On February 20th 2008 the first of a series of Dilbert strips showed Wally being caught posting a comic strip "which compares managers to drunken lemurs". Adams later said that fans should stick to posting Garfield strips, as no one gets fired for that.

Dilbert.com's Interactive Cartoons

In April 2008, Scott Adams announced that United Media would be instituting an interactive feature on Dilbert.com, allowing fans to write speech bubbles and, in the near future, interact with Adams about the content of the strips. Adams has spoken positively about the change, saying, "This makes cartooning a competitive sport.

See also

References

External links

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