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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #227

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you– my favorite comic strip. (I also present– the archive link.)

8/15/07

227. Dilbert

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The problem with writing about my favorite things in this column is that I’m far too close to the material, and never know what to say in order to encompass the full greatness of whatever it is I’m talking about. Today’s column is another such occasion. Scott Adams’ Dilbert is easily my favorite comic strip ever. Let’s see if I can possibly explain why.

First, the history: Dilbert started in 1989. It’s about the titular engineer, who is a hopeless social leper who is incredibly smart, but constantly defeated by society or business. His constant companion is Dogbert, a brilliant talking dog with dreams of world domination in some form or another. The early strips were kinda fun, but Adams hadn’t found his niche yet. It came when he moved most of the strips’ jokes into Dilbert’s office. The strip’s theme shifted to the existential horror of the American workplace.

Lo, the cast of marvelous characters we were introduced to. The idiotic and occasionally despotic Pointy-Haired Boss; the righteous fury that is Alice; the sadistic Catbert, Evil Director of Human Resources; the smart but naive Asok the intern; the stupid and naive Ratbert; Phil, Prince of Insufficient Light; Tina the neurotic technical writer; Ted the generic guy; friendly, wedgie-giving Bob the Dinosaur; the sage, genius Garbageman; the vengeful secretary Carol; the gloriously dim Elbonians; the cheerfully condescending Dilmom; and loads more, from recurring characters to one-offs, turning metaphorical nightmares and monsters of the white collar business world into literal ones. My favorite member of the cast, however, is surely Wally, the lazy, unethical guy who gets by through whatever means necessary.

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The art style of the strip is quite simple, used mainly as a way to get the jokes across, but it’s been refined and improved over time into a smooth cartoony line that brings all the characters to life. I like it, myself. And I also love the lettering font. But I’ve always had an eye for lettering.

I flipped through my Dilbert collections today to cherry-pick some good strips to showcase. I ended up laughing my butt off, again, even after having read these strips several times before. For a good many years, Dilbert was absolutely hilarious every single day. Naturally, it’s tough picking but a few strips to show you, but I did my best. It’s hard picking a favorite, but I might have to go with this one:

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Yes. Anyway, here comes another parade of Dilbert goodness (click to enlarge, of course):

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Dilbert became a huge hit in offices around America, and has turned into a multimedia empire, giving us toys, calendars, computer games, and all sorts of stuff. Scott Adams also used Dilbert to write humorous books about the worlds of business and technology like The Dilbert Principle and The Dilbert Future. The strip was also spun off into an animated series that was actually fantastic; yes, so Dilbert had a mouth, okay, but it was really funny and unfortunately short-lived. It is, however, available on DVD, which is cool.

There are countless collections of the strip out there. Looking for a good one to jump into the world of Dilbert with? I recommend “Seven Years of Highly Defective People,” a fun kind of “greatest hits” from the first several years of the strip that includes loads of commentary from Adams. A lot of the samples above came from that one. And read the strip every day in your daily paper, if you can! I make sure it’s e-mailed to me so that I never miss an installment. Dilbert is far too precious.

For more on the strip, there’s the official Dilbert site and the Dilbert blog written by Scott Adams. Those are all you really need in the war against Induhviduals. As usual for this Comic Strip Week, all the images are copyright Scott Adams. Thanks to the Dilbert strip, mankind’s stupidity has never been funnier. Thank God for that.

34 Comments

So, you’re not doing Peanuts, but you are doing Dilbert?

Dilbert?

Dilbert?!

Seirously, DILBERT?!

Dilbert is a perfect example of the worst of comic strips. The same shit over and over, trying to build a world from the room that is office humor, with blank backgrounds.

Dilbert is the male version of Cathy.

And the show was boring, just like the strip.

So, basically, your comment is “How dare you have a different opinion than me, you ignorant fucking savage!?”

Don’t you love it when people act personally offended that someone likes something they don’t? Wow, blank backgrounds. Big deal. If you think there’s a valid reason that it isn’t good, say so. Just whining that it’s shit doesn’t quite qualify.

Uh, no. Basically, my comment is “I can’t believe you chose this, Bill. I think it’s pretty awful.”

I don’t know why you choose to view it so combatively.

I actually did list three different reasons it’s bad up there. I thought you had noticed, since you refer to one of them, but I guess I should make it easier for you.

The blank backgrounds in Dilbert are bad because they are a manifestation of the way that the characters are created or arranged to support the joke. The backgrounds and characters are almost incidental, used just enough to reach whatever punchline Adams is going for.

And then you have the fact that these punchlines (which the strip is so fluidly tailored to) are old jokes, and tired observations. “Bosses are stupid!” “Working for a corporation is frustrating and confusing!”

The saddest thing of all is that Dilbert was hacking away at that same cliched block of office humor for years, and Office Space came along and did it fifty times better from the get-go.

Now, why don’t you go make a stand elsewhere?

Flush it all away

August 15, 2007 at 10:24 pm

Please feature Family Circus tomorrow so Apodaca can shit a kitten.

If you’ve ever worked in an office or IT environment, Dilbert is pure genius. Because, you see, it’s absolutely 100% true! That shit really DOES happen like that!

If you don’t like Dilbert, you probably don’t enjoy “The Office” either.

So why are you talking?

DILBERT knows its material pretty well, I’d say- the “Bungee Boss” strip is one of those it occasionally does that goes just a bit beyond “management is stupid” and points out specific things that someone who never worked in an office might not know about. Of course, Adams sometimes bases strips on anecdotes that readers send him via e-mail (such as the one where the company simultaneously introduces a new “dignity enhancement” initiative and a random drug testing program.)

Of course, the best strips I’ve read are the ones where Dilbert invents a machine that can predict the future and discovers that the Earth is destined to be conquered by evil squirrels who will force us to work in their nut mines. I just like that phrase.

No, I’ve worked in an office. Dilbert still wasn’t funny. The Office is great, though. They’re different styles of humor. The Office shows how authentically dull, stupid, and backwards those businesses are. Dilbert elevates the situations to fantastic levels in order to make fun of them.

I don’t have any kittens inside of me. I might shit some pizza and tamales, though.

I loved the cartoon. Haven’t read many strips, but they’re good too. My first encounter was years before I was in the world of employment, and I still enjoyed it. Now it’s just makes more sense…

Heh. I even had a Dilbert T-shirt saying: “Capitalism – The harder I work, the fatter my boss gets”.

acespot:

If you’ve ever worked in an office or IT environment, Dilbert is pure genius. Because, you see, it’s absolutely 100% true!

Scott Adams was an engineer with the phone company during the first several years of Dilbert. My dad had retired from the phone company and gone into consulting shortly before that, and has stated that a lot of the early Dilbert strips were easily identified by PacBell engineers as being thinly disguised versions of true stories.

Apodaca – there’s a trend of you commenting rather, um, forcefully, then objecting when someone responds to your comment with the same degree of intensity. Here’s an idea for you: Either 1) state your case with less drama; or 2) stop whining about it when you’re responded to with the same tone.

As far as blank backgrounds – they work for me. PvP is sometimes criticized for this, as well, but the few times he’s filled in the backgrounds it just didn’t work as well. Sometimes, less is more. Some of the best Calvin and Hobbes strips had blank backgrounds, too.

As far as the humor, I think it’s hilarious. So is Office Space, but in a different way. Different tastes, I guess.

Apodaca – there’s a trend of you commenting rather, um, forcefully, then objecting when someone responds to your comment with the same degree of intensity. Here’s an idea for you: Either 1) state your case with less drama; or 2) stop whining about it when you’re responded to with the same tone.

I disagree. Certainly, I have a blunt delivery, but it is also a deadpan one. Straightforward and to the point. When people take that as being mean, or angry, or forceful, or whatever, it catches me off guard, because we’re just posting about comics on the internet. None of this is serious.

Here’s an idea for you and the rest: Consider that someone can think you’re entirely wrong, and not be insulting you. Consider that someone can state their opinion directly and frankly, and it can be in complete opposition to yours, and that is not a comment on you.

I think you’re reading some imagined personality into my posts. Try it in a Rick Moranis style.

Apodaca –

Re-read your first comment on this post. You actually had something to say, and I have no objection to dissent – once I get past your tone I usually think that you have something valuable to add to the conversation. Unfortunately, most people are not going to get past your tone to be able to appreciate your content. It’s like having someone show up in a conversation and start screaming. They may have something to add, but everyone else is so busy being defensive that the screamer’s contribution is lost.

You thought you were doing a Rick Moranis impersonation, but this is print, on the net – not a conversation over beers with your buddies. It’s not possible for us to tell the difference between ‘deadpan’ and ‘hostile’. The first three sentences of your comment just gave the impression that you were shouting disdainfully. This means that by the time anyone gets to the actual content of your post, they feel defensive and think that they’re in a shouting match with you.

If so many people, when they read your comments, get the wrong impression, maybe the problem is how you write them – the point of writing is to communicate.

I feel I must apologise because I like Dilbert both in it’s animated and strip form, however I didn’t like The Office or Office Space.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

August 16, 2007 at 1:53 am

The Office is great, though. They’re different styles of humor. The Office shows how authentically dull, stupid, and backwards those businesses are.

Are you talking about the real ‘The Office’ or the shoddy American one?

Because if it’s the American one, you don’t know shit about comedy Dan, and your arguments will force me to see Dilbert as genius, as opposed to amusing.

Regardless of the tone of Apodaca’s post, he does have a point about Dilbert–it’s been in a pretty serious rut for about the last decade or so, recycling punchlines pretty steadily and mining out its humor. Adams seems pretty contemptuous of his audience, and I think he’s coasting on familiarity. Which should probably not be a Reason to Love Comics.

OTOH, it was good once, and the better strips do still make me laugh. Which should probably be a Reason to Love Comics.

Mm-hm. I own the Seven Habits of Highly Defective People, which is I think a pretty good manifesto for the strip and its themes.

While Adams openly admits he can’t draw worth a dime – just personally, I think it’s more like a nickel – he makes an excellent case for the sheer accuracy of his absurd world. At least in the early years.

Didn’t hurt that at the time, there was no Office in either format – he was the first to recognize and give voice to the white-collar trenches.

Nowadays…yeah, it’s over. The novelty has worn off, and Adams has morphed from comic therapist to grumbling, elitist misanthrope. I gave up about the time I realised I was an ‘InDuhvidual’ and actually kinda liked it that way.

So no, not a reason why I love comics. Why I respect them, sure, but love them, no.

Also, Apodaca: Tyson makes some good points. Speaking as someone who has in the past been misinterpreted so badly, so often, that I had to seriously re-evaluate the way I post: Yeah, sometimes it really is you.

If you’ve ever worked in an office or IT environment, Dilbert is pure genius. Because, you see, it’s absolutely 100% true! That shit really DOES happen like that!

If you don’t like Dilbert, you probably don’t enjoy “The Office” either.

I work in an IT department and I still don’t like Dilbert. It’s nothing to do with backgrounds though. It’s that it’s not funny.

Bill, I,m really not feeling the love for the comic strips you have chosen, sorry. Sometimes it feels like you are trying so hard to be offbeat that you ignore the great stuff right in front just because everyone says that it is great. I don’t know how much of a reason Flo Steinburg is to love comics, or Scooter, or any of the comic strips you have chosen. Maybe these are your reasons to love comics, but I don’t get it. Sorry.

I don’t want to come off as harsh, since you are doing this of your own free will and I don’t have to read it if I don’t like it, but I feel like these poorly chosen comic strips have derailed some great stuff you were doing.

I’m pretty amazed at the level of debate that comic strips week has caused. Oviously people have pretty strong feelings one way or the other on a lot of strips. Makes for interesting reading.

I loved Dlibert back in the day. I thought it was consistently one of the funniest strips out there. I haven’t read much of the newspaper comic strips in the past 7 or 8 years, so I don’t know if I’d still feel the same way or not.

Dilbert is pretty beyond the pale. It’s not so much that it’s bad, it’s just so half-assed. I think Boondocks is a lot funnier, but I wouldn’t say that warrants inclusion either, because, like Dilbert, the art is just a lazy afterthought to the gags.

Dilbert? Really?

For once I’m going to back up Bill’s side on this one. Dilbert reaches far and wide and has become a part of society as a whole. Its an institution. And the humor is not just about the office its about personality types, taking the easy way out, annoyances of every day life, and sometimes just general puns. It takes place in an office, and showcases that well, but it covers far more than just the office.

And speaking of The Office, I never got into the British one but I think its dismissive and a little snobby to look down on the American one. Yeah its different, but it works in its own way.

“Here’s an idea for you and the rest: Consider that someone can think you’re entirely wrong, and not be insulting you. Consider that someone can state their opinion directly and frankly, and it can be in complete opposition to yours, and that is not a comment on you.”

Yeah, here’s the thing; when *everybody* is telling you how you come off, and your response is, “That’s not how I come off to other people,” your argument is already lost.

Then, when you look back at that post, yeah, it is on the fence of insulting. You spend more than half the post feigning disbelief that it is possible for anybody to like ‘Dilbert’, and then give one (not three) reasons why the strip is bad. Two if you count the comment which you made about the cartoon (though “it’s boring” is not a real criticism).

The lone criticism you offered, minimalist backgrounds, shows that you genuinely don’t understand the current nature of the comic strip and why it is that the vast majority (if not entirety) of them don’t have backgrounds — it has to do with the size that the strips are given to work with in most newspapers. Many classic strips of the old days would no longer work, because the linework is too fine.

I love the fact that all you had to say was “I don’t think Dilbert is funny”. That is a direct and frank statement of an opinion without being insulting. But pretending to stammer at the very thought that somebody might like something which you don’t is going to be read as a commentary on the person, no matter how you mean it.

It also makes you look stupid. But don’t take that as insulting, it’s just a frank and direct statement of my opinion that you look stupid.

So, to recap, here’s what we can agree on:

Not all types of humor are found funny by all people, and Apocada is clearly lacking in tact and written communication.

Personally, I think Dilbert is great. I’ve learned to never underestimate the stupidity of anyone, and Dilbert points this out daily. Funny stuff.

Dilbert. An endless supply of birthday and Christmas presents for my engineer brother – and on the whole a good laugh, too.

Dilbert gets a lot of flak from the “comic strips should be art” types, but I think it works because its meant to call to mind the doodlings of a bored office worker…

It’s no Bloom County of course, but it’s a solid strip…

The “comic strips should be art” types are missing one important fact: most comic strips are meant to be funny. The art is secondary. The art is to compliment the gag, not to be the focus of the strip. If you want fine art, don’t look in the daily strips.

Dilbert’s pretty funny on the first or second read, but I own the collections and they’re all pretty dull, as are the current strips.

And I too want to see Apodaca shit a kitten!

The “comic strips should be art” types are missing one important fact: most comic strips are meant to be funny. The art is secondary. The art is to compliment the gag, not to be the focus of the strip. If you want fine art, don’t look in the daily strips.

Oh, man, you are in so much trouble with Bill Watterson right now…

Seriously, while I agree that comic strip art is about the funny, to equate that with second-rate art is a huge, huge mistake. Check the oeuvres of the likes of George Herriman, Walt Kelly (Pogo), Windsor McCay (Little Nemo)…all the way through to Watterson, O’Donnell, Darby Conley (Get Fuzzy), Brooke McEldowney (9 Chickweed Lane)…

Dilbert is great. I love it. I do agree though that it has had a severe drop in quality for the last few years. It still was a great comic strip back in the day and was a reason to love comics then. I just wish Scott Adams would retire soon though so he doesnt threaten to ruin a good thing.

At risk of sounding like sacrilege–how about a live action Dilbert, starring Drew Carey?

I consider Office Space to be live-action Dilbert, basically. And it’s great.

Out of all the comic strips that aren’t funny anymore, Dilbert is the one that was funny the most recently.

Tyson wrote: “and has stated that a lot of the early Dilbert strips were easily identified by PacBell engineers as being thinly disguised versions of true stories.”

I think people in offices all over the place, PacBell or not, recognized situations.

It was definitely better in the early days, though, when Adams was writing from experience.

Out of all the comic strips that aren’t funny anymore, Dilbert is the one that was funny the most recently.

Hee! Well put. I agree.

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