|Current status / schedule||Running|
|Launch date||April 16, 1989|
|Syndicate(s)||United Feature Syndicate|
|Publisher(s)||Andrews McMeel Publishing|
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.
The comic strip originally revolved around 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 (evil) 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 said 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:
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.
Media analyst Norman Solomon and cartoonist Tom Tomorrow claim  that while Adams' caricatures of corporate culture seem to project empathy for white-collar workers, the satire ultimately plays into the hands of corporate upper management itself. Solomon describes the characters of Dilbert, none of whom occupy a position higher than middle management, as dysfunctional time-wasters whose inefficiencies detract from corporate values like 'productivity' and 'growth', a very favorable outlook for managers. Though Dilbert and his office-mates often find themselves baffled or victimized by the whims of managerial behavior, they never seem to question it openly. Solomon cites the Xerox corporation's use of Dilbert strips and characters in internally distributed 'inspirational' pamphlets:
"Xerox management had recognized what more gullible Dilbert readers did not: Dilbert is an offbeat sugary substance that helps the corporate medicine go down. The Dilbert phenomenon accepts—and perversely eggs on—many negative aspects of corporate existence as unchangeable facets of human nature...As Xerox managers grasped, Dilbert speaks to some very real work experiences while simultaneously eroding inclinations to fight for better working conditions."
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.
"Labor unions haven’t adopted Dilbert characters as insignia. But corporations in droves have rushed to link themselves with Dilbert. Why? Dilbert mirrors the mass media’s crocodile tears for working people—and echoes the ambient noises from Wall Street."
Bill Griffith, in his daily strip Zippy the Pinhead, used his strip as a forum to criticize Adams' artwork as simplistic. Adams responded on May 18, 1998, with 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 September of the same year, Griffith mocked Adams by mimicking his "Pippy the Ziphead" creation with a strip showing stiff, Dilbert-like creations in an office setting and one of the characters saying, "I sense a joke was delivered."
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.
Dilbert has occasionally been panned for alleged "insensitivity" and off-color jokes, as documented by Adams in The Joy of Work. One of the most widely-attacked strips involved the Pointy-Haired Boss being saved in an airplane crash due to nuns being onboard ("You were saved by prayer?" "No, padding. They don't do a lot of aerobics at the nunnery."). The comic was published the same week as the death of Mother Teresa, leading to a huge backlash. His depiction of Elbonia has also drawn criticism from a variety of corners.
In It's Not Funny If I Have To Explain It, Adams recounts having been attacked for the alleged political content of his work (he is a self-described Libertarian), although in the case of one such strip (where oil drilling kills an endangered species) he excuses himself by saying "I just thought the image was funny." In particular, a series of strips in which Dogbert worked as a talk radio host drew criticism from conservatives for his supposed attack on Rush Limbaugh (which Adams denied in Seven Years of Highly Defective People). Earlier strips did engage in a degree of low-key political satire (for instance, a series of strips in 1992 where Dogbert runs for President), but since the early '90s Adams has mostly focused the strip on corporate issues.
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” 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 lamentation "You had ones? Lucky you, all we had were zeros!", commonly used in IT industry, also originated in a Dilbert's comic strip.
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.
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.
Books in bold indicate special compilations or original strips.
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 billionaire, 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.
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. On December 10, 2009 the RingTales produced animations were made available as a calendar application for mobile devices. 
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. An employee of seven years, David Steward then posted on an office 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 21, 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.
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."