Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you– my favorite comic strip. (I also present– the archive link.)
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.
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:
Yes. Anyway, here comes another parade of Dilbert goodness (click to enlarge, of course):
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.