|Current status/schedule||Current daily strip|
|Launch date||April 16, 1989|
|Syndicate(s)||United Feature Syndicate (United Media, 1989-June 2011)|
(Universal Uclick/Andrews McMeel Syndication, June 2011-)
|Publisher(s)||Andrews McMeel Publishing|
|Genre(s)||Humor, Satire, Business|
Dilbert is an American comic strip written and illustrated by Scott Adams, first published on April 16, 1989. The strip is known for its satirical office humor about a white-collar, micromanaged office featuring engineer Dilbert as the title character. The strip has spawned dozens of books, an animated television series, a video game, and hundreds of Dilbert-themed merchandise items. Dilbert Future and The Joy of Work are among the most read books in the series. Adams received the National Cartoonists Society Reuben Award in 1997 and the Newspaper Comic Strip Award in the same year for his work on the strip. Dilbert appears online and in 2,000 newspapers worldwide in 65 countries and 25 languages.
On June 3, 2010, United Media sold their licensing arm, along with the rights to Dilbert, to Iconix Brand Group. This led to Dilbert leaving United Media. In late December 2010, it was announced that Dilbert would move to Universal Uclick (a division of Andrews McMeel Universal) beginning in June 2011.Dilbert has been with Universal Uclick -- now known as Andrews McMeel Syndication -- ever since.
The comic strip originally revolved around Dilbert and his "pet" dog Dogbert in their home. Many early plots revolved around Dilbert's engineer nature or his bizarre inventions. Also prominent were plots based on Dogbert's megalomaniacal ambitions. Later, the location of most of the action moved to Dilbert's workplace 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 has said that switching the setting from Dilbert's home to his office was "when the strip really started to take off". The workplace location is Silicon Valley.
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.
The main character in the strip, Dilbert is a technically-minded single white male. Until October 2014, he was usually depicted wearing a white dress shirt, black trousers and a red-and-black striped tie that inexplicably curves upward; after October 13, 2014, his standard apparel changed to a red polo shirt with a name badge on a lanyard around his neck. Dilbert is a skilled engineer but has a poor social and romantic life.
The unnamed, oblivious manager of the engineering division of Dilbert's company. Scott Adams states that he never named him so that people can imagine him to be their boss. In earlier strips he was depicted as a stereotypical late-middle-aged balding middle manager with jowls; it was not until later that he developed his signature "pointy hair" and the jowls disappeared. He is hopelessly incompetent at management, and often tries to compensate for his lack of skills with countless group therapy sessions and business strategies that rarely bear fruit. He does not understand technical issues, but always tries to disguise this, usually by using buzzwords he also does not understand. The Boss treats his employees alternately with enthusiasm or neglect; he often uses them to his own ends regardless of the consequences to them. Adams himself wrote that "He's not sadistic, just uncaring". His level of intelligence varies from near-vegetative to perceptive and clever, depending on the strip's comic needs. His utter lack of consistent business ethics, however, is perfectly consistent. His brother is a demon named "Phil, the Prince of Insufficient Light", and according to Adams, the pointy hair is intended to remind one of devils' horns.
One of the longest serving engineers, Wally was originally a worker trying to get fired to get a severance package. He hates work and avoids it whenever he can. He often carries a cup of coffee, calmly sipping from it even in the midst of chaos or office-shaking revelations. Wally is extremely cynical. He is even more socially inept than Dilbert (though far less self-aware of the fact), and references to his lack of personal hygiene are not uncommon. Like the Pointy-haired Boss, Wally is utterly lacking in ethics and will take advantage of any situation to maximize his personal gain while doing the least possible amount of honest work. Until the change to "business dorky" wear of a polo shirt, Wally was invariably portrayed wearing a short sleeved dress shirt and tie. Adams has stated that Wally was based on a Pacific Bell coworker of his who was interested in a generous employee buy-out program--for the company's worst employees. This had the effect of causing this man--whom Adams describes as "one of the more brilliant people I've met"--to work hard at being incompetent, rude, and generally poor at his job to qualify for the buy-out program. Adams has said that this inspired the basic laziness and amorality of Wally's character. Despite these personality traits Wally is accepted as part of Dilbert, Ted, Alice, and Asok's clique. Although his relationship with Alice is often antagonistic and Dilbert occasionally denies being his friend, their actions show at least a certain acceptance of him. For Asok, Wally serves as something of a guru of counter-intuitive "wisdom." For Dilbert, Wally is both someone who, at times, exasperates him, and at other times seems to serve as the only other co-worker who "gets" Dilbert's frustrations with company idiocy and bureaucracy. While Dilbert rages at the dysfunction of the policies of the company, Wally has learned to use the dysfunction to cloak, even justify, his laziness.
One of the more competent and highest paid engineers. She is often frustrated at her work, because she does not get proper recognition, which she believes is because she is female, though in reality it is likely because she has a quick, often violent temper, sometimes putting her "Fist of Death" to use, even with the Pointy-haired Boss. Alice is based on a woman that Scott Adams worked with named Anita, who is described as sharing Alice's "pink suit, fluffy hair, technical proficiency, coffee obsession, and take-no-crap attitude."
Dilbert's anthropomorphic pet dog is the smartest dog on Earth. Dogbert is a megalomaniac intellectual dog, planning to one day conquer the world. He once succeeded, but became bored with the ensuing peace, and quit. Often seen in high-ranking consultant or technical support jobs, he constantly abuses his power and fools the management of Dilbert's company, though considering the intelligence of the company's management in general and Dilbert's boss in particular, this is not very hard to do. He also enjoys pulling scams on unsuspecting and usually dull customers to steal their money. However, despite Dogbert's cynical exterior, he has been known to pull his master out of some tight jams. Dogbert's nature as a pet was more emphasized during the earlier years of the strip; as the strip progressed, references to his acting like a dog became less common, although he still wags his tail when he perpetrates his scams. When an older Dilbert arrives while time-traveling from the future, he refers to Dogbert as "majesty", indicating that Dogbert will one day indeed rule the world ... again, and make worshipping him retroactive so he could boss around time travelers.
Catbert is the "evil director of human resources" in the Dilbert comic strip. He was supposed to be a one-time character but resonated with readers so well that Adams brought him back as the HR director. Catbert's origins with the company are that he was hired by Dogbert. Dogbert hired him because he wanted an H.R. Director that appeared cute while secretly downsizing employees.
A young intern, he works very hard but does not always get proper recognition. Asok is intensely intelligent but naive about corporate life; the shattering of his optimistic illusions becomes frequent comic fodder. He is Indian, and has graduated from the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT). The other workers, especially the boss, often unwittingly trample on his cultural beliefs. On the occasions when Asok mentions this, he is normally ignored. His test scores (a perfect 1600 on the old SAT) and his IQ of 240 show that he is the smartest member of the engineering team. Nonetheless he is often called upon by the Boss to do odd jobs, and in meetings his ideas are usually left hanging. He is also seen regularly at the lunch table with Wally and Dilbert, experiencing jarring realizations of the nature of corporate life. There are a few jokes about his psychic powers, which he learned at the IIT. Yet despite his intelligence, ethics and mystical powers, Asok sometimes takes advice from Wally in the arts of laziness, and from Dilbert in surviving the office. As of February 7, 2014, Asok is officially gay, which never affects any storylines, but merely commemorates a decision by the Indian Supreme Court to uphold an anti-gay law, a decision which was overturned on September 6, 2018.
An engineer who is often seen hanging out with Wally. He is referenced by name more often in older comics, but he is still seen occasionally. He has been accepted into Dilbert's clique. He has been fired and killed numerous times (for example, being pushed down a flight of stairs and becoming possessed), in which case a new Ted is apparently hired. In addition to this, he is often promoted and given benefits over the other employees. Ted has a wife and children who are referenced multiple times and seen on at least one occasion. Adams refers to him as Ted the Generic Guy, because whenever he needs to fire or kill someone he uses Ted, but slowly over time Ted has become his own character.
Elbonia is a fictional non-specific under-developed country used when Adams wants "to involve a foreign country without hurting overseas sales". He says "People think I have some specific country in mind when I write about Elbonia, but I don't. It represents the view that Americans have of any country that doesn't have cable television--we think they all wear fur hats and wallow around waist-deep in mud". The entire country wears the same clothing and hats, and all men have full beards. They are occasionally bitter towards their wealthier western neighbors, but are quite happy to trade with them. The whole country is covered in mud, and has limited technology.
Elbonia is located somewhere in the former Soviet bloc: A strip dated April 2, 1990, refers to the "Tiny East European country of Elbonia." It is an extremely poor, fourth-world country that has abandoned Communism. The national bird of Elbonia is the Frisbee. However, in a storyline from November 21-26, 2016, Dilbert visits Elbonia. The only location seen is his hotel room and a car rental, neither of which are covered in mud.
The Pointy-Haired Boss's brother Phil. His full title is Phil, the Prince of Insufficient Light & Supreme Ruler of Heck. His job, one step down from Satan, is to punish those who commit minor sins. His 'Pitch-Spoon' is feared by those who do. He is known to 'Darn to Heck' people who do things like using cell phones in the bathroom, steal office supplies, or those who simply do something annoying. In one strip, it was mentioned that being in Heck is not as bad as being in a cubicle.
Ratbert is an escaped lab rat who lives in Dilbert's house. Ratbert was not originally intended to be a regular, instead being part of a series of strips featuring a lab scientist's cruel experiments. The character is often seen in strips set in Dilbert's home and is frequently a foil / co-conspirator in Dogbert's machinations.
The popularity of the comic strip within the corporate sector has led to the Dilbert character being used in many business magazines and publications, including several appearances on the cover of Fortune Magazine. Many newspapers run the comic in their business section rather than in the regular comics section (similar to the way that Doonesbury is often featured in the editorial section, due to its pointed commentary).
Media analyst Norman Solomon and cartoonist Tom Tomorrow claim that Adams's caricatures of corporate culture seem to project empathy for white-collar workers, but the satire ultimately plays into the hands of upper corporate management itself. Solomon describes the characters of Dilbert as dysfunctional time-wasters, none of whom occupies a position higher than middle management, and whose inefficiencies detract from corporate values such as productivity and growth. Dilbert and his coworkers often find themselves baffled or victimized by the whims of managerial behavior, but they never seem to question it openly. Solomon cites the Xerox corporation's use of Dilbert strips and characters in internally distributed 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 February 2, 1998 strip and in his book The Joy of Work, by simply restating Solomon's argument, apparently suggesting that it was absurd and required no rebuttal.[original research?]
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.
Long since psychically kidnapped by the gaudy, mindlessly hyperactive world of television, (readers) no longer demand or expect comic strips to be compelling, challenging, or even interesting. Enter Cathy. And Dilbert. Sure, comics are still funny. It's just that the humor has almost no "nutritional" value. In the tiny space allotted to them, daily strips have all too successfully adapted to their new environment. In this Darwinian set-up, what thrives are simply drawn panels, minimal dialogue, and a lot of head-and-shoulder shots. Anything more complicated is deemed "too hard to read". A full, rich drawing style is a drawback. Simplicity, even crudity, rules.
Adams responded by creating two comic strips called Pippy the Ziphead, in which Dogbert creates a comic by "cramming as much artwork in as possible so no one will notice there's only one joke ... [and it's] on the reader." Dilbert says 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' Pippy the Ziphead with a strip of the same name drawn in a simplistic, stiff, Dilbert-like style set in an office setting and featuring the characters Zippy and Griffy retorting, "I sense a joke was delivered. [...] Yes. It was. My one joke. Ha."
In the late 1990s, amateur cartoonist Karl Hörnell began submitting a comic strip to Savage Dragon creator Erik Larsen that parodied both Dilbert and the Image Comics series The Savage Dragon. This became a regular feature in the Savage Dragon comic book, titled The Savage Dragonbert and Hitler's Brainbert ("Hitler's Brainbert" being a loose parody of both Dogbert and 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's cartooning style.
Adams has invited readers to invent words that have become popular among fans in describing their own office environments, such as "Induhvidual". This term is based on the American English slang expression "duh!" The conscious misspelling of individual as induhvidual is a pejorative term for people who are not in Dogbert's New Ruling Class (DNRC). Its coining is explained in Dilbert Newsletter #6. The strip has also popularized the usage of the terms "cow-orker" and PHB.
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 that 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 change their existing mission statement for their New Ventures Group from "provide Logitech with profitable growth and related new business areas" 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 that 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 1995, Dilbert was the first syndicated comic strip to be published for free on the Internet. Putting his email address in each Dilbert strip, Adams created a "direct channel to [his] customers", allowing him to modify the strip based on their feedback.Joe Zabel stated that Dilbert had a large influence on many of the webcomics that followed it, establishing the "nerdcore" genre as it found its audience.
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."[needs update]
Adams was named best international comic strip artist of 1995 in the Adamson Awards given by the Swedish Academy of Comic Art.
Dilbert won the National Cartoonists Society's Reuben Award in 1997, and was also named the best syndicated strip of 1997 in the Harvey Awards. In 1998, Dilbert won the Max & Moritz Prize as best international comic strip.
|Title||Strips collected||Date published||Pages||ISBN||Notes|
|Always Postpone Meetings with Time-Wasting Morons||April 16, 1989 - to October 21, 1989||October 1992||112||978-0886876883|
|Shave the Whales||October 22, 1989 - August 4, 1990||April 1994||128||978-0836217407|
|Bring Me the Head of Willy the Mailboy!||August 5, 1990 - May 18, 1991||March 1995||128||978-0836217797||The strip dated 31 March 1991 was not included.|
|It's Obvious You Won't Survive by Your Wits Alone||May 19, 1991 - December 13, 1992||August 1995||224||978-0836204155|
|Still Pumped from Using the Mouse||December 14, 1992 - September 27, 1993||March 1996||128||978-0836210262|
|Fugitive From the Cubicle Police||September 28, 1993 - February 4, 1995||September 1996||224||978-0836221190|
|Casual Day Has Gone Too Far||February 5, 1995 - November 19, 1995||March 1997||128||978-0836228991|
|I'm Not Anti-Business, I'm Anti-Idiot||November 20, 1995 - August 31, 1996||March 1998||128||978-0836251821|
|Journey to Cubeville||September 1, 1996 - January 4, 1998||August 1998||224||978-0836267457|
|Don't Step in the Leadership||January 12, 1998 - October 18, 1998||March 1999||128||978-0836278446|
|Random Acts of Management||October 19, 1998 - July 25, 1999||March 2000||128||978-0740704536|
|Excuse Me While I Wag||July 26, 1999 - April 30, 2000||April 2001||128||978-0740713903|
|When Did Ignorance Become a Point of View?||May 1, 2000 - February 4, 2001||September 2001||128||978-0740718397|
|Another Day in Cubicle Paradise||February 5, 2001 - November 11, 2001||March 2002||128||978-0740721946|
|When Body Language Goes Bad||November 12, 2001 - August 18, 2002||March 2003||128||978-0740732980|
|Words You Don't Want to Hear During Your Annual Performance Review||August 19, 2002 - May 25, 2003||October 2003||128||978-0740738050|
|Don't Stand Where the Comet is Assumed to Strike Oil||May 26, 2003 - February 29, 2004||May 2004||128||978-0740745393|
|The Fluorescent Light Glistens Off Your Head||March 1, 2004 - December 5, 2004||May 2005||128||978-0740751134|
|Thriving on Vague Objectives||December 6, 2004 - September 11, 2005||November 2005||128||978-0740755330|
|Try Rebooting Yourself||September 12, 2005 - June 18, 2006||October 2006||128||978-0740761904|
|Positive Attitude||June 19, 2006 - March 25, 2007||July 2007||128||978-0740763793|
|This is the Part Where You Pretend to Add Value||March 26, 2007 - January 5, 2008||May 2008||128||978-0740772276|
|Freedom's Just Another Word for People Finding Out You're Useless||January 6, 2008 - October 12, 2008||April 2009||128||978-0740778155|
|14 Years of Loyal Service in a Fabric-Covered Box||October 13, 2008 - July 25, 2009||October 2009||128||978-0740773655|
|I'm Tempted to Stop Acting Randomly||July 26, 2009 - May 2, 2010||December 2010||128||978-0740778063|
|How's That Underling Thing Working Out for You?||May 3, 2010 - February 12, 2011||November 2011||128||978-1449408190|
|Teamwork Means You Can't Pick the Side that's Right||February 13, 2011 - November 20, 2011||April 2012||128||978-1449410186|
|Your New Job Title Is "Accomplice"||November 21, 2011 - August 26, 2012||May 2013||128||978-1449427757||Strips from 27 August 2012 to 7 October 2012 were not collected.|
|I Sense a Coldness to Your Mentoring||October 8, 2012 - July 14, 2013||October 2013||128||978-1449429386|
|Go Add Value Someplace Else||July 15, 2013 - July 20, 2014||October 2014||168||978-1449446604|
|Optimism Sounds Exhausting||July 21, 2014 - August 1, 2015||November 2015||168||978-1449463007|
|I'm No Scientist, But I Think Feng Shui Is Part of the Answer||August 2, 2015 - July 23, 2016||November 2016||208||978-1449471965|
|Dilbert Gets Re-accommodated||July 24, 2016 - June 10, 2017||November 2017||144||978-1449484392|
|Cubicles That Make You Envy the Dead||June 11, 2017 - April 29, 2018||November 2018||144||978-1449493783|
|Dilbert Turns 30||April 30, 2018 - February 24, 2019||October 2019||159||978-1524851828||Features the top 50 Dilbert comics of the last decade.|
|Eagerly Awaiting Your Irrational Response||February 25, 2019 - January 12, 2020||October 2020||144||978-1524860714|
|Build a Better Life by Stealing Office Supplies: Dogbert's Big Book of Business||November 1991||112||978-0886876371|
|Dogbert's Clues for the Clueless||August 1993||112||978-0836217377|
|Seven Years of Highly Defective People||August 1997||256||978-0836236682||strips from 1989 to 1995 with handwritten notes by Scott Adams|
|Dilbert Gives You the Business||August 1999||224||978-0740700033||collection of favorites before 1999|
|A Treasury of Sunday Strips: Version 00||August 2000||224||978-0740705311||color version of all Sunday strips from 1995 to 1999|
|What Do You Call a Sociopath in a Cubicle? Answer: A Coworker||August 2002||224||978-0740726637||compilation of strips featuring Dilbert's coworkers|
|It's Not Funny If I Have to Explain It||October 2004||240||978-0740746581||strips from 1997 to 2004 with more of Adams's handwritten notes|
|What Would Wally Do?||June 2006||224||978-0740757693||strips focused on Wally|
|Cubes and Punishment||November 2007||224||978-0740768378||collection of comic strips on workplace cruelty|
|Problem Identified: And You're Probably Not Part of the Solution||July 2010||224||978-0740785344|
|Your Accomplishments Are Suspiciously Hard to Verify||August 2011||208||978-1449401023|
|I Can't Remember If We're Cheap or Smart||October 2012||208||978-1449423094|
Dilbert was adapted into a UPN animated television series starring Daniel Stern as Dilbert, Chris Elliott as Dogbert, and Kathy Griffin as Alice. The series ran for two seasons from January 25, 1999 to July 25, 2000. The first season centered around the creation of a new product called the "Gruntmaster 6000". It was critically acclaimed and won a Golden Globe award, leading to its renewal for a second season. The second season did away with the serial format and was composed entirely of standalone episodes, many of which shifted focus away from the workplace and involved absurdist plots such as Wally being mistaken for a religious leader ("The Shroud of Wally") and Dilbert being accused of mass murder ("The Trial"). Critical and fan reception was resoundingly negative to the change in format and storytelling, and the series was not renewed for a third season. 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.
The four-disc DVD called "Dilbert: The Complete Series" contains thirty episodes. The first disc contains episodes 1-7, the second disc contains episodes 8-13, the third disc contains episodes 14-21, and the fourth disc contains episodes 22-30.
On April 7, 2008, dilbert.com presented its 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. David Steward, an employee of seven years, then posted on an office bulletin board the Dilbert strip of October 26, 2007 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 benefits. However, an administrative law judge ruled in December 2007 that he would receive benefits, as his action was not intentional misbehavior. Scott Adams said that it might be the first confirmed case of an employee being fired for posting a Dilbert cartoon. On February 20, 2008, the first of a series of Dilbert strips showed Wally being caught posting a comic strip that "compares managers to drunken lemurs". Adams later said that fans should stick to posting Garfield strips, as no one gets fired for that.
On February 29, 2016, Adams posted on his blog that he would be taking a six-week vacation. During that time, strips would be written by him but drawn by guest artists who work for Universal Uclick.Jake Tapper drew the strip on the week on May 23. The other guest artists were John Glynn, Eric Scott, Josh Shipley, Joel Friday, Donna Oatney and Brenna Thummler. Jake Tapper also drew the cartoon strip the weeks of May 23, 2016 and September 23-28, 2019.