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Dilbert (first published April 16, 1989) is an Americanmarker comic strip written and drawn by Scott Adams. Dilbert is known for its satirical office humor about a white-collar, micromanage 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 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:
  • Engineers' personal traits
    • Idiosyncrasy of style
    • Hopelessness in dating (and general lack of social skills)
    • Attraction to tools and technological products
  • Esotericism


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

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.

In 1997, Tom Vanderbilt wrote in a similar vein in The Baffler Magazine:

"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 again responded on May 18, 1998, 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.

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”, “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 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 statement 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.


Comic strip compilations

Books in bold indicate special compilations or original strips.

  1. Always Postpone Meetings with Time-Wasting Morons — April 16, 1989 (first strip) to October 21, 1989
  2. Build a Better Life By Stealing Office Supplies
  3. Dogbert's Clues for the Clueless
  4. Shave the Whales — October 22, 1989 to August 4, 1990
  5. Bring Me the Head of Willy the Mailboy! — October 5, 1990 to May 18, 1991
  6. It's Obvious You Won't Survive By Your Wits Alone — May 19, 1991 to December 13, 1992
  7. Still Pumped from Using the Mouse — December 14, 1992 to September 27, 1993
  8. Fugitive From the Cubicle Police — September 28, 1993 to February 11, 1995
  9. Casual Day Has Gone Too Far — February 5, 1995 to November 19, 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-Idiot — November 20, 1995 to August 31, 1996
  12. Journey to Cubeville — September 1, 1996 to January 18, 1998
  13. Don't Step in the Leadership — January 12, 1998 to October 18, 1998
  14. Dilbert Gives You the Business — Collection of favorites before 1999.
  15. Random Acts of Management — October 19, 1998 to July 25, 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 Wag — July 26, 1999 to April 30, 2000
  18. When Did Ignorance Become A Point Of View? — May 1, 2000 to February 4, 2001
  19. Another Day In Cubicle Paradise — February 5, 2001 to November 11, 2001
  20. What Do You Call A Sociopath In A Cubicle? Answer: A Coworker
  21. When Body Language Goes Bad — November 12, 2001 to August 18, 2002
  22. Words You Don't Want to Hear During Your Annual Performance Review — August 19, 2002 to May 25, 2003
  23. Don't Stand Where the Comet is Assumed to Strike Oil — May 26, 2003 to February 29, 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 Head — March 1, 2004 to December 5, 2004
  26. Thriving on Vague Objectives — December 6, 2004 to September 11, 2005
  27. What Would Wally Do? — 2006; strips focused on Wally.
  28. Try Rebooting Yourself — September 12, 2005 to June 18, 2006
  29. Positive Attitude — June 19, 2006 to March 25, 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 — March 26, 2007 to January 5, 2008
  32. Freedom's Just Another Word for People Finding Out You're Useless — January 6, 2008 to October 12, 2008
  33. 14 Years of Loyal Service in a Fabric-Covered Box - October 13, 2008 to July 25, 2009 [903]

Business books

Other books

  • 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
  • Dilbert Sudoku Comic Digest: 200 Puzzles Plus 50 Classic Dilbert Cartoons — 2008; ISBN 0-7407-7250-3
  • Dilbert 2.0: 20 Years of Dilbert — 2008; 576 pages, ±6500 strips, and Scott Adams' notes from 1989 to 2008.


  • 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 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.

New Animation

On April 7, 2008, 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.

"Drunken Lemurs" case

In October 2007, the Catfish Bend Casino in Burlington, Iowamarker, 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.'s Interactive Cartoons

In April 2008, Scott Adams announced that United Media would be instituting an interactive feature on, 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


  3. Dilbert Creator Fools Execs With Soap Story, Associated Press, from the webpage of the Seattle Times, 11/16/97.
  4. Dilbert Creator Fools Executives, AP story, in full, preserved on MIT humor bulletin board, 11/15/97.
  5. The Dilbert Doctrines: An Interview with Scott Adams, by Virginia Postrel, Reason, February 1999.

External links

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