Some of the most popular comics today feature epic superheroes with amazing abilities, intense battle scenes and a seemingly endless list of enemies. However, 30 years ago, a minimalist black and white comic set in an everyday workplace took the comic world by storm. How much do you know about this classic satire strip?
Dilbert, written and illustrated by Scott Adams, launched on April 16, 1989. When it first launched the comic strip only appeared in a handful of newspapers. Today, Dilbert appears online and in over 2,000 newspapers, in 57 countries, and in 19 languages. Before it was a satirical office comic, the early iterations followed titular engineer Dilbert and his “pet” dog Dogbert in their home. Many early plots revolved around Dilbert’s bizarre inventions and Dogbert’s megalomaniacal ambitions. Eventually, the location moved to Dilbert’s workplace and this is when the strip really started to take off. These later strips satirized workplace, company issues and technology, which remains the main focus of the strip today.
Dilbert is a stereotypical single male, who while a skilled engineer has a poor social and romantic life. He was easily recognizable by his white dress shirt, black trousers and red and black striped tie that inexplicably curved upward. In 2014, this classic attire was adjusted to be red polo shirt with a name badge on a lanyard. The strip was well-received for its portrayal of corporate culture as world of bureaucracy. It was relatable in the way it depicted the office politics that stand in the way of productivity. Much of the humor emerges from the way the characters make decisions as a response to the mismanagement within the office.
Dilbert’s boss, known only as Pointy-haired Boss, is never named to give readers the ability to imagine him as their boss. While his level of intelligence varies depending on the strip’s needs, his lack of consistent business ethics remains consistent. Additional employees include cynical engineer Wally, hot-headed engineer Alice, evil H.R. director Catbert, young intern Asok, and Pointy-Haired Boss’ brother Phil, a/k/a Prince of Insufficient Light & Supreme Ruler of Heck.
Dilbert is particularly popular within the corporate sector, with the character often used in business magazines, including several appearances on the cover of Fortune Magazine. Due to its pointed commentary many newspapers run the comic in their business section rather than the comics section. The strip has spawned dozens of books, video games, and hundreds of Dilbert-themed merchandise items. In 1999, Dilbert was adapted into an animated television series starring Daniel Stern as Dilbert, Chris Elliott as Dogbert, and Kathy Griffin as Alice. The series only ran for two seasons but was a Golden Globe award winner.
Over the years, Dilbert has earned the 1997 Reuben Award, 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. Adams was also named the best international comic strip artist of 1995 in the Adamson Awards given by the Swedish Academy of Comic Art.
Today, over 20 million Dilbert books and calendars are in print with Dilbert consistently remaining one of the top selling page-a-day calendars. New strips are featured on dilbert.com, which was the first website for a daily syndicated comic strip. Even after 30 years, the everyday trials of a dysfunctional office remains one of the most popular satire comic strips of all time.