Dilbert - C or D?

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Sharp truths about the modern workplace? The same old jokes done by someone who can't draw? Both? Neither?

Tom (Groke), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 16:06 (fifteen years ago) link

I don't read it religously, but it's got a true quality to it. Probably what The Office and Office Space are based upon...

Vermont Girl (Vermont Girl), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 16:09 (fifteen years ago) link

The jokes and writing: classic.
The artwork: dud.

n/a (Nick A.), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 16:18 (fifteen years ago) link

It's funny because it's true etc.

Jordan (Jordan), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 16:24 (fifteen years ago) link

I can sort of see a kind of funny in it that I just can't appreciate, which I think is because I've never had anything remotely like an office job. I think it's definitely in that category of "stuff you need to be able to relate to to like."

Tep (ktepi), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 16:28 (fifteen years ago) link

Oh, very very dud. I sorta blame them for the continuation of office culture, if only we could break free*

*I may be being a little melodramatic.

jel -- (jel), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 16:29 (fifteen years ago) link

C: occasional strains of rampant surrealism i.e. Hammerhead Bob, Floyd Remora, the Meeting Moth.

D: Elbonia. "It's a meeting - ABOUT MEETINGS!!!!!!! Do you see?"

Vic Fluro, Tuesday, 19 October 2004 16:30 (fifteen years ago) link

I think it was more accurate a few years ago than it is now - office culture is a lot less process-oriented and more, uh, Brentian.

Tom (Groke), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 16:31 (fifteen years ago) link

I blame Adams' shitty artwork on the proliferation of the auteur theory in types of art over the past few decades. It's not enough to be good at one thing anymore (ie, writing jokes), you have to do everything yourself to be considered an artist. In popular music, this is largely the fault of the Beatles (after which, it wasn't cool for bands to play songs by nonbandmember songwriters anymore, the bands had to write the songs themselves); I'm not sure who is to blame in terms of comics.

n/a (Nick A.), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 17:52 (fifteen years ago) link

Has the non-auteur model ever applied in newspaper strips though?

I read someone (Bill Watterson?) arguing that the rise of non-artist Adams types was down to the space available for a strip shrinking and a (linked) lack of editorial concern/respect for drawing and storytelling in cartoons.

Tom (Groke), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 17:54 (fifteen years ago) link

I like the really offensive Dilbert knock-offs. Set sail for Dick!

DV (dirtyvicar), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 18:31 (fifteen years ago) link

With something like Dilbert I don't think it matters at all whether the art's pretty or not. It's just the medium through which the gags reach us, and it serves that purpose fine.

Wooden (Wooden), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 19:34 (fifteen years ago) link

Is that what n/a stands for? "Non/autership"? Wild.
ANyway, uh, out of the 260 strips a year, there are some good ones, a lot of ones I wonder why I wasted 3 seconds reading, and a few I wish I had died before I noticed.

Huk-L, Tuesday, 19 October 2004 20:00 (fifteen years ago) link

I'm not anti-auteur, I just with that there wasn't so much shame in hiring someone to write songs for you if you're a good singer but a bad songwriter, or hiring someone to draw your comics if you're good at writing jokes but a bad artist. But I really have to emphasize that I know little to nothing about comics, so this whole auteur thing is just a theory I tossed up here, not really sure if it really applies to comics.

n/a (Nick A.), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 20:28 (fifteen years ago) link

I think in alternative comics writer/artists are the norm, and in newspaper strips. In mainstream (i.e. Marvel, DC, publishers who want to be either of those) comics division of labour still applies.

Obviously I agree with the pop stuff - outsource stuff you can't do well!

Tom (Groke), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 20:33 (fifteen years ago) link

One of the few division-of-labor comic strips I can think of is Penny Arcade. Maybe it's more common in webcomics, for some reason?

I just with that there wasn't so much shame in hiring someone to write songs for you if you're a good singer but a bad songwriter

It's true, you have to form a band with a good songwriter to make it socially acceptable. It would be kind of cool to be the Frank Sinatra of rock bands, though, like a cover band except you'd be playing songs no one has heard yet.

Jordan (Jordan), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 20:39 (fifteen years ago) link

There are a lot of the same jokes done over and over but fortunately I still find them funny.

"No way, I've gotta bring this sucker in for a landing! (Can I do that in Excel?)"

The Ghost of Dan Perry (Dan Perry), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 20:41 (fifteen years ago) link

Dilbert jokes we still get mileage out of, #1 of ???:

The boss's laptop needs to be shaken to reboot it, because it is in fact an etch-a-sketch.

(I think it captured in detail that weird period when you had to have non-high-tech managers in high-tech companies, because that's all there was.)

Andrew Farrell (afarrell), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 20:49 (fifteen years ago) link

#2 of ???

"I was just wondering, if you died, would the coffee cup walk around by itself?"

(this is more universal, I suspect)

Andrew Farrell (afarrell), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 20:50 (fifteen years ago) link

#3 of ???

"40% of sick days are taken on Friday and Monday; this is unacceptable."

The Ghost of Dan Perry (Dan Perry), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 21:00 (fifteen years ago) link

I find it pretty funny now and again, and hopeless other times. Yeah, the art is very weak. As for the auteur theory in comic strips, it's more honoured in name than fact, as loads of people have 'assistants' who actually draw the strips. This is generally but not always a good thing.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Tuesday, 19 October 2004 21:55 (fifteen years ago) link


Chriddof (Chriddof), Wednesday, 20 October 2004 02:50 (fifteen years ago) link

The art suits the subject, I think - monotony, focus shifted to the banality of hte conent and so on. Its also standard for the medium and does that understated line art trick of conveying a great deal through very little.

As for the comedy - sometimes stomach creasingly funny, innevitably suffers from massive production targets, of course. And the material, as pointed out above, IS dating, alas.

The books are plenty of the notions formalised and expanded to complete theories, and I'd hazard form a decent insight into employee motivations.

That Slazberg, Tuesday, 26 October 2004 22:05 (fourteen years ago) link

(I think it captured in detail that weird period when you had to have non-high-tech managers in high-tech companies, because that's all there was.)

but there is nothing weird about that... bosses have boss skills, which are entirely different to doing things skills, so small wonder that bosses become head of the World Wide Wicket Corporation when they don't really know what a wicket is and whether you can eat it.

anyway, this is what you should be looking at: http://pied.nu/banned/the_Dilbert_Hole/tn/14.gif.html

DV (dirtyvicar), Wednesday, 27 October 2004 18:12 (fourteen years ago) link


(the best part is how Wally is virtually unchanged from the real comic strip)

The Ghost of Dan Perry (Dan Perry), Wednesday, 27 October 2004 18:24 (fourteen years ago) link


David R. (popshots75`), Wednesday, 27 October 2004 18:26 (fourteen years ago) link

"I thought he said cake boat."

The Ghost of Dan Perry (Dan Perry), Wednesday, 27 October 2004 18:28 (fourteen years ago) link

I'm amazed that the rude Dilbert cartoon is still on the web (given that THE MAN made them re-draw Marxbert so that the characters were just square blocks).

DV (dirtyvicar), Wednesday, 27 October 2004 19:43 (fourteen years ago) link

more here (for those who can't trace back links): http://pied.nu/banned/the_Dilbert_Hole/

DV (dirtyvicar), Wednesday, 27 October 2004 19:45 (fourteen years ago) link

four years pass...

this guy is a right wing creationist douche

it's darn and ielle is hot (and what), Wednesday, 25 February 2009 18:39 (ten years ago) link

Isn't he a Satanist?

Britpoppage (The stickman from the hilarious xkcd comics), Wednesday, 25 February 2009 18:45 (ten years ago) link


^^^this is some high-end useful idiocy

Britpoppage (The stickman from the hilarious xkcd comics), Wednesday, 25 February 2009 18:46 (ten years ago) link

If you let a guy like that express his views, before long the entire world will want freedom
of speech.

Um, is this sentence a joke?

chap, Wednesday, 25 February 2009 19:01 (ten years ago) link

OK, the whole thing's a joke.

chap, Wednesday, 25 February 2009 19:03 (ten years ago) link

I was gonna say!

Lots of praying with no breakfast! (HI DERE), Wednesday, 25 February 2009 19:03 (ten years ago) link

Doesn't sound like a right wing creatonist here:


Tuomas, Thursday, 26 February 2009 14:35 (ten years ago) link

Actuallt, if you read his blog, he sounds more like a science geek with some libertarian leanings rather than a right wing creationist. Where'd you get that idea?

Tuomas, Thursday, 26 February 2009 14:44 (ten years ago) link

A cartoon engineer, that's what he is.

M.V., Thursday, 26 February 2009 15:47 (ten years ago) link

two years pass...

Scott Adams, feminist

Ah, Dilbert. For so long, you have lingered there on the comics page, always ready to barrel-shoot the inanity of office culture with your humorously-coiffed characters and beleaguered engineers, locked forever in a corporate development hell that your humor at first mocked, and then later resembled.

Mostly, though, I haven't really paid attention to you at all, at least until today, when the internet discovered a post where Dilbert creator Scott Adams gave us all a piece of his mind in a post (since deleted) about men's rights, and the fact that he thinks men suffer a level of social injustice equal to women.

After all, women might get paid less than men in our society, but men die earlier, teen boys have to pay higher car insurance, and sometimes women want men to open doors for them, so it all comes out in the wash, right? I'm not making those examples up, either; those are his examples.

And then there's this:

"The reality is that women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently. It's just easier this way for everyone. You don't argue with a four-year old about why he shouldn't eat candy for dinner. You don't punch a mentally handicapped guy even if he punches you first. And you don't argue when a women tells you she's only making 80 cents to your dollar. It's the path of least resistance. You save your energy for more important battles." -Scott Adams

Wow. Just wow. To recap: He's comparing women asking for equal pay to the selfishness and unreasonableness of children asking for candy, or mentally handicapped people lashing out violently. He's saying that women's concern for pay equity is a petty desire levied by an irrational group of people, and he's also suggesting a very specific strategy for the men in the audience: Remember not to care.

If the above block of text reminds you of Dave Sim at all, that's because this rhetoric does exactly the same thing as Sim's in terms of infantilizing women and casting them as primarily emotional and irrational beings that men can only deal with by ignoring them most of the time, or sighing bitterly while turning up the volume on their sports game.

Women, amirite? To his credit, he recognizes that this is basically an insane comparison to make, but then not to his credit, makes it anyway. (Note: Saying something and then saying that you're not saying it doesn't magically unsay it.) He continues:

"I realize I might take some heat for lumping women, children and the mentally handicapped in the same group. So I want to be perfectly clear. I'm not saying women are similar to either group. I'm saying that a man's best strategy for dealing with each group is disturbingly similar. If he's smart, he takes the path of least resistance most of the time, which involves considering the emotional realities of other people. A man only digs in for a good fight on the few issues that matter to him, and for which he has some chance of winning. This is a strategy that men are uniquely suited for because, on average, we genuinely don't care about 90% of what is happening around us."

Adams' original blog entry (since deleted): http://tinysprout.tumblr.com/post/3713649989/scott-adams-dilbert-deleted-post

Stockhausen's Ekranoplan Quartet (Elvis Telecom), Wednesday, 30 March 2011 19:33 (eight years ago) link

haha omg

I can never tell when Scott Adams is serious and when he's trolling

whelping at his sandpapery best (DJP), Wednesday, 30 March 2011 19:37 (eight years ago) link

If the above block of text reminds you of Dave Sim at all,

this was my first thought actually

in my world of loose geirs (Shakey Mo Collier), Wednesday, 30 March 2011 20:41 (eight years ago) link

Practically everything Scott Adams writes is dripping with about five levels of bitter, self-hating sarcasm, though, which makes it difficult for me to take this completely at face value.

Like, I would not at all be surprised if he was taking a Neanderthal tone in order to set up and pull the rug out from underneath people, which seems to go along with the shellshocked reactions some of these critiques are posting.

Having said that, I haven't read it yet so maybe the whole piece really is way out of step with his usual steeze, or just an epic failure in conveying appropriate tone, or maybe he is Dave Sim 2.0.

whelping at his sandpapery best (DJP), Wednesday, 30 March 2011 21:09 (eight years ago) link

A woman had a show about bible secrets on the BBC the other week which was basically Chasing YooWHoo.

I said Omorotic, not homo-erotic (aldo), Thursday, 31 March 2011 18:02 (eight years ago) link

Adams since reposted the deleted blog entry and a "you are all idiots" followup. Perhaps downgrade from Dave Sim to Lileks territory?

Stockhausen's Ekranoplan Quartet (Elvis Telecom), Friday, 1 April 2011 01:20 (eight years ago) link

what a weird guy

call all destroyer, Friday, 1 April 2011 01:30 (eight years ago) link

If any of you have a Salon account, could you do me a favor and head over to the articles by these binarian unibators and provide a link to my explanation of the Men's Rights controversy in its proper context?

difficult listening hour, Friday, 1 April 2011 05:30 (eight years ago) link

I write material for a specific sort of audience. And when the piece on Men's Rights drew too much attention from outside my normal reading circle, it changed the meaning. Communication becomes distorted when you take it out of context, even if you don't change a word of the text. I image that you are dubious about this. It's hard to believe this sort of thing if you don't write for a living and see how often it happens. I'll explain.

(emphasis scott adams')

difficult listening hour, Friday, 1 April 2011 05:32 (eight years ago) link

two weeks pass...

Dude has not been helping his case lately.

Ned Raggett, Friday, 15 April 2011 20:43 (eight years ago) link

hoo boy

fat fat fat fat Usher (DJP), Friday, 15 April 2011 20:50 (eight years ago) link

we're reaching levels of persuasion which shouldn't even be possible

frogbs, Monday, 29 July 2019 15:43 (two months ago) link



Anyone who signed up to discuss the shooting could also have been paid in the WHEN Token, a cryptocurrency Adams has used to fund his app that is currently worth slightly more than one cent. Shortly before Adams announced WhenHub’s cryptocurrency aspect in 2017, Dilbert watchers noticed that the characters in the comic, who are typically suspicious of poorly understood business crazes like blockchain, were suddenly running straightforward explanations of blockchain in an apparent effort to drum up interest in Adams’s cryptocurrency.

frogbs, Monday, 29 July 2019 17:42 (two months ago) link

It would've been interesting to see how newspapers responded in a world where a comic strip version of Cerebus had been the public forum where we watched Dave Sim's mind unravel.

my but is not working it kept telling me device not found. (Old Lunch), Monday, 29 July 2019 18:10 (two months ago) link

he’d have jordan peterson’s career

another no-holds-barred Tokey Wedge adventure for men (bizarro gazzara), Monday, 29 July 2019 18:14 (two months ago) link

Some amazing replies from Scott fans pic.twitter.com/JvlMZhRSTk

— pixelatedboat aka “mr tweets” (@pixelatedboat) July 29, 2019

El Tomboto, Monday, 29 July 2019 20:26 (two months ago) link

probably goes without saying but this WhenHub app is hilariously dumb, it's pretty much exactly the sort of thing that Dilbert was satirizing back in the 90's. 500 features and no clear use case, plus it uses a blockchain for some reason - this "pay to speak to an expert" thing is clearly NOT what the app was designed to do, though it's kinda hilarious that there's a dude offering to chat about football for 20 bucks an hour

frogbs, Tuesday, 30 July 2019 14:05 (two months ago) link

I retroactively hate that this guy had a guest spot on NewsRadio.

the last Berry La Croix in the work fridge (morrisp), Tuesday, 30 July 2019 19:09 (two months ago) link

(and don't @ me about Rogan)

the last Berry La Croix in the work fridge (morrisp), Tuesday, 30 July 2019 19:11 (two months ago) link

one month passes...

seriously laughed at this

If you are worried about rising sea levels, don’t be. The smartest and richest people in the world are still buying property on the beach. They don’t see the problem.

gyac, Monday, 23 September 2019 17:45 (four weeks ago) link

its really something to read through the past 1.5 decades of this thread tracking the slow reveal of Adams' right wing brainworms.

LOL in hindsight @ posts from 2011 wondering if hes serious or if hes doing some kind of kaufmanesque meta-satire of right wing idiots. Simpler times, man.

“Hakuna Matata,” a nihilist philosophy (One Eye Open), Monday, 23 September 2019 18:31 (four weeks ago) link

still laughing at the whenhub dot com portrait of Adams

mh, Monday, 23 September 2019 18:35 (four weeks ago) link

Throughout all modern history, when we humans see a problem coming from far away, we have a 100% success rate in solving it.

I don't know if he earnestly believes any of the shit he writes but if so god damn must he have a privileged existence to believe this is even remotely true

frogbs, Monday, 23 September 2019 18:37 (four weeks ago) link

imagine thinking in all seriousness that the richest people are the smartest people and vice versa

must be so nice to live with a worldview so simple and so fucking idiotic

Is it true the star Beetle Juice is going to explode in 2012 (bizarro gazzara), Monday, 23 September 2019 18:52 (four weeks ago) link

well we can only go extinct once

maffew12, Monday, 23 September 2019 19:01 (four weeks ago) link

Throughout all modern history, when we humans see a problem coming from far away, we have a 100% success rate in solving it.

what about baldness

mookieproof, Monday, 23 September 2019 19:29 (four weeks ago) link

running out of gas?
i am actually having trouble thinking of a problem that america saw coming from far away that we HAVE solved

Fuck the NRA (ulysses), Monday, 23 September 2019 19:32 (four weeks ago) link

the Dilbert TV show?

maffew12, Monday, 23 September 2019 19:38 (four weeks ago) link

uh he saw in advance the problem of possibly not having a ready supply of fresh-popped popcorn with real butter in his own house, so he bought a second microwave oven and now he microwaves two packets of microwave popcorn at once. 100% solved

now let's play big lunch take little lunch (sic), Monday, 23 September 2019 20:09 (four weeks ago) link

he also foresaw the problem of not living in a house shaped like half the face of a smug ineffectual asshole cartoon character who thinks he knows better than everyone but can’t actually influence anyone, and had his house built in the shape of half of Dilbert’s face. SOLVED.

now let's play big lunch take little lunch (sic), Monday, 23 September 2019 20:11 (four weeks ago) link


what the hell is this

frogbs, Monday, 23 September 2019 20:17 (four weeks ago) link

When you’re invited to a fashy discord, find it too hard to keep up but want to show your appreciation anyway.

gyac, Monday, 23 September 2019 20:28 (four weeks ago) link

No wonder your piece of shit Gawker publication got its balls cut off. My lawyers will be contacting you. https://t.co/urM0otUUsn

— Scott Adams (@ScottAdamsSays) September 24, 2019

mookieproof, Tuesday, 24 September 2019 18:35 (three weeks ago) link

the free speech defender has logged on

frogbs, Tuesday, 24 September 2019 19:20 (three weeks ago) link

beta move to call a lawyer instead of kicking john cook's ass

mookieproof, Tuesday, 24 September 2019 19:30 (three weeks ago) link

for some reason I always read his tweets in a south park voice "I'll sue you in England!"

mfktz (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Tuesday, 24 September 2019 19:39 (three weeks ago) link

incidentally CNN's Jake Tapper drew yesterday's Dilbert (from Adams' script):

Vad har hänt med Dilbert? pic.twitter.com/goBif6Ltfj

— Nikke Lindqvist 🖤 (@nikkelin) September 23, 2019

now let's play big lunch take little lunch (sic), Tuesday, 24 September 2019 19:55 (three weeks ago) link

behold the master of persuasion


— Scott Adams (@ScottAdamsSays) September 25, 2019

frogbs, Wednesday, 25 September 2019 14:05 (three weeks ago) link

lol he deleted the tweet where he was threatening John Cook with legal action

mh, Wednesday, 25 September 2019 15:19 (three weeks ago) link

—What so you think of management?

—They are all dumb.

How long ago did Dilbert’s satirical target switch from management to employees?

#YABASIC (morrisp), Saturday, 28 September 2019 21:35 (three weeks ago) link

(Sorry for the autocorrect typo; this phone’s software must have been designed by some clueless, “NPC”-style engineers, I don’t know man...)

#YABASIC (morrisp), Saturday, 28 September 2019 21:36 (three weeks ago) link

there’s an article about Adams trying to help manage a restaurant he co-owned and it going predictably badly

iirc he’s one of those people who thinks if you’ve proven yourself in one task, you should be able to tackle anything else with a few hours of reading. restaurant article included an employee saying they really hoped he’d never watch the food network because he’d get “ideas”

mh, Saturday, 28 September 2019 22:05 (three weeks ago) link

I was thinking about the incident where he showed up on metafilter in a thread about an op-ed he wrote and proceeded to trash people, generally make noise and tell everyone they were projecting, and then disappear once he got called on his sock puppetry. There’s a reason he likes Trump, they both say a bunch of bullshit, gaslight you if you try to interpret their words as intended, and then spew more gibberish


mh, Saturday, 28 September 2019 22:09 (three weeks ago) link

yeah I think there's a ton of overlap between Trump & Adams, outside of the fact that Adams was actually funny and self-aware at one point. Adams is very much a big believer in "the secret", his go-to explanation for how he made millions as a cartoonist despite not being able to draw, and thinks that Trump, a man who is now president despite no political experience or knowledge, knows "the secret" too. its all very PUA-style "just say the words in the right order and the universe will bend to your will", which I think explains why he's so impressed with shady car lot-style salesmanship

frogbs, Monday, 30 September 2019 22:22 (three weeks ago) link

I don’t think he was self-aware per se, he easily spoofed management junk that’s often received knowledge when there’s no understanding *why* management would do those things. It’s rife in corporate culture, same as any large bureaucracy. The thing is that he took the idea that there’s nothing to management, no learned skills. Not even the Peter Principle, but people promoted to a level where they don’t have to do actual work and can do no actual harm.

And as soon as he got to management, or the equivalent level of responsibility, he started acting like it’s all about making noise and distractions so people don’t see you’re incompetent, instead of learning actual competence.

Wouldn’t be surprised if part of his health issues were rooted in chronic anxiety tbh

mh, Tuesday, 1 October 2019 01:40 (two weeks ago) link

the whole idea presented in dilbert is that there are a lot of stupid people who can be easily manipulated to a ridiculous degree. i think he likes trump because trump's success could be taken as a demonstration that dilbert isn't satire.

call all destroyer, Tuesday, 1 October 2019 01:51 (two weeks ago) link

when was adams ever "funny" is my question? Dilbert was garbage when it came out imo.

Fuck the NRA (ulysses), Tuesday, 1 October 2019 02:44 (two weeks ago) link

the text at that link is illegible but early dilbert was at minimum weirder and more wide-ranging before he zeroed in on the corporate office-worker drone shit

call all destroyer, Tuesday, 1 October 2019 02:59 (two weeks ago) link

command and the + sign (or ctrl +) increases text size.
I'll c+p here, though 23 years of tech have certainly rendered this line of thinking awfully quaint)

COMICS AT 100 by Bill Griffith
THE BOSTON SUNDAY GLOBE Magazine, 11/10/96

The daily newspaper comic strip is one hundred years old. And it looks it. Shrunken. Pale. Shaky. One foot in the grave. Diagnosis: In desperate need of new blood. Instead, it gets "Dilbert".

Dilbert is all the rage. Dilbert is on the Best Seller list. Like the Ninja Turtles of a few years ago, you cannot avoid Dilbert. But is Dilbert a comic strip? Kind of. More to the point, Dilbert is a marketing strategy. It's the most popular and successful new comic strip in America today. What does this tell us about the medium? The comic strip exists in that twilight zone where art meets commerce.

Daily comics first made their appearance toward the end of the last century primarily as a way for publishers to increase newspaper circulation. The fact that they were graphically innovative and exciting to read was a bonus. Can the same be said of today's crop of strips? Comic strips today seem more of a comfort than an artistic statement. They're there. And, with a mind-numbing regularity, they'll be there, recycling the same diet jokes and lifestyle gags again and again, day after day. They're not really meant to be read. They’re meant to be scanned, quickly absorbed and just as quickly forgotten. But this wasn’t always the case.

At one time, newspaper comic strips, along with radio, performed the function in people’s lives that television does today. They were a powerful mass entertainment medium. "Dick Tracy" (Chester Gould), for instance, not only furnished readers with a daily dose of crime drama and fast-paced action, but did so with a gripping graphic sensibility. The strip literally leapt off the newsprint. The same can be said of "Krazy Kat" (George Herriman), "Popeye" (Elzie Segar), "Little Orphan Annie" (Harold Gray) and a host of other "classic" strips from the teens to the fifties. Does a contemporary strip like "Cathy" draw our eye to its spot on the page? Do the characters come alive in the way characters from good fiction or film do? Or are they simply caricatures of life, flat, stereotyped, and two-dimensional? This kind of work is what gives rise to the pejorative term, "cartoony".

It could be said that today’s comic strip readers get what they deserve. Long since psychically kidnapped by the gaudy, mindlessly hyperactive world of TV, they 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. And when the graphics have been dumbed down, the writing follows in short order.

What we’re left with is a kind of childish, depleted shell of a once-vibrant medium. Comics is a language. It’s a language most people understand intuitively. If cartoonists use a large and varied "vocabulary" to entertain their readers, those readers will usually come along for the ride. It’s not a problem of the audience’s expectations having been hopelessly lowered, it’s a problem of the cartoonists’ ambitions needing a boost. Even within the size restrictions imposed on them today, comic strips can be more than filler. Given the user-friendly, low-tech intimacy of the printed page, the newspaper comic strip still has the potential to involve and reward the reader. Unfortunately, both cartoonist and reader have gone a bit flabby over the decades.

Does it have to be that way? Perhaps, with competition from video games, CD-ROMS, special effects movies and plain, old TV, comic strips are fighting an uphill battle for attention. And, on top of that, they play out their role in the archaic print medium, soon to be relegated to the communications boneyard , according to common wisdom. Not necessarily. There may be hope yet. Just as the automobile did not replace the bicycle, the over-hyped Internet will not replace newspapers. Newspapers will simply adapt to a different purpose. "Slate", the on-line electronic magazine , recently came out with "Slate on Paper", a real newsstand magazine. Why? Because people like print. Not to mention the fact that Slate cartoonist Mark Alan Stamaty’s strip looks a lot better on paper than it does flickering on a computer screen.

Another factor contributing to the anemic state of contemporary daily comics is the propensity of newspapers to target their "product" at readers much in the way that politicians use focus groups to pander to constituents’ "needs". Daily comic strips are regularly subjected to popularity polls to determine who reads what. Too often, as a result of low numbers, an interesting or controversial strip will be dropped. Editors and publishers who lament their narrowing readership are only contributing to this trend by opting for the lowest common denominator. Not everybody has to like "Doonesbury" for it to have a valid spot on the comics (or, in many cases, the editorial) page. Is the idea of diversity only to be encouraged in other areas? Recognizing that one person’s " "Beetle Bailey " is another’s "Bizarro", can only be healthy for the survival of the species.

Non-mainstream comics could actually help to bring back those demographically treasured under forty-somethings, who now flip channels the way they used to flip newspaper pages. Of course, compelling, regularly published comics on newsprint do exist. For the most part, though, they’re found in the pages of weekly, not daily newspapers. Strips like "Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer" (Ben Katchor), "Troubletown" (Lloyd Dangle), "Story Minute" (Carol Lay),"Life in Hell" (Matt Groening) and "Red Meat" (Max Cannon) are all noteworthy examples.There was a time about ten years ago when it seemed possible strips like these could find their way into daily syndication. But, through a combination of syndicate timidity and cartoonists’ lack of faith in the flexibility of the daily strip world, not much happened.

There are a few lively, well-crafted dailies bobbing bravely in a sea of blandness. "Mutts" (Patrick McDonnell) stands out, as does the venerable "Doonesbury’ (Garry Trudeau) and the occasionally adventurous "Bizarro" (Dan Piraro).These few, and a few others, are, however , exceptions to the rule.Can readers drifting toward brain-death from one too many "Garfields" ever be expected to enjoy the charms and subtleties of the quirky Ben Katchor? "Odie" can rest easy on the daily comics page. He won’t be seeing competition from the likes of Julius Knipl for a long, long time.

What does the future look like for the daily strip? Some, among them many comics syndicate executives, believe the brave new world of comics will have an exclusive on-line address. Forget about the chore of having to scan the comics line-up for your favorite strip (and, perhaps, not finding it there). Just click on "Peanuts" with your trusty mouse and catch up on Charlie Brown’s latest trials and tribulations. But what will be lost in that rosy scenario is what’s already disappearing as digital supplants analog; namely, the gestalt of the comics pages, the fun of thirty or so different (one would hope) art styles vying for the viewer’s attention.In the best of all possible daily strip worlds, it would be a genuine kick to see "Life in Hell"s Akhbar and Jeff give Spiderman a run for his money.

Fuck the NRA (ulysses), Tuesday, 1 October 2019 03:31 (two weeks ago) link

This is kind of off-topic — but I remember when Mike Judge (who, unlike Adams, seems like an OK guy and who has done stuff I really like) made that movie Extract, he talked a lot in interviews (like this one) about how that movie was kind of a “bookend” to Office Space, sympathetic to “management’s” p.o.v. this time, as he’s been on both sides:

...suddenly, with Beavis and Butt-Head, I had thirty to as many as ninety people, at one point, working for me. And you know, seeing it from the other side, I suddenly became really sympathetic to the bosses. But to me, I don’t get any pleasure out of telling people what to do. But what I do like is seeing a big project through, and steering the ship and all that. And being the boss just kind of goes with the territory: that you sometimes have to tell people to do what they don’t want to do. But, you know, the bosses in Office Space are the types, the mid-management-types, that actually get off on the power of having people underneath them. [quiet laugh] They’re not really about the satisfaction of creating something, or manufacturing something.

#YABASIC (morrisp), Tuesday, 1 October 2019 03:46 (two weeks ago) link

In other words, I do think it’s possible for a single artiste to work both sides of the fence satirically — but it’s gotta be better than “They are all dumb.”

(Now, Extract isn’t necessarily as good a movie as Office Space, but I don’t think that’s a factor of its specific workplace pov.)

#YABASIC (morrisp), Tuesday, 1 October 2019 03:54 (two weeks ago) link

xxp it's kind of wild that in 1996, Berkeley Breathed had recently quit (now back, regardless of whether the return is as good), Nancy wasn't even mentioned because the long-running franchise was in a rut, and web comics were yet to really become a thing

The comparison with Cathy is interesting, in that Guisewite's strip never made sense to me until later in life when I realized that for its target audience, Cathy is real. There's a long-running anxiety under the humor that makes it relatable. The long-running undercurrent under Dilbert, once you get past the topical cubicle jokes and riffing on dumb managers, is loathing, imo.

mh, Tuesday, 1 October 2019 13:57 (two weeks ago) link

the whole idea presented in dilbert is that there are a lot of stupid people who can be easily manipulated to a ridiculous degree. i think he likes trump because trump's success could be taken as a demonstration that dilbert isn't satire.

One of the things that bothered me about his early books was that he seemed to think that manipulating dumb people was something to be proud of. I think that's what surprises so many people about his (in retrospect, not so sudden) turn; they didn't get that Dilbert wasn't really supposed to be a satire. He gets *some* stuff right about Trump - he knows that emotions carry more weight than facts, he's good at sloganeering and name-calling, and he's really good at drawing attention to himself. The part where he breaks from everyone else is the idea that these are actually *virtuous* qualities because they fall into this weird umbrella of "persuasion" which means he can actually accomplish more than a mere mortal. And this is where the massive cognitive dissonance sets in - Trump hasn't really accomplished anything you could point to as "good for America" - his legacy will be the kiddie concentration camps, the refusal to act on climate science, the tax cuts for the rich, the rapist Supreme Court judge, and the many, many crimes committed. He's not popular, and he couldn't get more votes than Hillary Clinton, the least popular Democratic nominee ever. So Adams spends his days spinning his wheels, championing non-existent accomplishments, explaining how his many many many missteps are all part of some brilliant long game, coming up with theories as to why his approval numbers are misleading, and basically blaming everything on the media for telling it like it is.

I don’t think he was self-aware per se, he easily spoofed management junk that’s often received knowledge when there’s no understanding *why* management would do those things.

True, but something definitely happened to him between Dilbert's 90s heyday and now. Every month or so he says something incredibly dumb on Twitter and spends days defending himself, and inevitably someone will post an old Dilbert strip mocking the very concept that Adams is proposing. I still think some of the 90s strips are very well-written; that doesn't mean much in the world of newspaper comics and his sense of humor doesn't really translate well to anything else but he at least understood the mechanics of a joke back then. When I see recent Dilberts I see someone pointing in the general direction of a joke but doesn't have the cleverness to pull it off. He doesn't get irony anymore. He doesn't understand why using the Pointy-Haired Boss as the "voice of reason" defeats what many thought was the point of the whole strip.

frogbs, Tuesday, 1 October 2019 13:58 (two weeks ago) link

xp I'm also cackling at the idea that Red Meat would ever become a newspaper daily. Maybe in the world where OK Soda is still available?

frogbs, I'd agree that he doesn't get what made earlier strips funny. Dilbert's point seemed to be that a lot of work is worthless, and the only useful things are accomplished when workers subvert or work around management in pursuit of goals. The lesson he's picked up in the long term seems to be that management's role is to cause chaos and ensure this unstable environment because workers are only useful when their employment and goals are in a constant state of managerial chaos and uncertainty.

mh, Tuesday, 1 October 2019 14:02 (two weeks ago) link

by that metric, Trump is the best president for sure. it's uncertainty and rousing the chaos all day

mh, Tuesday, 1 October 2019 14:05 (two weeks ago) link

also worth noting that he flirts a lot with philosophical theories like "what if YOU are the only person in this universe and the secret to life is bending it to your will?" which may explain why he seems to champion hedonism at the expense of others

frogbs, Tuesday, 1 October 2019 14:08 (two weeks ago) link

constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown because he thinks problems in reality are because time isn't linear and he's personally responsible for bending the universe

mh, Tuesday, 1 October 2019 14:10 (two weeks ago) link

I'm also cackling at the idea that Red Meat would ever become a newspaper daily. Maybe in the world where OK Soda is still available?

"Ten years ago" seems exactly right though - Blue Velvet meant Angriest Dog got picked up across the country, the first two Life In Hell collections came out, and Zippy itself became a mainstream daily. Plus the first giant Bloom County treasury was blowing through print runs, and Bill The Cat dolls were in chain stores and tat shops alike. The culture was absolutely ready for more weirdo strips in regular newspapers, and if they'd been given it then, Red Meat might have found a broad home by 1995, when OK Soda was still available.

now let's play big lunch take little lunch (sic), Tuesday, 1 October 2019 20:42 (two weeks ago) link

We got Foxtrot

mh, Tuesday, 1 October 2019 21:29 (two weeks ago) link

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