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Dilbert
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Dilbert

Dilbert is a satirical comic strip about a micro-managed office environment featuring the eponymous software engineer. The strip, created by Scott Adams, has run in newspapers since April 16, 1989, spawning several books, an animated television series, and numerous tie-in products ranging from stuffed dolls to ice cream.

Table of contents
1 Themes
2 Characters
3 Dilbert in popular culture
4 Spin-offs
5 Media
6 See also
7 External links

Themes

The comic strip originally revolved around the engineer Dilbert and his pet dog Dogbert, with most action taking place in their home. Many plots revolved around Dilbert's engineer nature or his bizarre inventions. These alternated with plots based on Dogbert's megalomaniacal ambitions. Later on the location of most of the action moved to Dilbert's workplace at a large technology company, and the strip started to tackle IT 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.

Dilbert portrays corporate culture as a Kafkaesqueesque 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. Much of the humor emerges as we see the characters making obviously ridiculous decisions that are natural reactions to mismanagement.

Themes explored include:

Characters

Dilbert

Dilbert is the main character in the comic strip. He graduated from MIT and works in engineering. Although his ideas are typically sensible and revolutionary, they are seldom carried out because of his powerlessness. Dilbert usually has no visible mouth or eyes, and in all but the early strips his tie usually points upward. While Scott Adams has offered no definitive explanation for this, he has explained the tie at least as a further example of Dilbert's lack of power over his environment. In more recent strips the mouth has been drawn on occasion when Dilbert is eating, surprised, or nervous, and in the TV series his mouth is drawn when he is speaking. Many of the other -berts look very much like he does, with glasses and no mouth (with the exception of Ratbert).

Dogbert

Although he is Dilbert's pet dog, Dogbert rarely acts like a pet. One of his dreams is to conquer the world and enslave all humans, and he has achieved this status several times through methods such as hypnosis. However, he often quickly relinquishes his post due to boredom or his conviction that people do not deserve to have him as leader.

Dogbert has made many ventures into the business world, often as a consultant who hypes new trends to the Pointy-Haired Boss. In these positions, he typically takes advantage of stupidity and gullibility.

Ratbert

Ratbert (or to his scientist master in the early scripts, XP-39C2) was not originally intended to be a regular, instead being part of a series of strips featuring a lab scientist's cruel experiments. Ratbert soon realized that he was the subject of a hideous macaroni-and-cheese experiment (the scientist made him eat huge amounts of it; he writes in his notebook that it causes paranoia in rats) and escaped, eventually finding a refuge in Dilbert's house. He was not initially accepted by the residents, especially Dilbert, who was highly prejudiced against rats. However, he finally allowed Ratbert to become a permanent member of the household.

As a simple rat, and having been specially bred to be susceptible to peer pressure, Ratbert is very gullible and innocent. Sometimes, his actions can become quite annoying. Like Dogbert, he has made inroads into business, once working as an intern and applying for a position in marketing.

Pointy-Haired Boss

The Pointy-Haired Boss (often abbreviated to just PHB) is notable for his gross incompetence and unawareness of his surroundings, yet still retaining power in the workplace. In the Dilbert TV series, and occasionally in the comic strips, he is notably smarter and more actively evil.

The Pointy-Haired Boss is mostly bald, except for sideburns that rise up in points. Dilbert creator Scott Adams has admitted that the Boss's odd hair was inspired by devil horns.

The term "pointy-haired boss", or "PHB", has become a generic term for managers who do not understand what their employees do for a living.

Catbert

As with Ratbert, Catbert was not a planned regular. In this case, he was introduced for a series involving an attack on Ratbert, who was acting as an optimist. When the two got home, Catbert rebooted Dilbert's computer. Dogbert eventually forced him to leave.

Readers of Dilbert enjoyed the character so much that they spontaneously named him "Catbert," encouraging Adams to bring him back. He was reintroduced as the human resources manager, and in a parody of typical cat behavior he "plays" with his "prey", coming up with sadistic and illogical policies to enforce on the employees. He often works in tandem with the PHB.

Wally

Inspired by a co-worker of Adams' at Pacific Bell, Wally is a lazy employee always trying to work the system, although he is very capable at his occupation. His idea of "work" is simply carrying around a coffee cup due to his obsession with the beverage, which he drinks hundreds of cups of a day. He also has a notable lack of hygiene. Wally-types were the most common bit characters in the early years.

Alice

Alice is a hard-working engineer who works with Dilbert. She has copious curly hair, which transformed into a large and distinctive triangular hairstyle when the character became a regular.

Alice is never properly rewarded for her hard work. She stands in contrast with Wally, who does no work and is rewarded exactly the same. Alice also suffers all the problems of being a female engineer. She has no tolerance for the discrimination she experiences.

Alice has a short temper. Her anger is frequently expressed in physical violence, and she is known for her "fist of death".

Asok

Asok (pronounced "ah-shook") is a brilliant IIT graduate who is an intern in Dilbert's company. Asok often solves difficult problems in a few keystrokes but he is still naive to the cruelties and politics of the business world. As a result he often ends up being the scapegoat for his coworkers' antics.

As of 2004, Asok has completed 5 years as an intern and performed the functions of a senior engineer, but has been denied permission as a regular employee.

Asok is also denied the usage of company resources for his work.

The best part about Asok is that he is trained to sleep only on national holidays - a trait that he carried over from the his alma mater IIT.

Phil, the Prince of Insufficient Light

Phil serves as ruler of heck and punishes people for minor infractions not worthy of damnation, such as using copier paper for the printer or stealing a chair from another cubicle, both of which Dilbert has done. He also serves as manager of limbo, which in the strip is a subsidiary of heck. He is the PHB's younger brother, though this is rarely mentioned.

Originally, Scott Adams planned to have Satan become a regular member of the Dilbert cast, but eventually softened the character after suggestions by his editor. Instead of a pitchfork, he carries a spoon, and has a tail with a rounded end (although Adams has "forgotten" about this once or twice). Instead of damning people to eternal flames he darns them, as in "I darn you to heck". On occasion, he also wears a cape.

Elbonians

The Elbonians are the residents of a fictional fourth-world country that appears in the comic strip, named Elbonia. Most of the nation is covered with waist-deep mud, although the coloration occasionally leads people to believe that it is snow. Adams created the country in order to allow for a "foreign" aspect in Dilbert without using any specific location, in order to avoid a backlash by readers who may be from that region.

Many of the Elbonians have beards (even the females), tall hats, and mittens. Their technology is very outdated, which includes phones that are actually cans attached to the ends of strings. Elbonians are commonly portrayed as idiotic and backward. For many years the country has been mired in a civil war between the left and right-handed Elbonians.

A spinoff comic strip called Plop follows the life of an Elbonian with no hair, which is a rare trait.

Other characters

Dilbert in popular culture

The popularity of the comic strip within the corporate sector has led to the character of Dilbert being used in many business magazines and publications (he has made several appearances on the cover of
Fortune).

The Toronto Star newspaper in Toronto runs the comic in the business section, separate from other comics (which have their own page outside business section).

It is the basis of a popular (though unproven) theory suggesting that the morale at a given workplace is the inverse of the number of Dilbert comic strips taped and posted at various desks and cubicles. A larger number of Dilbert comic strips reflects general frustration with the bureaucratic administration at the company; whereas a generally satisfied workforce sees less identification with the character of Dilbert, and consequently fewer Dilbert comic strips are displayed as mementoes. An office with no Dilbert strips, however, does not necessarily have high morale — rather, it may indicate that a truly fascist administration has prohibited employees from displaying them.

The adoption of Dilbert as an icon for corporate America has led to Scott Adams being criticized in some circles for allowing his creation to be adopted and embraced by the very same corporate world he was rebelling against when he created the strip.

Spin-offs

Language

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 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 "cow-orker".

Management

In 1997 Scott Adams masqueraded as a management consultant to Logitech executives, 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 statements 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".

In 2001 Adams collaborated with IDEO, a design company, to come up with the "perfect cubicle". This was fitting 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.

Media

Compilations of newspaper strips

Special compilations

Business books

Animated series episode guide

Name followed by the production number.

Season 1 Season 2
  1. The Name - 101
  2. The Competition - 103
  3. The Prototype - 102
  4. The Takeover - 106
  5. Testing - 104
  6. Elbonian Trip - 105
  7. Tower of Babel - 108
  8. Little People - 107
  9. The Knack - 110
  10. Y2K - 109
  11. Charity - 111
  12. Holiday - 112
  13. The Infomercial - 113
  1. The Gift - 201
  2. The Shroud of Wally - 202
  3. Art - 203
  4. The Trial - 204
  5. The Dupey - 205
  6. The Security Guard - 206
  7. The Merger - 207
  8. Hunger - 208
  9. The Off-Site Meeting - 209
  10. The Assistant - 210
  11. The Return - 211
  12. The Virtual Employee - 212
  13. Pregnancy - part 1 - 213
  14. The Delivery - part 2 of Pregnancy - 214
  15. Company Picnic - 215
  16. The Fact - 216
  17. Ethics - 217

See also

External links