I have a bit of a confession to tell you.
Despite being known as a bit of a geek…I don’t like comics. They leave no impression on me, I find the vast majority little more than poorly written scrap books. Needless complicated, inbred storylines where clones, alternate realities, evil twins and god knows what else rub shoulders and expect the reader to keep up. When they try to be serious and gritty it is even worse. I have never clicked with them at all.
When I first saw Dilbert, my gut reaction was, I won’t like this. It is going to be a juvenile waste of time, yet another reason to dislike comics.
But I’ve read four books in a row, downloaded the tv series and the fifth book. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My gut doesn’t know everything clearly.
Dilbert is a white collar worker suffering through idiot managers, dementated HR staff and demotivated co-workers. Dilbert himself is well meaning enough, generally he wants to be left alone to work, but frequently suffers at the hands of the company he works for.
What I love is how well it captures the absurdity of a large corporation, the insane bureaucracy and barely controlled chaos. In my career, I have worked for two of the largest corporations in the world and it really captures the worst aspects of it. Don’t get me wrong, I think a large corporation can work well but it is so easy for it to slip into incompetence, where the organisation is so massive, it becomes an average of the thousands of people working for it, gravitating to a bland centre.
When I am having a rough day, when that cynical part of my heart wants attention, Dilbert is all the more appealing. I guarantee if you have worked at a large corporation, you will recognise the characters in it.
The writer of the comic strip, Scott Adams, has worked in this sort of environment and you can tell because it feels so authentic. This isn’t some Hollywood director writing about an evil company full of cigar chomping villains because that is how he thinks they are (having never actually worked for one). Instead, Dilbert is an accurate depiction of cubicle life.
What to learn from Dilbert about your own art?
The first few issues of Dilbert focused on his home life, like a typical sitcom, and weren’t well received. As the stories shifted more to the workplace, it really took off. Sometimes it can take a bit of time but find that unique view point only you have and bring it to life.