Some will question the value of ‘reviewing’ a collection of previously printed/distributed comic strips that most have already seen, shared, and probably discarded in countless office spaces and cubicle prisons around the world. When it comes to Scott Adams’ Dilbert, closing in on its third decade, the fun doesn’t have to stop with thumbtacked hangers and emailed favorites when there’s plenty of value in double-dipping comic strip collections!
And speaking of value, Go Add Value Somewhere Else is the forty-second collection of the syndicated strip, the year’s second collection after I Sense a Coldness to Your Mentoring and the first with a surprise for longtime collectors (more on this later). Technically, that means a year’s worth of daily and Sunday strips that originally ran in newspaper and online form between 7/2013 through 7/2014.
And yes, this really is book number 42; an accomplishment that another famous Adams – namely Douglas – would be proud of. And yes, I just made the reference you think I did. How could I possibly resist?
It sounds a little underwhelming to say that the strips themselves are pretty status quo, which means you’ll get the usual jabs at tech fads, sheer stupidity, and the banalities of office life by way of Dilbert, Wally, Alice, and scourge of the ever-clueless Pointy Haired Boss. Theirs is a world ruled by apathy, stupidity, and crass combos of the two. Oh, and by Dogbert – can’t forget the Ruling Class.
Standout series include a hormonally-enhanced Dilbert, clueless interviewees, an ex-Google engineer who’s evolved into pure energy (yet not above Wally’s apathy), and even a crass sexual orientation switch of a major character – bet you’ll never guess who.
A nice addition to the cast since the last collection has been the new office robot, which looks like a freaky Telletubby crossed with a Cyberman. I was worried Adams would make him (her?) a casual face like Ted or Topper, but thankfully he (she?) pops up often to steal the show. Interestingly, the robot serves as a window into the silent world of technology. From suicidal microwaves to the diminishing role of human intelligence, we finally get a peek into the tools and tech that’s often the bane of the Dilbert denizens’ existence.
One such strip showing the new office robot (a fast favorite, by the way) getting an upgrade to accept “organic waste material” may be the signal most subversive gag Adams’ ever printed, and I love it.
Now here comes the controversial bit, if anything about a collection of funnies can be considered controversial these days (and some have tried). Go Add Value Somewhere Else ships in hardcover, complete with a Dilbertized dust jacket. It also ships with a slightly higher price, but at $19.99 it’s not prohibitive enough to cause that big a stink.
One thing that worries me is whether the new hardcover format will affect the playfulness of future collections. For those in the dark, Dilbert collections of the past have sometimes included fun extras, like pop-out paper replicas of favorite office dwellers, stickers, and other fun oddities that required readers to pop out, peel, and tear from perforated lines to liberate from the book’s pages.
Believe it or not, hardcover comic collections used to be a thing years and years ago when publishers thought there was a market for such things. But time – and slipping profit margins – gave way to cheaper productions and quality control. Not that collections like these need more than generic 20 lb paper stock when black and white ruled the roost, but with Dilbert, colorized strips printed on sub-par paper comes at a price in readability. I’ve ranted about this before and I’ll rant again here: low-quality resolutions on equally low-quality paper means diminished artwork that’s difficult to look at.
Color schemes don’t mash up correctly, resulting in low visibility and Adam’s clean black lines are often lost in the mix. Take a look at them online (go ahead, I’ll wait). See how clean and precise the black lines and miscellaneous artwork is? See how it doesn’t look like Gaussian blobs with word bubbles? Yes, I’m aware the dailies have been printed in color for some time, but I suspect this has more to do with their being distributed on the web than on newspaper stock.
Again, I’m probably in the minority, but I wish there was an alternative version that reproduced the daily strips in glorious black ‘n white. But if we’re going to be stuck with color strips in book form a better paper quality certainly wouldn’t hurt.