After last year’s birthday-busting anniversary celebration of Scott Adams’ Dilbert in Dilbert Turns 30 you have to wonder where things will go for the world’s most popular comic strip about office shenanigans and interpersonal stupidity quotients. After all, with the rise of the coronavirus pandemic we’ve seen an enormous switch from office droning to work-at-home schemes, with mixed results, and it’s hard to see how companies eager to squeeze every last profit would even consider going back to the way things were. Welcome to the “new normal”; it’s just like the “old normal”, just dumber.
I suppose Dilbert, like the rest of us, will simply adapt and sally forth as it always has, modifying when necessary and confident that humanity – and middle-management drones – will supply enough inanity to supply another 30 years of material at minimum. Bet on it.
Despite having the heralded anniversary date in the title, Dilbert Turns 30 didn’t contain the strip’s 30th Anniversary Strip (April 16th, 1989), but it’s included in Eagerly Awaiting Your Irrational Response, the 48th Dilbert collection of daily and Sunday funnies you’ve likely seen printed and hung around cubicles around the world – provided your company still uses printers and forces cubicles on its worker drones. In this collection are comics that originally ran from February 25th, 2019 through January 12th, 2020, all colorized and ready for consumption.
With a full three decades under its belt, it can’t be overstated just how much Dilbert (the comic strip) has changed since its inception, evolving both artistically and in execution. One year ago we spoke with Adams about some of these changes, including exchanging the character’s iconic “upflipped” tie for a generic lanyard, which he confirmed. It happened so transparently and slyly that few took notice. If Charles Schulz had ever changed Charlie Brown’s zigzag yellow shirt there would’ve been riots in the streets.
Some things change, others stay the same, and in this collection of Dilbert comics it’s mostly the same. Interoffice turmoil, brain-rotting management, endless meetings that go nowhere, the futility of arguing online, unverified sources, fake news, and how quickly raising the bar can lead to a downward spiral. It’s just another day at the soul-sucking office; wash, rinse, repeat. It never ends.
Where are the office trolls? Or the marketing demons? Generally, it’s mostly status quo with regular ‘ole humans doing their best (or worst), though it was nice to see the World’s Smartest Garbageman make a brief appearance, even if it was only to bring the 4th wall of reality crashing down on our heads. What if we’re only just a simulation created by superior beings for their amusement? The self-aware office robot also shows up briefly, and that’s only to make the “preferred gender” discussion more confusing (and disgusting).
The best, and possible only, new character is the Toxic Employee, a gross, amorphous blob-like creature who’ll report you to HR if you dare utter an incorrect word. It would almost be funny if we all didn’t know creatures like him. Or her. Who knows anymore. Just don’t assume its gender (that’ll get you reported, too).
CNN’s Jake Tapper returned to illustrate a series of strips in late 2019 to benefit the non-profit Homes for our Troops, which were sold at auction, and those strips are included here as well. I can’t say I’m a fan of Tapper’s unique *ahem* take on Adams’ familiar style, but he’s got a solid history with cartooning and it’s always good to see cartooning as a force for good.
Perhaps most obvious is how Elbonia, the fictional country that could be every despotic nation and third-world hellhole when it’s convenient, is now the de facto stand in for China. Longtime followers of Adams will know he tragically lost his stepson to a fentanyl overdose back in 2018, a drug no doubt imported from a largely unregulated, unaccountable China. His rage on the subject is legendary, and there’s at least one strip included here (11/24/2019) where he’s able to vent some of that.
I almost forgot to mention what else is missing from this collection, and that’s the personal written introduction from Adams. I could be wrong, but Eagerly Awaiting Your Irrational Response could be the first-ever Dilbert book without a greeting from the creator, which somehow doesn’t feel right. For the most part, however, you’re still getting a healthy helping of colorized Dilbert comics, packaged for both easy reading and even easier cataloging among your 47 other similarly-shaped paper editions. Not counting the double-dipping treasuries, that’s a lot of comics. Best get reading.