There’s a general path when it comes to succeeding in the world of syndicated comics. The first would be to create and maintain a generic comic strip, one filled with predictable, lazy gags that are as milquetoast as they are inoffensively bland. The second is to create something good. The latter, of course, is never easy, as journeys of value seldom are. Unfortunately, its a choice that often leaves its cartoonists burnt out, both creatively and commercially, in a relatively short span of time.
And then there’s Dilbert, which hits the quarter-century mark this year with no signs of slowing down. Given how tightly Scott Adams has connected his strip into the digital world of networks, mobile, and easily the best website in the business (of comic strips) I’m just grateful they’re still publishing to an ‘old’ medium like these square-shaped collections, one of the few pleasures us comic collectors have in this digital age.
I Sense a Coldness to Your Mentoring, the 41st Dilbert collection, showcases just how smart, risky, and as unabashedly politically-incorrect the strip remains after all these years. Just as with his last collection Adams’ latest keeps this party moving forward with a nice cross-section of daily and Sunday strips that originally ran in both newspapers and online between 10/2012 through 7/2013.
Adams keeps his Dilbert train running at full capacity here, maintaining the strip’s famous tradition of constantly upgrading the basic premise with today’s hottest tech and gadgetry against the time honored idiocy of office politics – or just plain idiots. Tablets and smartphones abound, as do a never-ending stream of zeitgeist-shattering puns and cynical observations about mankind’s ultimate futility that help keep this veteran strip anything but stale. Oh, and there’s plenty of Wally to go around.
Far and away the best new character is the Teletubbie-like Robot brought in to replace Wally, only to end up mimicking his sheer laziness and realizing an interest in world domination after learning of the ‘Technological Singularity’. Let’s hope he sticks around awhile.
Other goodies include the Sadistic Monster charged with writing the income tax code, or the pig-nosed freak who’s really The Ugly Truth (“Most people just ignore me.”) Sadly, there’s still no Bob the Dinosaur and the lack of Dogbert, Ratbert and Garbage Man strips is pretty shocking.
As I’ve come to suspect from these recent Dilbert collections all of the strips contained here are in color. Not only does this take away from the specialness of the Sundays, but the combination of bad color schemes and cheap quality paper is a recipe for disaster. Now I’ve got no beef with colors, or even coloring black ‘n white dailies, but the colors used here are truly hideous, an odd mix of purplish, greenish gradients, making the artwork difficult to see at times. This is especially true for anything rendered in fine black lines. Its not like Scott Adam’s artwork is that complex, but his simple linework becomes unrecognizable blobs when saturated in such ugly hues. Yuck.
On the plus side, each strip comes with full annotation, meaning you’ll know exactly when it was originally published for easy referencing. Why other comics don’t put such a helpful piece of info in their collections I’ll never know, but its definitely something all comic collections should have as default.