Scott Adams’ Dilbert may be the single-most viewed, shared, and collected comic strip on the planet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take him with you. And by take I mean collections of strips, on paper. What a concept!
Optimism Sounds Exhausting is the strip’s forty-third collection of Dilbert daily and Sunday funnies, packaged nicely into a single and highly collectible volume. Just as we saw with the last book, Go Add Value Somewhere Else, this new volume retains the same hardcover and dust-jacket standards that add durability to your growing Dilbert comic collection. It also adds a few extra bucks to the price, but if you’ve been collecting this far that won’t matter.
For those keeping score (and other nerdy things), this collection brings things up to near-current day, collecting just about a year’s worth of strips from 7/2014 through 8/2015.
One big, possibly controversial (controversial in comic strip terms, anyway), change to the strip is that Dilbert no longer wears his famous white shirt and upturned tie. Yes, at long last, he’s gone to the dark side and switched to “business dorky”, complete with collared pullovers and photo ID lanyards. I assume this was done to both update the strip’s ancient look (long overdue) and take advantage of the fact that all strips are now colorized (more on this later). Regardless, it appears to be a permanent change. Embrace (the wardrobe) change!
The actual strips are, for the most part, largely more of the same and expected, but that’s not a negative. This means more insidious spikey-haired boss stupidity, more evil Catbert, even a few surprises appearances by Bob the Dinosaur. The new robot boss even shows up for a laugh or two. One of Dilbert’s strengths as an ongoing comic strip is how slyly Scott Adams’ updates things, over time, slipping in new characters, scenarios, even costumes (see above) over time. When you’ve got nearly thirty years of continual funnies on your plate, it helps to dust every now and then.
A nice callback to older Dilbert strips (for those with longer memories) and a perfect encapsulation of the engineer mentality, Dilbert invests ‘Tube Clothes’, citing Mark Zuckerberg’s famous gray t-shirt, which in reality are little more than giant toilet paper tubes covering all the appropriate nether regions and unmentionables. Surprisingly, his online dating profile goes way up, proving there’s more to a man than his hot toilet paper tube apparel.
One of the rare longer serials has Dilbert on the run from the government and marked for death after refusing to sell them his anti-hacker app. Or the domed CEO ‘mistakenly’ becoming a slave owner (of Elbonians).
The best has the perpetually lazy Wally somehow “winning” Employee of the Year for filing (but not necessarily being granted) the most patents. This leads to him being struck by the rare tinge of ambition, which further leads to him actually – gasp – doing work by inventing something everyone could use: the two-handled coffee mug. It’s almost sweet when he, fruitlessly, pleads with colleague to suppress their engineering impulses “just this one time and let this perfect product stay perfect.” As you might imagine, things play out as well as expected, proving once again that Wally’s unique brand of optimistic pessimism is well warranted.
My single biggest gripe about these latter day Dilbert collections remain; the daily strips, all colorized in modern times, don’t look nearly as good or as clear as they would’ve in straightforward black and white. The culprit remains the cheaper paper stock, which bleeds and saturates colors in all the wrong ways, blurring fine details and making everything look like cheap newspaper print. The original strips – the ones printed online, anyway – don’t have this issue because of the advantages that being online have. Going from high-definition color displays to low-fi paper compromises quality and legibility on the journey from PPI to DPI.