‘Dilbert’ Cartoonist Talks About NOT Retiring and Other Topics

By: E&P Staff

“Dilbert” creator Scott Adams, who does his United Media comic for more than 2,000 newspapers, offers answers to his nine most frequently asked questions today on his blog.

Here are five of those Q&As, including Adams? comments about not wanting to end “Dilbert” and his recollection of inadvertently using the name of another comic for his famous feature.

One question was about whether Adams would “retire” like Bill Watterson, Gary Larson, Berkeley Breathed, and Bill Amend did with “Calvin and Hobbes,” “The Far Side,” “Bloom County,” and the daily “FoxTrot.”

Adams replied: “Not until the public doesn?t want to see ‘Dilbert’ anymore. I don’t agonize over my work the way some artists do. Watterson, for example, did his art with a tiny paintbrush and ink. I can’t imagine how tedious that was. And he made more money in his short career than I will make in my lifetime. Retiring made sense for him. I enjoy my work. And it’s not that hard. Plus I like the attention and the pure joy of creating. …”

— How did Dilbert get his name?

“I developed Dilbert as a doodle during my corporate years. He had no name, but my coworkers thought he needed one. So I had a ‘Name the Nerd’ contest on my cubicle whiteboard. My boss at the time, Mike Goodwin, wrote down ‘Dilbert,’ and I closed the contest. We had a winner.

“After I submitted ‘Dilbert’ for syndication, Mike sheepishly told me that he realized why ‘Dilbert’ seemed such a good name for a comic. He was looking through his dad’s old military artifacts and realized he had seen a ‘Dilbert’ comic before. Since WWII, a comic called ‘Dilbert’ had been used by military pilots in the context of telling them what not to do. A ‘Dilbert’ was synonymous with a pilot who was being an idiot. It was too late for me to turn back at that point. I kept the name ‘Dilbert,’ and I never heard from the family of the original artist. Obviously they are aware of my version of ‘Dilbert.’ I appreciate that they evidently decided to not make it an issue.”

— Where do you get your ideas?

“I get most of my ideas from e-mailed suggestions to scottadams@aol.com. But I spent 16 years in corporate America and am often reminded of that experience by events in my daily life. I’m in business myself, in a fashion. So I’m dealing with conference calls and contracts and marketing and design all the time. Plus I co-own two restaurants, and those are fertile sources of human interaction too.”

— Do you do the writing or the drawing first?

“Most cartoonists do the writing first. Then they draw. I start with only a germ of the idea and start drawing first. I draw the first panel, add the words, draw the second, add the words, etc. I never know where a comic is going until it’s done. It often takes a sharp left turn from where I expected it to go.

“One advantage of my method is that after I draw a character, its expression or body language often suggests the dialog. It helps them ‘talk’ to me. For example, if I draw Wally looking more relaxed or rumpled than usual (accidentally — it can be very subtle) then I might use that to suggest different dialog than I originally imagined.?

— How far in advance do you submit comics?

“The daily comic needs to be e-mailed to my syndication company about four weeks ahead of its publication date. The Sunday strips require more processing by the newspapers (because of the color) and have to be in about eight weeks ahead of publication. Lately I’m only a week or so ahead of those deadlines. When I first started in this business, I was six months ahead of deadline. …”

Adams’ full Friday post can be seen here.

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