‘Dilbert” Creator Adams: No Regrets on ‘Dilbertfiles’

By: Joe Strupp

After a week that has seen Dilbert creator Scott Adams take some heat for creating a computer file storage business with his character’s name — and promoting it in three comic strips — the famed cartoonist says he has no regrets.

And he adds, indirectly, people should lighten up about it.

“This is the sort of thing that kind of divides the world into those who see things in black and white and those who can see things in nuance,” he told E&P Friday, referring to comic purists who will not bend. “People who see the world in black and white will not appreciate it. But those who look at different shades of grey will.”

Adams also said that having more direct placement of products in comic strips would not be ethically wrong, but might be technically difficult given the space involved.

“The purpose of comics is to sell newspapers,” Adams said, noting a past Charles Schulz viewpoint. “A comic strip is a gross commercial product. I am never against commercialization. The only test you need to meet is entertainment – who is hurt by that?”

He stressed, however, that placing images of products or text referring to them could impede the entertainment value of a comic strip because of the space. “Because the art form is shoved into such a tiny box, there is a limited space to fit it in,” he explained. “There is no elegant way to do it.”

Citing the three strips he drew this week that mentioned his Dilbertfiles business, he admits, “I would agree they were not as funny as they could have been; I was serving too many concepts. But it served its purpose.”

The controversy began when Adams cited his new file storage business, Dilbertfiles.com, in the Jan. 19 strip as part of a storyline in which Dilbert, the longtime victim of corporate bureaucracy, launches an outside Internet business from work.

The initial mention sparked some complaints from comic purists. Adams didn’t let up, with two more mentions on Jan. 21 and Jan. 23.

“I was hoping I would get this kind of flack,” Adams said about the response. “My job is to violate people’s expectations. It gets people thinking.”

The storage business is actually operated through a company in the Netherlands who is paying for a licensing fee, Adams said.

“I had always been looking for something to associate Dilbert with,” Adams said about what was behind the related venture. “Something that people would want if they knew of it.”

Adams, who has been drawing Dilbert for 20 years, said he will not mention Dilbertfiles again in the strip, at least not soon. But for Dilbert the character, “there will be some more ramifications.”

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