12/30/1996 at 01:00 AM EST
Call the cubicle police! The comic-page herd of deskbound America is acting up again. With his short-sleeved shirt and bent necktie, Dilbert stands—or sits—for office drudges everywhere. He's the Kafka of restructuring and mission statements, the Orwell of pointless meetings and middle-management idiocy. No wonder that pungent Dilbert strips are taped by watercoolers around the land. Or that his misadventures are syndicated in some 1,200 newspapers in 36 countries. The seven-year-old strip has spawned a line of Hallmark cards, one of the Internet's busiest sites (http://www.unitedmedia.com/comics/dilbert) and 10 books, including The New York Times bestseller Dogbert's Top Secret Management Handbook. What's the draw? Says Dilbert fan Norman Augustine, CEO of Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin Corp.: "Everybody can see a little of themselves in Dilbert—even CEOs."
Dilbert's creator, Scott Adams, 39, says he conceived his powerless, potato-shaped character because "I have a grudge against idiots. Unfortunately the world is full of them, and a disproportionate number are promoted to management." Quiet and wry, Adams knows his subject. A frustrated cartoonist since boyhood, he earned an M.B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley and eventually became an applications engineer for Pacific Bell. After Dilbert—inspired partly by suggestions from fellow cubiclites—took off, Adams resigned to draw full-time. Busier than ever, he recently moved into a new Danville, Calif., home with his girlfriend, Pam Okasaki, 41, an executive at a PacBell subsidiary. Success means being besieged by businesses that want to use Dilbert as a managerial teaching tool. "I would never call myself a business guru," says the modest Adams. "The only business I'm in is making people laugh.