Comics with Color Replace Dumped Dilbert

Dilbert is dead. Well, he’s not dead dead — …— but as far as the public-at-large, and especially newspapers, are concerned, Dilbert is deader than a doornail. 

In place of Dilbert, numerous newspapers have decided to replace Adams with creators of color — a move that’s not only symbolically important but helping diversify a field traditionally dominated by white voices. Three of these creators are Ray Billingsley, creator of Curtis; Tauhid Bondia, creator of Crabgrass; and Steenz, who took over as the artist and writer of Heart of the City in 2020. 

Brian VanHooker, at talks to three cartoonists of color about their expanded readership following the end of the syndicated Dilbert newspaper comic strip.

Comic strips are a somewhat small, closed-off field, how did you break in?

Ray Billingsley, creator of Curtis, first Black recipient of the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year in 2021: I started young — I was 12 years old when I got into the industry. It was sort of a sad thing, though. I didn’t come from the very best of families. My father was a real tyrant, and I spent a lot of time in my room just drawing because I was afraid of him.

But through drawing, it helped soften the blows of what life was like…

Tauhid Bondia, creator of Crabgrass: … I was really fortunate. If I had an “in,” it was that, before being syndicated in newspapers, I was digitally syndicated on Go Comics with a strip called A Problem Like Jamal. Shena Wolf of Andrews McMeel Universal had reached out to see if I wanted to publish that strip digitally, and when I came up with the idea for Crabgrass, I reached out to her. 

Steenz, artist and writer of Heart of the City since 2020, winner of the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics in 2019: I began working at the St. Louis publisher Lion Forge Comics in their editorial department, but I got laid off when they merged with Oni Press. I began doing freelance artwork. Then an editor named Shena Wolf found me at the Small Press Expo, and she said, “You’re incredibly organized, you’re goal-driven, and you can take an established character and update it for a new audience. How do you feel about syndicated newspaper comics?”

Of special interest are the responses to the question, “Okay, let’s get into Dilbert. What were your feelings about the strip itself before Scott Adams went so publicly off the deep end?” None of them shy away from answering.

2 thoughts on “Comics with Color Replace Dumped Dilbert

  1. I notice that two of the responses credit Shena Wolf, who recently left Universal. Shena was very good and gracious to me, as well, and seemed to have a real knack for spotting talent and hooking it up with opportunity. I think in years to come she may be regarded in the same way that people (in my perception) feel about the late Jay Kennedy at King: one of those key people in the business who made a bigger difference than anyone realized.

  2. The CRACKED article is excellent. My strip FurBabies was picked up by GoComics while they were dealing with the Dilbert business. There is a clause in my contract that I call the Dilbert clause. You can guess what it refers to. I enjoyed Dilbert years ago but hadn’t seen it until the recent kerfuffle. I have never met Scott Adams and will continue not to. I love Curtis, Herb and Jamaal, and Jump Start. I will check out Heart of the City.

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