Comic strip gets the chop after poking fun at wokeness

Dilbert had been a fixture of US newspapers for decades until it was dropped as part of a perceived 'overhaul' of the comics

Scott Adams and his cartoon creation, Dilbert Credit: MICHAEL MACOR/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

A US cartoon strip that has amused readers since the 1980s by satirising office culture has been removed from 77 newspapers after it started poking fun at “wokeness”, according to its author.

Scott Adams, who has written and illustrated the popular "Dilbert" comic strip for decades, said media company Lee Enterprises stopped printing it this week. 

The eponymously named comic follows office worker Dilbert as he struggles to climb the corporate ladder. 

In recent years, Adams has mocked the introduction of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues in the workplace. 

The illustrator has also introduced a new character named Dave, who is black but identifies as white.

Adams said he believed Lee Enterprises' decision to axe it "was part of a larger overhaul" of comics. 

The company owns nearly 100 newspapers throughout the United States.

He told Fox News it was unclear how they chose which comics to axe. 

But he said that some newspapers had voiced concerns after receiving complaints about the content. 

The character Dave, who is named after Adams' brother, is a prankster who enjoys playing around, but is happy he has met his diversity quota, the illustrator said.

In Tuesday's strip, Dave's supervisor explains to him how to increase the company's ESG rating.

"Dave, I need to boost our company's ESG rating, so I'm promoting you to be our CTO. I know you identify as White, so that won't help our ESG scores, but would it be too much trouble to identify as gay?" the boss asks. The supervisor goes on to tell Dave to "wear better shirts". 

Adams said: "What I do is I talk about how the employees handle the situation. It's not about the goal of it. But that's enough to make people think that I must be taking sides politically".

He added: "All of the wokeness and anything that permeated from ESG… that stuff made its way into the business world, and then it became proper content for Dilbert.

"The problem is that people see that even though it's a workplace-related joke, but it's more about how they implement it."

"Dilbert" has appeared in thousands of newspapers across 57 counties in 19 languages, according to Adams' website. 

Adams says Dilbert's cancellation has hit his finances Credit: San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images

More than 20 million spin-off books and calendars have been printed.

The cancellation of the cartoon strip has dealt him a "substantial" financial blow, Adams said.

Adams said the decision on which cartoons to cancel was made "individually", but he was not sure if his focus on the topic of ESG "had anything to do with the removal of "Dilbert."

"Why they decided what was in and what was out, that's not known to anybody except them, I guess," he told Fox News.

Lee Enterprises did not immediately respond to Fox's request for comment.