Philly’s own Jake Tapper served as a guest illustrator this week for comic strip Dilbert, and he and creator Scott Adams will be auctioning off the series’ original drawings to benefit Homes for our Troops, a charity that builds houses for injured veterans.
The auction will take place Nov. 7-17 on eBay.
Despite the guest partnership’s charitable element, some fans — of both Dilbert and Tapper — weren’t happy.
Tapper shared his first take on Dilbert via Twitter on Monday, writing that Adams asked him to serve as a guest cartoonist throughout the week. The strip, drawn in Tapper’s more detailed style, showed protagonist Dilbert in a conversation with his supervisor, who is known only as Pointy-Haired Boss.
“Hypothetically, how would you know if I were dumber than you or much smarter?” Dilbert asks in the strip. “Because in both cases I would make choices that you wouldn’t understand. Wouldn’t it look the same to you?”
Innocuous enough, but on the official Dilbert site, which includes a comments section for each comic strip, some fans took issues with the style.
“Dilbert looks like the result of a transporter accident involving Scott Adams and Bart Simpson,” one commenter wrote. Another commenter indicated that they needed “three more cups of coffee just to burn my eyes so I can forget this drawing.” A third wrote that they were “not drunk enough to look at this.”
New York Magazine called it “horrifying.”
On Twitter, however, some of Tapper’s followers took more issue with his agreement to work with Adams, who has been no stranger to controversy over the years thanks to past posts to his blog, Scott Adams Says, where he has offered contentious takes on everything from climate change to the 2016 presidential election.
Most recently, he caused a furor online after reportedly promoting his app, WhenHub, in connection with the July mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California. He reportedly later apologized to victims of the shooting.
“I like it, but working w/Scott Adams strikes me as questionable,” one Twitter user wrote.
Adams responded to criticism from Twitter users in a video, saying that the pair are “operating on just trying to be useful.”
“Apparently there’s no such thing as doing a good thing in public anymore,” Adams said in the clip. “There are very broken people out there who are not veterans who are happy to criticize anybody trying to do anything positive.”
This, however, is not the first time Tapper and Adams have worked together. In 2016, Tapper served as guest illustrator for the strip, the originals for which were also auctioned off to benefit Homes for our Troops. In the end, those originals, Tapper said in an email to the Inquirer, went for about $10,000, “all of which went to build homes for severely wounded veterans.”
As CNN reported that year, Tapper has even referred to himself as a “failed cartoonist,” and has also done illustrations for publications including the Los Angeles Times the Washington Post, and in the early 1990s, the Inquirer.
Tapper’s interest in cartooning goes back at least to his early days in the Philly area. In fact, when he was in high school at the Akiba Hebrew Academy, now known as the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, he pranked his classmates with a dirty drawing that when folded together revealed a penis, à la Mad magazine. According to a report from the Forward, Tapper was briefly suspended and received 75 hours of community service in connection with the stunt.
“I wanted to be a cartoonist,” he told The Hill in 2016. “But I never figured out a way to make that pay the bills.”
Tapper, however, did figure out how to become a lauded anchor for CNN, which he joined in 2013. Next month, he will return to Philadelphia to be honored with Temple University’s Lew Klein Excellence in Media Award, which is considered the school’s most prestigious media award. Past honorees include Tina Fey, Whoopi Goldberg, and Charles Barkley.