Action Item

aipanelSome years ago, I was working as a technical lead at a Web design firm that had ambitions of becoming a really big success. Plans were set into motion. Hot, new talent was hired — many of them from a mysterious world known as advertising. And after a while, I started to notice that the shirts around my office seemed to be just a little bit too stuffed … the delusions just a little bit too grand.

In response, I drew a comic strip. I sketched it out in black marker on a large piece of Bristol board. Then I brought it in to work and taped it to my office door.

My coworkers loved it. For a few days, the halls were filled with snickers. And then one day, someone asked me what seemed to be a completely innocuous question: “Do you mind if I scan it in and email it to a friend of mine?”

That’s how it started. I didn’t think much of it at first. But about a week later, one of my coworkers noticed an odd phenomenon. Somebody had just emailed her a copy of my comic strip. Somebody who worked at another company. Somebody I had never met.

The virus had escaped the laboratory. And that’s how the world was introduced to The Adventures of Action Item, Professional Superhero.

Once I realized that random people were looking at the thing, I went back to the drawing board. I cleaned up the original artwork, scanned it in, re-lettered it, colored it in Photoshop in all its garish glory, and gave it a home on the Web. Today you can find Action Item at his permanent online headquarters at

I’ve received lots of requests for more Action Item over the years, as well as requests for merchandise and so on. I’ve mostly resisted these requests. Still, interest in the original strip remains strong enough that it seems inevitable that I’ll have to do something new with the character. You’ll hear about it here first.

17 thoughts on “Action Item

  1. Pingback: En Avant » Blog Archive » Action Item - Professional Superhero!

  2. Hello
    Just a short message to congratulate you for this really realistic comic.
    I got iot by mail more than one year an a half ago and i can’t stop laugh.
    Recently I revisited the cominc in the web. And I still find refecting my real days
    at job.
    The sad side is that all my meeting were and still are like this.
    Now the fashion words for Action items is: ‘I do not have band-width’.
    Everybody leaves the meetings triying to not do any thing.
    I work for a big multinational US company and based in Europe.
    All may colleagues are WW spread and teleconference is the only way to contact.
    I think that ACTION ITEM can become similar to Dilbert.
    Just for you to try. 🙂

    My congratulations again, and thank you for making me smile.

  3. I’d like to order a poster but your Cafepress “don’t order here” comment is still present. Is there any update? Any other place I can get it?


  4. Awesome work!!!! But, you’ve heard that before….
    Really though, I can’t believe you don’t want to generate more comics from this fantastic start!!! Please, please, pleeeeaaazzzzee write MORE!!!

    Gary Larson went through the same dilemma before he started full-time.

    I’m sure once you start more, the juices to your brain will flow….don’t be afraid…go for it!!

  5. What I want to know is; where the hell do I send the ‘clipped coupon’ and payment for a Decoder Ring – and do you accept American Express????

  6. I just discovered Action Item as I was researching the most overused business cliches! It is SPOT ON, to say the least! Would you mind if I included a link to it from our company website? If my boss allows it …

  7. Can only echo the reviews of the many before mine … you really should consider a “continued adventures of …” if only as a one time sequel … I haven’t stopped admiring and laughing at the relavance of your work … we all know people and organizations just like those in “Action Item” … c’mon be a sport and do it again … please 🙂

  8. Awesome work… A fine example on why Project Managers should never be superheros. Made my day.

  9. This has made me laugh for *YEARS*. I worked in the most officious, buzzword-compliant, meeting-hungry, process-centric “engineering” team of all time. I hung this up once. It did not go over well and I laughed and laughed anyway.

  10. I came across this having been printed (in B&W) and hung up next to the work multi-function device at a government dept. I loved the jargon it had- and when there was a really rough patch going on at work, I sarcastically started to use the buzzwords myself.

    The sad thing was… no one noticed. I’d be telling people they would be my point of contact, to not be the bottleneck etc and they thought I was being serious!

  11. Yeah,

    I think you could probably start a whole new cottage industry with “Action Item”. Kind of like Dilbert.

    Several years ago, I won a contract with a certain state. After several meetings, I sent my contracting officer a copy of your strip. He said Action Item was all over the state offices within 3 weeks. Got a lot of mileage with that strip and was able to cut through red tape just quoting “we need to call in Action Item”.

    How about an update on Action Item’s latest adventures? Perhaps he could become Synergistic or Overarching while Incentivizing.

  12. I just discovered your Action Item strip today and it had me laughing out loud (literally) in the middle of the night. I immediately went searching for sequels but was saddened to learn that this is the only.

    I’ve worked in a US multinational technology company as well as government departments and all those buzzwords right true in their meaninglessness and popularity (and continues to be).

    Now the more I think about how brilliant your original piece is, the more I thought: why ruin it by diluting the impact with continues Adventures of Action Item? I mean nobody would ask Leonardo da Vinci to do another Mona Lisa!

  13. I have had this saved for I believe 7+ years now? I have had it for a looooong time and it is as true today as it was when I was first introduced to Action Item Man. When things get really ridiculous, I just include Action Item and it puts it all in perspective….. Great comic

  14. I saw your comic while working at Cisco about 15 years ago. I think I still have it memorized!

    I had a similar though lesser experience myself I wanted to tell you about. While at Wang in the very early 80s I took sketches I had made in a notebook while in grad school and, using preinternet techniques, rewrote the verbiage on a Word Processor and after some photocopying hung them on my cube wall. They were comical historical aircraft that had never existed. One was the Lafayette Esca-Drill, one the Kaputsky Szot, etc. People began sending them around via interoffice mail and eventually (I found) intercorporate mail. I was in California once on a trip and somebody mentioned one of them! He even recalled some of the text. When I told him I did it in Massachusetts years earlier he of course didn’t believe me 🙂

  15. I purchased 2 Action Item posters in 2000 (I think); one for me and one for a friend (he loved it). I’ve worked for 3 different companies since I got my Action Item poster and, with each job, Action Item has been my officemate (in fact, I’m looking at it as I type). Your poster still makes me giggle, especially after meetings, plus, it’s always a treat watching coworkers’ reactions the first time they see my Action Item Professional Superhero poster. Thanks for the giggles!

  16. Hi there!

    I’ve enjoyed Adventures of Action Item for years! I first saw it when I was working at a startup called Moveline in Chicago. We shared it all around, but I’d love it if you’d put the original date it was on the web–I’m thinking it must have been 2002, 2003? It would be a great FAQ addition. Also, it’s great for people to know just how long the strip has been relevant (and in many cases how little things have changed) 🙂 Again, thanks for years of office irony!!!

  17. I originally saw this around 2000, maybe earlier, and loved it. It was a simple perfect satire of the buzz words and BS abounding in the tech world at the time, especially in more conservative environments (like Insurance). I came across it again today and am amazed that it’s just as relevant to working in tech today. There are new ideas and terms, but the underlying joke still holds up in 2016. If you ever feel like making a sequel for the modern times I would suggest maybe he has a sidekick like Agile Boy. Maybe a supervillian foe named The Scrum Master.

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