R. Sikoryak is the talented cartoonist behind a bevy of conceptual comics that use the strictures of a particular style — say Charlie Brown and Peanuts, or Little Lulu — to retell classics of literature — say, Kafka’s Metamorphosis or Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. (Some of these were collected in Masterpiece Comics from D&Q a few years ago.)
But his latest project goes deep and wide for the tech world of 2015. His text is iTune’s Terms and Conditions, a sacred text that we all sign off on without reading. But Sikoryak has done the heavy lifting for us, and then converted it to a graphic novel starring Steve Jobs, and drawn it, one page at a time, in the style of cartoonists from throughout history.
The project is currently being serialized on Tumblr (although it was completed a while ago.) And print editions of the book, collected in two volumes and self publisher, will be available this weekend at CAB at the InkBrick tables. Or you can order them online: Part A & Part B, and Part C & Part D.
Sikoryak (who is, disclosure, a good friend of The Beat) has long been a conceptual performance artist, and has popularized the public readings of comics via his ongoing Carousel project. What makes iTunes Terms and Conditions so brilliant is how it shows the invisible, banal legal underpinnings of our tech obsessed society that seems free but really isn’t. (Maybe you scrolled through these terms and conditions but did you have any idea that they were long enough to make a 120 page graphic novel?) By writing them out and dramatizing them, we’re forced to look at the decision to surrender control of our lives that we make every time we reach for the iPhone to check email or Clash of the Clans. And by drawing every page in a different style, we confront the made-up, synthetic borrowing culture that digital copying has created.
It helps, of course, that Sikoryak is an insanely talented mimic, as these pages in various styles show.
Gaiman and Dringenberg
Brady Dale at the Observer interview Sikoryak about his process:
I started working on it late last year, I was talking to a friend about graphic novels, because everyone is making graphic novels now. I come from a tradition of comics that’s about compression, about boiling everything down. But lately most comics are about expanding into full length books. Which is great, but it’s not what I’ve ever done.
So I was thinking, “What would be an interesting thing to adapt?” And I made a joke to someone that: “I should do the iTunes agreement.” And the more I thought about it, I realized, I had to do it.
I just started posting in September. I actually wanted to draw all of it before I put it out in the world. I had no idea what the response to it would be, so I wanted it to be done. I didn’t want it to be stopped. No one said anything to me, but I didn’t want there to be any issues, in terms of legal.
R. Sikoryak has summed up our culture of appropriation and surrender of technology in a single, brilliant graphic novel.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.