«Apple’s “Terms and Conditions” So I turned them into a comic strip»

There are at least two things that many classics of literature and the Terms and Conditions of the iTunes Store have in common: they are long texts, which everyone knows but hardly anyone has ever read. Both inspired the cartoonist Robert Sikoryak, who in 2009 published the collection of comics with the Canadian publishing house Drawn and Quarterly Masterpiece Comicsa series of novel parodies such as The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde e The stranger by Albert Camus.

The American artist has recently returned to bookstores (again for Drawn and Quarterly) with a work as absurd as it is brilliant, defined by many as “the graphic novel of the year”: is titled Unauthorized Adaptation – Terms and Conditions and it is the transposition into comic strips of the 20,699 words (later reduced to seven thousand) of the American edition of the contract that must be signed when making purchases through the Apple application. It took Sikoryak ten months to finish the first black and white version (initially serialized on Tumblr) and another five to retouch and color it. Each page depicts a different artist or comic book character reciting, yelling or weighing a certain passage of the Terms and Conditions, for a total of approximately one hundred sources — including Tintin, The Simpsons, Batman, X-Men, Snoopy, Dragonball Z , The Smurfs, Astro Boy, Wonder Woman, The Walking Dead, Spider-Man and Garfield.


“I tried to be as heterogeneous as possible,” explains Sikoryak to “Reading”. «There are European and Japanese artists, independent and mainstream cartoonists, those who work on paper and those on the web, cartoon characters, graphic novel authors and cartoonists». The intent, Sikoryak continues, was to make the work similar to the iTunes store itself: “vast and complex, containing – at least in appearance – everything that exists in the world”. To ensure a visual connection to the different tables, Sikoryak has characterized all the characters mentioned in the graphic novel with some details that unequivocally allude to Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple (who died in 2011): beard, eyeglasses, jeans and turtleneck black.

The cartoonist’s work, however bizarre it may appear, stems from a precise objective. “There are many examples of non-fiction comics and graphic novels now, but they are usually illustrated in a rather literal and serious way,” says Sikoryak. «In a way, I wanted to create the exact opposite. I was tempted by the challenge of making accessible a text that was not written to be illustrated – there are no characters or a plot – and which is impossible to visualize linearly. That gave me a lot of freedom.” Before coming to the final draft, Sikoryak re-read the Terms and Conditions over and over again, without finding any hidden passages that could be alarming in any way. “What struck me instead is that the elegance and beauty of the design of Apple products do not transpire at all from the text in question,” comments the cartoonist.

«Probably the Terms are so long and repetitive only because of the need to cover all the legal aspects». But in the intricacies of the Apple document, Sykoryak reveals, there are also rather astonishing paragraphs — such as the one that reads: “By using the Licensed Application you further agree not to use such products for any purpose prohibited by United States law, including, for by way of example, for the development, design, production of nuclear, missile, chemical or biological weapons”. Sikoryak’s approach (born in New Jersey in 1964, the last of three brothers with whom he shares a passion for comics) derives from the taste for parody of part of American comics and, specifically, from “Mad Magazine”, created by Harvey Kurtzman, and RAW magazine, founded by Art Spiegelman and his wife Francoise Mouly, which closed its doors in 1991.

Indeed, the parodic reinterpretation is the key to understanding most of his production – including the book The Unquotable Trump, due out in November, focuses on Donald Trump’s most offensive and shocking statements during the election campaign and after his election as president of the United States. “The great thing about comics today is that the medium is expanding in many directions, with a multitude of styles and genres,” reflects Sikoryak, who has been working as a professional cartoonist for 30 years. «Thanks to technological innovations, the tools to make them and the ways to read them are increasing dramatically. The possibilities seem limitless: I never imagined such an expansion, and I think this evolution is destined to continue for a long time».

July 5, 2017 (change July 7, 2017 | 10:59 pm)

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«Apple’s “Terms and Conditions” So I turned them into a comic strip»