The artist behind the graphic novel adaptation of the iTunes Terms and Conditions walks us through how he did it.
The iTunes Terms and Conditions: Most of us have seen it. But not many of us have actually read it.
But now, thanks to Robert Sikoryak’s comics-based adaptation of the infamously long (and drier than a desert in summer) text, readers can have a better shot of doing so — especially as the artist has paired various lines of text with panels and pages from pre-existing comics. Thus creating a more digestible guide not only to what users are agreeing to when they click their acceptance of the Apple Terms and Conditions, but also the range and breadth of comics currently out there for readers to peruse.
With the graphic novel now in stores and confusing readers upon first glance, EW caught up with the Sikoryak to ask him just how one goes about adapting a notoriously non-narrative piece of text.
Step One: Get inspired
This isn’t Sikoryak’s first time adapting writing that a lot of people shy away from. He’s also brought to life Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment in the style of an early Batman comic, and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot as a Beavis and Butt-Head comic, something that required him to “boil down” longer texts into a couple of pages.
“I wanted to mix up my whole approach to making comics,” explains Sikoryak. “As a joke, it just popped in my head that terms and conditions of iTunes are famously really long. And everyone feels like they should read them, but they haven’t read them — which is kind of like a lot of great novels.”
Step 2: Decide on an art style(s)
With the finished “story” already in place, Sikoryak had to settle on an art style — in this case, he decided that it would be more fun to do a range of different styles, with each page referencing a specific page in a different, pre-existing comic.
“I thought it would be fun and keep it interesting for people to look at,” says Sikoryak of his process. “This was a great opportunity for me to try out new styles and there were a lot of younger cartoonists I never got to parody before. I was trying to make it as encyclopedic as possible.”
As a result, Terms and Conditions features references to some of Sikoryak’s own favorites, Charles Schultz (Peanuts) and Jack Kirby (Marvel Comics), as well as more international fare like Herge’s Tintin and Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball Z. Also making an appearance are pages from recent comics and cartoonists like Kate Beaton (Hark, a vagrant), Fiona Staples (Saga), and Allie Brosh (Hyperbole and a Half).
But readers shouldn’t worry about not getting references. Not only has Sikoryak included an index at the back, highlighting where each page came from, but he also made an effort to make the graphic novel as accessible to readers as possible.
“ I tried really hard to get in as many references as I could, as a way to let people who maybe aren’t that familiar with every comic to at least find one comic they might recognize to sort of hook them in, ” says Sikoryak. “I always try to work appealing to a lot of different audiences.”
Step 3: Make it work
Knowing what comics he wanted to reference is only half the work as Sikoryak then had to figure out how to make the text-heavy Terms and Conditions fit with his intended art.
“One of the ways I chose pages was I needed a recurring character who was in consecutive panels,” says Sikoryak. “The way I’ve structured it is I’ve drawn the main character in the uniform that Steve Jobs would wear. So I needed a character in consecutive panels, who could function as almost the narrator, even though he doesn’t speak in almost every page.”
In this way, Scott McCloud’s representation of himself in Understanding Comics becomes a mini version of Jobs, as does Wonder Woman’s companion Steve Trevor in her page. It’s also why he couldn’t include Art Spiegelman’s famous Maus.
“In his case, because he actually characterizes all of the people as different animals, I was trying to find an animal who was a dog, [as] that was the representation [he] used for Americans,” explains Sikoryak. “But I couldn’t find a page that had a lot of dogs in it. That was one of the strange things that came into.”
Step 4: Adapt to any setbacks
Over the course of his adaptation, Sikoryak had to deal with one unexpected plot twist: Apple updated their iTunes Terms and Conditions. While this caused him to have to expand the number of pages he was working with, it also gave him some insight into the text itself.
“I noticed in the updates they would tweak the language in it to make it a little more coherent or a little bit clearer,” says Sikoryak. “It’s very in-depth. They don’t leave anything out. The language in which it is written is very ornate, and sentences can go on for a long, long time. Even across panels sometimes in my version.”
He also got a sense of how thorough the company was when he hit a line prohibiting users from the product for the “development, design, manufacture or production of nuclear, missile, or chemical, or biological weapons.”
“That’s how deep the lawyers went with this document,” observes Sikoyrak. “They really made sure to cover all the bases. I wouldn’t think that that would have been necessary to include, but I guess the lawyers felt that just for the sake of clarity, you should know.”
Step 5: Look for his next inspiration
With Terms and Conditions out in the world now, delighting and baffling (some) readers, Sikoryak will be getting back to his literary adaptations. Next up, is Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. But he says he wouldn’t rule out doing an adaptation of other Terms and Conditions. It would just have to be special in the way this project was.
“iTunes conditions are very iconic in a way. They’re famous for being so long,” says Sikoryak. “I also got lucky I got to use Steve jobs as the founder of Apple, I was able to use his outfit as a linking device between the pages. So if I were to do something else like this I would really have to find the right pieces to put together. I hope it inspires other people to do stuff like this.”
And has Apple contacted him about this? Sikoryak says he hasn’t heard back from them.
“I hope the receive it in the spirit of which it is intended,” says Sikoryak. “I’m acknowledging their ubiquitous-ness. The iTunes store has changed so much about the way people consume entertainment. I’m a big fan of Apple products. I don’t know if I’d have done this for a company I didn’t like.”
Terms and Conditions is currently in bookstores and available for purchase.