30 Mar 2017

Terms and Conditions: a comic

From Nights, 7:12 pm on 30 March 2017

To use Apple’s iTunes, customers have to agree to the terms and conditions that go with it. All 29,000 words of them.

But how many people actually read them?

US comic creator Richard Sikoryak now has, after using the words to create the story for his graphic novel Terms and Conditions.

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Photo: Richard Sikoyak

Sikoryak told RNZ’s Bryan Crump he specialises in adapting literature in an ironic way for his work, taking classic texts and combining them with styles from famous magazines.

That includes recreating Crime and Punishment in the style of Batman comics.

He says he chose to work with iTunes’ terms and conditions because of how famously long they are, and that very few people have actually read them.

“Like a lot of the classic novels that I adapt, people think they ought to have read them, but they haven’t.

“People saw an exciting new product and many people agreed to it without actually reading it.”

Sikoryak has illustrated every page of the 100 page book in a different style, all based on existing comics.

They cover comics from about 1905, the earliest comics in America, to 2014.

Steve Job’s familiar outfit choice of a black turtleneck features as a visual connector between the pages.

“When you’re reading it you do sort of feel like it’s Steve Jobs, even though sometimes he looks like Snoopy, sometimes he looks like Batman, sometimes he looks like Homer Simpson. But he always has that outfit.”

Because comics are filled with drama and action, the pictures provided visual content, Sikoryak says.

“There’s times when two characters are racing in the rain and they’re about to kiss and then the woman pulls away as the man is saying Apple reserves the right to change these terms at any time.

“And that’s the text but it seems to be relating to a bigger story.”

On another page superhero Green Lantern delivers the line: ‘You also agree that you will not use these products by any purposes prohibited by the United States law, including without limitation, the development, design, manufacture or production of nuclear missile or chemical or biological weapons.”

Sikoryak has given the popular DC comics character an iTunes ring, rather than a green ring to go with the warning.

“It’s a superhero warning the villains not to do anything evil.”

He hasn’t been contacted by Apple about his book and says he can only assume that means they’re OK with it.

“I wanted the challenge of making it and the fact that it’s come out and my publisher’s lawyers seem to think that I’m totally in the clear, I’m feeling very confident about it.”

Sikoryak has been making his adaptations for about 30 years and says he hasn’t run into trouble with any of the creators of the original comics.

“Often they seem to get a real kick out of it.

“I mean it as a compliment even though I’m certainly tweaking them a lot.”

His comics provide another way for people to access classic stories, he says.

“I wonder sometimes if you read my version first and then you keep thinking about Batman while you’re reading Dostoyevsky, I’m not sure that’s the best way to read Dostoyevsky, but I do think people see it as kind of a way in to the classics.”

He’s been told by teachers that they use his work in their classrooms to introduce the concepts of the novels, which he says he’s pleased about but had never intended.

The comics are very earnest even though they’re very ironic, he says.

“I play on a lot of different levels and I think people can sort of appreciate that.”

He says his work seems like a gimmick when you first hear about it, but he hopes people will see there’s more going on.

“When I adapt a piece of literature I’m trying to grapple with the ideas contained therein.”