R. Sikoryak has long been known for his versatility of style in comics and animation work, and certainly as widely for his irascible sense of humor. The frequent host of “Carousel” live events where comics creators perform excerpts from their comics live in New York or at comic shows like Small Press Expo and MoCCA Fest, he’s a champion of the dynamism of the comics medium and frequently explores the weird intersections between modernity and comics. His latest book from Drawn & Quarterly, Terms and Conditions, is perhaps his most ambitious book to date. It presents the entire text of Apple’s iTunes Terms and Conditions statement, one which you must agree to in order to use iTunes, in comics format.
Why would a comics creator put themselves through that ordeal? Well, in the great tradition of Dada and surrealist art, the explanation is up to you, the audience. Perhaps it’s because the length and detail contained in iTunes Terms and Conditions is frankly ridiculous. Perhaps it’s because millions of human beings “agree” to these terms without reading them (who would?), or perhaps it’s to show what comics can do—get you to read something there is no way in hell you would read otherwise.
But let’s talk about the artwork, which is the real star of the show. This volume by Sikoryak, an “unauthorized adaptation” of Apple’s contract, is 107 pages long on crisp cardstock with nicely saturated colors and is presented in dozens of different art styles. Nostalgic, recognizable, accentuating the features of known creators and strips from mid-century to 21st century, the artwork will keep you turning the pages just to see what’s next. If Sikoryak simply mimicked the art styles of Jim Steranko, Mike Mignola, Rube Goldberg, Walt Kelly and many more, that would be compelling enough, but he’s also choosing the subject matter for each panel to tell short visual stories that he feels are iconic to those properties panel by panel.
The “hero” of the story is the many times morphing character of Steve Jobs which keeps a constant going in the artwork by which you can judge radical change in art styles from page to page. And I’ll suggest–though it may be heretical–that Sikoryak is also investing humor in that linework and in those juxtapositions. It has that sketch comedy feel like the drawn characters are being forced to improvise on certain cues, and Sikoryak, a bit of a puppet master in their performance, is calling the shots.
I confess, in reading the book, I was not able to make myself read every single word of the Terms and Conditions being presented through speech balloons, thought bubbles, and caption boxes. It was, however, a damn sight further than I have ever managed before in reading that imposing document. And, to Sikoryak’s credit, I managed to “read” all his art panels, enjoying them thoroughly. It’s the kind of book you can dip into, and scrutinizing a particular page, find details there that the artist has embedded in homage to the original creators of these properties that you have not noticed before. It also makes for a great guessing game among comics enthusiasts. Just posting a photo of the cover online a couple of weeks ago unintentionally prompted quiz-like guesses about of the art styles featured there.
In the end, the book reminds us that our world is ridiculous, but adds the steadying message that comics are too, and they have a lot to say about anything we feel needs addressing.
Terms and Conditions arrives from Drawn & Quarterly in March.
R. Sikoryak is hosting a Carousel event in New York this Wednesday, February 15th. Find the Facebook events page here.