If you’ve ever wondered what terms and conditions you agree to every day, or if you’ve always wanted to see Steve Jobs as a Transformer, this book is for you. In parodies of just over a hundred different comic book styles, from Hellboy to Saga and Daniel Clowes to Roz Chast, R. Sikoryak translates the iTunes Terms and Conditions into an illustrated, unabridged adaptation. With faithful attention to the source material while still maintaining his own style, Sikoryak pulls a narrative out of Apple’s legally binding agreement, managing to make the end of each page read like a punchline. If you’re unfamiliar with any of the styles at hand, you can easily follow along thanks to a helpfully detailed index of source materials.
We all read in a variety of ways, often depending on the medium or context; we generally use different techniques while reading dense, academic texts than when we read for pleasure. Readers are forced to straddle their reading strategies when Steve Jobs inhabits their favorite comics and walks them through permitted user actions in Apple’s services. No matter how clever this book is, it still makes for a painful and somewhat unsettling reading experience. If you have ever lost your place in a book and had to re-read several paragraphs to find it again, then you can guess what it was like to read this book. It may bring you to tears, and for none of the reasons good literature usually does.
The text essentially becomes a monologue by Steve Jobs. With enough repetition, even legalese begins to feel like a motif, though it never quite reaches poetry: “the iTunes Service is available to you only in the United States, its territories, and possessions. You agree not to use or attempt to use the iTunes Service from outside these locations.” Phrases become ominous when pulled into a single panel or speech bubble: “Apple may use technologies to verify your compliance.” Repetition is most commonly used to set the stage in each new section: the iTunes Store, the App Store, and Apple Music. Sometimes terms are repeated and then redacted, in that they apply, but not in certain circumstances. This is particularly frustrating, as if Apple means to say “if we don’t repeat this language in every single section, you may find a loophole.” The lawyers at Apple have created a tightly woven plot that Sikoryak plays with and deconstructs to raise some interesting questions. Through more easily digestible speech bubbles, Sikoryak is able to highlight some of the more concerning terms. Who is the arbiter of “poor taste”? Why should Apple be concerned that the App Store might be used for “the development, design, manufacture, or production of nuclear, missile, or chemical or biological weapons”? Potentially most concerning is the treatment of data collected about users and the total lack of liability from Apple.
Sikoryak’s arrangement of and stylistic choices with the artwork create an unpredictable visual narrative. An explicit page in the style of Saga is sandwiched between Richie Rich and Raina Telgemeier’s Sisters. It’s somewhat shocking, but bizarre enough to draw laughter. The pages are filled with apple motifs, replacing the stars on Wonder Woman’s outfit and tiara and the black spots on Scooby Doo’s back. Many characters sport the iconic white earbuds, and some undergo entire transformations, such as Garfield’s appearance as a classic, colorful iMac. Readers may find themselves bookmarking pages they find intriguing, with the intent to visit the source material later. Sikoryak’s playful parody makes it possible to read through a mind-numbing 20,000 word legal agreement. While the text alone may be less than enjoyable, Sikoryak creates wonderfully detailed interpretations to engage readers.
For librarians trying to decide where to shelve this title in their collections, there are minimal content warnings for this title. While there is some suggestive material, it’s rather minimal and all nudity is censored (with apples, of course). The book may serve as an effective appetizer for teens and adults to sample comics over the past 100 years, and in that sense, may be desirable as a rough collection development guide to build a well-rounded comics collection.
Terms and Conditions
by R. Sikoryak
Drawn and Quarterly, 2017