What do “Moby-Dick,” “Crime and Punishment” and the iTunes terms and conditions agreement all have in common? Each is epically long, and despite a nagging feeling that you should have read it, you probably haven’t.
That’s the sweet spot for the mischievous, pastiche-heavy artist Robert Sikoryak, whose comic book adaptations have typically combined cartoons with classic literature, including Dostoyevsky in the style of Batman and Dante’s “Inferno” as told via Bazooka Joe bubble-gum-wrapper parodies.
For his new graphic novel, “Terms and Conditions,” out on Tuesday, Mr. Sikoryak (who often signs his work “R. Sikoryak”) upped the difficulty level for his long-term conceptual project: Instead of abridging a book, he lifted the complete text of Apple’s mind-numbing corporate boilerplate, which users must agree to before accessing iTunes, and mashed it up with art invoking more than a century of comics. Rather than merely drawing in the loose style of another artist, Mr. Sikoryak modeled each page after specific bits of others’ work, mimicking panels from Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s “The Amazing Spider-Man,” Bill Watterson’s “Calvin and Hobbes” and Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home,” among dozens of others.
The result, Mr. Sikoryak explained, combines his childhood love for Mad magazine spoofs with John Cage’s theories of art and the influence of Art Spiegelman. “I felt that my work was kind of derivative, and I didn’t want to be a second-rate version of what was happening in comics elsewhere,” Mr. Sikoryak said in an interview, recalling his days as an art student at Parsons School of Design in the late 1980s. “The answer to all my issues with unconscious pastiche was to just make it conscious.”
More than two decades into that endeavor, Mr. Sikoryak found that the iTunes terms and conditions appealed to him as source material precisely because they don’t lend themselves to illustration. “It’s anti-comics,” he said. “It seems counterintuitive, and if it’s counterintuitive, it’s probably interesting to do.”
To create a narrative through line for “Terms and Conditions,” the artist used the recognizable signifiers of Steve Jobs, an Apple founder, in almost every frame, dressing a character in Mr. Jobs’s customary attire. “The glasses, the beard, the hair, the black turtleneck, the jeans and the sneakers — he had a costume that was as iconic as Charlie Brown’s zigzag or Batman’s bat symbol,” Mr. Sikoryak said.
What began as a small-scale side project bloomed into a full graphic novel from the publisher Drawn and Quarterly when Mr. Sikoryak’s colorful scenes featuring the dull text drew attention on Tumblr. He posted them there at the urging of Françoise Mouly, art director for The New Yorker.
“I didn’t imagine anyone would pay me for this,” Mr. Sikoryak said, calling the high-concept bit a “very silly idea.”
Yet, as it turns out, Mr. Sikoryak, who uses Apple products and insisted he does not feel adversarial toward the company, was also preserving the historical record. Not long after he finished drawing “Terms and Conditions,” Apple amended its user agreement, as the company shifted focus from iTunes toward the streaming platform Apple Music. The absurdly detailed text, which somehow became readable through Mr. Sikoryak’s playful interpretation, shrunk from 20,669 words to just under 7,000 in what is now called the Apple Media Services Terms and Conditions.
“This is the unabridged version,” Mr. Sikoryak said of his book.
Surrounded by comics at his East Village apartment, Mr. Sikoryak detailed some of the multilayered references found in “Terms and Conditions.” These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
‘FAMILY CIRCUS’ I was looking for pages that had a lot of space for text, but not ones that would necessarily sync up with the text. For the most part, I had no idea what the text was going to be on each page. “Family Circus” is most famous for the daily comic, which is a single panel with a line underneath, but often the Sundays would have all of the children speaking over one another, with a million word balloons on the page. That’s a strip that I have some feelings for from when I was a kid.
‘GARFIELD’ My first computer was an iMac, so I have a lot of affection for that device. In most pages, I’ll have someone operating some computer, and somehow Garfield’s head just reminded me of the iMac. I’m actually really happy with that page. Garfield’s not even really in it, but you know it’s “Garfield.”
WONDER WOMAN This is near the end of the book, and I hadn’t done Wonder Woman yet. I tried to get a lot of the big comics characters in there. H. G. Peter, he was the first artist of the character. It’s very iconic and kind of out of time, even in the ’40s. Everything about the old Wonder Woman comics feels like they’re coming from a different world than Superman and Batman, so I really wanted to get that in.
‘MY LITTLE PONY’ I actually went to the iTunes comics page to see what was popular and selling. I wasn’t that familiar with the “My Little Pony” comic, but it met the parameters of what I needed. What’s interesting about that page for me is that the style of the rendering isn’t that much like the TV show, but I didn’t want to change it. This was a comic-book spinoff with a kind of painterly coloring style.
‘PEANUTS’ Joe Cool, the Snoopy persona, is not that far from Steve Jobs. I had to use “Peanuts,” that’s why it’s in the first 10 pages or so, because that was one of the first things I knew I wanted to do. I’ve always been interested in pulling people into comics who might not even be that into comics, but are aware of them: “Oh yeah, I saw that Christmas special with the dog, right?” People might recognize the characters or the general notion of a strip and that sort of pulls them in.