Steve Jobs, acclaimed innovator and one of the most successful business leaders in history, continues to have an impact. In what must be a first for a modern inventor, the life story of Apple’s legendary founder is being put down in a manga series, which debuted in Japan yesterday. The first monthly installment was released yesterday in the May issue of a monthly Japanese comic anthology called Kiss. A preview can be seen here.
The series follows the initial release in January 2012 of a digital comic book produced in the Western tradition of comics. The story told in the manga version, created by acclaimed artist Mari Yamazaki, follows the same trajectory laid out in the authorized biography of Jobs written by Walter Isaacson.
Interestingly, Yamazaki’s manga-fied tribute to the great innovator is only the latest in a series of pop-cultural objects to depict Jobs in Asia. First, Hong Kong toy maker In Icons was asked to halt production of a 12-inch Steve Jobs doll. But this did not phase Japanese designer Takao Kato of Legend Toys, who stepped in to produce yet another 12-inch action figure – this one aimed at Japan’s burgeoning otaku market, known for having an appetite for amassing collections of hyper-realistic figurines and toys (as well as many outright odd ones). In Legend’s version, a likeness of Jobs sits on a leather sofa with beard, glasses and trademark black turtle neck.
In a similar fashion, Yamazaki is illustrating the manga account in a semi-realistic style. Initial reviews have been very positive of the artistic treatment of Jobs, which has been rendered in a semi-realistic, monochrome style. Yamazaki’s rendition, in fact, begins with a conversation – that lasts 15 pages – in which Jobs prods Isaacson to pen his biography. The story soon rewinds to Jobs’ childhood and explores his early years as a mischief-maker raised by foster parents. As he grows into his high school and college years, his experiences with marijuana and LSD enter the picture.
As an article in The Verge points out, the very interesting thing about this tone and focus is the context in which it is being placed: a manga monthly targeted at young women that normally runs tales of adolescent love and drama – in a country where illegal drugs are strictly regulated. Then again, the article reminds us that this is Steve Jobs. When it comes to genius, normal rules need not apply.
Editor's Note: Thanks to a reader who correctly pointed out the distinction between anime and manga. The title has been modified to more accurately reflect this difference.