Interview with cartoonist R. Sikoryak on his new book, Constitution Illustrated

R. Sikoryak, able to perfectly mimic any other cartoonist, is the Will Elder of our time. His latest book is a word-for-word adaptation of the U.S. Constitution called Constitution Illustrated.

Comics Beat interviewed home about his work and process:

Sikoryak: I've often heard that comics should "show and not tell," and many comics that I love can really compress a big idea into one picture plus a small number of words. But I knew early on that to make this project special, I could not edit, compress, or rewrite the Constitutional text in any way. Even the spelling and punctuation had to be consistent with the original documents. I didn't want to be accused of changing its meaning. Breaking down the text into small sections made adapting it somewhat easier. Although that made my page count much higher!

The biggest challenge was choosing which comics characters to use for each page. I would read and reread the text (as well as interpretations of the Constitution written in modern language), and I looked for associations to comics I might want to use — either in their plots, characterizations, or histories — and I started to plug them into the pages. What inspired me was often different from page to page. It could be a short turn of phrase or a high concept that would spark an idea for an image.

Frost: I'm totally in awe of the many different styles and characters that are included in this handy, little tome. Can you go into the logic of using particular comic strip characters and properties for certain passages of the Constitution? For example, using G.I. Joe for the Second Amendment and Scrooge McDuck for Congress' Article I power to collect taxes. Was there a deliberate process for each piece of the Constitution or was it more trial and error to determine what was the right fit for each clause?

Sikoryak: There was a lot of trial and error on some pages because portions of the text are quite technical and dense. But the two examples you mentioned were comparatively straightforward, and the solutions came to me quickly. For the Article 1 section on collecting taxes, I wanted to include some character who has an association to money, so Scrooge McDuck was a natural. And, of course, it was clear that the Second Amendment was going to require drawings of guns. I considered using the Punisher, but rather than a lone vigilante, I decided on the cast of G.I. Joe to represent a militia. I was also amused by the idea of converting Joe's high-tech, modern weapons into Colonial arms and artillery.

On the other hand, when the Constitution gets into the intricacies of the electoral college and the voting process, it was harder to tease out a compelling visual. In those sections, the text describes a long series of actions, or groups of people congregating. For those pages, I was able to use the casts from series such as Bone, Doonesbury, and SpongeBob. So there I could play off of the personalities of the characters, and make the situations more lively.