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Review: 'The Zen of Steve Jobs' graphic novel


I just took ten minutes (hey, it's a comic book) and read Caleb Melby and Jess3's The Zen of Steve Jobs graphic novel and I think anyone who is a fan of comic books or Steve Jobs is going to like it. As I told you in September, the 60-page graphic novel is a re-imagining of Steve Jobs' life during the mid-1980s after he left Apple and before he founded NeXT. Specifically, it deals with Jobs' relationship with Kobun Chino Otogawa, a Zen Buddhist priest (who also married Jobs and his wife, Laurene Powell).

The writer, Caleb Melby, makes it clear from the get go that the graphic novel is not fact. He combines existing Jobs/Kobun interviews and biographies with his own interviews of several Kobun students who were contemporaries of Jobs. The result, enhanced with Melby's imagination is a really interesting story.

In the graphic novel, Jobs and Kobun clearly have a Luke Skywalker/Yoda thing going on (although Jobs is more of a jerk to Kobun than Luke was to Yoda). As the story progresses, the reader is treated to flashbacks and flashforwards of how the Buddhist principle of Ma eventually affected Apple's designs after Steve's return.

Speaking of style, Jess3's art is beautiful -- a combination of manga and western styles with clean lines and sweeping, single-color tones.

While this graphic novel is about Steve Jobs, Kobun is the most interesting character. His real-life death eerily mirrored the fictional Joseph Knecht's death in Hermann Hesse's The Glass Bead Game almost exactly, and Melby depicted that well (readers of both will probably note the similarities between the two before they even finish Zen).

The Zen of Steve Jobs finishes with some extras, like a fascinating afterword from the author about why he brought Steve Job's to life in comic book form, a mini-biography of Kobun and some interesting behind-the-scenes looks as to how the project was created.

The Zen of Steve Jobs is available in print from Amazon (US$10.28) or on the iBookstore ($9.99).

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