While there has been no shortage of biographical books, movies, and articles about the tragically short, yet full life of late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, there have been few, if any graphic novels that have told his story.
Steve Jobs: Insanely Great is another book covering Steve Jobs life, and by all reports it’s a quick read, coming in at around 225 pages. While the page count might be small, the content means more, because it’s a graphic novel, presenting Jobs’ life in a series of black and white drawings.
Insanely Great is written and illustrated by Jessie Hartland, a commercial artist and author whose work has spanned an array of topics and formats. She’s had illustrations published in The New York Times andVogue Japan, done corporate work for the likes of Swatch and Target, and published several previous books for children—notably 2012’s acclaimed Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child, another biography that got the graphic novel treatment.
Hartland began the graphic novel project not long after Jobs’ untimely death. While she was a longtime Mac user, and knew the basics of Jobs’ life, she found herself wanting to find out more about him.
It was that desire to find out more about “rebel, iconoclast” Jobs that led to Insanely Great. Random House went for her pitch, and Hartland dove into the project. While the book has an extensive bibliography, including other biographies and numerous magazine articles and interviews, New York-based Hartland traveled to California’s Silicon Valley to see the important locations of Jobs’ life and career. She visited his childhood home, toured Pixar studios, and more.
“I’m drawn to simplifying complicated material using pictures and words, but this book was a real challenge,” she concedes. “Steve Jobs died relatively young, yet he did 10 times more than most people do in a long lifetime. To piece the story together, understand it completely, winnow it down, and get it all in the right order took some time.”
The result is a “streamlined look at an impressively packed life.” The book begins with Jobs’ childhood as a mischievous kid who loves to tinker, yet struggles with his having been given up for adoption. It follows Jobs through his life, including college, his relationship with Steve Wozniak, the founding of Apple, NeXT, and Pixar; and his return to Apple. It also covers the man’s family life, relationships, and the pitiless illness that finally took his life.
As it is a graphic novel, Insanely Great’s illustrations offer more than just the written word, illustrating Jobs and the people, gadgets, and business the were involved in his life.