(BY JONATHAN MAK / courtesy of the artist)

It happens.

Last week, hours after the death of Apple/Pixar visionary Steve Jobs, Comic Riffs spotlighted a tribute illustration by 19-year-old Hong Kong -based artist Jonathan Mak. He created the image — of a profiled Jobs silhouetted against the familiar white logo — shortly after Jobs resigned in August as CEO of Apple. By late last week, in the wake of Jobs’s passing, the artwork had gone viral.

Comic Riffs pointed out that Mak’s image was somewhat similar to a 2004 photo of a silhouetted Jobs at a San Francisco developers conference, but that Mak added a distinct, artful touch. In recent days, however, some viewers noted that his design was strikingly similar to that of award-winning artist Chris Thornley — aka Raid71 — who apparently created his image earlier this year.

Two talented artists, same deft idea.

Again: It happens. (It’s even happened to me countless times with cartoons and editorial illustration.) Especially when the subject is someone like Jobs, who is strongly associated with several iconic images and items.

Over the weekend, though, some visitors to Mak’s blog accused him of ”ripping off” Thornley. Ben O’Brien (aka Ben the Illustrator) wrote on his blog: “This image has been all over the internet for the passed few days, however this graphic is a rip-off, it was produced earlier this year by Chris Thornley ... [for] Creative Review.”

On Sunday, in response, Mak wrote on his blog: “I honestly did not come across his work while searching for terms such as ‘Apple, Steve Jobs, logo, silhouette’. I did my best to ensure that the idea had not been done before.”

According to both Mak and representatives for Thornley, the matter has now been resolved.

“I wish I had responded to the accusations of plagiarism earlier, but I did my best to ensure the originality of my work,” Mak tells Comic Riffs on Sunday. “I created the design on my own, and am not perturbed by the small controversy. I received a few messages from ‘Ben the Illustrator,’ who had been courteous after reading my response and edited his original accusations with clarifications.

“Mr. Thornley’s spouse left a message on my blog which was not directly addressed to me, but it seems that she wishes to ‘let the issue rest’ for now, until her husband [who is battling cancer] gets better and decides what to do. I wish their family the best, and hope people support their own [cancer] fundraising effort.”

As for the global positive reaction that Mak’s image sparked last week, the teenager says the virality took him by “complete surprise.”

“The exponential rate at which the design spread in just a few hours says a lot about the power of social media and the influence of Steve Jobs,” Mak tells Comic Riffs. “I am very thankful that most of the responses received have been positive. A few people shared their stories about how Apple has made a difference in their lives, which is wonderful.

“Overall, the experience has been immensely encouraging, but the critical comments have also helped me stay grounded,” continues the student artist. “I hope the design will be remembered, not for my sake but Steve Jobs’s, so his contributions will forever remain in people’s hearts — although I am sure he needs no help with that.”

One commenter wrote on Mak’s blog: “After this [Mak/Thornley] ‘drama,’ there will be nothing left but this image.”

Says Mak: “I sincerely hope that will be the case.”


. (JIMMY MARGULIES / The Record (N.J.) / courtesy of

Elsewhere, New Jersey’s Jimmy Margulies offered a similar take (above) in August; and as one reader points out, Philadelphia’s Tony Auth had a like image last week (below).


(TONY AUTH / Philadelphia Inquirer / Universal Uclick)


(MATTHEW INMAN / The Oatmeal)

Apparently, when it comes to the creative Apple “juice,” great minds drink alike.



Immediately in the wake of Jobs’s death, the first cartoon idea that popped into my head was the Apple co-founder at the pearly gates, with St. Peter holding either an iPad or the “MacBook of Life.” Even though the heavenly image is a stock comic situation, however, I quickly dismissed the idea — partly because it seemed presumptuous in regards to Jobs’s personal faith. (He reportedly considered himself a Buddhist.)

Silly me.


Such internal quibbling didn’t stop numerous other illustrators. The uber-talented Barry Blitt employed that premise for this week’s New Yorker cover, and the artists at Taiwan-based Next Media Animation also depicted that idea:

. did editorial cartoonists the world over:.


. (RANDY BISH / Pittsburgh Tribune-Review /


. (PAUL ZANETTI / Sydney Daily Telegraphi /



(Hajo de Reijger / CAGLE CARTOONS)

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