We still have a few months to go in 2012, but if I was asked to name my favorite graphic novels of the year, Ed Piskor’s Wizzywig would certainly be on that list.
Published by Top Shelf Productions, Wizzywig is faux biography of Kevin “Boingthump” Phenicle, a fictional character whose story is an amalgam of tales from the lives of real-world hackers, scammers, and digital pirates whose exploits often kept them on the run and hiding from the government for years at a time. The comic is the product of decades of research by Piskor, who got hooked on the dramatic stories of these famous — and often notorious — figures who could find the loophole in any system.
Here’s an excerpt from my interview with Piskor for IFC.com:
IFC: Where did your connection with this subject begin? How did you get interested in hacking and the lives of hackers?
PISKOR: I was working on a book with Harvey Pekar called Macedonia, and there was a lot of labor involved in that one. It took me 14 months to put the book together, and it was right when podcasting was kind of new, which was perfect, because it’s hard for me to keep myself in the drawing chair. For whatever reason, I put in the word “hacker” or “hacking” into one of those podcast aggregators, and this archive of a radio show called “Off The Hook” came up. There was a 25-year archive of this radio show which broadcasts from WBAI in Manhattan. The host of the show is also the publisher of a hacker magazine called 2600. I had some knowledge of different events — like stuff that happened with Kevin Mitnick — but the information I had on these subjects was all presented by major media outlets, so I just started listening to that audio archive from the first show, which was back in the ’80s, close to 1990.
I listened to the entire archive, and what happened is that it really built on all of these dramas that developed in the hacker community. Sometimes they would interview someone for weeks on end, and then suddenly that person isn’t there. And the host would get on to say that the person you got to know throughout the last few shows is now in jail and facing litigation. All of these dramas played out throughout the show.
IFC: That makes a lot of sense, because there’s a character in Wizzywig who’s a radio host, and he sort of leads the crusade to shed light on the main character’s treatment…
PISKOR: Yeah, the host of the real-life broadcast and the publisher of 2600, his nom de plume is Emmanuel Goldstein, which was the fictional antagonist to Big Brother in the book 1984. And because I’m not original in any way, that radio-host character in Wizzywig is named Winston smith, who’s the actual main character of 1984. The book is full of these little call-outs and geeky little tidbits that somebody who’s into this scene will get and understand and appreciate, but it doesn’t take away from the actual story if you don’t catch them. It’s just icing on the cake for people who are legitimately into this world.
Oh, and make sure to check out Piskor’s Brain Rot comic on BoingBoing.net. It was my first introduction to his work, and I’ve been a fan ever since.