Friday, May 9, 2008

Wizzywig, Volume 1: Phreak

Wizzywig is Ed Piskor’s follow up to Macedonia, the book he illustrated for Harvey Pekar and Heather Roberson. While illustrating it he tuned into “Off the Hook,” a radio program about hacking and hackers, the focus of his new book.

“Off the Hook” is hosted by 2600’s publisher Eric Corley, who, on the program calls himself Emmanuel Goldstein, a character from Orwell’s 1984. Wizzywig is narrated by the host of “Off the Rocker”, who takes his name from another character in Orwell’s novel, Winston Smith. Winston was a childhood friend of the infamous hacker Kevin “Boingthump” Phenicle. Kevin was orphaned when very young and sent to live with his grandmother. He is socially awkward and Winston is really his only friend. Bullied at school, he has no self-confidence and turns all of his energies into finding ways to manipulate the phone system. You see, Kevin is a phone phreak. It’s been years and years since I’ve last heard of phone phreaks. These guys, and as far as I know they were all guys, became the first generation of computer hackers.

What Piskor is doing is giving us the history of a counter-culture, the outlaws of the computer age, through the story of a character who is a composite of several real life hackers. In doing so he continues to position himself in the middle of another counter-culture, underground comix. His art boasts the same energy we saw in Macedonia, but he sticks to a consistent four panel grid. He draws Kevin with his eyes blanked out like Annie, of Little Orphan Annie, and the children in the book, and the characters are mostly children, have an odd anatomy, with shorter than normal legs and larger than normal heads, which reminded me of Peanuts.

Piskor has also decided to publish and distribute it himself, so you’ll have to get your copy through his site. Mine arrived quickly and with no problems. And do check out his site. You’ll find a lot of excerpts from this volume and a preview for the second, Hacker.

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