Writing and Pencils: Ed Piskor
Self published as three separate softcover issues. Will be collected in one hardcover book by Top Shelf.
If you grew up at the dawn of Wired magazine, then you have a pretty good idea of the history behind American computer hacking. Modern American hacking first started by hacking the phone system in the mid 70s and from there naturally progressed to computer systems and even “social engineering”, which I think is a much more clever kind of social hacking. Some good primers to learn all this stuff would be Bruce Sterling’s “Hacker Crackdown” (free online), the Cliff Stoll early cyber sleuthing nonfiction novel “Cuckoo’s Nest“, and just about every issue of Wired published from 1993, which you can read online which is kinda cool.
Or if you don’t like working that hard then you can read the first two issues of Pittsburgher Ed Piskor’s ambitious and damn interesting “Wizzywig” for free and online. I think I paid $15 dollars each for them when I bought the softcovers from Bill Boichel some years back. You can download the first two issues (“Wizzywig Volume 1: Phreak” and “Wizzywig Volume II: Hacker”) for free at the artist’s website. I think I prematurely noted that “NYC: 2123” as the best online comic I’ve ever read. These are right up there as long as they remain online. There’s also a third issue called “Wizzywig III: Fugitive” which you will have to pay $15 bucks for unless there’s a cheaper online version. Well worth it.
This very ambitious graphic novel spans over 400 pages if you get all three issues and attempts to give you a history of hacking seen through a composite character called “Kevin ‘Boingthump’ Phrenicle”. This character is based mainly on the lives of hacking heroes like the two Kevin’s, Mitnick and Poulsen (both gone all white hat hacking on us…we should hope…) and the exploits of other legends. You come away from the first graphic novel figuring out why these characters became what they became. You also get the sense that in other times where their computer skills couldn’t be quite expressed that they would have made excellent confidence men, magicians, and/or thieves. And while its true that these characters are smarter than the average bear there is a strong sense that what sets the “Boingthump” character apart is his curiosity.
The first Wizzywig book kind of deals with the early years and the kind of mentality the first hackers had. What’s really cool about these early hacks is that you can probably still get away with doing some of them. Here’s one of Boingthump’s early hacks. My bus line still uses paper passes.
One of the highlights for me was the several pages or so called “The Misadventures of Steve and Steve”. This touches upon, in a composite way I’m sure, about the pre-Apple days of both the late Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak and their efforts to sell a pre desktop computer phone hacking machine. Here’s a peek:
I don’t know if they ever wore those costumes but they did sell those boxes. One of the reasons that Steve Jobs excelled at selling computers is that he was already experienced at selling magic electronic boxes.
Highly recommended, especially as a free download. 4.7 stars out of 5. I don’t think I’ve ever read such an entertaining and more in-depth comic history of hacking.