WIZZYWIG is the first solo release from cartoonist Ed Piskor, and it's "inspired by the incredible stories of real-life hackers." That's a fascinating subject: Now our lives are inextricably woven into the internet, but there was a time when a few kids with computers and phone lines could play around, explore, and fuck with the hardware and software that would go on to dominate our lives.
Wizzywig stars Kevin "Boingthump" Phenicle, a composite of a few real-life hackers. Starting with Kevin figuring out how to forge bus transfers, Piskor follows him as he steadily, obsessively graduates to bigger schemes, first using the computer in the home he shares with his grandmother to get free phone calls and pirate videogames (modifying them so that gamers are greeted with the pixilated phrase "BOINGTHUMP OWNS YOUR SOUL, SUCKA!"), then moving up to helping pimps keep their call girls' phone lines open. ("I paid that kid, like, tens of thousands over a few months. Cash!!" a pimp remembers. "He still looks like his mom dressed him, though.")
It's interesting stuff, but Wizzywig can be frustrating, too: Since Piskor never says what was inspired by what, the book starts to feel increasingly detached and farfetched as Kevin's exploits—and legal problems—grow. And while Piskor's brash tone is a great fit for the stick-it-to-the-man material, some of his other choices (when Steves Job and Wozniak briefly appear, they're inexplicably dressed like Alice in Wonderland's March Hare and Mad Hatter) distract more than enlighten. No doubt there are some great real stories behind Wizzywig, but it's hard to get too invested when you're never sure what's real and what's Piskor.