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Wizzywig: Portrait of a Serial Hacker


3.67  ·  Rating details ·  1,290 ratings  ·  190 reviews
They say "What You See Is What You Get..". but Kevin "Boingthump" Phenicle could always see more than most people. In the world of phone phreaks, hackers, and scammers, he's a legend. His exploits are hotly debated: could he really get free long-distance calls by whistling into a pay phone? Did his video-game piracy scheme accidentally trigger the first computer virus? And ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published July 4th 2012 by Top Shelf Productions
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Average rating 3.67  · 
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 ·  1,290 ratings  ·  190 reviews

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May 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: comics
The plot of the graphic novel can be summarized in one brief sentence: Kevin "Boingthump" Phenicle (I challenge you to say his name fast several times) is a collective portrait of hackers from their early days - they were not even called hackers those days; the correct term was and still is "cracker". The guy broke into a phone system to make free long-distance calls, later rigged it to always be the one to win a radio contests - the type where you have to be a caller number 21 to win, and so on ...more
Jon Nakapalau
Unique look at hackers - art really fits the episodic form of the stort.
Sam Quixote
Jul 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If you’re a fan of Harvey Pekar’s work then you’ll have encountered Ed Piskor’s art within issues of “American Splendor” and the non-fiction graphic book “The Beats: A Graphic History”, and while Piskor can draw with the best of them he proves with his debut graphic novel “Wizzywig” that he’s an enormously gifted writer as well.

This is the story of the most famous hacker of all, Kevin J Phenicle aka Boingthump who is an amalgamation of various real life hackers like Robert Morris, in one charac
Nov 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Presents a composite character who fictionally pulled off the most innovative hacking of his age. Walks us through early phone-system hacking methodologies, as well as early Bulletin Board System legends.

Which is all very interesting, but to me, what stands out about this book is the HOW, more than the WHAT.

The Outside: The cover is fully saturated color, mimicking an old-fashioned computer on the front and a computer manual on the spine. I'm sure if I was more versed in computers, I'd tell yo
Roxana Chirilă
Dec 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
The more you know about hacking, the less interesting this volume is likely to be. It's interesting to see some of the old ways to hack into systems and to be presented with fascinating ways of beating the system that were possible in the past, as well as the hype around computer crime back before people understood what computer crimes were all about. It evokes a certain moment in time and a certain atmosphere okay, but... but.

Past the technical details and the long list of hacking schemes, the
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics, crime
This comic is like a hacker version of Forrest Gump, with fictional character Kevin "Boingthump" Phenicle taking readers on an abbreviated tour of hacker history.

The story starts with the early blue-boxing and phone phreaking days, up through the rise of BBSes and the Internet, finally touching upon Wikileaks and Adrian Lamo. Real historical events are woven into the narrative (from Kevin Mitnick's exploits and the Morris Worm to comparatively obscure topics like the Secret Service's raid on Ste
Jan 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
needless misogyny and crassness ruin what might otherwise be a good story.
Dimitris Papastergiou
I liked it!

Amazing artwork by Piskor and an interesting story that tells the story of Kevin aka Boingthump who starts his career as a hacker with hacking public telephones and ends up in big trouble when computers come long.

Fun read!

Would recommend to anyone who likes Piskor's work of course and to anyone who likes a break from all them superheroes.
There's a moving scene in the beginning of Wizzywig where a teenaged Kevin goes to meet a girl he's gotten to know over the phone for the first time in person. Y'know, meatspace meet 'n greet. In the scene, Kevin stands in the driveway of her nice suburban house while she looks on from a second story window. She smiles, but Kevin, overwhelmed by insecurity, can only see disappointment and leaves without saying hello, while she looks sadly at his retreating form. I liked the scene very much, but ...more
Emilia P
Nov 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: comic-books
This book was dumb. It wanted me to be sympathetic with a computer hacker who was blond and Tin-Tin-esque and miniscule but bless his heart, just couldn't stop hacking the system. Poor little guy. It did do a good job of capturing the confused fear of a new-to-computers public about VIRUSES and TROJANS and systems-destroying computer nerds that, well, is still around. Computers are puzzling, it's true. But, dude, I thought the Phenicle kid was a heartless little punk and I kind of sided with all ...more
Jan 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: geek, crime, graphic
My father-in-law went into a store with a wide selection of graphic novels, described me to the bookseller, and walked out with this Christmas gift. I took one look at the title and said, "Oh yeah, Wizzywig, that's how you pronounce the acronym." That was met with blank looks. "What You See Is What You Get," I explained. "Wizzywig." That got less blank looks.

Wizzywig is a graphic novel about a hacker in the early days of hacking. It was pretty interesting and tosses out some arcane bits of info
Aug 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
A series of comics that tell the fictional story of Kevin "Boingthump" Phenicle, a hacker in the 70s and 80s whose threat to the populace is blown way out of proportion. Ending up in federal prison, Kevin has to contend with hardened criminals as his friend calls for a fair trial for him and pushes for his release.

I'm not much of a computer geek, but I found this graphic novel funny and absorbing. Some of the violence was pretty cringe-worthy for me, though.

It sounds like the book is based on an
Stewart Tame
Aug 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Nice! Piskor's portrait of a fictional hacker is spot on. Everything is so plausible, and the book is full of telling details that those who know something about hackers in general will pick up on. There's also a Rashomon quality to the book. Everyone who meets Kevin "Boingthump" Phenicle seems to see him differently. Piskor has crafted his tale well, merging it with real world events (Operation Sundevil and the Morris Worm, for instance) where appropriate. This is an excellent graphic novel, we ...more
Oct 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Back in the good old days, the computer hacker was a favorite media bogeyman (post 9/11, the terrorist has taken over the role). WIZZYWIG tells the story of Kevin Phenicle in graphic novel format. Kevin grows up the 1970's and 80's as a social outcast with his only friend, the ironically named Winston Smith. Kevin loves intellectual challenges and puzzles, and has a lot of free time. He and Winston teach themselves to pick locks, and use an electronic tone device to trick the phone company into ...more
Peter Landau
Jan 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Bought WIZZYWIG as an xmas gift for my son, who read my copies of Ed Piskor’s great HIP HOP FAMILY TREE series and, like me, loves them. It was my son who discovered that Piskor had written about the burgeoning hacker community in this story of a fictional composite of infamous real life hackers. It’s a good story, but I’m really pining for the third volume in the hip-hop history, which gets better and better.
Aug 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics
In addition to being full of information about early computer hacking and the public fears and confusion that came along with the times, Wizzywig is an entertaining story with a sympathetic but flawed lead character, adventure and comedy, and a bit of social commentary for good measure. I had a hard time putting it down once I started reading.
Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: comic
This started out preachy but interesting, then got less interesting and more preachy.
Billie Tyrell
May 25, 2021 rated it liked it
Read this because I often fall asleep to Ed Piskor's Youtube channel about comics, and I've had so many great comics recommended through that channel that when he recently released his new comic Red Room I felt some obligation to read some of his own work. I was further encouraged by seeing a lot of his art and snippets of it and finding it all very likeable (even though it's very very gross and gory at times). I can't afford to actual buy Red Room, so being the scamp I am I read Wizzywig online ...more
Lis Carey
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Kevin Phenicle is a budding young hacker in the early days of phone phreaking. He's smart, he's shy, he's not really social, not close to anyone except his grandma and his friend Winston. And he's just fascinated by computers and what you can do with them.

And all the information you can access with them, and a little ingenuity and social engineering.

Kevin in not a bad kid. He's a good kid. Even his first prison term doesn't change that.

He's in or near all the big developments in hacking over the
Nov 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, graphic-novels
I picked this up based on a recommendation from someone I trust. It sounded interesting but I wasn't especially invested in the subject (the persecution of a young computer hacker in the early days of BBS and phone phreaking). The physical object is adorable - a full color computer terminal with embossed floppy drive. The themes of justice, freedom, moral ambiguity, and technology carry the story, even if you don't care much about hackers. The narrative is nonlinear, but the reader is well-orien ...more
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
This is a great pop culture introduction to thinking broader about the concept of hacking and the complexities (and problems) with our current legal approach to dealing with, in that regard, this book deserves a four(ish) star rating.

/However/, I recently made a promise to myself that I would stop (at least temporarily) reading graphic novels about semi-autobiographical, decently well-off-but-none-the-less-socially-ostracized male protagonists and their quests to be slightly less margin
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: graphic-novel
Yuck. This is a significant, compelling story, but it was filled with such crap that I really hated it by the end. And pretty much all of it was completely unnecessary.

I'm putting the rest of my review in a spoiler because 90% of the people I'm friends with don't even want to know the details of why this book bothered me so much.

(view spoiler)
Jan 22, 2013 rated it liked it
I often find that I don't enjoy Top Shelf books as much as I would like to, so I'm pleased to find this book is very enjoyable. It's a fictionalised story of one of the early hackers, who mostly scammed large telecom companies.

The book wasn't perfect. The story is told in tiny little chapters, which didn't really work for me. Perhaps because of that, it skates over much of the detail of the hacks, which is a little unsatisfactory. I think a little more explanation of the details, and a little m
Rachelle (RavenclawRachelle)
I received this book for free from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

It was not until I reached the end of my copy that I was informed I was receiving only an extract of the material contained in Wizzywig and as such my opinions may coloured by this.

I went into this graphic novel not knowing much about hacking and its history but I was intensely curious. Unfortunately this was not as informative as I hoped; while I was enjoying the progression of the story
Wizzywig: Portrait of a Serial Hacker is a love note to the early days of computer hacking and social engineering. We're presented with a composite character who has skills to manipulate the phone company for free long distance and begins to learns the ins and outs of hacking back in a time before many of us even knew what the Internet was.

Reading Wizzywig, I couldn't help but be reminded of Kevin Mitnick's books about his days as a hacker and some of his tricks that he used. Reading this now wh
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
My near-complete ignorance of computer stuff is evidenced by the fact that I just wrote "computer stuff". I forget/occasionally deny that the internet existed before 1996, and that people were doing weird, fun, and illegal things with computers for years before then. This is a solid story about a young hacker's rise and fall, and it goes just far enough into the world of computer-speak for dummies like me to understand what's going on. My biggest complaint is the ending--it's abrupt, but I think ...more
Vincent Migliore
Feb 04, 2016 rated it liked it
An interesting graphic novel loosely based on Kevin Mitnick. It's intense and engaging, but also slightly lacking. The book starts with Kevin figuring out a way to cheat payphones allowing him to make long distance calls for free. As he ages he creates a computer virus on bootleg games he was selling. He begins doing more hacking and eventually things get out of hands. I would give it a look at, but in no way is it a must read. ...more
Aug 04, 2017 rated it liked it
I've heard the Kevin 'Boingthump' Phenicle character is a composite of many phreaks/hackers, but I can only a thinly veiled version of Kevin Mitnick especially having read Mitnick's Ghost in the Wires. I liked the art; it's a cross between the Fallout game series and Tintin. The ending was a bit abrupt, almost to the point that it seems some pages are missing. ...more
David Schwan
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was better than expected. The main character seems like a composite of a host of hackers. The author tries to build empathy for the main character but he is way redemption and in too many ways is to asocial and sleazy to deserve redemption. Nice graphics. The writing and graphics deserved the high score--the ideas less so.
Oct 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Probably would have been rated higher but for the bizarre and sometimes misogynistic treatment of female characters. Here's a question: why weren't any of the main characters women? ...more
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Ed Piskor has been cartooning professionally in print form since 2005, starting off drawing American Splendor comics written by Harvey Pekar. The duo continued working together on 2 graphic novels, Macedonia, and The Beats. Ed began self publishing Wizzywig after developing a huge interest in the history of Hacking and Phone Phreaking. 3 volumes, making up 3/4 of the full story, have been publishe ...more

Other books in the series

Wizzywig (3 books)
  • Wizzywig, Vol. 1: Phreak
  • Wizzywig, Vol. 2: Hacker
  • Wizzywig, Vol. 3: Fugitive

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