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Wizzywig: Portrait of a Serial Hacker (Wizzywig)

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  677 ratings  ·  127 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 (first published January 1st 2012)
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Community Reviews

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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
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
Sam Quixote
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
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
Roxana-Mălina Chirilă
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
Laurenellen McCann
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
Emilia P
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
Rachelle (Rachelle's Reading)
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
needless misogyny and crassness ruin what might otherwise be a good story.
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
Yuck. This is a significant, compelling story, but it was filled with such trash 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 want to know the details of why this book bothered me so much.

(view spoiler)
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
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
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
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
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
A compelling and all too familiar story of a young hacker, Kevin, who lets their curiosity get the best of them and find them self constantly in trouble. I most enjoyed how Kevin's journey blended with reality with his story mirror experiences of known hackers and mentions of real organization and people such as Wikileaks and Assange. I thought it was awesome that they had a very specific shoutout to Chelsea "Bradley" Manning. The author appears to have high-level knowledge of hacking telephone ...more
Ian Wood
This is the complete review as it appears at my blog dedicated to reading, writing (no 'rithmatic!), movies, & TV. Blog reviews often contain links which are not reproduced here, nor will updates or modifications to the blog review be replicated here. Graphic and children's reviews on the blog typically feature two or three images from the book's interior, which are not reproduced here.

Note that I don't really do stars. To me a book is either worth reading or it isn't. I can't rate it three-
I had to check at the end to make sure this wasn't non-fiction; the story feels very much like it could be true, as a boy grows up in the hacker era and becomes one of the greats. The story is told part retrospective, part from a slow-moving present, as Phenicle's prison time generates more and more outrage. There is a lot of the story that is probably non-fiction, although it didn't all happen to one person. And it includes in-depth information on how some of the hacks are done. It's a very com ...more
It's a documentary-styled story of a fictional hacker, Kevin Phenicle. There is nothing romantic about him, and his humanity and therefore fallibility is part of what made me like this story so much. Another good element is the amount of information provided. From blue boxes, to BBS, and finally to more recent technology.

(view spoiler)
Wizzywig: Portrait of a Serial Hacker
by Ed Piskor

10 Words: One mans entertainment is crossing lines that aren't exactly illegal...

Wizzywig is a Graphic Novel that follows the life of Keven Phenicle, a really smart kid that goes from hacking phones to phone companies and computers. Keven is a smart kid who likes to sort out puzzles, this leads to him learning to look at the world in a way that everything is a type of puzzle, and he has the idea that if the actions you are taking benefit more pe
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
Wayne McCoy
'Wizzywig' by Ed Piskor is a graphic novel that gives some of the early history of hacking. It does it in a style that moves between past and present. I liked it, but I didn't totally love it.

Kevin "Boingthump" Phenicle is a curious young boy growing up in the 1970s. At some point he ends up in prison, because we learn this in the first couple pages. Kevin as a younger kid was bullied, but it doesn't seem to phase him because he's got such a curiosity for things around him. That curiosity is for
Not exactly "ripped from the headlines" but not terribly far off, as the main character is a composite of early computer hackers (the guy who got free long-distance by whistling into the phone, the one who won radio contests by routing all the station's phone lines through his own, the one who stayed a step ahead of the FBI by listening in on their wiretapping). It's interesting as a look into the kinds of things hackers used to do (this composite character is also responsible for the first comp ...more
Eric Mesa
This book is a commentary on the sad state our country has been in since the 70s and 80s when it comes to computer crime. Although there should always be consequences for skirting the law we have often taken it a bit too far. This graphic novel was sad to read in the wake of Aaron Schwartz' suicide when threatened by law enforcement.

Main character Kevin Phenicle is a combination of a bunch of historical hackers and ends up "being there" at a lot of key events. (Phone phreaking, etc) I missed ou
This was received from Netgalley for an honest review

I decided to take a long break from Netgalley, I've read this maybe two or three weeks ago. Honestly I wasn't much of a fan of it. I had high expectations for it, because I like graphic novels and I've been appreciating them quite a lot. The artwork is cute, but nothing new really. The plot is centered around a kid, actually based off a real person I can't remember the name of, unless the character's name is that person, who figured out a way
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.
Jeremy Shields
First comic I've read in a long time, and I really enjoyed it. A somewhat biographical look at a fictional character created with the experiences and trials of several of the first few big 'hackers', and it kept me hooked right until the end. Throughout the characters life, he is exploring the limits of our networks and technology, while being chased into hiding over and over. It is interesting to be able to see the development of our technology from the viewpoint of someone who was able to see ...more
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?
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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
More about Ed Piskor...

Other Books in the Series

Wizzywig (3 books)
  • Wizzywig, Vol. 1: Phreak
  • Wizzywig, Vol. 2: Hacker
  • Wizzywig, Vol. 3: Fugitive
Hip Hop Family Tree, Vol. 1: 1970s-1981 Hip Hop Family Tree, Vol. 2: 1981-1983 Wizzywig, Vol. 1: Phreak Hip Hop Family Tree 1975-1983 Gift Box Set Wizzywig, Vol. 2: Hacker

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