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Wizzywig: Portrait of a Serial Hacker (Wizzywig)

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  945 Ratings  ·  153 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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May 28, 2014 Evgeny 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
Sam Quixote
Jul 13, 2012 Sam Quixote 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 Raina 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
Jan 17, 2013 lesleymac rated it it was ok
needless misogyny and crassness ruin what might otherwise be a good story.
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
Sep 21, 2012 Phil 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
Emilia P
Nov 11, 2012 Emilia P 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
Laurenellen McCann
Mar 24, 2013 Laurenellen McCann rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
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
Aug 04, 2012 Jeffrey 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.
Ian Wood
Jan 22, 2015 Ian Wood rated it it was amazing
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-
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
Oct 26, 2012 Mike 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
Nov 25, 2012 jess rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels, 2012
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 29, 2013 Breanne 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)
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
Jan 22, 2013 Stephen 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
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
Jan 04, 2013 Woodge 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 20, 2012 Jeremy 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
Aug 14, 2012 Heather 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
Peter Landau
Jan 06, 2015 Peter Landau 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.
Vincent Migliore
Feb 04, 2016 Vincent Migliore 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.
Sep 10, 2015 Theresa rated it it was ok
Eh. Never got around to liking anything at all about the main character. Or any other character.
Jan 03, 2013 Mike rated it it was ok
Shelves: comic
This started out preachy but interesting, then got less interesting and more preachy.
Oct 24, 2014 Mark 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?
Feb 07, 2013 Robert rated it liked it
Timeline's a little funky, but it hits some of the time/era of that culture.
Feb 27, 2017 Geoffrey rated it it was amazing
"Free Kevin" was one of the seminal moments of the computer security history which exposed the flaws in the legal system's understanding of technology and its interaction with undesired behavior. The laws being written, the damages being claimed, and the insecure proprietary systems which haven't been fixed in the decades of Kevin's story are all still there. Cyber warfare and cyber security are in the news today, and computers are everywhere, but the infrastructure is still as flawed as it was ...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
Artur Coelho
Apr 24, 2013 Artur Coelho rated it really liked it
O desafio inteligente deste livro começa logo na capa. Contemplamos uma caricatura do Macintosh, um dos ícones clássicos do mundo digital. E o título é uma elegante brincadeira linguística com os conceitos de wysiwyg e whizzkid. What you see is what you get, o que vemos no ecrã é o que corresponde ao processo em que trabalhamos é um dos princípios elementares dos interfaces gráficos. Whizzkid corresponde à ideia de jovem génio focalizado no que lhe desperta o interesse, insensível a tudo o resto ...more
Jun 03, 2014 Maxine rated it really liked it
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
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Madison Mega-Mara...: Wizzywig: Portrait of a Serial Hacker 1 4 Jan 21, 2013 07:20PM  
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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

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