Reviews: Wizzywig: Portrait of a Serial Hacker

Wizzywig: Portrait of a Serial HackerWizzywig: Portrait of a Serial Hacker by Ed Piskor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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 out on most of this when it happened – partly from being too young and partly from my family’s socioeconomic situation at the time. My family couldn’t afford a computer until I was much older (at least a modern computer – my father did give me a Tandy when I was 8) and we didn’t get a modem until years later. Even then I didn’t associate with the computer nerds. I would have loved to, but didn’t even know that was a sub-culture. I thought I was alone – what a different world from today.

As for the particulars of this story, Kevin Phenicle’s amalgamation means that while there is a story arc and progression, it’s not quite as cohesive as some other stories. The art was fine, if a bit uneven – in some scenes Keven goes from skinny to “fat” or super broad-shouldered. As someone who’s drawn his entire life without getting that good at it, I am not claiming I could do better. Just mentioning that it was a bit uneven.

I’ve mentioned my stance on profanity, smutt, etc in previous reviews. It doesn’t bother me on its own. As I’ve mentioned before, the over-the-top profanity and violence in Pulp Fiction is one of the things I enjoy most about the movie. But, like the famous Supreme Court decision says, obscenity is something you know when you see. In my case, sometimes it seems necessary to the plot and sometimes it seens arbitrary. I don’t know why, but it bothered me a bit in Wizzywig. The profanity and random depictions of sexual acts – it bothered me a bit. I can’t quite put my finger on it other than to say there’s a random scene late in the book in which someone mentions marrying someone and that it was nice and the accompanying image is of the man having sex from behind his wife. Nothing necessarily deviant about that on its own. But it just seemed unecessary to the story, and again, given that this was not an over-the-top crazy porno book, it was irksome.

If my review seems a bit lukewarm, that’s pretty accurate. I appreciated and enjoyed the story Ed Piskor is communicating through the graphic novel because I have a respect and fondness for the hackers who came of age a decade or so before me. But the execution wasn’t something I was a huge fan of.

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