WIZZYWIG Volume One: Phreak
By Ed Piskor
Through collaborations with the likes of Harvey Pekar and Jay Lynch, Ed Piskor has spent the past few years making it clear that, despite his relatively young age, the artist is very much a product of another era. It’s a theme not lost on his solo longform debut, WIZZYWIG, which, despite not being born of a collaboration with a member the underground’s old guard, revisits with some zeal a time in which the author was, at best, beginning the teething process.
In terms of WIZZYWIG, however, one would be hard-pressed to refer to Piskor as a romantic. While the author clearly has bouts of vintage fetishization with certain themes and technologies of this bygone era (with the lovingly-crafted endnotes to prove it), Piskor avoids the desire toward over romanticizing his subject matter by focusing on the somewhat universal story of a protagonist who himself seems to have been born a decade or so too early.
It’s a scenario that also serves to dampen any tendency to overplay the antihero nature of Piskor’s protagonist, Kevin “BoingThump” Phenicle, who, at least in the context of the first of four planned volumes, is portrayed as less of a Robin Hood-styled outlaw and more the product of an intellectually curious mind in a society that shuns those unable to fully adhere to the status quo—which is to say that Phenicle is a bit of a nerd, and has the regular ass-kickings to prove it.
Styled by Piskor after tech outlaw Kevins Poulsen and Mitnick, Phenicle’s own antisocial quirks take him beyond the standard darkened corners of the school library, landing him squarely in the middle of the burgeoning phone phreaking and hacker scenes. That Phenicle finds himself amongst that brand of social outcasts, however, is less a product of his own deviant tendencies or romantic notions.
Rather, it seems that BoingThump is simply unable to refrain from hacking everything around him—Pong machines, city bus transfers, chess boards, and even pizza places, upon being waited on by a Pekar doppleganger. His tendencies never seem malicious, but be forewarned, if you put a piece of new machinery in front of him, chances are extremely likely that he’ll take it apart and put it back together better than new.
Were Phenicle’s story set in the modern day, he’d likely become an 18-year-old billionaire wunderkind, rather than the outlaw he’s destined to evolve into as the storyline progresses. It’s a fortunate thing for us, because it makes a far more interesting story, and, as of the close of Phreak, a compelling reason to pick up the second book in a series likely to establish Piskor as a talented storyteller in his own right.