Ed Piskor is arguably best known for his cartooning on Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor comics and work on Adult Swim’s Mongo Wrestling Alliance. He has been self-publishing chapters from WIZZYWIG—something of his baby—for years. Now, the full 288 page graphic novel finds its home with publishing house Top Shelf.
In WIZZYWIG Piskor takes the reader through the life of Kevin “BoingThump” Phenicle, an extremely intelligent young boy—based off of real-life hackers—with an insatiable drive to solve puzzles. Specifically, how to get free calls on pay phone booths, through whistling, and rip and reissue computer games to neighborhood kids for profit. Phenicle, along with his friend Winston, pull off various hacking schemes in the community. His thirst for knowledge quickly leads him into more difficult pursuits and soon BoingThump draws media and legal attention through the creation of a harmless computer virus.
Piskor chronicles BoingThump’s rise and fall; stints in jail, a constant struggle to track those tracking him, and Winston’s urge for people to protest Kevin’s incarceration are all part of the journey. The pages fly by. Piskor gets technical enough to be credible but doesn’t dwell in details to the point of overwhelming less tech-savvy readers (myself admittedly included).
The drawings are a simple black & white with shading, allowing character development and plotline to shine as the main focus. Though the plotline is mostly linear, Piskor includes public commentary and heresy from community members and always comes back around to Winston’s updates on Kevin’s situation via his radio show, “Off The Rocker.” Piskor rarely deviates from the six-panel layout and doesn’t make use of the gutters but this acts as a complement to the mosaic storytelling style, which otherwise might have been confusing.
Though WIZZYWIG can be a be sensational and some of the characters aren’t developed as fully as they could be, it’s still a fascinating read; you won’t want to put it down. A graphic novel about a niche community that appeals to those outside of that niche—bravo, Piskor.