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“Wizzywig” creator Ed Piskor talks hacking, hip hop, and his fascinating new graphic novel

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With a nickname like “Boingthump,” the main character of Ed Piskor’s graphic novel Wizzywig isn’t the typical comic book hero, but he’s a guy you can’t help rooting for all the same — even if he is one of the nation’s most-wanted fugitives.

The recently published graphic novel chronicles the life of Kevin “Boingthump” Phenicle, a fictional computer hacker whose story is culled from the real-life experiences of famous hackers, scammers, and digital pirates. From his early days as a kid trying to get a few extra turns on Pac-Man and his discovery that perfect pitch could mean free pay-phone calls, through the years he spent on the run from the government (including an appearance on “America’s Most Wanted”), Wizzywig is the story of a man who saw the loopholes in every system, and rarely shied away from using them.

What’s more, Wizzywig is also one of the year’s best graphic novels, combining a thrilling, dramatic tale of curiosity, risk, and consequence, with a fascinating study of what can happen when technology and the ways we use it evolve faster than the government’s understanding of it.

IFC spoke with Piskor about the new, hardcover collection of Wizzywig that presents the amalgam of real-world stories that make up Kevin Phenicle’s fascinating, fictional life.

IFC: Right at the start, I have to tell you that even though it clearly states that Wizzywig is “inspired by the incredible stories of real-life hackers,” I kept having to remind myself that it’s not actually a biography of a real person…

ED PISKOR: [Laughs] Yeah, it is a biography to a certain extent — in that it’s a biography of like nine different guys crammed into one book.

IFC: Who are some of the real-life hackers whose stories found their way into the book in one form or another?

PISKOR: Well, there’s this guy named Kevin Mitnick, and trailing just behind him is Kevin Poulsen. Both of these men were able to evade capture for years and years by the weird, verboten knowledge they had. They were able to game the system and create false identities and just stay under the radar. My thesis is that the only reason they were captured was because they simply got tired of running. The idea of disappearing and not being ble to have contact with your closest family and loved ones, that has to be kind of daunting after a few years.

There were other people the book was inspired by, too — like this blind phone-phreaker named Joe Engressia. He changed his name to “Joybubbles.” He wanted to game the White Pages because there were no one-word names, like “Madonna.” So he wanted his name to be “Joybubbles” and they still couldn’t put a one-word name into the paper, so they put it down as first name “Joy,” last name “Bubbles.” That was a big victory for him.

IFC: Where did your connection with this subject begin? How did you get interested in hacking and the lives of hackers?

PISKOR: I was working on a book with Harvey Pekar called Macedonia, and there was a lot of labor involved in that one. It took me 14 months to put the book together, and it was right when podcasting was kind of new, which was perfect, because it’s hard for me to keep myself in the drawing chair. For whatever reason, I put in the word “hacker” or “hacking” into one of those podcast aggregators, and this archive of a radio show called “Off The Hook” came up. There was a 25-year archive of this radio show which broadcasts from WBAI in Manhattan. The host of the show is also the publisher of a hacker magazine called 2600. I had some knowledge of different events — like stuff that happened with Kevin Mitnick — but the information I had on these subjects was all presented by major media outlets, so I just started listening to that audio archive from the first show, which was back in the ’80s, close to 1990.

I listened to the entire archive, and what happened is that it really built on all of these dramas that developed in the hacker community. Sometimes they would interview someone for weeks on end, and then suddenly that person isn’t there. And the host would get on to say that the person you got to know throughout the last few shows is now in jail and facing litigation. All of these dramas played out throughout the show.

IFC: That makes a lot of sense, because there’s a character in Wizzywig who’s a radio host, and he sort of leads the crusade to shed light on the main character’s treatment…

PISKOR: Yeah, the host of the real-life broadcast and the publisher of 2600, his nom de plume is Emmanuel Goldstein, which was the fictional antagonist to Big Brother in the book 1984. And because I’m not original in any way, that radio-host character in Wizzywig is named Winston smith, who’s the actual main character of 1984. The book is full of these little call-outs and geeky little tidbits that somebody who’s into this scene will get and understand and appreciate, but it doesn’t take away from the actual story if you don’t catch them. It’s just icing on the cake for people who are legitimately into this world.

IFC: So this radio show had a lot to do with your inspiration for Wizzywig, it seems…

PISKOR: Yeah, the show covered not only the history of hacking, but the history of high-tech and how the government was very slow and very draconian at first to understand and legislate against people who do weird things on the computer. There were a lot of weird cases where people were getting put in jail for years and labeled felons for very benign things that today you’d only receive a slap on the wrist for, if anything.

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Soap tv show

As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.


2. IKEA Heights

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IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.


3. Fresno

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When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.


4. Soap

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Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.


5. Too Many Cooks

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Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.


6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

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Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.


7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV

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Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.


8. Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…


9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.


10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show

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The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.


11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)

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Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”


12. Acorn Antiques

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First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.


13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show

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In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)


14. The Spoils of Babylon

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Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.

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15. All My Children Finale, SNL

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SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

Netflix The Ranch 1920

Funny Farm

Hyde and Kelso Reunite in the First Photos From Netflix’s The Ranch

Hang out with Hyde and Kelso on That '70s Show Mondays and Tuesdays from 6-11P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Netflix

There’s a mini, unofficial That ’70s Show reunion taking place over on that great streaming service in the sky, Netflix. According to Entertainment Weekly, Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson (who played Kelso and Hyde, respectively) are reuniting for an upcoming multi-camera sitcom called The Ranch where the duo will play onscreen brothers. In classic sitcom fashion, Kutcher plays a semipro football player who drops out of the league in order to help run his family ranching business in Colorado alongside his brother Rooster (Masterson).

Ashton posted a photo of himself, Masteron and Wilmer Valderrama on Instagram a few weeks back, suggesting that the man formerly know as Fez might put in an appearance on the new show.

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A photo posted by Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) on

Ashton also recently Tweeted a photo of himself and Masteron, looking like Beard brothers.

Megafans of That ’70s Show will be happy to know that their onscreen dynamic won’t change much in the new series. Kutcher tells EW, “Our relationship is contentious, but the history of Danny and my friendship bleeds into the characters…They’re best friends, but they f—ing hate each other.”

That’s great to hear. It’d be weird to see Hyde being nice to Kelso. Take a look at some photos from The Ranch below, and be sure to catch Kutcher and Masterson on That ’70s Show, Mondays and Tuesdays from 6-11P on IFC.

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Want more That ’70s Show? Check out the show’s best burns in the video below. 

The X-Files

The Truth is Scary

The 12 Scariest Episodes of The X-Files

Catch the X-Files movies Saturday, January 23rd starting at 12:15P ET/11:15 PT on IFC.

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In the early ’90s, The X-Files was a cultural happening, right up there with Pogs and the Bartman. It hit at a perfect moment, spawning catchphrases and racy fan fiction that helped shape the early days of the Internet. With The X-Files: Fight the Future and The X-Files: I Want to Believe airing this month on IFC, we thought we’d revisit some of the scariest episodes the show ever produced. Wake up your inner ’90s child, and let them know they won’t being going to sleep tonight, because the truth is out there, and it is freaking terrifying.


12. “Our Town,” Season Two

We all know small towns have something to hide, at least on The X-Files. That certainly proved true in this second season episode that made us rethink our eating habits. When The X-Files did horror, the writers always strived to find a new slant on an old genre. Here, that meant taking the iconography of cannibals, masked murderers and factory farming, and whipping them together into a uniquely scary stew. “Our Town” isn’t a perfect episode, falling into cliché at times (Scully pulls the damsel in distress routine for the umpteeth time), but it more than makes up for its faults with some genuine scares.


11. “Chinga,” Season Five

What do you get when you combine the greatest horror show of its time with the greatest horror author of the century? The answer is this fifth season episode, penned by Stephen King himself, about a mind controlling killer doll come to life. Whether it’s clawing out your own eyes, or stabbing yourself with a hammer, this stuffed little lady is impossible to say no to. While the episode received mixed reviews, for any fan of King, it’s a must watch. If nothing else, the surprise the network got when they learned that “Chinga” is actually a curse word in Spanish must’ve been pretty terrifying.


10. “Eve,” Season One

Nothing is scarier than twins. That’s just a fact. But what if those creepy twins were just the tip of the iceberg? What if countless clones were made in some secret government lab, all with one purpose… Murder! That’s the idea here, as Mulder and Scully face off against a ragtag band of grimy killer clones, who will just as soon bite your head off as look at you. “Eve” was a creepy first season episode that demonstrated what a mastery of genre the show would have moving forward.


9. “The Host,” Season Two

For any of us that have worried about what monsters may be lurking in the toilet, this episode confirmed our very worst fears. An early effort at the “Monster-of-the-Week” format that would come to define the show, it’s far from a perfect episode. But what it does do effectively is create a creepy monster with a freakish sucker face that plays on our unspoken fears of the unknown. An early indicator of what this show was capable of, “The Host” (and Flukeman) still freaks us out enough to make the list.


8. “Folie à Deux,” Season Five

There’s nothing scarier than losing your mind. That’s what this season five episode explored, when Mulder found himself seeing monsters no one else could. Was he cracking up? Or were they real (and unstoppable) because no one would believe him? Which is really more terrifying? A spooky outing full of fun ideas and creepy visuals, this was one of the few episodes that made you wonder if Mulder was going to find a way out of it in one piece.


7. “Irresistible,” Season Two

The X-Files would do anything for a scare, even if it meant dropping the supernatural for an episode and showing us how terrifying man can be without all the aliens and ghosts to get in the way. “Irresistible” focused on a Scully-obsessed serial killer who takes misogyny to the next level, killing women and keeping their hair and fingers as trophies. The episode stands out thanks to a furiously creepy performance from Nick Chinlund, who imbues his killer with an oily smugness. Featuring one of the show’s all-time best guest spots, this episode really showed why you should trust no one.


6. “Die Hand Die Verletzt,” Season Two

Everyone knows that substitute teachers are a bunch of pushovers. Well, that doesn’t seem to be the case in Milford Haven, New Hampshire, where desks are filled with student’s eyes and hearts, instead of homework. This season two episode explored what happens when those we trust with our kids prey upon them. While the story was fairly conventional, the scares were intense, playing out ritual sacrifice and supernatural suicide against a backdrop of typical high school drama.


5. “Patient X,” Season Five

Most of the truly scary, full-blown horror episodes of The X-Files were stand alone, and separate from the show’s larger mythology. This episode is different. Diving head first into the show’s labyrinthine plot about alien invasion, “Patient X” showed how terrifying visitors from outer space could be. There’s lots of dark moments here. Bodies burned alive. Alien infections. But none compare to the visual of the infected, their bloody eyes and mouths sewn shut, coming for us all. One of the most striking visuals the show ever came up with, it was a moment that turned an episode that was for true blue fans into something that could freak out just about anybody.


4. “Sanguinarium,” Season Four

Talk about medical malpractice. This fourth season episode explored the trust we place in our doctors to not go batty and start ritually sacrificing us while they’re all up in our guts. Plastic surgery was just becoming a way of life in the ’90s, which meant it was a fertile subject for satire. And what is horror but satire with blood? X-Files creator Chris Carter saw the potential in exploring the glamorous industry’s dark underbelly of vanity and pride. It’s not much of a leap from paying a doctor thousands of dollars for the perfect body to selling your soul for one. And, of course, there’s plenty of blood to boot.


3. “Field Trip,” Season Six

This sixth season episode was a head-trip, for both the characters and the audience. What’s real and what’s a hallucination? In the episode, Mulder and Scully both find themselves under the effects of a potent, psychotropic spore that causes them to vividly hallucinate. We see them kidnap aliens and die horrible deaths, all while still trapped inside their own minds. Each time we think they’ve made it free, we realize this is just another layer of fantasy. A mind-tripping horror show that leave us on the edge of our seats, “Field Trip” was one of the most innovative and freaky episodes in the show’s run.


2. “Detour,” Season Five

You’re lost in the woods, being hunted by a monster you can’t see. AND you have to deal with some serious sexual tension with your work wife to boot. That’s the premise of this classic episode from the show’s fifth season which pits Mulder and Scully against nature itself, by way of a chameleon-like “Monster-of-the-Week.” The monster in this episode was one of the show’s best, blending into its surrounding just enough to be anywhere, while always tipping us off with its disturbing, glowing eyes. If we can all agree to ignore its similarities to Predator, this is one of the show’s very best episodes.


1. “Home,” Season Four

One of the most controversial outings in the show’s history, this season four episode was so brutal, so graphic, and so disturbing that some fans felt like they’d been betrayed. In a sense, this episode posits what would happen if Mulder and Scully wandered into The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but with a bit less chainsaw, and bit more inbred freaks. The show would never again create freaks as disturbing as The Peacocks, who were almost scarier for their way of life than their brutal murders.

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