Talk about leaky margins! This 12-issue limited series from DC Comics mixes realities with the efficiency of a Waring blender.
The star is Jack Marshall who goes by the handle "Hacker." A freelance programmer, he was responsible, in his youth, for writing the operating system used by the computer zaibatsu Digitronix. The story picks up a few years after Marshall is squeezed out of his royalties and his job by mean money man Sutcliffe.
Even though the Department of Defense has Digitronix under contract to support their computers, when a mysterious virus hits the Pentagon, it's Hacker that they send for in a Lear jet. Told not to pack, he shows up wearing his anarchist "A" t-shirt.
The first story arc revolves around that virus, and the thermonuclear incident that Hacker manages to avert after a tense trip to Norad HQ in Cheyenne Mountain. Where did the virus come from? Clues point to Marshall's old company, Digitronix.
Marshall has allies, young hackers who call themselves the Speed Metal Kids.
The second story arc explores the Sun Devil hacker crackdown as one of the kids, Sue Denim, gets hauled out of bed at gunpoint, and is trundled off with all her electronic gear to a Secret Service holding cell. The government ops laugh amongst themselves when Sue's father mistakes them for burglars and pleads with them to spare his daughter's life.
There are three distinct realities in the mix here. The first is the real world- the issues running through The Hacker Files are those running through the real world cyberculture. The second is the DC universe, peopled with the usual vigilantes in spandex. Although the long-john crowd only shows up occasionally, some of the important supporting characters (Sarge Steel, Oracle) come from existing comics. The third reality is the Hacker Files comic itself, which is the interface between our world and the comic world. Makes for an intriguing plot structure and a jazzy-good read.
By and large, comics don't do that well with real people. Shiner has come up with an excellent pomo hero in Hacker. An anarcho-genius, answerable only to himself, the reader is never quite sure what Marshall will do next, or what turns the story will take. Sounds like real life to me.
DC is to be commended for publishing this thoughtful tour of some of the more interesting margins of our world.
The Hacker Files (issues 1 - 12)
Words by Lewis Shiner, Pencil Art by Tom Sutton
Available in your favorite comic book specialty shop.
Here is the TEXT POPUP for The Hacker Files:
(A young skateboarder, sliding down the handrail outside the Bronx High School of Science, collides with a rotund black student, knocking off his glasses, spilling the contents of his brief case. Not realizing that he's crashed into one of the Speed Metal Kids, he skates off...)
Skateboarder: Watch where you're going, Dweeb.
(Trudging off, papers popping out of his briefcase, he thinks...)
"Ha! Dweeb indeed.
Little does he realize... he's dealing with... MASTER BLASTER!"
(After finally getting sprung from the jail cell she shared with Sue Denim during the hacker crackdown, Barbara Gordon, who has a secret life as the superhero Oracle, is putting her life back together. Wheelchair bound, the indignities of incarceration were particularly cruel for her. She is hooking up her equipment for the first time. She's thinking...)
"Finally everything is here. The movers are gone, paid off, and I'm alone at last. I managed to get through that whole disaster without exposing myself as Oracle. I guess I should be grateful for small favors.
When I was in that cell this was all I could think about. Being back with all my things, safe and alone. Now I'm here and it just feels... lonely.
No. Don't even think it. If I start I don't know where it will end. Better just to fire this up and see if it all works."
(She boots up her 'puter. For an opening screen, she gets a field of daisies, with a big red "Surprise!" sprawled across it. Then a dialog box appears, reading "Happy Housewarming! Love, Sue." Relief softens her face with healing tears and she realizes...)
but not alone."
(Hacker, in a rented car, closes in on Digitronix, musing...)
"Dallas in the summer has its own foul smell. It's the smell on your fingers after handling too much money.
Dallas, Texas, USA. September 14, 1991.
I don't like to drive in the first place. Driving in Dallas is like trying to play touch football with the NFL."