Interview: Writer Ethan Bull Discusses WORLD WAR HACK

If there is to be another World War the battleground will be different than the past two. Technology has ingrained itself heavily in the world we live in and there is a definite possibility the next wars will be fought heavily in cyberspace. Writer Ethan Bull teams up with artist Tsubasa Yozora to bring the world of hacking to the world of comics with World War Hack from Viper Comics. Ethan took time to answer some questions about how the book came to be and what readers can expect.

Aaron Long: Straight from the creator’s mouth: how would you describe World War Hack?

Ethan Bull: The short answer is that World War Hack is about a teenage computer hacker who gets wrapped up in a hacking competition designed by the government to secretly solve a national security crisis.

The longer answered is that it is a story which deals with the theme of right versus wrong from a computer hacking perspective. The idea that we, as a country, need to step up our efforts to find and recruit the best computer/network security talent we can find no matter where they come from to help protect us. And lastly, it is a story that hopefully convinces us all to acknowledge that as our world becomes more connected, it also becomes more vulnerable to the whims of black hat hackers whether they are foreign nations, rogue groups or individuals.

That said, the short answer sounds more fun so go with that one.

AL: Can you discuss how Tsubasa Yozora became involved with the project?

EB: We wanted this graphic novel to have a very realistic feel to it and when Tsubasa’s sample pages came in, we felt he really nailed the look we were after. He took the direction that we gave him for those pages and executed them with his own personal flair. We looked at a lot of great samples but in the end, we went with Tsubasa for his realistic interpretation of the sample pages and how he took our direction without losing his personal drawing style.

AL: Can you describe what drives Wyatt through the story?

EB: To mimic a line from the U.S. Army, Wyatt wants to be the best hacker he can be. His father, a graduate of MIT, taught Wyatt how to hack the phone lines in their home when he was six. From there, he just wanted to keep learning more and more about hacking of all kinds whether it was eavesdropping on his sister’s phone calls, fixing the family toaster oven or writing code to get a computer to do what he wanted, Wyatt was all in.

In terms of this specific story though, Wyatt’s driving motivation is to find out who hacked into his personal computer server sitting in his bedroom closet. While on that path, he gets recruited for a government sponsored hacking competition which takes his laptop, cell phone and connection to his server away from him yet he continues to hack and social engineer ways to fix his personal computer server while in competition lock-down. Without giving too much of the story away, that conflict pulls him through the story until his needs mesh with that of the government’s.

AL: The book is based on some real world events. While researching the world of hacking, what was the most shocking thing you came across?

EB: I was really shocked to find out how many times a day our government’s computer network and infrastructure gets attacked by black hat hackers trying to break in and wreak havoc. That, combined with the fact that we have about 10% of the white hat hackers (network security experts) we need to protect us, really made me sit up and take notice. Those two facts, along with the fact that our government does conduct hacking competitions to find new security talent, really inspired me to write this story.

AL: The world of IT and hacking can be a dry subject, for lack of a better term, for many people. Was it difficult writing engaging visuals for a book based in the world of computing?

EB: Thanks for the compliment.

The trick with this story was to write enough about hacking along with the terminology to let the reader know that we knew what we were talking about but not so much that we overwhelmed them with subject matter that they didn’t understand. Our editor, Gwendolyn Borgen, was great at guiding me through the various drafts as we looked for that fine line. The set pieces of the predator drones, F15 Fighter jets, the White House and the Pentagon didn’t hurt either to spice up the story while cementing it in the real world that readers could relate to.

Tsubasa also used a great technique to express the computer hacking at key points in the story by using a number of little panels focusing on various aspects of the coding (the eyes, fingers on keys, etc.) that give a great movement feel to those pages.

AL: Any final words for Comicosity’s readers regarding World War Hack?

EB: I want to stress that while World War Hack deals with some very serious themes, it really is a fun read for people of all ages and backgrounds. We have a video promo trailer and the first eight pages up as a sample at www.worldwarhack.com so you can see for yourself if this story is for you. Thanks for reading.

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