For her first comic book project, Alyssa Milano has produced a story ripped from WikiLeaks-driven headlines and inspired by the infamous antics of Anonymous, the hacker-activist collective. With Twitter followers in excess of 2.5 million, the actress-producer-philanthropist will be exploring social media’s expanding role in global social change in “Hacktivist,” her new graphic novel from Archaia.
Archaia’s press release for the graphic novel describes “Hacktivist” as a fast-paced cyber-thriller, following Ed Hiccox and Nate Graft, “the young founders of the world’s most innovative social media company who moonlight secretly as one of the most notorious black-hat hacker teams on the planet. When the U.S. government discovers their operation, they must face the real world beyond the code and choose between loyalty and what they believe to be is right.” Milano will co-write the graphic novel with writers Jackson Lanzing and Colin Kelly while Marcus To and colorist Ian Herring handle the art.
On the heels of an appearance at Comic-Con International in San Diego and the debut of the limited edition “Hacktivist” preview, Milano spoke with Comic Book Resources about the secret origins of her first foray into comic book writing, the real-life inspirations behind the graphic novel and more.
CBR News: Hacking and using social media as a means for social change is a central idea in “Hacktivist.” What sparked your interest in telling this story?
Alyssa Milano: I’ve had moments on Twitter where I’ve felt like I’ve transported to a different far away land. During the uprising in Iran, I was overwhelmed with the fact that I was getting real-time reports from the activists on the ground. It was the first time I had a true appreciation of the impact and power of social media and how it is an important element in the organizing of these revolutions. Mainstream media was blocked out of the country and social media was the only way these people were able to share their stories and get information out there. I also became obsessed with what the hacking organization “Anonymous” was doing and this word, “hacktivism.” The idea then evolved into the simple question: What if ‘Anonymous’ was not a group of hackers, but just one brilliant hacker? One guy changing the world.
Do you have any personal connections to the hacker world that your story is set?
Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter, is one of my best friends. He is the only man I know that could mastermind such a cover. He’s brilliant. He’s politically savvy and socially conscious and compassionate. The main character of “Hacktivist” is based on Jack. Also, I’m an ambassador for UNICEF and I am philanthropic. My experience as an ambassador inspired wanting to tell a story about one person being the change he wanted to see in the world.
How did “Hacktivist” find a home at Archaia?
[Archaia Editor-in-Chief] Stephen Christy was the first person I pitched the idea to and the only person I pitched the idea to. He understood the potential. I felt safe with him. I knew he would surround me with the right people to make this cool. I met my editor Rebecca Taylor and thought she was one of the most brilliant women I’ve ever met and we dove right in. I think Archaia was the only publishing company that would have taken a risk on this story. Our hero is a just a guy. He’s flawed. He has no super powers. It doesn’t take place in a magical land under extreme circumstances. Our story can realistically happen today. And that is what makes it so special.
Which comics opened you up to the medium?
“Y: The Last Man” and “The Unwritten” are super awesome. My brother suggested I read them both when I told him about my idea.
How was the collaboration on this project, working with your co-writers and artist Marcus To?
I’m not sure how we all found each other but I feel beyond blessed to have [co-writers] Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, [artist] Marcus To and [colorist] Ian Herring working with me to tell this story. They are a gift. They get it. They’re passionate about it. And I not only love working with them, but I also just love them! They are just good dudes.
You recently got back from Comic-Con, where you were promoting the book. What was your experience like there?
Comic-Con was everything I had hoped it would be. It was lovely meeting the fans. Everyone seemed genuinely enthusiastic about “Hacktivist.” I’m looking forward to going back to Comic-Con once the book is released to hear people’s thoughts.
“Hacktivist” debuts digitally this fall, followed by a hardcover release next summer.