Alyssa Milano has been working on a comic book, called Hacktivist , a story of what-ifs. What if the founders of a popular social media network were also elusive hacktivists? What are the repercussions of that?
"I became really fascinated with what was going on in social media and activism and how social media was becoming a tool to assemble and organize protests throughout the world," says Milano. That led to an interest in the computer-savvy activists known as Anonymous. She was intrigued with the concept of Anonymous, essentially, the lack of personal identities associated with them. Milano wondered, "What if Anonymous was one guy who was using an organization as a front?"
From there, more questions arose. "Who would he need to be? What skills would he need to have?" she says. "Obviously, he would need to code and program, but also have an incredibly compassionate heart to want to affect positive change in the world. What would that guy's day job be? What would that guy do during the day?"
Milano was inspired by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who is also her son's godfather. "He's the only person I could think of who could possibly be that guy," she says, "who started a hugely popular social media site, using that as a front to be the greatest hacktivist that the world has ever known."
She brought the idea to Archaia, the L.A.-based publisher who previously released acclaimed works like Jim Henson's Tale of Sand. Writers Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly, along with artist Marcus To, helped bring Milano's concept to life. Hacktivist will begin its four issue run in January.
On Saturday, Milano turned up at Stan Lee's Comikaze to promote the forthcoming release. The day before that, though, the actress had some fun with Twitter. Odd messages followed by the hashtag #sve_Urs3lf appeared on her feed. "Everyone thinks it was hacked, but really it was me sending all those tweets," Milano says. The fake hacker tweets contained clues to help fans identify the login for a preview of the story. Milano came clean during her Comikaze panel.
That Milano pulled a Twitter stunt to preview the comic doesn't come as a surprise. Says the current star of ABC's drama Mistresses, about social media and social activism, "It's hard to separate the two for me."
Milano has been in the spotlight since she played Samantha Micelli on the 1980s sitcom Who's the Boss? In recent years, though, she's become almost as well known for her tweets. (In fact, she was voted "Best Twitterer" in L.A. Weekly's 2011 Web Awards.) She has leveraged her prowess in the Twitter arena to raise awareness of various social issues and philanthropic endeavors.
See also: Best Twitterer: Alyssa Milano
When Milano joined Twitter, people in Iran were taking to the streets, and the young social media network, in protest. She started following a handful of college students who were updating with information on what was happening in Iran. "I felt like I was getting raw information," she says. "It almost felt as if I was on the ground with them." That introduction to social media has helped inform Milano's attitude towards the platform.
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"I think that getting information from your computer is a very personal experience, more personal than watching anything on television for sure," she says. "Our computers hold all of our lives really, our dreams, our secrets, our searches, all those things."
At Comikaze Expo, Milano had met up with two friends that she knew through Twitter. With more than 2.5 million people following her on the social media platform, it's safe to say that there are a lot of people who know her from a string of 140 character messages. "I try to be mindful of [the amount of followers], but not tweet as though there are that many people," she says. "I try to tweet like I'm tweeting to 25 of my closest friends."
There's a certain sort of pressure that can set in when one is hyper-aware of the size of the audience and Milano works to avoid that. "If you go, okay 3 million people are going to be reading this, you start self-doubting or editing to appease the masses. That's not what Twitter should be for people," says Milano. "It should be a personal experience. At least, with the people I love following, it feels like it's a personal experience."