An Un-Calibrated Centrifuge

Out on the Wire

Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio - Jessica Abel

I read this for one of my summer classes. We had to read and annotate 10 comics/graphic novels. Here's the annotation I wrote for that class:


Out on the Wire is about the making of narrative nonfiction radio shows. It outlines the work that goes into creating and producing a radio show from story to sound to edits.


The interplay of text and images within the book is interesting in several ways. Two such ways include characters breaking the fourth wall and addressing readers directly and visual metaphors that add to the understanding of the creation process: finding a story is like being on an archaeological dig, editing is like sculpting marble or wandering a forest.


Initially a graphic novel might seem like a strange choice for a book about radio. One is purely visual and the other is purely aural. But as is repeated several times throughout the book, "Radio is a visual medium." Using the tools available to them—sound effects, music, editing—the creators of these shows craft pictures for listeners. Abel does something similar with her images. Through images and text effects, she is able to visually represent sound. There is a striking sequence of an edit—the process of getting feedback from the team on a story. The story is illustrated down the center of the page while the team’s remarks are printed on either side of the story panels. This visually mimics the experience of hearing the story and people’s remarks simultaneously.


Out on the Wire would make a great addition to any collection, especially one that is trying to break beyond the bounds of traditional graphic novels.