Adali's First Comic: The Legend of the Secret Sword

Jonathan Longnecker Jonathan Longnecker / October 14, 2014
Loss Adali Cover

We talk a lot around here about trying to be a family that makes more than we consume. It's not easy, that's for sure. But sometimes we push through and something really cool happens.

A couple of months ago I sat down with Adali (our oldest) and gave her a school project. I told her she was going to make her own comic book! Needless to say this went over very well ;) I wanted to make sure she didn't just draw a few pictures and call it a day, though. I wanted her to know what it was like to work towards something bit by bit. To take on something that made her push through the dip we all face when trying to finish a project.

So I told her we were going to approach it in "phases." This way she wouldn't be overwhelmed and we could tackle each major step together. Here's our process:

#1. The Big Idea

This was easy. "Adali, what do you want to make a comic book about?" "NINJAS," she said. That's my girl.

#2. The Story

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Since our goal was a proper comic book, we spent some time looking into basic story structure. Settling on the reliable 3-act structure (Setup, Conflict & Resolution) we talked through what each phase meant and how we could work ninjas into a 3 act story. The key here wasn't to spend hours researching writing structure (she's only 8), but to help her understand the basics of how good stories are told. 

Once that was done, I told her to go write the stroy on her own. She did really good!

#3. The Characters

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We've mentioned before that we're big Ninja Turtle fans here at the Longnecker household. Sometimes we'll look at concept art for the characters in the new 2012 series, so I told Adali that she needed to do concept art for each of the main characters in the story. Show them at different angles, what weapons they carry, what clothes they were going to wear. You get the idea. This was a lot of fun and she probably enjoyed this part the most.

#4. The Rough Draft

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So now we had the big idea, the story and the characters. Comic books come in a very unique format, though. It was time to start paneling things together. We worked on this part together - I did some really quick sketches and helped her layout the pages - and we fleshed out the story so that it worked better in the panel layout. I had a blast working on this part with her. Using the story she wrote, but still improvising and playing with it as we drew was so much fun.

#5. The Drawing

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I knew that asking Adali to draw out every page by herself - every panel, frame and text bubble was too much. So I had her take each panel we had sketched together and re-draw it on a brand new page. Then I would re-assemble the whole thing in some page layout software. She's a bit of a perfectionist and I knew she would get hung up on not being happy with a page if one of the 10 drawings wasn't right.

This was the part where I was able to let her go. She had the rough version of the comic, the character designs and the story. It was time for me to leave her alone and let her make her art. And she did. Over 65 pieces of paper. I was so proud . She rocked it :)

Another thing that was cool about this part was that she had drawn everything in pencil and then went back over with ink. Jett sat and helped her out by erasing her pencil lines. I loved how he pitched in and helped his big sister.

#6. Putting it All Together

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This was the part I should have thought through better. I didn't realize that I was going to have to photograph over 65 drawings, re-assemble them in page layout software and add all the text myself. Needless to say, it took a long time. Sadly, it probably took me twice as long to do this part as it did Adali to do her part. Next time around I need to make sure that I don't pin a big part of the process on me. It was a good learning experience, though!

So far we've only printed a few copies at Kinkos - and while I'm used to setting up booklets for print I wasn't used to working with a copy shop to do that (instead of a place with a printing press). So learned a lot there, too. Mainly - pick size for your pages so that two will fit on an 8.5x11 sheet. Resizing is a pain.

How would we do it different next time?

Next time around we're going to try having her work with some sort of Wacom tablet so her drawings are going straight in to the computer. The time involved photographing, resizing and adjusting took entirely too long - and didn't end up looking super awesome. We might try to find some software that's made more for comic books rather than a big, bloated professional page layout software. InDesign is great, but it does so many things - there might be an app out there that steamlines the process. Oh, and definitely doing all color the next time around!

Want to Read It?

Of course you do! With great pride I get to present to you my daughter's very first comic book - The Legend of The Secret Sword!

Download & Read Now

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Jonathan Longnecker

About the Author

Jonathan Longnecker is the strongly opinionated tattooed and bearded half of Tiny Shiny Home. He loves making music, designing brands, building websites and exploring the outdoors. Currently his jam is renovating a vintage Airstream.

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