This Friday during the Comic-Con@Home event, Dark Horse Comics gathered a roster of writers to discuss the comic books and novels set in the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. The Continuing the Avatar Legacy panel was moderated by Kate Jay; writers in attendance included Avatar and Korra co-creator Michael Dante DiMartino, Gene Yeun Lang, F.C. Yee, and Faith Erin Hicks. Yang wrote the first five arcs of the Avatar: The Last Airbender series, with Hicks picking up duties shortly after. Yee wrote the novel Rise of Kyoshi and its sequel, Shadow of Kyoshi; both novels focus on the life of Avatar Kyoshi, Avatar Aang’s predecessor.
The writers were asked about their favorite stories in the Avatar universe. DiMartino said that he was excited to consult with Yee on the Kyoshi novels since it was a new format and it allowed them to go “darker” in some aspects. Yee said that his publisher reached out to him because they felt he’d be perfect. “I jumped at the opportunity and basically wasn’t going to turn down a gift like that. I just ran with it.”
Yang said that when he got the call to write the Avatar comics, he freaked out. “It was one of the funniest experiences I’ve ever had as a comic guy.” Hicks said she was a huge fan of the show and Yang’s run and would discuss both with him at various conventions. “It was so exciting and terrifying, to be honest,” she said of writing her first story arc, The Balance. “I’ve never been more scared to work on a project.” She has a standalone graphic novel titled Katara and the Pirate’s Silver coming soon. It will see her reteam with artist Peter Wartman.
Yee pointed out how the Avatar universe helped shape a generation of creatives. “It inspired so much of us. It’s just where our heads go when we think about what we really love and what we would like to be like and what depths we would like to accomplish as creative professionals.”
“Avatar is the platonic ideal of what is an amazing fantasy story for kids. It has everything!” Hicks added, noting the series’ influence on her own original work.
Talk at the Continuing the Avatar Legacy panel then turned to why fans and creators keep returning to the universe. DiMartino said he and co-creator Bryan Konietzko were “lucky” to tell the story they wanted to tell. Yee discussed how the universe feels like a “living world” and that its evolution over time made it compelling. Hicks said that the characters growing and evolving also made it relatable, using Toph as an example. She also said that the show having multiple female leads spoke to her as a female animator.
While discussing the timeline, DiMartino said that he was not a fan of prequels but found making connections between Avatar and Korra was “fun.” Yee pointed out how the creators use the events of the series to shape the world, citing Yang and Hicks’ works. “It’s this really cool gift Bryan and Mike have given us to expand the canon and continue to bridge the gap between the two series.” Hicks said.
“The world in Korra is so well defined and it’s so different from the world in Avatar.” Yang said. “The world becomes this completely different place with Korra.” He also discussed how the “richness” of the world lets certain tales stand out.
Another topic of discussion at the Continuing the Avatar Legacy panel was translating an animated series to the static mediums of comics and novels. Hicks discussed how she had “to work really hard” to create fight scenes. Yee said he wound up toning down characters’ power levels for the prose. “These different mediums have different strengths,” DiMartino said.
DiMartino was asked how it felt to see the universe develop in other mediums. He said it was “great” working with other creators to flesh out the universe. “I was also wary of it becoming the kind of property that went “Here’s the novelization! Here’s the comics!” without adding any value to the stories,” he said, adding that he and Konietzko stayed involved as consultants to help writers build the world and add a sense of authenticity.
Finally, talk turned to the series’ debut on Netflix. The writers discussed how the show has reached a whole new generation of fans. Yang said that his children are watching the show, while DiMartino said that he received messages from his high school friends saying that their kids are watching the show.
You can watch the full panel here.
Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.