The Legend of Korra — The Art of the Animated Series, Book One: Air (ISBN 1-61655-168-2) is an art book written by Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, and Joaquim Dos Santos, based on the first book of The Legend of Korra. Similar to its predecessor, the book offers an inside look at the developmental and creative process that the series underwent prior to its release through a series of preliminary artworks supplemented by commentary from the creators.
To coincide with the San Diego Comic-Con, the art book was released on July 19, 2013, hitting the market about a week earlier than its original July 24 release date. It spans 144 pages, and will be followed by three more art books for each subsequent book of The Legend of Korra.
The book contains twelve chapters:
- Early development (pages eight through 29)
- Welcome to Republic City (pages 30 through 49)
- A Leaf in the Wind (pages 50 through 57)
- The Revelation (pages 58 to 65)
- The Voice in the Night (pages 66 to 75)
- The Spirit of Competition / And the Winner is... (pages 76 to 89)
- The Aftermath (pages 90 to 95)
- When Extremes Meet / Out of the Past (pages 96 to 103)
- Turning the Tides (pages 104 to 111)
- Skeletons in the Closet (pages 112 to 123)
- Endgame (pages 124 to 131)
- Ancillary art (pages 132 to 144)
It also includes an introduction by Avatar creators Michael Dante DiMartino (page six) and Bryan Konietzko (page seven).
Chapter One: Early Development
As The Legend of Korra was essentially following the footsteps of its predecessor, the creators wanted to ensure that Korra's character would be "worthy" as the next incarnation. The initial look of Korra was conceptualized within a very short amount of time, however it took several months for Bryan, Joaquim and Ki Hyun Ryu to finalize her design.
Mako and Bolin were originally created to help illustrate the radical changes that had occurred in the seventy years since the end of the Hundred Year War, such as the mixing of cultures. Both characters went through several changes, however the most radical designs are that of Bolin. Dos Santos originally wanted both characters to have strong noses, however it was decided against. Bolin was always going to have a somewhat simplistic and naive view of the world, however Mako's character originally had a far more Dickensian, or Industrial Age feel, as he was the provider for the two, he grew up more cynical and serious.
There are also several pages focusing on the two animal companions of the series, Naga and Pabu. Naga's design was based on a sketch originally done during the early development for Avatar: The Last Airbender. Both Naga and Pabu where the creations of wishes to add specific types of animals to the Avatar world; where Naga was a pre-conceptualized idea, Michael explains that "[they] had always wanted to use a cute version of a red panda somewhere...". Pabu was the resultant hybrid of a red panda and a black-footed ferret.
What follows are several pages of minor character notes, such as the airbending family; Tenzin in particular was a difficult design, as many of the illustrators could not get his nose right. Ki Hyun wanted Meelo to be an ugly kid, however Michael and Bryan managed to convince him otherwise. There are minor notes on the characters of Asami Sato and Lin Beifong, who were inspired by Rita Hayworth and Marlene Dietrich, respectively. At first, Asami was intended to be a spy for the Equalists, however the creators ended up liking her so much that they kept her on Team Avatar's side.
It is revealed that Amon's character was a collaborative effort between Bryan and Joaquim. While Joaquim focused on the outfit, Bryan drew inspiration from Chinese and Korean masks and facepaint in order to create a simple and yet memorable mask that could become a "symbol of the Equalist revolution". In contrast, the outfit of the Lieutenant was very much inspired by steampunk-era designs and technology, such as the pack on his back that supplied power to his weapons.
Chapter Two: Welcome to Republic City
The second chapter introduces several of the more minor characters. On the first page, Katara is introduced, as well as a scenic shot of the Southern Water Tribe. Michael explains that the scene of Katara allowing Korra to run away was their favorite; they "wanted to respect the old characters and the original series, but also forge a new trail with Korra's story, and felt that scene symbolized that idea.
There are several shots drawn by Fred Stewart and Emily Tetri, two new members to the team. Fred was tasked with several of the larger concept images, such as a skyline view of Republic City and a collaborative effort with Bryan and Joaquim of Korra atop a bridge overlooking the city. Emily worked on the smaller scenes, painting the interrogation room Korra was taken to in record time. Bryan boasts that she is "easily one of the fastest artists [they] have ever worked with".
Air Temple Island and Aang Memorial Island are both introduced as iconic landmarks, and as such, a lot of detail and thought were put into the creation of them. Fred was given the honor of painting Aang's statue and several scenes of Air Temple Island. The New York influence is prevalent all throughout Republic City, however one of the more obvious inspirations is that of Republic City park, a nod to Central Park.
The different triads are explained in this chapter, as well as character and car designs of several well-known characters, such as Viper and Two Toed Ping. The Metalbending Police Force designs also make an appearance, as well as the vehicles used. Several early design concepts are extremely similar to the pro-bending uniform, evidenced by the almost identical headgear and shoulder pads. The earlier uniform was also much lighter in color, and the only embellishment was a red lining around the edge of the metal and on the belt. There was also a version of a riot shield that has not been seen in the show. Bryan explains that he "wanted the look of the Metalbender cops to hark back to traditional samurai armor, blended with the military-style uniforms of New York City cops in the 1920's".