On behalf of Avatar Wiki, I want to thank Gene Yang for being such a considerate and thoughtful interviewee. He answered all of our questions and more with so much detail and it’s clear that he’s an invested fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
We talked a little about the backstory of Avatar and how he got involved with the graphic novels before launching directly into the interview:
Gene Yang first became a fan of Avatar: the Last Airbender when another one of his comic writer friend, Derek Kirk Kim, convinced him to watch it. Within three or four episodes, he got hooked and became a huge fan like the rest of us!
And for fun, here’s an awesome webcomic he drew about Avatar and the live-action film. As an ongoing boycotter of the live-action film, I found it utterly delightful.
Gene got involved in December of 2010, shortly after Dark Horse acquired the license from Nickelodeon. He had interviews with Bryan Konietzko and Mike DiMartino, the creators of Avatar: the Last Airbender to talk about the direction of the graphic novels. As creators, Brian and Mike have “very clear ideas” for some of the characters and their futures and more vague ideas for others.
One of the cool things Gene Yang discussed in the interview was the real historical aspects of Avatar: the Last Airbender. Of course a lot of it is derived from Asian culture but it’s really interesting to see how Gene Yang broke down each of the four nations characteristics based on the world that Mike and Brian created.
- Fire Nation- Very specifically drawn from the 1800s of militaristic Japanese culture that began adapting to Western technology.
- Earth Kingdom and Ba Sing Se- Manchu dynasty of China; huge, sprawling, but weak with a complacent government system.
- Air Nomads- Tibetan monks
- Water Tribe- Inuit culture
The historical aspect is especially interesting because we’ll see the transition from Avatar to Legend of Korra in Republic City, a more “modern city” where all these cultures mesh instead of living separately in Avatar.
So let’s hear the interview questions Avatar Wiki carefully selected! Note: Bolded paragraphs note parts of the interview that's been transcribed almost word for word.
1. How far does The Promise take us (in terms of timeline) into the Legend of Korra? Will we see Team Avatar all grown up or at least what happened to them before Korra begins?
Here’s our first shocker of the interview: The Promise: 1-3 takes place in about a week! It begins immediately after the events of Avatar: the Last Airbender and then skips ahead a year after the first few pages.
The graphic novels are three installments of 80 pages and will give us a snapshot of what’s been happening since Avatar: the Last Airbender ended.
Team Avatar are in a “modern city,” aka the beginnings of Republic City, which is an amalgamation of different cultures in a way that Avatar with its separate nations was not.
“How do you get from a world where the four nations are separate, to a world where they intermingle, mix, and live side by side?”
2. Will the graphic novel series (in all three installments) show the creation of Republic City and the advanced technology that we see in Legend of Korra? - from Natsu11, Lovelyb0nes, NinjasandNavi, Shock Dragoon
We will see the “groundwork” being laid for Republic City, which is compared to Asia in 1920s by Mike and Bryan of Avatar. If Avatar: the Last Airbender was Asia in 1800s, then Legend of Korra and Republic City is similar to Asian in 1920s with new flush of technology.
The groundwork for Republic City will be laid out in the “modern city,” as described by Gene in the previous question, and there will already be hints of tension.
3. Will we see the status of the characters’ romantic relationships beyond Aang and Katara’s? - from Free as a Bison
We know from Korra that Aang and Katara end up together but everyone else’s is unknown, and Gene laughed and explained that he can’t go into further detail.
Also, Gene Yang is a total Zutara shipper!
4. Will the trilogy complete the story of Team Avatar, or will it remain open? - from Russian Avatar Wiki
It will definitely not be complete; there is more to tell, especially since the timespan (one week) is very short. Gene Yang also explained that while The Promise will serve as a connection to Legend of Korra, it isn’t necessarily a direct connection. The events at end of The Promise (the trilogy) doesn't lead into the beginning of Korra.
5. How much of The Promise is/was influenced by the writing/events of Legend of Korra and visa versa? - from TAWNNeComics
Gene Yang explained that he is writing to fit Legend of Korra and the world of Mike and Bryan, who are “very hands on” with their characters and specific storylines.
They have a vast history of their world in their heads, and Korra and Aang are just a piece of the story.
Main characters of The Promise will still be Team Avatar and new side characters may or may not be present in Legend of Korra. The new characters, such as Toph’s metalbending students will serve to highlight the core people from Avatar: the Last Airbender.
6. Will we see the beginnings of equalist struggles? - from Taekwond1
There will be hints of the tension, even in the brief week that we see the beginning of Republic City.
7. Will we get to see the Southern Water tribe rebuilt? - from Alicia.s.johnson
That part isn’t covered in The Promise; not to say it won’t be happening but it’s not covered. The focus of the story is on Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and beginning of Republic City.
Gene did reveal that the Air Nomad culture being rebuilt will be hinted at!
Gene Yang is also a huge fan of the Cabbage Merchant! He revealed that we’ll see the Freedom Fighters: Smellerbee, Longshot, and Sneers (who is his favorite!) We will also see the Kyoshi Warriors, including Suki and Ty Lee, who is now a Kyoshi Warrior. And of course, Uncle Iroh, although not the Order of the White Lotus.
9. The Avatar community is of course very invested in the backstory with Zuko’s family and Ursa, his mother. Is there anything you can reveal about the story of Ursa and whether we will see her again?
Gene Yang revealed that this was the first question he asked Mike and Bryan! Although he couldn’t comment…he did reveal that we will definitely hear the rest of the conversation between Zuko and Ozai about Ursa at the end of Avatar!!
10. Azula has such a large and loyal following. Fans have been eagerly awaiting news of her fate since they heard that she would make an appearance in The Promise and her next steps if she were to leave the asylum.
Gene Yang agrees with the rest of the Avatar community that Azula is a layered and fascinating character. He couldn’t tell us much about of the princess but she will definitely show up in The Promise, which discusses her being put away in the insane asylum.
I hope you enjoyed the interview, everyone! Gene Yang also thanked the Avatar community for being such devoted fans and supporters. He cited Avatar Wiki as a wonderful source of information that he used as a resource, which I hope everyone is delighted about! Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions and I will try to clarify it for you.
Who's excited for The Promise?
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