Exclusive: Interview with Author of Season 4 Avatar The Last Airbender Comics, Gene Yang
We just had the chance to get some sweet answers from Gene Yang, author of Avatar The Last Airbender The Promise Comic Series. If you haven’t heard yet, the comic series is going to cover events that happen to Aang and Gang directly after Season 3 of Avatar The Last Airbender, certainly a major advancement in the series.
Read through the Q&A below:
AvatarTheLastAirbenderOnline.com – What role are Mike and Bryan playing in the project? Are they co-authors etc..? (How much are they playing a part?)
Gene Yang – Mike and Bryan have been involved from the very beginning. We had a couple of phone conversations where they gave me ideas that eventually made it into the scripts. They’ve read over every outline and every script that I’ve written. They give me notes on how to get the comic to feel more like the show. Working with them is one of the best parts about this project. They and their entire crew are consummate storytellers. I’ve learned a lot by hearing how they think through a story.
AvatarTheLastAirbenderOnline.com – What events led up to you becoming the primary author for this series?
Gene Yang – Samantha Robertson, an editor at Dark Horse Comics, first contacted me late last year. She’d read American Born Chinese and really enjoyed it. She also knew I was a fan of A:TLA because of my webcomic. After having some conversations with her and Mike and Bryan, they decided to give me the job. Samantha’s since moved on to another media company, so I’ve been working with another Dark Horse editor named Dave Marshall. Everybody involved in the project has been great.
AvatarTheLastAirbenderOnline.com – Will the story of Zuko’s mom be covered?
I plead the fifth.
I will say this, though. In the final episode, the scene cuts away halfway through Zuko’s conversation with Ozai in Ozai’s cell. In the comic, we will see the rest of that conversation.
Reminder – The scene Where Zuko demands to know where his mother is.
AvatarTheLastAirbenderOnline.com – Also what can you tell us about the coverage of other loose ends from the series like: Will Azula’s fate be covered? Dai Li, Toph and her parents, Shipping Questions (e.g. Relationships)
I plead the fifth here, too.
AvatarTheLastAirbenderOnline.com – What time-span will they cover (they link Korra and Airbender together, that’s about a 70 year gap right?)
As you can probably guess from the way I answered the Zuko’s mom question above, the first volume begins immediately after the end of the last episode. And I mean IMMEDIATELY.
AvatarTheLastAirbenderOnline.com – What work have you been involved in, in general?
Gene Yang – I’ve done a number of graphic novels. My most well-known work is probably American Born Chinese, which was released by First Second Books in 2006. It tells three different stories: one about the Monkey King of Chinese legend, another about a young Asian American boy growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood, and a third about a walking Asian stereotype named Cousin Chin-Kee. American Born Chinese won an Eisner Award and the American Library Association’s Printz Award. It was also the first graphic novel to ever be nominated for a National Book Award.
I then did a graphic novel with Derek Kirk Kim (http://www.lowbright.com) called The Eternal Smile. I wrote it, he drew it. The Eternal Smile is a collection of three short stories about the tension between fantasy and reality. It also won an Eisner Award.
A couple of years ago, The New York Times serialized a comics short story of mine called Prime Baby, about a boy who’s so jealous of his baby sister that he tries to prove she’s an alien to their parents. First Second Books later collected it into a graphic novella and it was recently nominated for an Eisner.
My latest graphic novel is a collaboration with artist Thien Pham called Level Up, which tells the story of a video game addict who is told by angels that he has to go to medical school. It was released by First Second Books just a few months ago.
My books are generally categorized as Young Adult. I explore a lot of the same themes that appear in the original A:TLA series: coming of age, making peace with your past, figuring out what good is, cultural differences. I think that’s why I was such a huge fan of the original series.
Note – If you’re interested you can find all of Gene Yang’s work here
AvatarTheLastAirbenderOnline.com – What work have you been involved related to the Avatar World?
Gene Yang – This is my first real Avatar-verse project. I’ve been writing and drawing comics for about 15 years, but outside of a small project for Marvel Comics, all my work has been creator-owned.
When the live-action The Last Airbender movie came out, I did do a short webcomic protesting the casting decisions. (You can find it here: http://www.humblecomics.com/blog/comments.php?y=10&m=05&entry=entry100524-195255 ) When Dark Horse contacted me about writing the A:TLA comic, they told me they knew I was a big fan of the original animated series because of that webcomic.
AvatarTheLastAirbenderOnline.com – Anything to know about the artist(s)?
Gene Yang – Gurihiru is the team name of two artists living in Japan. They’re amazing. Their work is full of life — fun, yet able to carry emotional weight. I’ve been a fan ever since seeing their stuff for Marvel. And I have to say, their pages for A:TLA – The Promise are the best I’ve ever seen from them. THE. BEST.
AvatarTheLastAirbenderOnline.com – What will the artwork style be like? Will it match the extreme quality of the show?
The comics medium is different from animation and the cartoonist has to approach the art differently. That’s why those graphic novels where they just take screenshots from an animated cartoon always read so horribly. One small example of the difference — in comics, panel sizes can vary. In TV animation, you’re stuck with a single “panel” size for the duration of the story.
As I said before, the stuff I’ve seen from Gurihiru for this project is absolutely stunning — make-you-dance-around-the-room stunning. (Yes. I danced around my room.) They stay true to the spirit of the show while taking full advantage of the comics medium. I don’t think fans will be disappointed at all.
AvatarTheLastAirbenderOnline.com – Who else is involved in the project and anything good to know about them?
Gene Yang – Dark Horse Comics is the perfect home for this project. I’ve been reading Dark Horse Comics since I was a kid. I remember their Robocop and Indiana Jones comics fondly– I’m sure I still have those issues buried in longboxes at my parents’ house. They very good at a lot of things, but one of the things they’re best at is media tie-in comics. They understand the comics medium from inside out and they have deep respect for the source material.
AvatarTheLastAirbenderOnline.com – Are more comics Planned aside from this 3 part series?
Gene Yang – I’ve been signed on to do the first three books with Dark Horse. Beyond that, I have no idea what’s going to happen.
AvatarTheLastAirbenderOnline.com – Is all 3 Parts of “The Promise” scheduled to be out before Korra is launched?
I don’t really know the details about the release dates of the books, or the debut of Korra. Those are all business-y questions. I’m a comics guy.
I do know this: The first volume will be out on Wednesday, 1/25/2012!
I think the biggest news is that the events in these comics will take place, immediately after the end of Season 3, and it sounds like directly after Zuko is speaking with his father. Looks like these books might answer at least some of the questions posed in UGO’s Korra Wishlist
What do you think about this new information?
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