Gene, we know you can’t give away the plot of The Promise Part 3. The last installment of The Promise is set to release September 26th. Fans won’t have to wait much longer to find answers to their many questions. Yet, there are so many questions that fans would like to ask before moving forward in the series. Thank you for taking the time to usher us into the next installment.
Gene: Hi AvatarSpirit! Thanks so much for talking with me!
ASN: The Harmony Restoration dilemma that has been brewing in Part 1 and Part 2 is complicated. Will there be some sort of resolution in Part 3, or will the problems be an ongoing struggle?
Gene: The Harmony Restoration Movement was inspired by what happened to Japan after World War II. After Imperial Japan’s defeat, they had to pull out their colonies from Taiwan, mainland China, and elsewhere in Asia. Some of those colonies were very old—forcing the colonists to return to their homeland was not an easy thing. It’s a complex issue, but we hope to give some sort of resolution in Part 3. Every story needs an arc of some kind, right?
ASN: In Part 2, it seems that Mai and Zuko have gone separate ways. Will Mai and Zuko reunite in any of the future books?
Gene: Mai is a great character. I loved her development in the original series. I really, really hope to write her again. For now, that’s all I can really say. :)
ASN: Originally, you wanted to introduce conflict into Aang and Katara’s relationship. That idea was replaced, and the couple was allowed to enjoy their friendship in the midst of a very complicated atmosphere. In future books, do you still feel that it will be important for the two to experience relationship obstacles?
Gene: Well, every relationship needs to go through obstacles in order to deepen. Aang and Katara do go through some conflict in The Promise. They’re gentle with each other, but that conflict helps mature their relationship. Over the course of the three volumes, we hope to show them transitioning from fun, somewhat goofy new love into something deeper.
ASN: You mentioned in earlier interviews that you were fond of Freedom Fighter, Sneers. He definitely has a stronger presence in the graphic novels so far. How would you describe his character? Did you know how you wanted him to fit into the stories, or was it difficult to balance his role in the upcoming fight?
Gene: Like the other Freedom Fighters, Sneers starts off deeply ideological. When they first appeared in the original show, the Freedom Fighters wanted to achieve their goals regardless of the means. Many of the Freedom Fighters developed a more nuanced view of the world. Sneers never did because he only showed up in a single episode. He will in The Promise.
In many ways, his relationship with Kori is what happens when ideology comes up against flesh-and-blood human beings. Often, the ideology has to give way. That’s a theme throughout the third volume of The Promise.
ASN: In Part 1 and 2 we are reunited with many characters, but we have yet to see Iroh. Some fans felt Zuko would have naturally gone to Iroh for advice instead of Firelord Ozai. Will we finally see more of Iroh in Part 3, or are you saving his reintroduction for The Search?
Gene: This is something that we— Mike, Bryan, the Dark Horse people, the Nick people, and me – talked about extensively when we first started working together. There’s this strange thing that happens to people in power, especially in positions of elite power. The pressures of the power often blur the lines between enemies. There’s a book that came out recently called The President’s Club that talks about this. New presidents will often seek the advice of former presidents even if they’re political rivals, even if they hate each other’s guts and see the world in completely different ways, simply because no one else understands what they’re going through. That’s part of what happens to Zuko. Ozai is the only one who knows what it’s like to be Fire Lord, the only one who has the “wisdom of experience.”
I also looked at my own life. I used to clash with my dad quite a bit when I was a teenager. However, as I grew up, as I found myself in roles that he used to have, I began to understand more and more of his decisions.
And, in Part 3, we get into Zuko and Iroh’s relationship a little bit more. We give another reason for Zuko not going to Iroh.
ASN: Some fans are still confused about Aang’s Promise to Zuko. Will book 3 have elements that will help paint a clear picture?
Gene: One of my favorite aspects of the original show was its willingness to tackle difficult moral issues. In the final episodes, Aang wrestles with the idea of killing Ozai. Aang’s identities as Avatar and Airbender conflict with one another.
For The Promise, we wanted to introduce another facet to the discussion. How does the idea of consent change things? We already know that Aang won’t murder – he won’t kill without the victim’s consent. But what if he does have the victim’s consent? What if the victim actively requests it?
In Buddhism (upon which Airbender philosophy is based), consent changes the conversation. Murder is wrong. But killing with the victim’s consent is referred as voluntary euthanasia. A person can ask you to kill them if they’re in tremendous pain or if they think they’re a danger to others. (In Zuko’s case, both of these are in play.) Here, there’s debate within Buddhism.
Throughout the show, we saw that Aang’s “weakness” was his friends. Often, he would choose his friends over his principles. In The Guru, he abandoned his spiritual development to save a friend. In The Runaway, he agrees to scam people because he wants to have fun with his friends. And he lost his “Airbender-y” emotional detachment when his friend Appa was kidnapped.
We wanted to play with that. What happens if a friend makes that kind of request? What happens when Aang’s identities as Avatar, Airbender, and friend conflict with one another?
ASN: Many of us have heard that we will finally see Azula in Part 3. She was a complicated character before her defeat and breakdown. What is it like to write for her now that she has been “recovering” in an asylum?
Gene: Azula is a complicated character, especially after spending time in the asylum. We had many conversations both over the phone and in e-mail before I started scripting her.
ASN: The story of Ursa’s disappearance is the MOST anticipated of all the mysteries in Avatar. Even the creators have stated that they themselves did not know what had become of Zuko’s mother. Did you feel pressure to develop a back story that lived up to fans’ expectations?
Gene: I worked very, very closely with Mike on this one. There were things he told me that left me speechless as a fan. One e-mail in particular… I had to step away from my computer for a day just to noodle it through. You’ll see.
There are definitely pressures. At the end of the day, we want to tell a compelling story, one that gets you from the first page to the last. Anything beyond that is gravy.
ASN: An important feature of the original series was its ability to infuse a good bit of comic relief into the story, even when particular situations were less than happy. The graphic novels have been doing a great job of balancing tough themes as well. Have there been times when it was difficult to add humor into the mix because of the realities of this “new world”?
Gene: Thank you! The humor is rooted in the characters that Mike and Bryan and their team created, particularly Sokka and Toph. As long as we stay true to those characters, we can get to the humor.
ASN: Fans understand that the graphic novels bridge Aang’s time and Korra’s time. Will the continuation of Korra change things that had been intended for the graphic novels? How much does Korra influence the formula of the graphic novels or vice versa?
Gene: Korra gives me something to write to. Mike and Bryan have created this amazing world, intricate in every detail. And it dovetails nicely with my own projects. Currently I have a couple of projects in the works that deal with the coming together of East and West, particularly at the turn of the last Century. The transition from Airbender to Korra really is a fantasy version of Asia’s transition from the 1800’s to the 1900’s. It’s been an absolute joy to work on. I’ve learned so much.
ASN: Congratulations on the success of the graphic novels so far. We love seeing them on the best sellers list, and can’t wait to read more of the gAang’s adventures.Thank you again for taking the time to answer Avatarspirit.net’s questions.
Gene: Thanks, AvatarSpirit! Thanks so much to you and your readers for their support of the comics!
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