Mike DiMartino is abbreviated as "MD" and Bryan Konietzko is abbreviated as "BK" in this interview.
ASN: Will the second season of Korra be a different story, or tied into the recent struggles of Republic City and the Equalists in some way?
MD: While Book 2 connects to what happened in Book 1, it is very much a whole new adventure and challenge for Korra and Team Avatar. Book 2 focuses less on political conflict and more on Korra’s spiritual development and her connection with the Spirit World. Republic City is still a major player in the story, but we also branch out and see more of the world, specifically the Southern Water Tribe.
ASN: Did the advances in technology and the large urban location present its own unique challenges?
BK: Definitely! Initially we thought setting it in one city as opposed to landing in a new location every episode (as we did in most of Avatar) would save on designs, but in the end a metropolis is a challenging locale as well.
ASN: Visually, Korra has definitely risen above the original series. Even with all the changes, were there still things you wanted to see in Korra, but needed to sacrifice because of budget or time?
BK: Of course! I, for one, am rarely satisfied, so there is plenty I would have changed or improved if we could have. That said, I am very proud with many of the art direction achievements in Korra as compared to Avatar.
MD: If we had only made Book 1, I would be bummed that we didn’t get to explore other stories or places in the Avatar world, but now that we’re working on Books 2, 3, & 4, we have many more episodes to delve deeper into the character’s lives and expand the world in a way we didn’t have time to in Book 1.
ASN: With the news that Korra will journey into the Spirit World, is it safe to assume there will be more flashbacks and cameos from past characters? Any hints to who those characters might be?
BK: It’s never safe to assume anything! I’m not taking the bait on this one, but I will say I’m very excited about sharing the new characters and things you will see in the Spirit World.
MD: We have one major flashback planned for Book 2, the details of which will be revealed at Comic-Con!
ASN: The Avatar mythology is one of the few fantasies that not only put women in the spotlight; it also treats its older characters with respect and balance. When creating these characters, do you set out to break barriers, or is it something that comes naturally because of your personal views?
MD: It’s great to know we’re breaking barriers, but that’s not the goal in coming up with the characters. If anything, we are just reflecting the real world, which is full of diverse people of varying ages. It seems odd that stories (especially action-adventure stories) often focus only on the young, male hero. Those kinds of characters can be interesting, but at this point they’ve almost become cliché. It’s much more exciting for me to tell stories with characters like Korra, Tenzin, and Beifong. We joke that A:TLA was about pre-teens and old people and now Korra is about teenagers and middle-aged people. We’re closing the gap!
ASN: In the new series, non benders and benders have significantly progressed. The most advanced form of waterbending (bloodbending) is used by Amon to block a bender’s connection to their element. Could you explain how Amon’s bloodbending was able to do this? Could you also explain how Amon seemed to predict the movements of his opponents during battle?
BK: We have often shown the healing side of the waterbending arts, where a practitioner helps the chi to flow more vigorously through the meridians in the body. Bending occurs when a person has the ability to extend the influence of one’s chi past the limits of one’s physical body and into a particular element. Amon used bloodbending, the act of bending the fluid inside one’s body, to break these meridians in key places, severely disturbing or blocking the chi’s flow and impairing one’s ability to bend. As for how Amon used bloodbending in a sleight of hand way during battle: I think some people were thrown off by the term “psychic bloodbending,” thinking the word psychic referred to an ability to predict the future. Although that is one definition of the word, psychic also refers to telepathy, which is how we intended it with Amon. But in hindsight, it would have been clearer if we just used the word telepathic instead. That said, like any highly skilled fighter, Amon was predicting his opponents’ movements, but not with any psychic powers, rather by reading their anticipatory movements. On top of this, he was using telepathic bloodbending to move his opponents’ strikes just off the mark.
ASN: During the finale, Korra finally airbends in order to protect Mako. Fans want to know how she was able to tap into this element after all this time. Was it her sheer determination to bend, or was it her love for a friend?
MD: Definitely the latter. Korra had been very determined to learn airbending, but was overthinking it. She tried to apply to airbending the same tenacious mindset she used to master water, earth, and fire, and it didn’t work because airbending is linked more to spirituality – Korra’s weakness. Bryan and I had played around with the exact moment Korra would unlock the skill. At one point, we thought it could happen an episode or two earlier, but finally decided the most dramatic and emotionally satisfying way to show it would be when Mako, the guy she feels a real connection to, is in danger. Her instincts kicked in and she was able to tap into a deeper part of herself.
ASN: In the second book, Asami takes over Future Industries. She appears to be focused on progress instead of brooding over a lost boyfriend. Will that change? Will her father come back and dissuade her loyalty to Team Avatar?
MD: In Book 2, Asami is trying to move on and put the memory of her father behind her by focusing on rebuilding Future Industries. Asami becomes a full-on business lady in Book 2!
ASN: Korra is headed to the spirit world, Mako joins the police force, Asami is now head of Future Industries, and Bolin returns to probending. Does Bolin’s return to probending include a new team, and an introduction to even more new characters?
MD: Pro-bending takes a back seat to the plot this season. Bolin is still hanging on to the good old days, while the others have moved on. Bolin’s story this season is about him trying to figure out what his true purpose in life is.
ASN: So many awesome character designs were revealed during SDCC last year. Do you have a favorite from the line up that you can’t wait to see develop?
MD: Varrick is probably my new favorite. He’s really funny to write for and just a wild card thrown into the show. I don’t really want to talk about him too much – he kind of steals the scenes he’s in.
ASN: The Legend of Korra isn't the only exciting thing happening for the Avatar mythology. The graphic novels published by Dark Horse Comics have been on the New York Times Best seller list for weeks. Recently, Michael Di Martino announced that the second story in the graphic novel series is titled "The Search", and includes Zuko's Mother Ursa on the cover. Will fans finally learn of her whereabouts and the story of her disappearance? Will her story be told in one installment, or can we expect her presence in many future stories?
MD: The Search is a 3-part story about Zuko trying to find out what happened to his mother. I know there has been some controversy over the end of part 1, but there is still more of the story to be told. By the end of part 3, there will be a resolution. I know better than to drag that story out any longer!
ASN: Like Aang’s story, do you see the untold tales of Korra finding their voice in graphic novels like the original series did through Dark Horse?
MD: It’s certainly a possibility, but there isn’t anything in the works right now. I like having the graphic novels as a way to explore some other storylines for the characters beyond TV. I think seeing a teenage Tenzin and Beifong would be fun.
ASN: Finally, the question everyone wants to know: Any guess to when the second book will air?
BK: Ha, the million dollar question. We will be announcing it soon. I know “soon” is the fans’ least favorite word, but it is better than “later.” The good news is we are getting very close to finally being able to share Book 2 with the fans and we are excited and relieved to do so.
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