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The Legend of Korra—The Art of the Animated Series, Book One: Air 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 volume offers an inside look at the developmental and creative process that Book One underwent prior to its release through a series of preliminary artworks supplemented by commentary from the creators.

The art book was released on July 19, 2013, to coincide with the San Diego Comic-Con,[2] hitting the market earlier than its original July 24 release date. It spans 144 pages and is followed by three more volumes for each subsequent book of The Legend of Korra.[3]

A second edition of the art book was released on March 9, 2021,[1] in both a standard and a deluxe edition, featuring a new foreword by Korra's voice actress, Janet Varney. The deluxe edition also includes a designed slipcase, an art lithograph, a gilded front cover, and a ribbon marker.[4] Its new cover was drawn by Joaquim Dos Santos and colored by Bryan Konietzko.[5]


The book contains twelve chapters:

  1. Early Development (pages 8 through 29)
  2. Welcome to Republic City (pages 30 through 49)
  3. A Leaf in the Wind (pages 50 through 57)
  4. The Revelation (pages 58 to 65)
  5. The Voice in the Night (pages 66 to 75)
  6. The Spirit of Competition / And the Winner is... (pages 76 to 89)
  7. The Aftermath (pages 90 to 95)
  8. When Extremes Meet / Out of the Past (pages 96 to 103)
  9. Turning the Tides (pages 104 to 111)
  10. Skeletons in the Closet (pages 112 to 123)
  11. Endgame (pages 124 to 131)
  12. Ancillary Art (pages 132 to 144)

It also includes an introduction by Avatar creators Michael Dante DiMartino (page six) and Bryan Konietzko (page seven). In the book's second edition, Janet Varney, Korra's voice actress, provides an additional foreword. (pages six and seven).

Chapter One: Early Development[]

Korra and a metalbender

This early concept of Korra and a metalbender inspired the chase scene in "Welcome to Republic City". Concept art by Bryan Konietzko and Ki Hyun Ryu.

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. When discussing ideas for her character, the creators settled on making Korra simultaneously unyielding and vulnerable, having been sequestered in the Southern Water Tribe for her Avatar training. The initial look of Korra was conceptualized within a very short amount of time, with Dos Santos' initial depiction of a Water Tribe "snowboarder or MMA fighter" forming the athletic basis of subsequent design iterations. However, it took several months for Bryan Konietzko, Dos Santos, and Ki Hyun Ryu to finalize her design. Other details are shared about Korra's creation: a piece of concept art by Konietzko and Ki Hyun presenting the Avatar comically blasting away metalbender cops was used as a showcase to network executives for how the series could blend comedic elements with its action scenes. Konietzko himself enjoyed playing with design motifs for Korra's apparel, namely how her Water Tribe outfit, which included a dark blue three-quarter sleeve parka, contrasted with her red-hued firebending training gear. Ki Hyun also contributed to Korra's characterization, as the young Avatar's line "I'm the Avatar! You gotta deal with it!" came from a note the director had written on one of his sketches of the four-year old.

When developing the show's background art style, the crew came upon artist Fred Stewart, a recent graduate whose portfolio Konietzko received. Stewart's background test for the series was a concept of Republic City at night; this piece and Stewart's paintings became the stylistic basis for the series' backgrounds, as Konietzko wanted a singular painter's style to inform later artwork.

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; the youths' late mother and father hailed from the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom, respectively. Both characters went through several changes, with the most radical designs being that of Bolin. Dos Santos originally wanted both characters to have strong noses, while Ki Hyun Ryu depicted Bolin with a bowl-cut and red nose, though ultimately none of these attributes were kept. 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, and grew up more cynical and serious.

Mako and Bolin concept

The early concept art of Mako and Bolin has visible differences from the final characters. Concept art by Joaquim Dos Santos.

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 of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Both Naga and Pabu were the creations of wishes to add specific types of animals to the Avatar world; where Naga was a pre-conceptualized idea, Michael Dante DiMartino 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. Naga's design was not only a combination of a polar bear and a canine, but also of Konietzko and DiMartino's pet dogs, who were themselves brothers.

What follows are several pages of minor character notes, such as the airbending family. The second character created for the series, Tenzin in particular was a difficult design, as many of the animators could not get his nose right, despite Konietzko's attempts to simplify it. Ki Hyun Ryu wanted Tenzin's son Meelo to be an ugly child, though DiMartino and Konietzko managed to convince him otherwise; Meelo's chaotic antics were based on the child of Konietzko's old professor. 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. While critical about his ability to draw women, Konietzko enjoyed getting to design Asami by himself, especially her combination of old Hollywood and racing outfits. Similarly, Konietzko designed Lin with Dos Santos' help, the two working together to give her a more tough and natural beauty.

The early development of pro-bending is discussed. The players' uniforms initially had more pronounced chest padding that extended to their necklines, but this was later altered to better emphasize the players' face shields. The character of Toza, himself a veteran pro-bender, was depicted as Mako and Bolin's teacher in a piece of concept art. Other concepts by Dos Santos for network executives were intended to show the concept of the sport; as rules for the game had not been invented yet, Dos Santos' depiction of the competition portrayed a more free-for-all style of combat between the participants.

Amon concept

An early, less austere concept of Amon has no markings on the mask. Concept art by Bryan Konietzko.

It is revealed that Amon's character was a collaborative effort between Konietzko and Dos Santos. While Dos Santos focused on the outfit, Konietzko drew inspiration from Chinese and Korean masks and face paint 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. The process for creating the Equalist chi-blockers was extensive, as Dos Santos and Ki Hyun Ryu went through twenty to thirty retakes before settling on a final design; two of Ki Hyun's takes are shown, which Dos Santos praises but states were ultimately too close to the characters from Gatchaman.

Chapter Two: Welcome to Republic City[]

Central City Station concept

This inside shot of Central City Station was painted by Fred Stewart.

The second chapter introduces several of the more minor characters, such as Pema, an Air Acolyte and Tenzin's wife, who, along with her children, will not have a main role in this season. The chapter also reintroduces characters from the original series, like the Order of the White Lotus, who have become the protectors of the new Avatar after Aang's passing, and an elderly Katara. DiMartino explains that the scene of Katara allowing Korra to run away was their favorite, as 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."

Interrogation room

This is a painting of the room in the police headquarters used when Korra was interrogated. Painting by Emily Tetri.

There are several shots drawn by Fred Stewart and Emily Tetri, two new members to the team. Stewart was tasked with several of the larger concept images, such as a skyline view of Republic City, a collaborative effort with Konietzko and Dos Santos, with Korra atop a bridge overlooking the city meant to evoke the shot of Aang staring out into the mountains in the prior series' opening sequence. Tetri worked on sprawling landscapes, like the Southern Water Tribe compound, and smaller scenes, painting the interrogation room Korra was taken to in record time. Konietzko boasts that she is "easily one of the fastest artists [they] have ever worked with," and that she quickly adapted and contributed to the show's painting style developed by Stewart.

Next to scenic shots of the Southern Water Tribe, 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 as lived-in spaces. Fred Stewart was given the honor of painting Aang's statue and several scenes of Air Temple Island. The New York and North American influence is prevalent all throughout Republic City, with one of the more obvious inspirations being that of Republic City Park, a nod to Central Park; the mountains behind the cityscape were based on the Canadian Rockies. Other influences for the city included Hong Kong and Shanghai, as Konietzko wanted Republic City to resemble an "Industrial-Age, Asian steampunk city". Several of the skyscrapers, vehicles, and train cars developed by Jung-Su Lee used such motifs, with the buildings later being used in the first establishing shot of Republic City in the series. The blending of different styles extended to the city citizenry's outfits as well, with Ki Hyun Ryu's concepts using traditional and modern aesthetics.

Triple Threat Triad's car

The Satomobile used by the Triple Threat Triad is red with a golden grill. Design by Jung-Su Lee.

The different triads are explained in this chapter, as well as the character and car designs of several well-known characters, such as Viper and Two Toed Ping. Commenting on his and Ki Hyun Ryu's concept art of Korra chasing a triad car on Naga, Konietzko states he enjoyed introducing antique cars into the Avatar world metropolis, as well as how a country outsider like Korra traversed and disrupted such a setting while riding on Naga. 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. Konietzko 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 1920s".

Chapter Three: A Leaf in the Wind[]

The third chapter introduces the Air Temple Island, where Tenzin and his family live as well as Korra after she moved to Republic City. The island is also home to a different species of winged lemur, who were discovered after the war and inspired by Momo, and the Air Acolytes, who are a group of people following Air Nomad tradition and culture, despite not being airbenders.

Pro-bending Arena designs

Various designs for the features in and outside the Pro-bending Arena by Jung-Su Lee.

The Pro-bending Arena of Republic City was inspired by the Harmandir Sahib or Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, and by the Saltair Pavillon on the Great Salt Lake, United States. The arena had many intricate design elements that needed to be accounted for, such as the exterior towers, the patterns and shapes of the windows, the supports for the ceiling, and the grating underneath the playing field. The arena is presided by the two "most colorful personalities" according to DiMartino: the ring announcer and Shiro Shinobi, the "voice of Pro-bending". Having watched sumo wrestling matches on TV while in Japan, Konietzko applied the aesthetic for the referees in said competitions to those in the Pro-bending arena. Mako and Bolin's modest apartment is also located here, in one of the spires of the arena. Pro-bending itself was partially inspired by the Leather American football.

When describing a spread of line art for Mako's expressions, Konietzko reveals that they are actually storyboard art by Ki Hyun Ryu, and due to their quality, are simultaneously used as character model art by the crew to base their own drawings around.

Chapter Four: The Revelation[]

Currency concept art

Republic City's paper bills feature an image of Avatar Aang on the obverse, and an image of the City Hall on the reverse. Designed by Bryan Konietzko.

This chapter focuses on Republic City and the details that went into its design. The moody atmosphere of the episode made it one of DiMartino's favorites; both he and Konietzko felt the dimly lit alleyways and fog-covered locales complemented Korra's revelations, first in her learning about and bonding with Mako over his past, and in her discovery regarding the Equalists. The paintings of nocturnal city scenes by Fred Stewart and Emily Tetri were praised by Konietzko as exceeding his own work; the style and content of the paintings was an artistic pastime of his while studying at the Rhode Island School of Design.

The currency used in the show is based on the Chinese yuan, with main difference being the replacement of Aang's face as the main image. The wide boulevard and elevated train tracks of the city are reminiscent of Chicago, a place in which architecture and history highly influenced the look of Republic City.

DiMartino relates that while coming up with ostentatious gangster characters was fun, characters like Shady Shin only came alive after being designed by artists, such as in Shin's case with Ki Hyun Ryu. DiMartino also enjoyed continuing the tradition of giving Avatar characters ridiculous costumes and facial hair, like with Bolin and Pabu's entertainer outfits. According to Konietzko, one of the biggest sources of reference and inspiration for the first book of Korra was a historical photoblog called shorpy.com. They used images of children that used to work in the city factories to base the design of the "street urchins" like Skoochy and his friends off of.

When constructing the chi-blocker motorcycle, the creators wanted something vintage, with a sleek modern feel. Konietzko consulted with his best friend Jeff Berry, a motorcycle aficionado, to come up with the finished design for the motorcycle, which includes an asymmetrical swing arm.

The color scheme of the Equalist propaganda was a combination that took a lot of thought. Since red was normally associated with the Fire Nation, green with the Earth Kingdom, and so on, they did not want the nonbenders to be associated with one color, since then they would ultimately be associated with the corresponding culture. So they eventually decided on a mix of green and red hues for the result.

The doorman at the Equalist rally was modeled after the staff's martial arts videographer William Rinaldi after Ki Hyun Ryu drew him so many times and asked if they could make him into a character. The creators originally intended to have a rabid fangirl at Amon's rally to pay homage to the foaming mouth guy from the original series, but they scratched it after they thought that the comedy would undermine the creepiness of the rally.

Chapter Five: The Voice in the Night[]

Early development Tarrlok

Several pieces of concept art for Tarrlok by Bryan Konietzko, Joaquim Dos Santos, and Il-Kwang Kim.

As Aang Memorial Island had not been used as a location in prior episodes, the island became the site of Korra and Amon's first confrontation. DiMartino notes that the crew tries to make the settings of action set pieces interesting or symbolic, and that putting Korra on an island by herself enhanced the sense of danger she was in.

Tarrlok was a complex character to design because he could be both charismatic and conniving. DiMartino and Konietzko stated that they did not want him to come off as overly evil, at least in the beginning. They originally designed Tarrlok as a bit too rugged, so they switched his design, but they later used the old one for the basic facial structure of Yakone and Amon.

The power plant Mako works at is powered through the use of lightning generation. According to DiMartino, the skill has become more common in the era after the Hundred Year War, to the point that the managers of such plants use youths like Mako to power the facilities with their hard labor. A painting of the factory floor by Emily Tetri that provided a wider view of the facility was excluded from the final episode.

Theodore Roosevelt and Keita Gotō, a Japanese industrialist, inspired Hiroshi Sato's design. The entrepreneur's Satomobiles, designed by Jung-Su Lee, included luxury and consumer models, as well as water tankers used by the city's emergency services and law enforcement.

When developing ideas for how Korra would be convinced to join Tarrlok's task force, the creators decided on the Avatar attending one of the politician's galas held in her honor. Originally, Tarrlok would have tried to affect Korra's self-esteem by giving her a dress to wear for the event, but this idea was dropped in lieu of Korra wearing her own Water Tribe formal wear. The banners of Korra were also commissioned by Tarrlok, depicting the Avatar's decisive demeanor to reinforce Korra's perception of herself. When designing the prop, Konietzko altered and combined pre-existing artwork of Korra created by Ki Hyun Ryu with Chinese caligraphy by Siu-Leung Lee. The uniforms used by Tarrlok's task force were only used in one episode due to the time constraints of the season.

Chapter Six: The Spirit of Competition / And the Winner is...[]

In the opening scene, Mako, Bolin, and Korra practiced their pro-bending in a triangle formation, which foreshadowed their love triangle. Emily Tetri's art of a gazebo on Air Temple Island, lit in the faltering light of dusk, is listed as providing the perfect setting for Korra's conversation about her bourgeoning relationship with Mako.

The Fire Ferrets fans were inspired by the real-life cosplayers of the Avatar franchise. The rabid fangirl originally designed to be at Amon's rally was repurposed to be one of these fans. Other designs by Il-Kwang Kim and Jin-Sun Kim show a male fan that painted his exposed belly in the same pattern as Korra's armband. A model for a Mako cosplayer is shown, joining the ranks of another fan who falteringly called out to the firebender, the latter of whom was jokingly referred to as MOF (Mako's Only Fan) by Konietzko.

Early development pro-benders

Concept art for the Red Sands Rabaroos and Ember Island Eel Hounds by Jin-Sun Kim.

Expanding on a storyboard of a pro-bending match by Ki Hyun Ryu, Dos Santos states one of the challenges for staging such sequences was balancing the chaos of six combatants in action, while also ensuring the game's internal rules and outcome was apparent to the audience. The creators came up with the idea to have all of the pro-bending teams named after their favorite hybridized creatures in the Avatar universe. The Black Quarry Boar-q-pines, in particular, were inspired by their favorite legendary old-school MMA fighters. Tahno was inspired by a professional kickboxer that Konietzko saw who looked like he was in a boy band and had his cornerman fix his hair in a mirror between rounds. Tahno's grandioseness extends to his team's uniforms as well, with the athletes' bat masks being accentuated by capes inspired by the wardrobe of classic vampire Nosferatu. The aesthetic for the team's fangirls also was based around gothic subculture, albeit adapted for the 1920s-inspired fashion of the series.

Bolin and Korra's dinner at Narook's Seaweed Noodlery and later activities were storyboarded by Ki Hyun Ryu and Sung-Dae Kang. The idea for Narook's came from an idea in early development by DiMartino and Konietzko, one where Korra got into an altercation with a bully after happening upon the restaurant, having felt nostalgic for her homeland's food. The co-creators kept trying to find places in the season to put the concept into play, eventually deciding it should be the site of Korra date with Bolin and subsequent confrontation with Tahno. Discussing Ki Hyun's storyboards of Korra and Mako arguing and kissing, Konietzko imagines that the pair's tumultuous relationship was a result of their respective long-standing personality flaws. DiMartino enjoyed the chance to depict Bolin's breakdown after witnessing the kiss, despite how emotionally and physically miserable it made the earthbender.

Shiro Shinobi electrified

Concept art an electrified Shiro Shinobi by Jin-Sun Kim.

The staff originally planned for a scene where Shiro Shinobi recovered from his electrocution to finish his announcer duties, but due to running time limitations, they were not able to keep it in. There was also a lot of designing of Equalist objects in this episode. Equalist airships were designed to look like a predatory whale-shark looming in the skies, according to Konietzko. The Equalist glove resembles the Lieutenant's battery backpack and kali sticks. The creators said that they liked the asymmetrical design it gave the characters that wore it.

Chapter Seven: The Aftermath[]

When the creators originally wrote "The Voice in the Night", they intended to include a scene that revealed Hiroshi was working with the Equalists, but after deciding that it took away the dramatic tension that they wanted, they cut the scene and let the audience discover the truth along with Korra.

When designing the bathing suits for this episode, Bryan said he was reminded of the episode "The Beach" from the original series. He said that it was fun to come up with some "old-timey looking swimwear", which Asami, Bolin, and Mako later wore.

Since the cabbage merchant from the Avatar: The Last Airbender series was so popular with fans, the crew wanted to find a way to somehow honor his legacy. The creators came up with an elaborate backstory about how the lowly vendor of cabbages worked tirelessly to create Cabbage Corp. In the first draft of the script, they wrote in some news reports that explained how Lau Gan-Lan and his father, the cabbage merchant, had a long history of disputes with Avatar Aang and discrimination against benders. They later added a statue that commemorated the cabbage merchant's first cabbage stand in Republic City.

Mecha tank concept art

Early concept art for the mecha tanks by Jung-Su Lee.

To come up with the idea for the mecha tank, Konietzko was really inspired by the look of old, turn-of-the-century diving suits. At the time, the idea of them being tank-like had not been decided, so the concept of a more humanoid shape made total sense. Jung-Su Lee developed many concepts for the mecha tanks and explored many different shapes and sizes, although some began to move too far away from the diving suit idea. Dos Santos also altered the proportions to make the mecha tank more nimble and maneuverable than what previous concepts allowed for. Konietzko worked on the orthographic projections for the final design so that CG modelers could animate the exterior of the mecha tank, while the inside of the tank was covered in 2-D.

Chapter Eight: When Extremes Meet / Out of the Past[]

Adult Aang designs

Designs for an adult Aang by Ki Hyun Ryu.

DiMartino notes that it was fun and a little surreal to imagine the characters from Avatar: The Last Airbender all grown up. Konietzko worked DiMartino's beard into Aang's design, as viewers often assumed that Aang's baldness was inspired by the latter co-creator's. Adult Sokka and Toph were designed by Ki-Hyun Ryu and Il-Kwang Kim; part of Toph's outfit included a proto-version of a metalbender officer's cable harness. Dos Santos designed the original appearance of Yakone, incorporating elements of Noatak and Tarrlok's faces into his design, and giving him a Godfather type of vibe by dressing him very formally as he ran Republic City's underbelly.

Through Korra's visions, Republic City can be glimpsed in its earlier days. Fred Stewart painted Aang Memorial Island at dusk for the concept art of "Out of the Past", and the creators were so impressed that they chose to incorporate it into the opening sequence. The creators note that the naturalistic elements of the show allow locations to be shown at different times of day and under different weather conditions, such as being able to create a snowy nocturne of City Hall.

When Extremes Meet storyboards

Storyboard frames for "When Extremes Meet" by Ki Hyun Ryu.

Ki Hyun Ryu captured Korra's emotions in storyboarded scenes of when she confronts Tarrlok at the Dragon Flats borough and Saikhan at the police headquarters, her breaking down after Tarrlok's denunciation of her as the Avatar, and her failed attempt to stop her friends from being arrested. DiMartino notes that her toughness, frustration, vulnerability, and sass can all be shown with her expressions.

Konietzko notes the irony that the Equalists' prison is hidden in the maze of tunnels under Republic City that were originally dug by earthbenders. He also notes the simplicity of Tenzin's office at City Hall in comparison to the ostentatious office kept by Tarrlok. The mountainside cabin Tarrlok stashes Korra in is noted as a common device in film noir as a place where city people can hide their secrets.

Chapter Nine: Turning the Tides[]

DiMartino notes the awkwardness of all four members of Korra's Team Avatar trying to ride on Naga as they escape Air Temple Island. He notes that Korra's hair being down often shows that something bad has happened, and comments on the designs of a low-ranking radio operator, and the Lieutenant disguised as an exterminator, pointing out details such as the spider-rat on his shirt.

Background paintings for this episode include Air Temple Island, the main setting of "Turning the Tides", and the island as viewed through a drainage pipe from the city after the island is occupied by the Equalists. The bridge of an Equalist airship, and the command center inside the police headquarters were also new locations for this episode.

DiMartino comments on character designs for Meelo, noting that Ryu always draws the coolest and craziest designs for him, as he is obsessed with flatulence. General Iroh was first introduced in this episode, and was conceived of as a swashbuckling hero and the youngest general in the history of the United Forces. As a way to honor Iroh's family history, Zuko's original voice actor, Dante Basco, was asked to voice him.

Battleship designs

Designs for the United Forces' battleships by Bryan Konietzko.

The United Forces battleship was the biggest CG vehicle built for The Legend of Korra, and took the longest for Konietzko to design, as the co-creator had to create many layers in Photoshop for for the ship's model. In a similar way that pro-bending combines water-, earth- and firebenders in the same team, the ship is designed for benders of those three elements to work together in a military capacity. Waterbenders stand on planks just above the ocean surface to give them plenty of ammunition to attack or defend; earthbenders are posted in metal turrets with slotted, sliding walls that they can quickly close to defend or open to launch large, fortified versions of the earth disks from the pro-bending ring that dispense out of the floor, and firebenders shoot in unison onto funnel-shaped, pivoting cannons that concentrate their attacks for greater range and power.

Chapter Ten: Skeletons in the Closet[]

Konietzko says that he has always enjoyed seeing the "good guys" dressed in "bad guy" uniforms, comparing it to Star Wars and noting that they used the concept various times in Avatar: The Last Airbender, before using it again with Mako and Korra dressing as Equalist chi-blockers. DiMartino comments on the designs for the various homeless people living in the Republic City sewers, and remarks on their personality, with him being able to imagine a backstory for each one. He notes that it was a shame that they only showed up in a few shots, and points to one design of a homeless person with a toy pig, joking that he should have his own spin-off series.

Konietzko notes that a common design for characters on an action show is the "battle damage" version, pointing to Iroh's sleeve being blown off by his firebending punch to stop a bomb. He then points to Air Temple Island, once a haven for spirituality, being transformed into the headquarters of Amon's stranglehold over the city, complete with a stage for him to deprive people of bending abilities in a creepy, dramatic fashion. Banners across the island read "The Era of Amon Begins Now."

The film Dark Passage is cited as an inspiration for Yakone choosing to undergo a crude version of plastic surgery to change his appearance. Dos Santos notes that his new face was supposed to be kinder and gentler on paper, and that there were difficulties in animating a face-lift. Yakone's surgery room was drawn in mind of it being in some dark alley in Republic City's underbelly, servicing triad members in need of a new identity.

Tarrlok's flashback within the main story is compared to Aang's flashbacks in "The Storm", Zuko's in "Zuko Alone", and Roku's in "The Avatar and the Fire Lord". DiMartino states that in order for this type of episode to be successful, the flashback needs to both reveal new information about the character and drive the present-day story forward. DiMartino considers the flashback to be one of the highlights of Book One, as it explains why Amon and Tarrlok turned out the way they did, agreeing with Korra's assessment that it is "one of the saddest stories [she's] ever heard."

DiMartino explains that Yakone further developed bloodbending abilities by learning how to psychically bloodbend another person. He passed this down to Noatak, who managed to figure out how to use bloodbending to disrupt a bender's chi. Konietzko expected designing Noatak at various ages to be a challenge for Il-Kwang Kim and Jin-Sun Kim, but that they "hit the nail on the head." He approved the design without noticing that Noatak and Korra shared the same hairstyle until the animation came back and he was unable to change it. He decided it was an interesting and unexpected connection between the two characters, showing that they come from very similar cultural backgrounds, no matter how different they are in the present.

Dos Santos notes that he was emotionally struck by the scene where Yakone and Tarrlok return home without Noatak, even though he knew how the scene was going to turn out, and that the viewer begins to expect that the family unit will rehabilitate Yakone. Konietzko jokingly notes that Tarrlok sprouted an additional ponytail every few years as he grew up.

Equalist fighter pilots

Equalist fighter pilots designed by Jin-Sun Kim and Il-Kwang Kim.

DiMartino compares the rough concept of the bridge of Iroh's battleship and a meditation room in Air Temple Island before and after cleanup, painting, lighting, and texture has been added to the designs. Konietzko notes that his final CG model designed for Book One was the Equalist airplane, where he researched historic military airplanes with the help of his college friend, Shanth Enjeti. Konietzko was advised on the "pusher configuration" of the plane where the propeller faces the rear, and combined two pusher engines on the wingtips with a single puller engine on fuselage to give the airplane the feel of a World War I plane with a unique twist.

Konietzko grades two of Fred Stewart's paintings of the Northern Water Tribe as some of his favorites, the first being Yakone's fireside encampment set in the craggy, frozen landscape, while the second showcases the cliff Noatak sits on, the light on the horizon being shrouded by dark clouds. The paintings helped establish both the mood and enormity of Tarrlok's flashback, and thus enhanced the emotional impact of the brothers' story.

Chapter Eleven: Endgame[]

DiMartino states his appreciation for the confrontation between Amon and the Lieutenant in the finale, and his slight sympathy for the Lieutenant's betrayal and finding out that Amon was a fraud.

A sketch of Republic City from a high angle was drawn for when Iroh falls out of a biplane. Konietzko designed the interior of the plane, but notes that the controls are just as foreign to him as they must have been to Iroh when he first entered the plane.

Avatars storyboard

A storyboard frame of the past Avatars by Ki Hyun Ryu.

DiMartino notes that he had Katara mention Bumi and Kya in the first episode, as he knew that they would later become major characters in subsequent seasons. He states that storyboarding Korra's breakdown and connection to her past lives was an artistic highlight, as he rarely had the opportunity to draw for the series; later storyboards of the scene were handled by Ki Hyun Ryu. DiMartino wanted the final scene of the episode to feel special in location, with the Avatar shrine being inspired by the stupas of Bhutan, and the surrounding rock formations being inspired by the Carnac stones in France.

Chapter Twelve: Ancillary art[]

Korra Book One alternate DVD back cover

Alternate artwork for Book One: Air's DVD back cover showcasing Tenzin and Lin with the season's antagonists. Painting by Fred Stewart.

DiMartino comments on Ryu's draft for the DVD cover, which originally featured Tenzin, Lin, Tarrlok, Amon, and the Lieutenant on the front cover. They were reorganized as it was becoming too artistically jumbled, and ended up featuring Mako, Bolin and Asami next to Korra on the front, with Tenzin, Lin, Tarrlok, Amon, and the Lieutenant on the back cover.

Il-Kwang Kim drew Korra and Meelo dressed to fight in a judo session and having an adorable stare-down. Evon Freeman, a designer on the crew and member of Nickelodeon's artist fellowship program, created a rendition of Korra and Pabu in a gouache style. Colin Heck, a future director on the show, converted Korra into a pixel-art format. Studio Mir layout director Dae-Woo Lee contributed a piece depicting Korra and Naga fleeing from pursuing Equalists while Amon loomed over the scene in the background. Jin-Sun Kim and Seong-Min Kim of Studio Mir worked together on an illustration of Korra and Asami on an afternoon joyride. For her own blog, Emily Tetri published stylized art of the new Team Avatar celebrating in recognition of the first season's finale being broadcast. In addition to his duties as a cleanup artist and prop designer for the show, Jeong-Hoon Kim developed an illustration of Korra, Tenzin, Bolin, Mako, and Lin each in an athletic activity associated with the Olympic Games. A charming shot of Korra and her new friends huddled together was done by Studio Mir animation director Ki-Yong Bae.

As part of his self-education working with digital painting tools, Konietzko drew a chibi version of Korra for a T-shirt at San Diego Comic-Con, as well as a more photorealistic painting of Naga. Konietzko would create other character art as well, one of Lin in time for the broadcast of "Turning the Tides" and her heroic sacrifice in it. Korra also received a depiction in a more action-oriented pose at Konietzko's hand, which was showcased in an art gallery for the show held by PixelDrip Gallery. A promotional poster for the series was designed by Ki Hyun Ryu, and later colored by Konietzko over a painting by Fred Stewart. Konietzko also created press art for the Book One finale of its principal characters; though judgmental of his own work, Konietzko appreciates the lighting work on Amon's mask.

Dos Santos' supplemental art for the series also receives attention. Though Dos Santos had intended to release character art on his blog to commemorate the release of every episode, his continued work in the show's production put an end to his plans. Dos Santos also contributed to the old Team Avatar's depiction in the show's opening sequence, the concept of which Dos Santos describes as a "scroll come to life"; the director provided the line art and lighting for the piece, while Joshua Middleton and Matt Gadbois finished the work with coloring and digital composition, respectively. In addition to a Comic-Con exclusive poster of the new Team Avatar, Dos Santos was exhilarated at drawing a matching poster of Aang and his friends in their mid-to-late twenties.


  • On page 120, the art book credits the interior painting of Air Temple Island's main tower on page 121 to background painter Emily Tetri. However, Bryan Konietzko has stated in supplementary material that the painting was done by freelance artist Melissa King.[6] The error remains in the art book's second edition.


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