The Blue Spirit

One last trip down memory lane for tonight (can you tell I am digging through old files?), this time from January of 2007. This is a personal favorite and it came about in a funny way. They told us we could make some “creator t-shirts” with whatever art we wanted on them and they would sell a limited run on the network website. So I made this. And they said, “Yeah, not that one.” The calligraphy, by S.L. Lee, PhD., is from the Blue Spirit’s wanted poster.

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#if you don’t love aang after this part we cant be friends #aangs friends are really sick and he left them to find them medicine #and then he gets kidnapped by the fire nation #and is just left there chained #when all of a sudden this masked stranger comes in #and he rescues aang #and the manage to escape the fire nation #and are directly outside of it #and aang’s masked savior gets shot by an arrow #so aang decides to take off his mask to y'know check out if they’re ok #and he finds out that his enemy saved him from his enemy #and first aang is all scared because it’s his enemy and y'know he was probably gonna kidnap him too #and all aang wants is to give the medicine to his friends #so the army is coming #and zukos on the ground #and aang is about to run off and leave zuko behind #when aang is the better person #and fucking rescues zuko #and takes him with him to a safer spot until zuko’s all better #aang was scared because there are so many people who want his head #but aang was the better person and saved one of his enemies #if you don’t like aang #we arent friends

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BK: The idea for Zuko’s disguise and the plot for “The Blue Spirit” came to us very quickly, but initially in the writers’ room we thought of him as the Red Spirit. I researched scores of masks from various Asian cultures and filled up a sketchbook with concepts for what he could look like. He needed to seem creepy and a little supernatural. Unfortunately, with the red mask he as looking a bit like an ancient Korean version of Spider-Man. Anthony Lioi, one of our directors at the time, thought the red mask would seem to be associated with the Fire Nation, thereby giving away Zuko’s identity to the audience too easily. We changed him to the Blue Spirit and that was the shift I needed to finalize the design. I found a mask of the character Dragon King Nuo from Chinese drama. He was definitely spooky and his smile added a menacing playfulness that seemed to be the missing ingredient. The decorative paint on the mask was far too elaborate to work for TV animation, so I streamlined the shapes while trying to retain the graphic power of the visage. Zuko was already my favorite character, and the Blue Spirit added a whole new level to his appeal. The disguise evolved into something of an alter ego for Zuko, one that seemed to be free of the burden of his fall from grace. 

Designs by Bryan Konietzko. Color by Hye Jung Kim.

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