Everyone has a youth. A time that’s more beautiful because it’s awkward and clumsy, a time that shines brilliantly. A time when you’re not afraid of anything because you have nothing to lose, and a time when you’re excited because you can have anything, everything. That’s now, age 24, my youth. Although I’m still uneasy and nervous, I’m perfect without needing anything else.
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.