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You really want to know what happened to Zuko’s mom?


The first part of The Search was released in comic book stores today and should be in wide release in the next couple of weeks. And so begins the 3-part story that answers the question fans have had for years — “What happened to Zuko’s mom?”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked that by fans of the show, because it’s a lot.

While we were working on Book 1 of Korra, Bryan and I pitched a TV movie version of the search for Zuko’s mom to Nickelodeon. They weren’t interested in doing animated TV movies, and chose to pick up Book 2 of Korra instead.  (And yes, we’re still working on it.) Around the same time, Dark Horse wanted to publish ongoing stories with Aang and Zuko, so we started working with the writer Gene Yang to develop new adventures. We decided against having The Search be the first trio of graphic novels, but knew that the graphic novels were a great place to ultimately tell the story. Last year, I spoke with Gene Yang about some of the ideas we had, and he took those ideas even further, which inspired some other story developments. It was a collaborative back and forth and Gene did a terrific job with the scripts. I’m proud of the books and I think it does Zuko and Ursa’s story justice.

Bryan always tells the fans they can blame me for making them wait for an answer, so I’ll take the heat. When we wrote the finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender, we had so much to wrap up, that I thought it was more intriguing to have the fate of Zuko’s mother remain unresolved. It implied that his story wasn’t over, that the lives of these characters would continue on, even though the series had ended. Plus, I thought that the story was full of possibility and that a quick wrap-up would not be satisfying.

I didn’t know if we’d ever get the chance to tell the story, but I was okay with leaving it a question in the viewer’s mind. I thought it was kind of intriguing.

But I never anticipated how much this question would burn in people’s minds, so much so that I’m still being asked about Zuko’s mom over 4 years later. But now I have an idea why.

In The Storytelling Animal, Jonathan Gottschall writes, “The storytelling mind is allergic to uncertainty, randomness, and coincidence. It is addicted to meaning.” Leaving Zuko’s mom as an uncertainty created some anxiety in people who were looking for certainty and closure. We have a need to find meaning in our stories, and this dangling thread was like an itch that couldn’t be scratched.

So, I’m sorry you couldn’t scratch that itch for the past 4 1/2 years. Now you can. The mystery will be solved. And I assure you, at the end of part 3, there is a definite answer to “what happened to Zuko’s mom?” And that’s what makes me nervous.

Can it possibly live up to the stories all you fans have imagined over the past 5 years? I doubt it.

It’s made me think of our expectations for certain stories. Some books and movies are so hyped, so anticipated, that they never live up to the expectation. Now, I’m not saying this story is as big as Harry Potter or something, but in our small realm of the Avatar universe, it’s pretty highly anticipated.

Remember Lost? How pissed off everyone was because they wanted answers to every mystery that was raised? They left a lot of little itches to be scratched. I know I’m in the minority here, but I was pretty satisfied with the way it ultimately turned out, despite the unsolved mysteries. Honestly, I don’t really care that I never learned the truth about the three toed statue. That’s not what the show was about. What mattered was explaining what that experience meant to the characters. And that’s what I remember.

All this is to say, I hope you enjoy The Search, and that it feels good to finally scratch that itch.

And I may be opening a can of spider-worms here, but if you do read it, I’d love to hear what you think.

A few of my other blogs you might find interesting:

Violence and Story, Part 1 & Part 2

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