Imagine five planets that share a single orbit. Imagine an inquisitive young scientist, curious about the world, setting out on adventures across the universe. That’s the grounding for Threadworlds, a new graphic novel by Bryan Konietzko, best known for creating the internationally acclaimed animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. Published by First Second Books, Threadworlds is Konietzko’s graphic novel debut and takes you on a science fiction journey that promises to inspire you, captivate you and thrill you all at once.
EW spoke with Konietzko about crafting his new story, his storytelling process and more.
EW: Can you talk a little bit about the concept of Threadworlds, because it sounds like something that’s so inventive, and also something that fits with what society is focused on right now, in terms of female presence in comic books and science?
BRYAN KONIETZKO: I had been pondering what my next big project would be for the last several years. I was trying to think of a sci-fi idea, and separately a fantasy idea. When the concept Threadworlds popped into my head, I found a way to weave those genres together. I definitely wasn’t aiming to be topical, but once science became the focal point of the story I knew it was important to me to have a young girl as the main character. This is basically Nova’s long origin story as scientific superhero. I hope she’ll be inspiring to readers of all genders and ages, but especially girls who are interested in studying and pursuing science.
I know you have a lot of different types of artistic experience in the industry, so how does working on a book like this compare to working on something like Avatar? What are the differences?
The development and writing processes are comparable to Avatar and Korra. This is a similarly ambitious, sweeping epic full of world building, so in those regards it feels like familiar territory to me. The primary difference is that an animated TV production requires scores of people, whereas I’m making these books alone — at least at this stage. The graphic novel is definitely its own medium and provides fresh challenges for a newcomer like me, but the illustration process is somewhat akin to the work I’ve done in animation as an art director, designer, and storyboard artist.
Storytelling is so important, and you garnered a lot of praise for what you inspired in fans and other artists with your storytelling in Avatar. Threadworlds seems like it’s going to be the same kind of thing: a ground-breaking, important series focusing on some of the world’s most important issues. Does that put pressure on you at all?
I always feel pressure, no matter what I do! I think it is what gets me up in the morning. I’m just making Threadworlds out of the things I love and that I’m passionate about learning. When we created Avatar, Michael DiMartino and I did the same thing. We poured in all the ingredients that felt closest to our hearts and tried to make the series live up to our own standards, first and foremost. It’s 13 years later and I’m a different person whose interests and priorities have shifted somewhat. This graphic novel series reflects that. As you said, storytelling is so important, so I try to keep the focus on that and less on outside, abstract pressures.
So you’re writing AND doing the art for this book. How are you finding that time management?
Well, at the peak of production on Korra we were making thirty episodes at one time, so with this book series I’m able to dive deeper into the two main parts of the process, instead of my usual state of being spread out so thinly while overseeing a giant, unwieldy production. It is still a mountain of work though, any way I slice it. Currently, I’m writing the first volume, while doing art concepts and designs. The significant time management challenge will come next year when I’ll be in the thick of illustrating this one while writing the second volume. It is likely that on later volumes I’ll be bringing in some other artists to help me draw and color, but for now I’m really enjoying the task of doing it alone while I can.
In your own words, why should people be excited for this series? What can you tell them to look forward to?
It is sort of putting the cart before the horse if I think about it that way. I just follow what inspires me as an artist and a storyteller, and stay true to myself in my work. I try to make the kinds of things I want to see out there in the world, and hope they end up resonating with other people too. All I know for sure is the deeper I get into the story and characters, the more excited I am to make these books and share them. As for what to look forward to, Threadworlds has high stakes, relatable characters and a wide range of tones – similar to the work I co-created with Michael. And though the focus is on science there will be plenty of action and adventure. That’s definitely me being true to myself as a creator.
The first volume of the Threadworlds graphic novel series will be on sale in 2017 from First Second Books and you can preview exclusive first-look art below.