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Reflection: The Importance of ‘Avatar’

Today we have a special guest essay by Dark Horse editor Rachel Roberts, who edits the Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra graphic novels.

My introduction to the world of Avatar and Korra was not typical by any means. While the first season of Korra was airing, my personal life was undergoing several overwhelming changes—losing my childhood home, interstate moves, graduating college, financial uncertainty, health issues—basically the rug had been pulled out from under me. During this time I felt lost, and in search of a path forward, I started interning at Archaia Entertainment. The former intern class left a list of required reading and watching which prominently featured The Legend of Korra. I had never seen Avatar: The Last Airbender, but if these savvy people highly recommended this show, how could I not watch it? I already knew a lot about the characters and worldbuilding from both my IRL friends and Tumblr dashboard, although I didn’t have any emotional connection to the Gaang (yet). 

A few weeks later, I caught a Korra rerun on TV. I was hooked. She was the headstrong, emotional, and buff butt-kicking woman I had always wanted to see in media. More importantly, Korra gave me an escape from the things that were going wrong in my life. She was a much-needed bit of strength during that time.

Fast-forward a few months later, and I had moved again, this time to the Pacific Northwest. I was working a full-time graveyard shift at a local hotel, and in my off time, I finally started watching Avatar (it was still on Netflix then). Spoiler alert: I burned through all three seasons in record time. So, I began searching for any additional content I could get my hands on, which brought me to the Avatar comics

 . . . and eventually to my job as an editor at Dark Horse. 

During my first year at Dark Horse, KorrAsami (the romantic attraction between Korra and Asami) became canon. I vividly recall standing in then-ATLA editor Dave Marshall’s office, seeing the teaser announcement that we’d be continuing their story in comics. I felt so alive. I had been questioning my own sexuality for years and wasn’t out, but Korra was a role model for a part of myself I never thought could be affirmed. Korra helped me connect to the queer community in so many ways, and I’ve never looked back. 

Taking over stewardship of the Avatar and Korra publishing programs was one of the proudest moments of my career. It felt so vindicating that being obnoxiously loud about my interests was my most reliable strength at work. It’s difficult to put into words how I feel about being a queer person editing comics about queer people . . . but I finally learned what Aang and Korra had been teaching me all along: We shine our brightest when we’re confident in who we are and what we believe in. I do my best to channel my love for these characters and series into the work that I do. It’s both an important job and immense honor to shepherd these programs and facilitate the creation of this kind of content for fans. I hope to continue for a good long while, and hope that these books serve as the bits of strength readers need in their own lives.

Brigid Alverson About Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.

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