The Avatar: The Last Airbender series has left a lasting impression on the landscape of animated television. Its diverse and unique cast of characters makes for not only iconic cosplays and fan art, but also rich spin-off stories. Avatar creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko have expanded the Avatar world through comics, novelizations, and video games.
With Netflix teasing the development of a live-action Avatar series from its original creators, it may be time to look at some of the most interesting supporting characters in the Avatar universe who deserve their stories told in any number of spin-off series.
Update May 15th, 2020 by Louis Kemner: The Avatar franchise is on everyone’s minds right now, and between the animated shows and the Dark Horse comics, this universe is bigger than ever, and it is explored through many different viewpoints. Many characters in this franchise’s history have unique perspectives, goals, and attitudes, and most of them would make for great spin-off series of varying lengths. With that in mind, who are five more characters who could deepen the audience’s understanding of this world with their own potential spin-off series? Let’s review.
15 Suyin Beifong
Introduced in season 3 of The Legend of Korra, Suyin Beifong is the adventurous half-sister of Lin and the younger daughter of the famed Toph Beifong. She formed the metal city of Zaofu and established it as a place of learning and progress.
Just that alone makes her an outstanding candidate for a spin-off series. Suyin has been over the world, such as working for a circus and traveling among the sandbenders, and she’s got the mementos to prove it.
14 Long Feng
He is the shadowy mastermind of Ba Sing Se, and it turns out he is the puppetmaster of King Kuei via the Dai Li. He got outdone, though, when Azula arrived and beat him at his own game (if he can be considered a player at all, that is).
Long Feng’s backstory is generally known, but audiences have seen little of it. It would be fascinating to see a young Long Feng learn the ropes of political intrigue in Ba Sing Se, and gain power of the Earth Kingdom throne bit by bit. He’d make for quite the anti-hero.
13 Varrick And Zhu Li
This is actually two characters in one, but they are so tightly knit, they ought to count as just one. Like Long Feng, Varrick started with humble origins, and gained power to become a significant figure on the world stage.
The first meeting between him and Zhu Li is something audiences must be dying to see, and the question stands about how Zhu Li became such a passive assistant for so long. She has a strong will, but for some time, she suppressed it. How did that paradigm come to be?
He is Sokka and Katara’s father and the chief of the small but tough Southern Water Tribe, and an honorable man on top of it all. Hakoda trusted Sokka to watch over Katara and the village while fighting the Fire Nation navy.
Hakoda used ingenuity and sheer guts to fight such a powerful army, as Bato explained, and his exploits against the Fire Nation army would make for some great action scenes. This could also provide more insight to Water Tribe military doctrine.
Tenzin is a curious man, since he is a dedicated airbender monk but also has a shorter temper than his famously serene father, avatar Aang. He’s frazzled by his wild family life, but he loves them all dearly.
Imagine a spin-off that begins with Tenzin’s childhood, where he learns the ways of the Air Nomads from his father and has misadventures with his brother and sister. Then, as a grown man, he would experience fatherhood, and take part in Republic City politics. It helps that he’s voiced by the legendary J.K. Simmons.
10 Avatar Yangchen
The previous Air Nomad Avatar before Aang, Yangchen is a powerful and prominent historical figure whose devotion to the Avatar duty of maintaining balance gave her a lasting legacy. Though she only appears briefly in the Avatar series during Aang’s visions with his past lives, her story is later explored through The Rift graphic novel trilogy and recently, The Rise of Kyoshi novel. Yangchen made peace with an Old Iron spirit whom she battled in combat, starting a new festival tradition among Air Nomads that pays respects to the spirit. She also was said to have traveled with her own Team Avatar, all of which would make for amazing spin-off adventure material.
June is not a major character in the Avatar series and doesn’t get much additional depth in supplemental source material, but she remains a pretty cool side character. As an elite bounty hunter with flexible morals and a killer shirshu mount, June could easily star in her own miniseries in the style of other bounty hunter tales like The Mandalorian and Cowboy Bebop.
In the Avatar series, Zuko employs June to track down Aang twice: first in his quest to redeem himself from exile, second after Aang and Zuko became friends and Aang disappears before his fight with Firelord Ozai. In the comics, Zuko later tries to get June to help him find his lost mother.
8 Avatar Kyoshi
Kyoshi is getting her moment in the spotlight with the two-part novel series by F.C. Yee, The Rise of Kyoshi and (releasing July 2020) The Shadow of Kyoshi. A spin-off series encapsulating her newly deepened story would be amazing. Avatar Kyoshi was known during the series as the longest-living avatar to date; she died when she was 230 years old.
Her troubled upbringing and determination to bring justice to the world meant she was one of the few Avatars that condoned killing in the name of peace. She defeated Chin the Conquerer and set up the secret government in Ba Sing Se. Kyoshi’s face makeup and war fans are so iconic they inspired the show’s Kyoshi warriors on an island dedicated to her legacy.
7 Avatar Wan
The first Avatar, Wan was the subject of a set of beautifully animated episodes in the Legend of Korra, and we can only ask for more. The mischievous Wan acted as a Promethean figure to humans, harnessing the power of fire bending from the lion turtle to give to humans and later the other three elements. The Legend of Korra offered slightly different lore about the origins of bending in the human world, through the introduction of the spirit world and Raava & Vaatu. While Wan’s story effectively retconned some assumed elements of the Avatar series, it would be nice to see more details of his training and the politics of the ancient world that became the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
One of the best villains in television history, Azula captures all the extreme ferocity, ambition, and mental instability of a mad queen and fire lord. In the graphic novels, we learn more about her resentments toward her mother, her escape from prison, and her few redemptive acts.
Based on all the supplemental content, it is clear that the show creators also cannot get enough of Azula. It would be interesting to learn just what exactly happened to her in the time between Avatar Aang and Avatar Korra’s world and where she ended up after the arc of the comics.
Sadly, Sokka was one of the only members of Aang’s Team Avatar not alive during Korra’s formative years in Republic City. He appears in flashback briefly in the Korra series, serving on the Republic City council and sentencing the crime boss, Yakone. What happened to him between the events depicted in The Legend of Korra is something many fans have been asking about and would make for an interesting supplemental series. Did he end up with his love interest, Suki? Why didn’t he have any kids? How did he get so suave in middle age? These unanswered questions and more deserve some answers.
4 Ursa (Zuko’s Mom)
The graphic novels reveal a great deal about Zuko’s banished mother, Ursa, including the story of her arrival into the Fire Nation and marriage to soon-to-be Firelord Ozai. Ursa is the granddaughter of Avatar Roku, but she was never a willing participant in Ozai’s imperialist scheme. She remained in love with a man in her hometown, with whom she eventually eloped and permanently disguised herself until Zuko found her. All of this would be great to depict in a spin-off in a Game of Thrones-style series with a Fire Nation setting, full of political intrigue, secret love affairs, and a change of identity.
3 Uncle Iroh
Former general of the Fire Nation Uncle Iroh ranks as possibly the most wonderful father figure in animated television, showing his gentle but unwavering support for his nephew Zuko and his powerful skills as a bender. After the Iroh’s voice actor, ground-breaking Japanese American actor Mako passed away in 2006, it would be hard to do justice to old Uncle Iroh in any new series.
That said, perhaps a prequel series centered around young General Iroh, the Hundred Year War, and political intrigue of the Fire Nation’s imperialism would allow for a deeper understanding of what we already know about Iroh and his emotional history.
Powerful earth bender and founder of metal bending, Toph Beifong easily has one of the most interesting confirmed life stories in the Avatar world, based on her role in the Korra series. Toph’s life after the events of the Avatar series and her legacy in the Korra universe could fill several seasons of a solo spin-off. From having two daughters from two different fathers (Lin and Suyin, who appear prominently in Korra’s story) to searching the world for enlightenment and ending up a reclusive swamp lady, Toph is one of the most fascinating figures of Team Avatar Aang.
Zuko, the antagonist turned anti-hero with one of the best redemption arcs in media history, is probably the most deserving of having his later story turned into a secondary series. From his search for his mother in the graphic novels to his political legacy in Legend of Korra, Zuko remains one of the most influential rulers of the Fire Nation. He helped Aang set up Republic City and abdicated his throne to his daughter Izumi in order to become an ambassador of peace. Zuko’s strength as a character comes from his growth and resolve to challenge the ideals of his father and sister.
Avatar: The Last Airbender is a popular anime franchise that could benefit from branching out & releasing spinoff series for their many characters.