vatar: The Last Airbender (often abbreviated ATLA) premiered on February 21, 2005, and wrapped up its third and final season on July 18, 2008. In the almost two decades since then, the show’s fans have shown no hints of slowing down. The same can be said of the show’s original creators, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko.

From the moment the show aired all those years ago, fans were enraptured by the magic of bending the four elements, the familial pain of the Fire Nation’s royal line, and the incredible destiny of a young boy who, by chance, survived a genocide to become the world’s only hope. 

With an award-winning cast of voice actors — including Mark Hamill as Fire Lord Ozai — and Star Wars’ favorite writer/director, Dave Filoni, it is easy to see how ATLA became a hit that has endured the test of time. Consistent fan engagement has paid off for the creators, as the world of the Avatar has expanded into several mediums of entertainment.

More recently, a live-action Avatar film premiered on June 30, 2010, and a live-action Avatar series debuted on Netflix on February 22, 2024. Both of these projects are separate interpretations of ATLA with little input from the original creators. Still, anyone looking to explore the entirety of the Avatarverse should check them out.

Following ATLA, The Legend of Korra (LoK) premiered on April 14, 2012, and ran through four seasons, ending on December 19, 2014. LoK captures the story of Korra, the new Water Tribe Avatar who followed Aang in the cycle of the four elements.

If you’re unsure what that means, stick with me as I break down the show and its key elements (see what I did there?). Once you’ve finished, check out the Youtini Avatar Show, the first non-Star Wars podcast in the Youtini Podcast Network!

An Introduction to the Avatar Universe

The world of Avatar hinges on one fact: some people are born with the innate ability to bend — that is, control — one of the four elements: water, earth, fire, and air. These different bending styles divide the world into four nations: the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads. 

Katara, Aang, and Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender
Image Credit: Nickelodeon

Each nation has its own struggles and motivations, of course, but one person unites them: the Avatar. The Avatar’s spirit comes alive through one person who can bend all four elements — the only bender on Earth with this power. The Avatar cycle moves through the four nations in this order:

  • Water
  • Earth
  • Fire
  • Air

And so on and so on, constantly cycling through the four nations so that no one nation has complete power over the Avatar. Essentially, this means that, for instance, when an Air Nomad Avatar such as Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender dies, the Avatar spirit is reborn into a member of the Water Tribes, as we see with Korra in The Legend of Korra. When Korra dies, the Avatar spirit will be reborn as a member of the Earth Kingdom, then of the Fire Nation, and finally, the spirit will return to an Air Nomad.

Now, let’s talk about the characters that make Avatar: The Last Airbender so worthwhile.

Aang, Air Nomad

Aang is the titular last airbender and the Avatar. Technically, at the start of the show, he is 112 years old but has been trapped in an iceberg for 100 of those years, not aging or even experiencing consciousness or the passage of time. So when the show begins, Aang is your typical 12-year-old boy — aside from having the power and responsibility to save the world.

Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender
Image Credit: Nickelodeon

ATLA tells the story of Aang’s training in the three elements not native to him: water, earth, and fire. His struggles are front and center, but he has an incredible group of friends to help him along the way, sometimes called “the gaang” by the Avatar fandom. Even though he must save the world from the tyrannical Fire Lord, Aang constantly finds ways to squeeze in some classic 12-year-old fun and hijinx, one reason ATLA has such a wide appeal across age groups.

Katara, Water Tribe

Katara is a water bender who discovers Aang breaking out of the iceberg near her village at the South Pole. Not realizing that she and her brother, Sokka, have found the Avatar — who has been missing for 100 years — Katara takes Aang back to her village. From there, it becomes clear that fate has intertwined Katara and Aang for the rest of their lives, whether they know it or not.

Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender
Image Credit: Nickelodeon

Throughout the show, Katara trains alongside Aang to become a powerful and skilled water bender. She even learns to use her bending for healing purposes, which often comes in handy for the gaang. She is strong in bending and spirit and plays a key role in saving the world.

Sokka, Water Tribe

Katara’s brother, Sokka, is not a bender, but he makes up for it with almost funny jokes, an impressive ego, and a boomerang that sometimes (but certainly not always) gets him out of trouble. Sokka provides much-needed comedic relief in the face of the seemingly impossible task of taking down Fire Lord Ozai, and the fans love him for that.

Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender
Image Credit: Nickelodeon

Throughout ATLA’s three seasons, Sokka grows into the young man that he has always hoped to be, and he finds some very creative ways to protect his sister and friends without having the ability to bend.

Zuko, Fire Nation

Zuko is the Prince of the Fire Nation, son of Fire Lord Ozai, and an extremely skilled fire bender, especially for a teenager. But at the show's beginning, we find him disgraced and banished by his father, causing him to search for the one thing that will bring back his honor: finding and capturing the Avatar.

Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender
Image Credit: Nickelodeon

More so than any other member of the gaang, Zuko’s arc throughout the show follows devastating pitfalls, failures, and setbacks while also presenting moments of radical growth that become integral to his character. These lessons usually come from Zuko’s uncle, General Iroh, who takes a selfless interest in seeing Zuko succeed in a world designed for his failure. 

Toph, Earth Kingdom

Toph doesn’t join the gaang until season two. Still, her impact is so forceful and bright that she accomplishes in two seasons what the other character arcs take three seasons to do. Toph is an incredibly powerful earthbender who simply refuses to give in to anyone else's whims. She is completely blind and uses her earthbending skills to “see” the world around her by sensing movements through the ground.

Toph from Avatar: The Last Airbender
Image Credit: Nickelodeon

Not only is Toph Aang’s earthbending teacher, but she’s also an integral piece of the overall puzzle of saving the world. She is quick, witty, and snarky, but she must also process her own issues with the world.

Worldbuilding and Tone in Avatar

Throughout Avatar: The Last Airbender, the world becomes increasingly tangible. Much of the show features the gaang traveling the world and visiting all four nations to give Aang as much training as possible before he inevitably must face Fire Lord Ozai. Creators DiMartino and Konietzko built a tangible, believable world for viewers of all ages. There is truly no suspension of disbelief in the Avatarverse. 

Much of the worldbuilding effects are thanks to the animators of both ATLA and LoK, as both shows do an awesome job of capturing the different feel of each nation at any given point along the Avatar timeline. However,  there is also something to be said about DiMartino and Konietzko's ability to create characters that feel so real that their actions and consequences have high stakes.

That level of writing, reinforced with beautiful animation and talented, passionate voice actors, is what takes Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra from the realm of children’s cartoons and into the sphere of shows that always feel good to go back to over and over and over, no matter your age.

Extra Content in the Avatar Universe

Since ATLA's wild success, there have been many additional pieces of content to keep fans going, and most of it comes with DiMartino and Konietzko's seal of approval! Whether you want more content featuring the gaang, the continuation of Korra’s story, or lore from the lives of past Avatars, there is something out there for you.

Characters from the TV series The Legend of Korra.
Image Credit: Nickelodeon

Avatar: The Last Airbender Comics

Once you finish the show, you can enjoy a multitude of Avatar: The Last Airbender comics, starting with The Promise by Gene Yang and illustrated by the artists of Studio Gurihiru. Like many ATLA comics, The Promise takes place over three larger parts, unlike the traditional format of smaller issues that most comics follow. It takes place about a year after the show’s finale, though, so I wouldn’t recommend reading it until you’ve finished ATLA.

Cover of the Avatar: The Last Airbender Imbalance omnibus.
Image Credit: Dark Horse Comics

The Promise was released in 2012, but many more publications have hit fans’ bookshelves since then. The most recent is Azula in the Spirit Temple by Faith Erin Hicks and artist Peter Wartman, which debuted in September 2023.

There are even graphic novels that focus specifically on a single character from the series, so be sure to look for your favorite character next time you visit the bookstore!

Legend of Korra Comics

Much like the successful formula of the ATLA comics, the comics that follow Korra, her girlfriend Asami, and their friends Bolin and Mako mostly take place in three larger parts. Starting with Turf Wars, the LoK comics pick up immediately after the end of the show — which, of course, means that we wouldn’t recommend picking them up without watching the entire show first.

Cover of The Legend of Korra Ruins of the Empire omnibus.
Image Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Turf Wars and its sequel, Ruins of the Empire, were both written by Michael Dante DiMartino. His love for these characters and their stories comes through clearly in both books. And if you still need another reason to pick up these comics, they feature female artists Irene Koh and Michelle Wong!

The Kyoshi Novels and the Yangchen Novels

If you aren’t a huge comic reader, you still have fun new stories to explore within the Avatarverse through the Chronicles of the Avatar! F.C. Yee worked with DiMartino to create the lore-dense stories of two past Avatars that get only brief mention in the shows. This collaboration brought us two novels following Avatar Kyoshi, the earthbending Avatar that preceded Avatar Roku of the Fire Nation, and Avatar Aang of the Air Nomads.

F.C. Yee’s interpretations of Kyoshi’s life come through in his duology, The Rise of Kyoshi and The Shadow of Kyoshi. Both books chronicle Kyoshi’s mental and emotional struggle with holding the title of Avatar while also doing what ATLA did best by diving into Kyoshi’s relationships with the people around her.

Cover of The Rise of Kyoshi, an Avatar: The Last Airbender novel
Image Credit: Amulet Books

Following the Kyoshi duology, F.C. Yee wrote another duology. This time, he followed Avatar Yangchen, the Air Nomad who preceded Aang by one full cycle through the four elements. These novels, The Dawn of Yangchen and The Legacy of Yangchen, give a particularly exciting view of the culture of Air Nomads in a time long before the birth of any of our familiar ATLA characters.

Though all of F.C. Yee’s Avatarverse novels are technically prequels to ATLA, we still recommend watching the show first in order to understand the intricate world of the Avatarverse before diving into the more lore-heavy stories.

The Avatar Legends Role-Playing Game

If you are a fan of our Star Wars role-playing game (RPG) show, Dice Wars, you’ll love Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game! Avatar Legends is a story-based RPG that allows fans to enter the world of the Avatarverse in a way that simply isn’t possible through books, comics, and TV shows. Through the game’s ruleset and mechanics, players create their own characters and stories set in any of the five major eras of the Avatarverse.

The Avatar Legends roleplaying game.
Image Credit: Magpie Games

This game is approachable for people new to role-playing games and detailed enough to keep more seasoned players engaged throughout an entire campaign. Once you’re familiar with the world of the Avatar, dive in!

The Future of the Avatarverse

On February 24, 2021, Paramount+ announced its deal with DiMartino and Konietzko to create Avatar Studios. This project aims to create even more Avatar content through new series, spinoffs, and even animated feature-length movies!

Multiple shows and movies are currently in production, but the two most exciting projects that we know of are a new animated show following the new Earth Kingdom Avatar that succeeds Avatar Korra and an animated movie that features the gaang as adults solving new problems and trying to keep peace in a politically rocky world.

Avatar Studios also assisted in creating the Avatar Legends RPG and the Chronicles of the Avatar novels.


Are you ready to dive into Avatar: The Last Airbender and all the extra content that comes along with it? We hope so! The Avatarverse is truly rich with well-rounded characters, intense stories, and a believable, tangible world.

If you can’t get enough, check out The Youtini Avatar Show and hop in our Discord to chat with like-minded fans who love the Avatarverse just as much as you do!

Emmi has been a Star Wars fan since she watched Attack of the Clones at nine years old, and she hasn't looked back since. She is a Youth Services Librarian living in Wilmington, NC and a published writer of fiction and nonfiction. When she's not reading or writing, she's usually watching cartoons with her girlfriend or enjoying a beer on her porch with the local street cats.