In preparation of the upcoming Avatar sequels Avatar: The Way of Water and Avatar: The Seed Bearer, Dark Horse Comics is going back to Pandora to tell more stories about the Na'vi and their plight in keeping their planet safe in James Cameron's Avatar: Tsu'tey's Path #1. Fans wanting to know what happened with Tsu'tey when Jake Sully of the Sky People arrived can track down this six-issue mini-series, which will be written by Sherri L. Smith, with art by the creative team of Jan Duursema, Dan Parson, and Wes Dzioba. Doug Wheatley will provide covers.
"This story is what I'd call a 'sneakquel,' because we've snuck it into the bigger story of the first movie to show Tsu'tey's side of things," Smith exclusively told SYFY WIRE. "The original movie is told from human Jake Sully's point of view as the outsider who comes to Pandora and learns the ways of the People. Tsu'tey is sort of the Na'vi antagonist. He's big man on campus until Jake comes along and becomes a rival for the affections of Tsu'tey's intended. If you were to read the comic alongside the movie, you'd see the moments of intersection where Jake and Tsu'tey cross paths.
"What I love about this story is the extra dimensionality it gives this character. His whole world is changed by the introduction of Jake Sully. Now we get to see exactly what that means."
Outside of being in Tsu'tey's point of view and the established rules of Pandora, Smith was given freedom to play with James Cameron's world of Avatar. She met with Cameron at the start of the project and he gave her the green light to add to it.
"Beyond the ecosystem, the planetary science, there's this whole connection to the ravaged Earth that we only glimpse in the opening of Avatar. I got to learn about the music of the Na'vi, their spiritual beliefs, the way Eywa integrates into their lives without the filter of a human presence. And, as much as I love Star Wars and Star Trek, Avatar does not rely on monolithic worlds.
"There is no 'ice planet.' If it exists here, it's fully realized with biodiversity and ethnic diversity. Jim is a science-minded person. Whatever we create we need to back up, so it's believable and even translatable to our own experience. So the main characters are opening the door here, and there's so much more to see."
For Duursema, she is no stranger to working on big science fiction franchises. With a full resume of work on Dark Horse's Star Wars library, she has the tough task of translating the unique textures of Na'vi onto the printed page. As seen in these preview pages, she described how she solved that problem with editor Randy Stradley, inker Dan Parson, and colorist Wes Dzioba.
"The first thing I noticed while penciling this was that putting both the stripes and bio-luminescent dots on the characters in the art was going to be confusing to ink and color in every panel. Randy, Wes, Dan, and I discussed how best to accomplish it. It was decided that the stripes would be done in wash, separated by Wes for color and then the bio-luminescent dots would be added at the color stage by Wes."
"The complexity of the costumes, characters, and backgrounds requires a ton of reference from the film for the art at all stages—and attention has to be paid to whether it's day or night so glowing effects can be added to everything. We're all getting so familiar with Pandora that we'll be speaking Na'vi soon."
Smith said that Tsu'tey's Path aims to fill in the cultural background of the Na'vi and history of the Omatikaya clan. Razor-sharp eyes will have to hunt for easter eggs that could play out in future films. "Don't hold me to that. I mean, you don't want to ruin anything, do you?"
Check out SYFY WIRE's exclusive 8-page preview of James Cameron's Avatar: Tsu'tey's Path #1 below and then look for the entire first issue at your local comic shop on January 16.