How 'Dune: The Graphic Novel' Gives the Classic New Life

Dune Book 1 Preview
Bill Sienkiewicz/Abrams
Writers Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert talk about adapting Frank Herbert's 1965 book, accompanying a preview from the graphic novel itself.

Ahead of next year’s big screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s iconic Dune, the 1965 novel is being brought to visual life in a different medium, with Abrams’ Dune: The Graphic Novel Book 1 — the first of three graphic novels adapting the original prose book.

Boasting eye-popping art from Raúl Allén and Patricia Martin (Secret Weapons, Wonder Woman), Dune: The Graphic Novel is a scene-by-scene adaptation of the beloved novel from two writers who are already very familiar with the worlds of Arrakis and beyond: Brian Herbert, Frank’s son, and Kevin J. Anderson.

The two have previously collaborated on a number of Dune projects, including Dune: House Atreides and Dune: The Caladan Trilogy, across a number of years, making them obvious choices to bring Herbert’s first Dune story to comics.

The Hollywood Reporter has a preview of The Graphic Novel Book 1 ahead of its release next week, with Herbert and Anderson talking about translating the classic into comics for the first time.

After many sequels, films, and TV series, what made you decide it was time for a graphic novel adaptation?

Brian Herbert: When Kevin and I wrote our Butlerian Jihad trilogy, I noticed on book tours that many young people were buying our novels, and often this was the first thing they read in the Dune series. Inevitably, these new readers turned to the flagship novel Dune itself, and I found this to be very interesting, and rewarding, something my father would have appreciated.

I wanted to open the series up even more to young readers, so after considering — and rejecting for the time being — the idea of YA novels, I decided to focus instead on new Dune games, graphic novels, and comics, to bring a young demographic to Frank Herbert’s incredible series. And of all the possible graphic novel or comic projects, the best place to start was with a faithful adaptation of Dune itself.

Kevin Anderson: Also, the epic story of Dune itself is such a visual feast that it lends itself to being told in a graphic format. Brian and I have often talked about David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia as a model. The idea of being able to convey the story of Dune in a graphic novel format seemed perfect.

You say that, but Dune presents a lot of visual challenges for any medium; Alejandro Jodorowsky, who famously worked on an ultimately aborted Dune movie decades ago has famously talked about his problems in trying to find visuals in the opening part of the book. Did that affect the creation of this graphic novel?

Anderson: The particular challenge to adapting Dune, especially the early part, is that there is so much information to be conveyed — and in the novel it is done in prose and dialog, rather than action — we found it challenging to portray visually. Fortunately, the landscape is so sweeping, we could show breathtaking images as a way to convey that background.

Herbert: I knew my father very well, and I remember him reading passages from Dune to my mother, Beverly Herbert. I had also spoken with him extensively about his creative process, and have a deep understanding of the imagery his mind was projecting onto the screen of his readership. Knowing what he intended, I’ve worked hard with Kevin to present a true visual image of what he had in mind. Both Kevin and I have read the novel numerous times, so we also understand how each part forms a portion of the whole.

What has the process been like between the two of you as co-writers, especially when working on something like this adaptation of Dune?

Herbert: Both of us are busy writers, with numerous ongoing projects. Depending upon our schedules, one or the other of us will do preliminary work — such as organizing the novel Dune and highlighting key sections. After that comes the script writing. Each draft of the script goes back and forth and we make modifications to it, honing it, making it more perfect with each pass. We have already collaborated in the writing of millions of words in the Dune and Hellhole series, so working together like this is a process we have perfected. It is very efficient.

Anderson: A lot of it is based on communication. Brian and I talk all the time and we brainstorm anything that has wrinkles. Also, we each have different strengths, and that’s why we have such a great collaboration — over more than twenty years. We also each provide a sanity check on the other and keep us on track.

Dune: The Graphic Novel Book 1 will be released Nov. 24. Look below for a preview from the book.