While it’s been fifty-five years since Frank Herbert published his epic sci-fi space opera novel Dune, its influence is still being felt. And no, not just in Star Wars stories. Not only is the novel being adapted into a pair of movies by Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve, but there’s also a spin-off TV series in the works called Dune: The Sisterhood. But for those who’d rather read this epic (again), there’s a new graphic novel adaptation, one that’s drawn by illustrators Patricia Martín and Raúl Allén. In the following email interview, Martín and Allén discuss what went into the visual side of Dune, The Graphic Novel, Book 1 (hardcover, Kindle), the first of a three-part adaptation.
Please note: All answers come from both Patricia and Raúl unless otherwise indicated.
Patricia Martín (Photo Credit: Raúl Allén), Raúl Allén (Photo Credit: Victor Alonso)
To start, how familiar were you with Frank Herbert’s Dune when you were approached to work on Dune, The Graphic Novel?
Patricia: I read Dune a few years ago, and I quickly felt in love with the universe created by Frank Herbert. Every character, every landscape, and every scene had so much behind them that I couldn’t stop reading it.
Raúl: My brother was a big Dune fan, and it was thanks to him that I discovered this amazing universe. I was in my teens and, as Patricia said, I fell in love with the story.
So then how daunting was it to agree to draw this graphic novel adaptation?
It was daunting, indeed. We felt so honored but at the same time, a bit overwhelmed by the big responsibility for the Dune fans, the writers, and everybody who in the past helped to build this amazing universe.
Before you started, did you go back and read or reread Herbert’s book, or did you just go by the scripts for this graphic novel?
We reread the whole book several times before and while we were sketching or drawing every page. We worked alongside the script and the book at the same time so we could even be more faithful to Frank Herbert’s Dune.
There’s been a lot of visuals versions of Dune over the years: the David Lynch movie; the Marvel Comic’s Dune: The Official Comic Book adaptation of that movie; Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unfinished movie and the documentary about it, Jodorowsky’s Dune; the TV mini-series; and, of course, all the book covers. When you starting working on the illustrations for Dune, The Graphic Novel, did you look at any of those for ideas of what to do…or what not to do?
We learnt about everything we could that surrounded the Dune universe before jumping on our own interpretation.
For example, looking at the designs by Moebius for the Jodorowsky’s unfinished movie, one can only wonder how amazing that would have been. But even if we really enjoyed the many interpretations that the Dune universe has had, we had a clear mind that we needed to focus on our own.
Did you have a chance to look at any of the concept drawings that the people working on the upcoming Dune movie or the TV show Dune: The Sisterhood have done?
We had already finished the first chapter of Dune, The Graphic Novel when the first images and the trailer of the Dune movie were released. But anyway, the idea was to create something unique for the graphic novel and deviate from everything that was already created, particularly the cinematic interpretations.
The Marvel Comics version was illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz who, interestingly, drew the cover of Dune, The Graphic Novel, Book 1. Did you have any a chance to talk to him about that experience?
No, we didn’t get a chance to talk to him about the process, but we feel immensely happy and grateful for his contribution.
Now, along with Dune, you’ve also illustrated such comics as Steve Orlando’s Wonder Woman: Volume 9: The Enemy Of Both Sides. Did Dune, The Graphic Novel being a science fiction story, and not a superhero one, change your approach to the art for Dune?
The Dune esthetic is kind of retro, so even if it’s science fiction there is a close connection to reality. We tried to remain close to some of the things that inspired Frank Herbert. For example, how the Fremen people were shaped after the Bedouins and their culture. So the way we conceived the art for Dune, The Graphic Novel was not that different from our past works, but we did change our approach of how to narrate and tell such a long story. That was one of the challenges.
So are there any artists who you think had a big influence on what you’ve done in terms of the art for Dune, The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 but not on anything else you’ve done?
Of course, Moebius, both by his close connection to the Dune universe and his epic sense of scenery and narrative. Also P. Craig Russell for his opera adaptations.
What about non-literary influences; do you think your work on Dune, The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 was influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games? Aside from the Dune stuff, of course.
Once we get into the creative process, we see references and inspiration everywhere. Like the way people walk on the street, complexions, facial features… We look at a lot of fashion designers, such as Larry LeGaspi, Rick Owens, Balmain, Iris Van Herpen… Sunsets and dawns from our region in Spain.
As I mentioned earlier, Dune, The Graphic Novel is not the first time you two have worked together. Raúl, what did Patricia bring to this project that you did not?
Raúl: Her sense of narrative and the way she sees at a blank page and designs the layouts. Also, her amazing color palettes.
We do a lot of back and forth sharing ideas and shaping every step of the process.
And Patricia, same question to you about Raúl?
Patricia: His unique way of approaching the characters, trying to understand every single moment that they are going through in order to empathize better with them. We both look at the page globally, carefully considering every element that goes into it and what it can add to the story.
In the back of Dune, The Graphic Novel, Book 1 it says that Book 2: Muad’dib will be out in “Spring 2022.” But is that the last volume or are there more?
It’s the second book and there will be another one. Three in total.
Cool. And has there been any talk to doing graphic novel versions of the sequel, Dune Messiah?
Not at the moment.
Finally, Dune, The Graphic Novel is not the first time a prose novel has been adapted into a graphic novel. What graphic novel version of a prose novel would you each suggest people read and why that one?
Paul Auster’s City Of Glass adapted by David Mazzucchelli and Paul Karasik for its narrative and visual games; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Magic Flute by P. Craig Russell for its layouts and colors; and Fernando Aramburu’s Patria, adapted by Toni Fejzula for its color palettes and atmospheres.