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Comic Con: Dune’s future goes beyond new movie or sequels with books, comics

For many, the arrival of a new Dune movie evokes memories of the 1980s adaptation by David Lynch — a remake of a cult science fiction film that’s alternatively held up as a good adaptation of Frank Herbert’s iconic science fiction novel, or one that was a horrible misfire. A new movie means an overwhelming amount of additional Dune material that’s been set to ignite interest: On the docket are a couple of big board games and a tabletop RPG, as well as a graphic novel adaptation of the original book from Abrams Comics and an ongoing line of comics.

But dedicated Dune fans know the world has never really gone away: Brian Herbert, son of Frank, and collaborator Kevin J. Anderson’s have steadily expanded upon the original line of novels over the years with dozens of prequels and sequels. With Denis Villeneuve, Timothee Chalamet, and Zendaya’s film set to come out later this year, they’ve been hard at work continuing that task. And however the movie plays for mass audiences, there’s no sign of slowing down.

During this year’s virtual San Diego Comic-Con, Herbert and Anderson held a panel that included representatives from their comic publishers and other creative collaborators to update fans on the state of the franchise and what they can expect in the nearish future.

Anderson kicked off the presentation by looking back on his and Brian Herbert’s long relationship, noting that they first met in 1997, and have been collaborators ever since. He estimated that collectively, they’ve written more than three million words set in the Dune universe over the last near quarter-century. Anderson noted that 2021 could be considered the “year of Dune, noting that there were so many Dune-related books and comics coming out this year alongside the movie.” Anderson explained that they recorded this particular panel discussion back in May, and that as of May 27, he’d just handed off a detailed outline to Brian for the third installment of a trilogy that they’re currently writing, Heir of Caladan, which Herbert described as an “environmental novel.”

Herbert chalked up their success to a long friendship, and how they shared a vision for the franchise. “We have the same vision for this great journey we’re taking through the Dune universe,” he said. “Sometimes, we’ll come up with the same idea, separately.”

Anderson used the panel to tout a couple of new releases that have come out recently to coincide with the upcoming film: Ace Books recently republished all of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels, featuring new covers from Jim Tierney, which come in either a boxed set of the first three (Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune), or all six of the novels. In addition, Ace has released a deluxe hardcover edition of the book, featuring a new cover from artist Matt Griffin, a newly updated map, and some additional artwork under the dust jacket.

From there, Tor editor Christopher Morgan took over the panel. Morgan is the editor handling the franchise and the latest releases from Anderson and Herbert, and noted that he’s been a live-long fan of the franchise. He pointed to the lengthy back-catalog of books that the pair have written over the years.

With the release of the film, the pair returned to Dune after a short break to launch a new trilogy of novels, The Caladan trilogy, the first of which, The Duke of Caladan, is set right before the events of the original novel. The book came out last year and is set to debut in paperback in September. The second installment of the trilogy, Lady of Caladan, also due out in September, follows Lady Jessica as she comes to terms with her commitments to the Bene Gesserit sisterhood and her own family. The third installment, Heir of Caladan, will come out sometime next year.

When it does, it’ll be joined by another book, “a brand new collection of Dune novellas” called Sands of Dune. There’s no details on what those stories will cover within the Dune universe.

Image: Abrams Comic Arts

From there, the panel took a look at the comics, handing the presentation over to Charlotte Greenbaum, the editor of the Dune graphic novels from Abrams. She noted that when the first volume of the adaptation was released last year, it was a huge hit, and that they’ll be releasing a special edition of the book. The October release will be a bit bigger than the original and come with a slipcase and gold foil.

That book only covers part of Herbert’s original book: Anderson noted that because the original Dune manuscript had been written in three parts, his and Brian Herbert’s approach was to release the ”graphic novel into three parts in the same way Frank Herbert wrote the novel in.”

Their approach to adapting the novel for the format was to try and keep it as close as possible to the original source, says Anderson, “I think everybody who’s seen a movie that says it was ‘adapted from an original source work’ cringes, because they always screw it up. We decided that we couldn’t improve on what Frank Herbert did, so our graphic novel is as close as we could make it, a literal scene by scene adaptation of [the] novel.”

Presently, Herbert and Anderson have written the script for the second volume, set to come out sometime in the summer of 2022, and they’re starting to think about scripting the third. One fun detail that they mentioned was that the artist, Raúl Allén, went out and commissioned a costume based on his design of the Fremen stillsuit design, which he used for reference while drawing.

After that, there was more comics news, this time from Jonathan Manning, associate editor at BOOM! Studios, who announced that its well on its way to closing out their ongoing adaptation of Herbert and Anderson’s first novel, Dune: House Atreides. Next week, on July 28, the publisher will release a special comic based on their short story “Blood of the Sardaukar.” Manning noted that the pair have written a number of shorter works set in the Dune universe over the years, that they represented some interesting storytelling opportunities for the publisher: They could easily produce them as single, oversized, special issues that build on the world and series. Manning noted that they’re often self-contained stories, but that they also serve the large, ongoing story, and represent a good jumping-in point for new fans.

Dune: A Whisper of Caladan Seas comic cover

Image: Boom Studios/Jeff Dekal

He also had an announcement: they’ll be releasing a second special comic, an adaptation of Herbert and Anderson’s short story “Whisper of Caladan Seas” on Dec. 29, and will be drawn by Jakub Rebelka. Anderson noted that it was the first story that he and Brian worked on together, and it came out just before Dune: House Atreides. Manning also noted that they’ve got plenty of more plans for Dune in 2022, but couldn’t release any further details at the moment.

From there, the back half of the panel turned its attention to the franchise’s starting point: Frank Herbert. Anderson and Herbert introduced one of the elder Herbert’s collaborators, author and poet Bill Ransom, who co-wrote The Jesus Incident, The Lazarus Effect, and The Ascension Factor with Herbert. He noted that the two had lived near each other and were longtime friends, and ended up working together when Herbert’s wife Beverly was abruptly hospitalized, and he was under deadline for a couple of projects. Ransom recounted that they started working together in a shared world anthology from Harlan Ellison called Medea.

Ransom also noted that Herbert had long spoken about writing with his son Brian, “long before Brian’s talking about writing with Frank,” and that when “Brian started writing and having his first few things coming out, Frank was real proud of that.” Father and son did end up collaborating before the elder Herbert’s death, a novel called Man of Two Worlds, which came out in 1986.

Ransom was also joined by Scott Brick, the long-time audiobook narrator for the Dune novels, who told Bill that he’d long been a fan and had never had the opportunity to meet Frank, and that it was an honor to work on the books. He also noted that when he started working on the Dune novels, he made it a point to reach out to Brian, and the two spoke often, helping to figure out pronunciations and to go over Herbert’s notes to get the details right while narrating.

With Dune set to hit theaters on Oct. 22, it’ll be accompanied by a constellation of ancillary products: from this panel, it’s clear that Herbert and Anderson plan to keep the Dune name around for many years and stories to come.

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Polygon is an American video game website that publishes blogs, reviews, guides, videos, and news. At its October 2012 launch as Vox Media's third property, Polygon sought to distinguish itself from competitors by focusing on the stories of the people behind the games instead of the games themselves.

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