“Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.”― Frank Herbert, Dune (1965)
The Dune novels are masterpieces of science fantasy. Take the Lord of the Rings, combine it with Game of Thrones and add Star Wars (although Dune appeared before either of the latter two), and you would come close but still fail to capture the uniqueness and brilliance of this series of books.
With a new movie on the way and a comic book history that is largely ignored by most collectors, in this post I focus on some of the comics based on and inspired by the Frank Herbert Dune universe.
For those who have never read it, Dune is set in the far future and takes place, for the most part, on a planet called Arrakis. Arrakis is a desert wasteland (aka ‘Dune’) but also happens to contain the most valuable substance in the universe: “melange” or the spice.
As Baron Vladimir of House Harkonnen, plainly puts it: “He who controls the spice controls the universe”.
In the Dune novel, the spice was controlled by House Harkonnen, but the recently arrived House Atreides, under the rule of Duke Leto, are forced to settle on Arrakis.
Harkonnen treachery leads to the slaughter of House Atreides and one of the sole survivors, young Paul Atreides heir to the throne takes to the dangerous desert to escape.
With him comes his mother Jessica, but there’s more to his mother than meets the eye. Jessica is a Bene Gesserit, a witch, who has trained and given her son various powers, in fact she has groomed him both psychically and genetically to be a prophet.
Soon Paul uses his inheritance to take up the mantel of Muad’Dib, becoming a leader of the native Fremen peoples on Arrakis whom Paul leads in a war against the Harkonnen.
The original Dune novel won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards for sci-fi excellence. The series went on to an epic 8 book length story plus later additions (the first novel alone has been the basis for multiple films, with a new one on the way in 2020 and it’s hundreds of pages long in paperback).
The original attempt to bring Dune to the big screen was an aborted effort by Chilean comic writer and director Alejandro Jodorowsky. After spending millions of dollars for pre-production work, that included hiring the artists Moebius (Jean Giraud) and H.R. Giger and casting Orson Welles as Baron Harkonnen, David Carradine as Paul Atreides and Salvador Dali as the Emperor, the film was never made. However the Moebius and Giger designs ended up inspiring this Jodorowsky comic book. Featuring characters like John Difool and the galaxy’s greatest warrior, ‘the Metabaron’, this comic takes all the ideas Jodorowsky worked out in developing Dune and translates them into what has come to be known as the Jodoverse. Not enough sales to determine value on this, but an interesting comic book nonetheless and one with a Dune connection.
Marvel’s original Dune Comic was released in the mid-1980s to coincide with the Dino De Laurentis produced David Lynch directed 1984 version of the film. As an adaptation of the Lynch screenplay, it follows the film faithful. This means that its an adaptation of the version with Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides and an eclectic supporting cast featuring actors like Patrick Stewart and the Rock Star Sting. Under the creative talents of Ralph Macchio (story) and Bill Sienkiewicz (cover and art). The Marvel Comics adaptation of this film version was first released as a standalone special which sells today for well over $100.00 in 9.8. A 9.2 graded copy sold on eBay for $49.99 on 11/21/2018.
After the Special, Marvel released a three issue mini-series version of the Dune adaptation. This comic has 67 copies on the CGC census and in 9.8 can sell for over $100.00. The only sale of note over the last three months has been a 9.6 which sold on eBay for $85.00 on 06/10/2019.
Legendary Entertainment currently has the film and TV rights for Dune and Denis Villeneuve is directing a screenplay written by Eric Roth. Casting for the upcoming film includes: Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides, Dave Bautista as Rabban, Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Harkonnen, Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica, Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides, Zendaya as Chani, Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho and Thanos himself, Josh Brolin, as Gurney Halleck. With a talented director and an all-star cast this film could finally make Dune a hit on the big screen. If that happens, the comics might also appreciate significantly.
Filming has just ended and Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ is expected to hit theaters on November 20, 2020.