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BROWN: Lynch's badly weird Dune gave rise to wilder comic version

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Given the hype that greeted the release of the new Dune movie, you might think Frank Herbert’s novel had never been adapted for the big screen before. But David Lynch did so way back in 1984, and his feature film gave rise to an interesting comic version.

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Tracking down a copy of Marvel Super Special No. 36: Dune is worth the effort. With art by Bill Sienkiewicz, it’s a comic that truly deserves the descriptor “unique.”

Keep the context in mind. In 1984, Marvel and DC were just starting to lose their stranglehold on the comic industry. The combined one-two punch of The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen – which would give rise to a more adult-centred comic business and bury the idea that comics are just for kids – was still two years away.

Enter Sienkiewicz with his inky, elongated figures. If you have ever seen the drawings of Ralph Steadman, the illustrator who gave life to Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo adventures, you’ll have a sense of Sienkiewicz’s style.

Lynch’s badly weird movie was the template for the Marvel special, but Sienkiewicz, allied with ace colourist Christie Scheele, took the story only as a rough guide; the creative team extended the weirdness in a thousand different directions.

The thing I love most about the book is how he explodes the traditional panel structure. You can almost feel the joy as the artist experiments, refusing to make any two pages look the same.

It all goes to show that although the two comic giants still dictated the look and feel of most mainstream books back then, there was still some fresh work being done.

And there’s another Dune comic connection. Check out the 2013 documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, in which cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky outlines how he tried to get a Dune movie made in the early 1970s. Much of his proposed version was based on the concept art of French comic artist Moebius. It’s a glimpse at what could have been.

danbrown@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/DanatLFPress

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