Like the late 2023 release of Denis Villeneuve Dunes: Part II is getting closer, there’s no better time to immerse yourself more in the sci-fi kingdom created by Frank Herbert. Next year, Ace Books will publish more volumes in its deluxe hardcore treatment of the Dunes series, and io9 has a first look, along with an interview with artist Matt Griffin.
The books are the second and third in the series—dune messiah and Children of Dune—and according to the publisher, who has already published an equally inflated edition of the first book, “these two new deluxe editions will feature an iconic new cover, stained edges and fully illustrated flyleaves, a beautifully designed poster inside the jacket and an introduction by Brian Herbert.” Take a look at two new Griffin covers, which make their exclusive debut here on io9!
“I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Matt Griffin again on dune messiah and Children of Dune, said art director Adam Auerbach in a statement provided to io9. “His art for the first Dunes The deluxe edition has struck the perfect balance between graphic power and detail. Matt carried this unique sensibility through the two luxury suites. In his work he combines deep shadow with a vibrant sense of color. I think this combination is perfect for visualizing the mysterious yet vivid world of Dunes novels.”
Next, our email interview with Griffin; it has been slightly edited for clarity.
Cheryl Eddy, io9: these are not your first Dunes– bound book covers. What is your own relationship with the work of Frank Herbert? Are you a long time fan of the series?
Matt Griffin: In fact, these are my sixth and seventh! I also did the covers of some books by Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson (Sands of Dune, Duke of Caladan, Lady of Caladan, Heir of Caladan). I am a very long time fan yes. My introduction to Arrakis was actually the movie Lynch – it was a family favorite when I was growing up, so I would have been quite young when I first saw it. My dad was always into movies, so I was exposed to a lot of great movies when I was little. It has been watched regularly…
Then, when I was about 14, I read the book, and it blew my mind. I decided on the spot that one of my dreams would be to illustrate it one day, and decades later that dream has come true. It’s been a while since I’ve read the sequels, so when I’m done reading Messiah and Children for this work i continued and i appreciate now God Emperor Again. These are books you can come back to again and again.
io9: With Denis Villeneuve movies now sort of commanding the pop culture idea of what Dunes is (and what it looks like), is it more difficult as an artist to bring your own interpretation to the material? How did you decide on the specific images to use?
Griffin: No, I do not think so. I really like what Denis Villenueve (and his production designer Patrice Vermette) imagined, but I really wanted to keep that as my vision of what this world is. I guess it’s impossible not to have other interpretations floating around in your head, whether they’re old masters like John Schoenherr or Bruce Pennington or contemporary Dunes artists like Marc Simonetti. They are so inspiring. But I do my best to make it a direct link from the book to the picture, through the filter of my own brain.
As for how I decide, it’s a slightly different process than normal, which involves highlighting passages of text that might make for good illustration. With these books, my intention is more to give glimpses of the world and to try to create an atmosphere more than anything else.
There are also certain elements that you want to address, for example in the first volume I only had to do Shai Hulud. And then also had this image of what a Sietch could be, in caves dug by the wind.
For the sequels, I wanted to do a guild navigator and I felt the scenes of the conspiracy against Paul offered a perfect opportunity for that. Visiting Old Fedaykin Otheym provided a good opportunity to show a simple Arrakeen house, inspired by Middle Eastern courtyards. On ChildrenI went back to the desert scenes, showing the Laza Tigers and Leto II in his Sand Trout suit.
So I guess I may have leaned a bit more into scene inspiration for these but hopefully with plenty of atmosphere. I want the viewer to feel like they’re there as much as possible, like I am when I read the book and create the images.
io9: What inspires you in using color?
Griffin: Color is a very important part of my work, and I think using bright colors is probably a bit of a business card now. But I don’t really plan ahead! It’s really a process of playing until I’m fine with it. I mentioned the objective of the atmosphere, and the color plays perhaps the biggest role in this regard. The texture too. When I make the desert, for example, I want it to be warm.
Each piece is a bit of a battle, a battle against a bad image! So I struggle with it, pushing, pulling and experimenting until I see something that makes me feel what I want others to feel.
io9: When working on a project like this, what is your creative freedom? What does the process of working with a publisher look like?
Griffin: It always depends on the project, but in the case of these deluxe editions, it’s a very liberating and trusting process. This is an open file, I am allowed to come up with my own image suggestions which are then sent to Art Director Adam Auerbach for comments and then approval by the Herbert Estate. I’ve worked with Adam for a good number of years now, and I think there’s a lot of mutual trust there, where I have the freedom to do my own thing (within reason!); I know he will point me in the right direction if I need to.
There are some back and forths of course, but that usually always results in a better picture. A good example is the worm from the first book. I got to a point where I felt it was over, but Adam and Brian [Herbert] pushed me to work harder. That push resulted in an infinitely better track.
Sometimes editors’ briefs can be very specific, which can also be a good thing. It can help to know exactly what they are looking for. But, I think, when it’s a property I’m clearly passionate about, I’m allowed to do my thing. They know I do it with love.
io9: What’s the most enjoyable part about creating sci-fi and fantasy art, both for well-known books and your own original works?
Griffin: I’ve always loved both genres (and fusions of the two) because they stretch my imagination. I love reading it because it challenges me to imagine new things, or watching it because for me it’s an ultra-pure form of escape. There are tropes in both, but the scope is truly limitless. In science fiction and fantasy, absolutely anything is possible and I really like that.
For well-known books, I relish the opportunity to translate how I see this world. Good books make you forget you’re reading, and it becomes a movie in your head. Putting this into a tangible picture is both challenging and rewarding. As a storyteller [Griffin is the author of children’s book series The Ayla Trilogy] I like to give my personal work a narrative – I want them to hint at a much larger world and a much larger story. In fact, almost all of my personal work over the past five years, since the release of my last book in 2017, has revolved around one big story, it’s all connected. And so I escape into my own universe where anything can happen. Many of them use familiar elements – knights, samurai, motorcycles, etc. – but they are twists on those concepts, and are there like familiar touchstones, a kind of torch to guide you through the entrance. But the potential is there to explore new things and new ideas – to explore uncharted territory. And that’s by far the most exciting thing in the world for me.
The deluxe hardcover versions for Frank Herbert’s dune messiah and Children of Dune will be released on April 4, 2023. You can pre-order dune messiah here; Children of Dune here; and a deluxe hardcover box set of the first three Dunes books here.
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