The Adventures of Luther Arkwright

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The Adventures of Luther Arkwright
The cover of issue #2 of the Valkyrie Press edition of The Adventures of Luther Arkwright.
Publication information
PublisherValkyrie Press
FormatLimited series
Publication dateOct. 1987 – April 1989
No. of issues9
Main character(s)Luther Arkwright
Creative team
Created byBryan Talbot
Written byBryan Talbot
Penciller(s)Bryan Talbot
Inker(s)Bryan Talbot
Letterer(s)Steve Haynie
Editor(s)Bryan Talbot
Collected editions
The Adventures of Luther ArkwrightISBN 1-59307-725-4

The Adventures of Luther Arkwright is a comic book limited series written and drawn by Bryan Talbot in the period 1978–1989. The story is adult in tone, with many mythological, historical, and political references, and a little explicit sex.

In 2003 English writer Warren Ellis called Arkwright "probably the single most influential graphic novel to have come out of Britain to date... probably Anglophone comics' single most important experimental work".[1] The series was nominated for eight Eagle Awards in 1988, winning four: Best New Comic, Favourite Character, and Best Comic Cover, with Talbot winning the award for Favourite Artist.[2] In addition, the book was given the 1989 Mekon Award for "Best British Work" by the Society of Strip Illustration.[3][4]


The character of Luther Arkwright owes something to the influence of Michael Moorcock's[5][6][7] Jerry Cornelius stories,[8] though Moorcock and Talbot agree that the similarities between the characters are limited.[citation needed]

Arkwright made his first appearance in the mid-1970s in "The Papist Affair", a short strip for Brainstorm Comix where Arkwright teamed up with a group of cigar-chewing biker nuns to recover the sacred relics of "St. Adolf of Nuremberg" from "a buncha male chauvinist priests".[9][a]


Luther Arkwright is a work of apocalyptic science fiction set in parallel universes. The eponymous hero has the unique talent of being able to move between universes purely by force of will, and is aided by Rose Wylde, a telepath whose many incarnations across the parallels can communicate with one another. Luther and Rose are agents of a parallel universe known as "zero-zero", whose stable position in the multiverse has allowed the development of a world at peace with itself and sufficiently high technology to monitor the parallels for signs of the malign influence of the "Disruptors".

Most of the action in the story is set in a parallel world where the English Civil War has been indefinitely prolonged by the actions of the Disruptors, who are also responsible for unleashing "Firefrost", a legendary artifact that is destabilizing the multiverse. Arkwright intervenes on the Royalist side to draw out the Disruptors and locate and destroy Firefrost. Along the way his unit is ambushed, and he is killed, only to return to life with his powers enhanced.

The storytelling of the early episodes is complex, with flashbacks to Arkwright's upbringing by the Disruptors, escape to the parallel of his birth, and early missions for zero-zero intermingling with the course of his mission in neo-Cromwellian England, with story-telling techniques and art styles shifting to match. The scenes of Arkwright's death and rebirth are particularly abstract and full of religious and mythological symbolism. The comic is unusual in being one of the few adventure stories where the readers and the protagonist both know from the beginning that he will die; only the event itself is not known.

The later parts of the story have a more straightforward, linear form. In the end, Arkwright, having completed his mission, renounces violence.

Publication history[edit]

The Adventures of Luther Arkwright had a start-and-stop publication history, beginning in 1978 and not being completed until 1989. The first parts of the story appeared as a five-part serial in the British underground comic Near Myths in 1978–1980.

The story continued in the comics anthology pssst! in 1982. After five more episodes, however, the story was interrupted when pssst! was canceled, less than half complete. Before shutting down, pssst!'s publisher, Serge Boissevain, collected all the Luther Arkwright stories — including the material from Near Myths — in a trade paperback called The Adventures of Luther Arkwright Book 1: Rat Trap.[10]

Between 1987 and 1989 Talbot completed the story, which was published as a series of nine standard comic books by Valkyrie Press, followed, at readers' request, by a tenth issue, titled ARKeology, containing articles about the history and production of the comic and some extended back story and character information.[11]

In 1987, Serge Boissevain paid for the printing of the Valkyrie Press trade paperback, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright Book 2: Transfiguration. In 1989, under the publisher name Proutt, he published the final trade paperback, Book 3: Götterdämmerung.[10]

Later publications[edit]

The entire series was subsequently published in the United States by Dark Horse Comics.

In 2005 the artwork was digitally remastered by Comics Centrum for an edition in Czech (Dobrodružství Luther Arkwrighta), allowing proper reproduction of both light and dark parts of "tonal" pages. The new artwork was also used for a French edition by Kymera Comics. Bryan Talbot has described the Czech edition as "the best ever published".[citation needed] In 2006, the story was republished as a webcomic using the digitally remastered files at the official fan page.[citation needed]

Collected editions[edit]


In 1999, Dark Horse Comics published Talbot's sequel to Luther Arkwright, called Heart of Empire: The Legacy of Luther Arkwright.[13]

A third story, The Legend of Luther Arkwright,[3] was published in July 2022 by Jonathan Cape.[5][7]

In other media[edit]

Audio adaptation[edit]

The Adventures of Luther Arkwright
Album cover
Big Finish Productions audio drama
SeriesNew Worlds
Release no.1
FeaturingDavid Tennant,
Paul Darrow,
Siri O'Neal
Written byBryan Talbot,
adapted by Mark Wright
Directed byJason Haigh-Ellery
Produced byJason Haigh-Ellery
Executive producer(s)none
Production codeLACD01
Length3 hrs 3 min
Release dateMarch 2005

In 2005, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright was made into a full-cast, three-CD audio adventure by Big Finish Productions, starring David Tennant (cast near the time of the CD's release as the Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who) and Paul Darrow (Avon in Blake's 7).

  • Luther Arkwright — David Tennant
  • Cromwell — Paul Darrow
  • Rose — Siri O'Neal
  • Karl/Czar Nicholas — Robert Jezek
  • Computer/Octobriana/Emily — Michelle Livingstone
  • Archduke — Robert Lockwood, Jr.
  • Montpelier/Wittgenstein — Alfred Hoffman
  • Miranda/Lady-in-waiting — Zoe Robinson
  • Standish/the Scientist — Andrew Westfield
  • The Disruptor/Harry Fairfax/the Interrogator/The Five — Jeremy James
  • Pennington — Robert Curbishley
  • Whitelaw — Mark Donovan
  • King Charles — Steve Dineen
  • Princess Anne — India Fisher

In 2023, Big Finish produced an audio adaptation of the 1999 Arkwright sequel, Heart of Empire. David Tennant returned as Arkwright, along with the entire cast from the 2005 production, with the exception of Paul Darrow, who had passed away in 2019.[14]

Feature film adaptation[edit]

In 2006, Benderspink announced a live action film adaptation of Arkwright, with producers Andrew Prowse and Sophie Patrick.[15] According to Talbot, the rights for the project lapsed in June 2010.[16]

Television adaptation[edit]

In 2021, Three River Studios announced to adapt Arkwright into a live-action television series. The Arkwright series would be produced by Three River CEO Jonathan Drake, with Talbot acting as executive producer.[17]


  1. ^ "The Papist Affair" was reprinted in Bryan Talbot's Brainstorm: The Complete Chester P. Hackenbush and Other Underground Classics, released by Alchemy Publications in 1999, ISBN 0-9508487-1-9.



  1. ^ Ellis, Warren (2003). "Warren Ellis reviews The Adventures of Luther Arkwright". Artbomb (archived on Luther Arkwright is probably the single most influential graphic novel to have come out of Britain to date...
  2. ^ "Previous Winners: 1988". Eagle Awards. Archived from the original on 14 March 2012.
  3. ^ a b Johnston, Rich (21 August 2019). "After Twenty Years, Bryan Talbot Returns With 'The Legend of Luther Arkwright". Bleeding Cool. Archived from the original on 9 August 2020. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  4. ^ Freeman, John (29 July 2012). "Timelord Talbot!".
  5. ^ a b Johnston, Rich (14 July 2022). "Bryan Talbot's Legend Of Luther Arkwright Out Today & I Just Read It". Bleeding Cool.
  6. ^ Barkham, Patrick (29 January 2015). "Bryan Talbot: an interview with the father of the British graphic novel". The Guardian.
  7. ^ a b HEDGECOCK, ANDY (26 October 2022). "Literature: A Scheherazade-style framing of the entire story". Morning Star. This is a symbolic autopsy of 21st century Britain – the Britain of our own corner of the multiverse....
  8. ^ Parker, John R. (1 February 2016). "Grant Morrison And The Great Work". ComicsAlliance.
  9. ^ Brain Storm Comix, no. 3, pp. 1–7 (Winter 1976). Alchemy Publications.
  10. ^ a b Bell, Chris (Spring 1989). "Arkeology: Not just Luther Arkwright 10". Arkeology. Serge Boissevain ... has been waiting for the complete Adventures for about ten years now, patiently encouraging Bryan, publishing the first Book, putting up the money for the second, and publishing the third...; without him, Bryan might well never have managed to make time to complete Luther.
  11. ^ "The Adventures of Luther Arkwright: Valkyrie Press, 1987 Series". Grand Comics Database. Retrieved 9 February 2023. An un-numbered and un-dated (mostly) text 'appendix' issue was also published.
  12. ^ Moore, Alan (November 1987). "Introduction". The Official Bryan Talbot fan page. The Adventures of Luther Arkwright Book 2: Transfiguration.
  13. ^ a b Armitage, Hugh (5 April 2014). "Bryan Talbot's Luther Arkwright gets ultimate collection: Dark Horse is publishing the hardback Arkwright Integral collection". Digital Spy.
  14. ^ McARDELL, IAN (7 September 2023). "Luther Arkwright – David Tennant returns… after 18 years (updated)". CultBox.
  15. ^ "Benderspink Takes on Arkwright"". 20 July 2006. Archived from the original on 14 March 2007.
  16. ^ Etherington, Daniel (Autumn 2010). "The Making of Grandville". Comic Heroes. No. 3. p. 34.
  17. ^ Ramachandran, Naman (28 April 2021). "Bryan Talbot's 'Luther Arkwright' Graphic Novels to Be Adapted as Live Action Series By Three River Studios (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety.


External links[edit]