The Adventures of Luther Arkwright

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The Adventures of Luther Arkwright
Luther arkwright cover.jpg
The cover of issue 2 of the Valkyrie Press edition of The Adventures of Luther Arkwright
Publication information
PublisherValkyrie Press
FormatLimited series
Publication date1978 – 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 limited series comic book written and drawn by Bryan Talbot.

Publishing history[edit]

Luther Arkwright made his first appearance in the mid-1970s in "The Papist Affair",[1] 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".

The first parts of The Adventures of Luther Arkwright followed as a serial in the British underground comic Near Myths in 1978, were later continued in Pssst! magazine, then interrupted in 1982 (when Pssst! was canceled), less than half complete. Between 1987 and 1989 Bryan 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 containing articles about the history and production of the comic and some extended back story and character information. It was subsequently published in the United States by Dark Horse Comics.

The story is adult in tone, with many mythological, historical and political references, and a little explicit sex. Its genesis owes something to the influence of Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius stories, though Moorcock and Talbot agree that the similarities between the characters are limited. Warren Ellis calls Arkwright "probably the single most influential graphic novel to have come out of Britain to date... probably Anglophone comics' single most important experimental work."

In 1999 Dark Horse published Talbot's sequel to Luther Arkwright, which was called Heart of Empire.

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".

In 2006 it was republished as a webcomic using the digitally remastered files at the official fanpage.

A third story, The Legend of Luther Arkwright, has been announced for 2022,[2] and was published in July by Jonathan Cape.


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 parallels purely by force of will, and is aided by Rose Wylde, a telepath whose many incarnations across the parallels are able to communicate with one another. Luther and Rose are agents of a parallel 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 which is destabilising the multiverse. Arkwright intervenes on the Royalist side in order 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's going to die, only the event itself is not known.

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


Bryan Talbot and the Valkyrie Press edition of Arkwright were nominated for eight Eagle Awards in 1988, winning four: Favourite Artist, Best New Comic, Favourite Character for Arkwright himself and Best Comic Cover. In addition, the book was given the 1989 Mekon Award for "Best British Work" by the Society of Strip Illustration.[3][4]

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

Feature film adaptation[edit]

In 2006, it was announced that Benderspink would be creating a live action film with producers Andrew Prowse and Sophie Patrick.[5] According to Talbot, the rights for the project lapsed in June 2010.[6]


  1. ^ Reprinted in Bryan Talbot's Brainstorm: The complete Chester P Hackenbush and other underground classics, ISBN 0-9508487-1-9
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Johnston, Rich. "After Twenty Years, Bryan Talbot Returns With 'The Legend of Luther Arkwright'," Bleeding Cool (August 21, 2019).
  4. ^ Freeman, John. "Timelord Talbot!", (29 July 2012).
  5. ^ Benderspink Takes on Arkwright (July 20th 2006)
  6. ^ 'The Making of Grandville', p34, Comic Heroes magazine, issue 3, Autumn 2010, interview by Daniel Etherington

External links[edit]