Bryan Talbot's Luther Arkwright, In Development As TV Series

Three River Studios has optioned the rights for Bryan Talbot's Luther Arkwright graphic novels: The Adventures of Luther Arkwright and its sequel Heart of Empire to develop, finance, and produce a live action, returning, Luther Arkwright TV series.

Considered to be one of the most significant and influential British graphic novel series to come out of Britain, Luther Arkwright first appeared in 1976 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".

His solo series, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, followed as a serial in the British underground comic Near Myths in 1978, later continued in pssst! magazine. Between 1987 and 1989 Bryan Talbot completed the story, which was published as a series of nine solo Adventures of Luther Arkwright comics by Valkyrie Press, followed by a tenth issue containing the story Luther's Villanelle by Neil Gaiman and other backmatter content. 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."

Bryan Talbot's Luther Arkwright, In Development As TV Series
Bryan Talbot's Luther Arkwright, In Development As TV Series

The work was then republished and collected by Dark Horse Comics, who also published the sequel, Heart Of Empire in 1999. The work was then digitally remastered in 2005 for the Czech market as well as the pages used for a French edition and the upcoming Luther Integrale from Dark Horse Comics. A third story, The Legend of Luther Arkwright, has been announced for 2022.

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.

Born out of the anti-establishment wave of the 70s and 80s and in part as a protest at the rise of the far right, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright are a violent, raunchy combination of satire, science fiction and adventure into what has been described as the first steampunk comic, a genre Talbot would revisit with Grandville.

The graphic novels weave an apocalyptic tale across a multiverse in which many alternate versions of history exist parallel to one another. With the ability to move between these 'parallels' by sheer force of will, Talbot's hero, psychic secret agent Luther Arkwright, fights the malign influence of the Disruptors, a group who have manipulated humanity throughout history. He is aided by fellow agent Rose Wylde, a telepath who can communicate with her many alternative selves across the multiverse.   

The central plot of The Adventures of Luther Arkwright focuses on Arkwright's battle with a fascist dictatorship in a parallel reality where Oliver Cromwell's Puritans, secretly controlled by the Disruptors, never lost their grip on power.  The sequel Heart of Empire is set twenty-three years later and centres on Luther's daughter Victoria, a princess and engineering genius who is heir to a globe-spanning British Empire. Luther and Victoria face a new threat in the form of a twisted psychic horror hidden somewhere in the heart of the Empire's capital.

Bryan Talbot's Luther Arkwright, In Development As TV Series
Bryan Talbot's Luther Arkwright, In Development As TV Series

Founded by Jonathan Drake, Three River Studios has been working in television production from development to financing, producing and licensing since 2013 and is a parent company to Impossible Factual, and Three River Fiction, a development and production arm for scripted programming.

Jonathan Drake says "Bryan Talbot's work is everything science fiction should be. He stands at the very beginning of a tradition that gave us the likes of Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis – his works were then, and remain now, cutting edge. The best Sci-Fi always says something meaningful about the world or asks new questions about it. The Adventures of Luther Arkwright is unique for its time in being aimed squarely at adult readers, with a rich and sophisticated visual style that echoes some of the great auteur film makers. It thrills, challenges readers, and makes you think. Luther's unique status as a traveller between parallel realities and his saviour-like qualities might liken him to Doctor Who – but an R-Rated version, that doesn't shy away from sex, politics and the grim realities of violence. Bryan's parallel worlds are woven together with a complex and consistent mythology, a rich array of human characters (never monster of the week!) and an eye for a much grander story and purpose."

Bryan Talbot adds "I'm very excited that Three River Studios is working on a TV adaptation of the Luther Arkwright stories. With the digital technology at their disposal and a genuine love of the original, I'm very much looking forward to the series."

Previously the graphic novels have been adapted into an audio play, which starred David Tennant. Might that be a clue? The series is being produced by Jonathan Drake, CEO of Three River Studios. Bryan Talbot, is attached as an Executive Producer and further talent will be announced over the coming year.

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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