Luther Arkwright The TV Series?

by Richard Bruton

The seminal Luther Arkwright, Bryan Talbot‘s masterpiece, is reported to be the next TV comics adaptation.


Variety, yes Variety, it’s strange where exclusive comics news is reported these days, is saying that Bryan Talbot’s Luther Arkwright is to be adapted as a live-action TV show.

It’s reported to have been optioned by Three River Studios to “develop, finance and produce a live-action, returnable TV series. No, I have no idea what a ‘returnable’ TV series is either.

Anyway, Variety are saying that the series is based on both Luther Arkwright and the sequel, Heart of Empire. Now, if you know the brilliance of Arkwright, you know that that’s a hefty chunk of narrative right there. In times gone by, you would have said it was impossible to televise the saga, but nowadays, with the big budgets being thrown at TV shows, who knows?

Obviously, with this sort of announcement, we’re years away from any finished product, but it’s still an exciting thing to think might be happening.

The series is being produced by Jonathan Drake, CEO of Three River Studios, with Talbot attached as executive producer.

Here’s those Variety PR quotes…

“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.” – Jonathan Drake, CEO of Three River Studios.

“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.”  Bryan Talbot.

Of course, this isn’t the first Arkwright adaptation into other media, as there was the audio adaptation starring David Tennant. But a TV show… well, if they do it right, it will be something wonderful. Hell, if it even manages to capture a bit of the wonder of the first Luther Arkwright series, it will be incredible.

If you’re new to Arkwright… why? Seriously, this is one of THE definitive graphic novel series you have to read.

Bryan Talbot’s visionary tale is the very definition of epic steampunk sci-fi. That it still, all these years after its initial publication, stands up as both a masterpiece of sci-fi AND of experimentation in the narrative art of comics is testament to the vision and skill of Talbot.

In the series, you’ll meet Luther Arkwright; parallel-world hopping secret agent, who’s sent to a puritanical alternative Britain where Cromwell won the Civil War and his descendants have ruled ever since. This is a Britain meticulously detailed by Talbot as some Victorian steampunk nightmare; a land of Armstrong-Siddley Vibro Beamer weapons, Rolls Royce motor carriages and a populous living in squalor and wearing fashions that haven’t moved forwards in centuries.

Arkwright’s mission is to destabilise the Cromwellian regime and reveal it’s secret otherworldly masters – at which point he has to infiltrate their base, find a mystical doomsday device and prevent the destruction of the multiverse. In doing so he’ll rub shoulders (and much more) with Royalty, duel with Disruptor secret agents, organise a Royalist rebellion against Cromwell’s increasingly repressive regime and, in the middle of it all he’ll face death and rebirth, becoming a new superhuman species in the process. But this is no spandex-clad super tale – this is beautifully constructed science fiction, reminiscent of classic 60s Brit sci-fi and Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius.

Luther Arkwright is a stunning, dense, and beautiful work of science fiction in comics form. It was at least a decade ahead of its time and I’d argue long into the night with you that it still hasn’t been surpassed to this day.

Okay, so Heart Of Empire, the sequel, rather diluted the whole brilliance of the thing is neither here nor there. The original is still a masterpiece.

Personally, I don’t quite know how I feel about the fact that Talbot is currently making the next installment of Arkwright’s saga, The Legend of Luther Arkwright due in 2022. Personally, I think the original stands alone as one of the greatest works of graphic novel innovation. But I know that I’ll be first in the line to get the new series and I also know I’ll be following the development of any TV series with a long-time fan’s interest.

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