Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Luther Arkwright and the Knights of God

When I first picked up Grandville, and got enthused about the adventures of a badger Inspector at Scotland Yard, I had no idea how influential Bryan Talbot was as a comic artist.
I'm starting to get an inkling now.

Bryan Talbot's ground-breaking work, back in the 1970s and 80s, was The Adventures of Luther Arkwright. I was vaguely aware of it, but the price of copies secondhand made me think twice about looking any closer, while at the same time showing how desirable they were.
This year, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright were re-published in a huge volume along with the sequel Heart of Empire. It seemed like a good chance to see what all the fuss was about.
At the same time, I noticed that Big Finish had produced an audio version of Luther Arkwright, with David Tennant as Luther and Paul Darrow as Cromwell (and what a voice that man has for a good villain!). I sent off for that, too. I thought that if I listened to the story first, I might have a better idea of what was happening, as the hero jumped between parallel worlds, and if I had a grasp of the story, I could take more notice of what was happening in the background of the comic panels.
And what a treat it is! I can highly recommend the 3CD set.
I'm now about halfway through the graphic novel, savouring it slowly.

I've also been reading the interviews in the new volume, and getting a feel for just how influential the story, and the way the story is told, was when it first came out. People like Alan Moore and Michael Moorcock talk about the influence it had on their work.
I've just recently been revisiting that obscure children's series from the 1980s, Knights of God, so it struck me very strongly that Luther Arkwright influenced this series, too. Both have a religious military order, with an autocratic leader - you could swap Cromwell for the Father Abbot of the Knights of God and never notice the difference, including the descent of both of them into madness (though without the sexual perversions of Nathaniel Cromwell - it was a children's TV series, after all). In each case, a big military rally is planned (though the one in Knights of God never takes place) and both organisations are big on black uniforms and motorcycles. There's even talk of an uprising in Wales in Luther Arkwright, which is an important part of Knights of God, and in both the rebels are trying to put the original Royal family back on the throne.
There's a plot against both Cromwell and the Abbot by high ranking members of their organisations, though in Cromwell's case it's more like the failed coup against Hitler in the latter days of the Second World War. In Knights of God, it's all about Brother Hugo's personal ambition. Knights of God swaps the dimension-jumping between parallel worlds for Arthurian myth, but otherwise I think there are very close similarities indeed.

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