Hello, and welcome to the last Luther Editorial. It may seem a little unfamiliar in style... I was truly confounded to discover that there were people out there who actually took the "retired clergyman circa nineteen hundred who's writing a preamble to a book of sermons" style of writing seriously! I seem to have a collection of legs in my office: I pulled, and they came away in my hand. If you're one of those people, and you're going to get tired of hopping, I'll give up your leg if you send an SSAE and a description of the missing limb, okay?
This seems like the right time and place to give some account of why the smallest, the newest and least well-known publishing house in the history of comics (and for all I know the world) came to he publishing The Adventures of Luther Arkwright or indeed anything: who we are, what we are, why we are at all, little details like that.
The Board of Valkyrie Press, which is an honest-to-goodness genuine Limited Company, consists of five people: one solicitor, who has practically nothing to do with anything but writing up the contracts (all one of them) in good legalese, one accountant, who is also qualified as a runner of rather good science fiction conventions, a hairy mediæeval recreationist Bishop, and a healer and osteopath (he puts my back together at regular intervals); one company secretary and transport manager, who doubles as an audio engineer, and a practising witch (they seem to me to be much the same thing, but I'm told this isn't so) and as a round-the-world sailor and a maker of lace and a calligrapher and a herbalist and... and if Pat doesn't do it (yet) she probably hasn't felt like it, and when she gets around to it, she'll do it better than you or I can with a ten-years start, drat the woman and I don't know WHY I like her - AND she has got a singing voice that I'd give my eye teeth for if I still had them; one Chairman, mostly notable for plaintive cries of "Don't ask me - I just draw the pictures", who steers well clear of anything to do with the dull day-to-day business side and who does, indeed, just draw the pictures for our other comic, "Redfox"; and me. Pleased to meet you. I'm Chris Bell. I'm Valkyrie Press.
I don't know why Bryan brought Luther to us (I'm not convinced Bryan does either), but I think it may have been just because he liked us. We are, after all, a bunch of raving loonies and as such we probably appealed to him, and we were already running Redfox, we had a reliable printer and a distribution system set up, and we could take on the donkey-work of being as near as dammit self publishing without being inclined to try to push him around or to censor him, or any of the other tricks big companies might have pulled.
The Adventures of Luther Arkwright is, was and always will be Bryan's own baby. None of us has ever tried to alter so much as a single word of it, nor one line of artwork. Our publishing job has consisted, solely, of getting his art to the readers in as close form to the original artwork as possible. OK, we have occasionally had Human Error problems. On average there must have been one thing per issue with which we weren't happy, but that's not bad! Some have been my mistakes, some the printers', and one especially splendid one was Bryan's - and we are not offering prizes for spotting them. I assure you that Bryan has noticed every single blooper and hasn't hesitated to point them out and even scream about them... I have a notice on my wall, invisible to all but me, in a florid scriptiform, which says "You are very fond of Bryan Talbot. Really. You don't WANT to hit him with an axe." And it's true. I don't. There have been times it's been lucky we were on the phone, though, not face to face.
I want to put in a quick comment here, about our printers, Wiltshire (Bristol) Ltd, who have been in charge of all ten issues of Luther. They have done an amazingly good job, and they have cared about what they were doing. Mistakes have been made but when it was humanly possible Wiltshires put the mistakes right before the comic left the bindery; sometimes we've asken the impossible of them and they haven't been able to do it; but in general, they have done us proud and we are very lucky indeed to have had such good printers. We must be the smallest company around, with all of two comics; they have the largest web machine in Europe, and we must be their smallest and least lucrative customer, yet still they have treated as if we were the most important people they work for. What more could we ask? Craftmanship, courtesy and common-sense, that's what we've had from them, and oh boy are we grateful! They too wanted Bryan's work to go out as nearly as could be managed the way it came to then. They were as proud and pleased when Bryan won the Eagles as I was, and they kept on coming up to me and saying so with big grins on their faces. Good people.
Then there are Titan Distributors and especially Mike Lake, who showed his faith in Luther from the word Go by ignoring the advance order figures and buying several thousand more of issue #l than he had any reason to expect would sell. I'm really pleased that his confidence has turned out to be justified: as far as I know Titan is sold out of issue #1 - as is Valkyrie - so he hasn't lost by it, but we were very glad that he did it because if he hadn't we might not have been able to have produced this comic at all. Thanks, Mike!
Since this is now turning into a list in reverse chronological order of "People without whom this comic etc.", it also seems important that Serge Boissevain should come in for mention here. He 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 (out any time now, as they say); without him, Bryan might well never have managed to make time to complete Luther. Certainly it wouldn't have happened yet, if it ever did. We ALL owe Serge a huge vote of thanks. Thank you very much, Serge.
It's been fun, that's the thing that sticks in my mind It's been fun writing those ghastly spoof editorials, fun taking artwork to the printers in the early hours with a deadline at eight the next morning, fun driving up to Preston to collect an issue through saturday night and hack to Bristol in time to get to church on sunday, fun waiting for Bryan to arrive, at Temple Meads, on a train that should have got in at midnight but there was Work On The Line at New Street, fun watching his gobstruck face as he collected the FOURTH Eagle, fun replying to the letters from subscribers and counting the growing number of people who wanted to be sure they didn't miss on a single issue. I haven't enjoyed myself so much in years. My own personal thanks have to go to Bryan for allowing me to be involved.
And however florid the editorials may have been, and however much they may have held of revolting hyperbole about the comic, I refuse to retract a word of them - I DO think that Luther is a very good comic indeed, and I do TOO feel proud to've been its publisher, and I am as pleased as Punch with Bryan, with the readers and with myself about the whole business. Ti-ra-la-la-i-tu! I gloat! Hear me!
So for the last time I make bold to sign myself,
"your most humble and obedient servant",
(Signed) Chris Bell
Note: all the major work, both editorial and typesetting, on this issue is being undertaken by Harry Payne, Valkyrie Press' Senior Shareholder and Sherpa First Class. This partly because he has a much better type-setting apparatus than mine, and partly because I don't feel up to rushing to Preston to have editorial conferences with Bryan all the time, being as how I'm expecting a baby in May. Harry has taken over for me, and the fact that a pair of perfectionists like Bryan and myself trust him to do the job speaks of our very high opinion of him. Over to you, Harry. Good Luck...