The Trigan Empire - Sample Art

When “Trigan Empire” almost went Hollywood

The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire
© Rebellion Publishing Ltd

Richard Fleischer, son of animator/producer Max Fleischer, was an American film director known for such films as The Narrow Margin (1952), Fantastic Voyage (1966), Soylent Green (1973) and The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire

Wait, what?

I know what you’re thinking… You’re kidding us, right? A leading Hollywood director somehow got hold of copies of the British magazine Look and Learn, loved its best-known feature, the story of an alien empire modelled by its creators on the Romans, and made a film of it?

Well, he would have, but as it turned out, the logistics of the project conspired against the veteran director.

Art from “The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire” by Don Lawrence
Art from “The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire” by Don Lawrence

Talking to media consultant and voice actor Peter Greenwood, who worked with Fleischer while in Hollywood in the 1980s and 90s, the director saw a copy of a Trigan Empire collection, and loved the whole concept, from the story’s original opening of an alien ship crashing on Earth and a linguist translating records found on board that reveal an incredible society and its history.

“I bought Fleischer the book,” Peter told downthetubes, “and he kept it in his library in spite of the project not happening. He was taken by the detailed art.

“It was always part of any film he did – attention to fantastic detail.”

No stranger to historical epic – The Vikings, made in 1958, was one of his early successes or fantasy adventure – his credits include Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Conan the Destroyer and Red Sonja – Fleischer was reportedly captivated by the story and began to investigate the possibility of producing a Trigan Empire film.

Trigan Empire original colour artwork drawn and painted by Don Lawrence from Look and Learn cover dated 28th February 1970 (later reprinted in Vulcan No 28 in 1976). Trigo and his arch-enemy, Zer Thorus, face the searing wilderness. From the Bob Monkhouse Archive. Gouache on board. 189 x 14 ins
Trigan Empire original colour artwork drawn and painted by Don Lawrence from Look and Learn cover dated 28th February 1970 (later reprinted in Vulcan No 28 in 1976). Trigo and his arch-enemy, Zer Thorus, face the searing wilderness. From the Bob Monkhouse Archive. Gouache on board. 189 x 14 ins

But sadly, after a couple of months it became apparent that it would probably need to employ every heavyweight action adventure-leaning actor in Hollywood at the time to make it work in the way he wanted, including Arnold Schwarzenegger. Synchronising the schedules of all this action talent proved impossible at the time.

As possible costs mounted, Greenwood relates Fleischer dropped the idea, despite his enthusiasm for the project and like many a Hollywood movie, The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire failed to get out of the starting blocks. Which is a shame, because if you’ve read the story (available as a 12-book collection, but be warned, it’s not cheap), you’ll know the strip, initially drawn by Don Lawrence and written by Mike Butterworth, is truly epic.

Perhaps we may yet see a film, however, now Rebellion Publishing, owners of 2000AD, own the rights to the strip. It’s certainly a project many downthetubes readers would pay good money to see.

• Who would you cast in a Trigan Empire film today? Why not comment below?

• The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire –the collection- is a deluxe series of twelve volumes, bringing you the 50 Trigan Empire episodes, which were drawn by Don Lawrence and written by Mike Butterworth. It’s available here from the Worlds of Don Lawrence web shop

The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire © Rebellion Publishing Ltd

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John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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