Gateway, the SF novels that inspired Marvel UK’s “Warheads”, comes to TV

Gateway by Frederik Pohl

The NBCUniversal-owned cable network owned Syfy has announced it is developing Frederik Pohl‘s award-winning best-seller Gateway as a series, novels that once inspired comic creator Paul Neary while he was developing Marvel UK’s Warheads back in the 1990s.

First announced back in 2015Variety broke the news this week that a show from Robert Kirkman’s Skybound Media has optioned a TV series based on the Hugo and Nebula award-winning novel first published in 1977, the first of six books in the “Heechee Saga” that chronicle the history of an alien race.

Gateway takes place in a world in which humanity has discovered an asteroid full of long-abandoned spaceships belonging to an advanced alien race – the Heechee – setting in motion a gold rush for alien artefacts and technology. The ships are pre-programmed, transporting their voyagers to distant worlds of riches – or certain death.

Undaunted by the peril or the odds, prospector Robinette Broadhead gambles everything on a journey to Gateway. After one nightmare mission, he returns to extraordinary wealth and luxury, but is haunted by the loss of his crew mates, including the love of his life.

Previously in the works as a film, Variety reports the deal with Pohl’s estate gives Skybound the ability to develop properties based on the other five books in the series. Josh Pate (ABC’s Blood and Oil, USA’s Good vs. Evil) and David Eick (Battlestar Galactica) will adapt the source material. Hollywood Reporter notes Eick will revise Pate’s pilot script and serve as showrunner, with both attached to exec produce the Universal Cable Productions entry alongside the De Laurentiis Co.’s Martha De Laurentiis, former gatewayEntertainment One Television executive Michael Rosenberg and Lorenzo De Maio. eOne senior vp U.S. scripted development Gerard Bocaccio will oversee the project for the company.

It’s obviously far too early for any casting but Game of Thrones actor Richard Madden, who recently appeared in the Channel 4-aired Electric Dreams, has described Gateway as his “favourite sci-fi book”.

Some of Gary Erskine's original designs for Marvel UK's Warheads title
Some of Gary Erskine’s original designs for Marvel UK’s Warheads title

While it’s inevitable Gateway will be likened to Stargate, which it predates, the books also gave Marvel UK’s Editorial Director Paul Neary the idea for Warheads, one of the four core books behind the company’s “Genesis 1992” project, initially written by Nick Vince, followed by John Freeman and Craig Houston, and drawn by Gary Erskine, followed by Simon Coleby and Stuart Jennett. The comic centred on teams sent through random wormholes (using techno-magic) and Paul was keen that they might end up anywhere – at the bottom of the sea, in space, in an alien bazaar or even more bizarre locations.

Unlike most of the other Marvel UK titles tied into the Mys-TECH concept, the Warheads were not enemies of the arcane organisation – instead, they were portrayed as expendable soldiers employed by a callous corporation. The core team, led by Colonel Liger did, eventually, turn against Mys-TECH, having had enough.

Other Warheads artists included Dave Taylor and Charlie Adlard. 2000AD artist SMS (now Smuzz) also drew one unpublished sort story). Mark Harrison painted an unpublished spin-off written by Dan Abnett called Loose Cannons, available online, about the all-female Virago Troop (Holly, Elan, Nix and provided Warheads several covers for the weekly comic, Overkill.

A page from an unpublished Warheads story commissioned for Overkill, written by Nick Vince, drawn by Smuzz,
A page from an unpublished Warheads story commissioned for Overkill, written by Nick Vince, drawn by Smuzz,

The characters were revived for the Marvel-published mini series Revolutionary War, for an issue written by Alan Cowsill and Andy Lanning, drawn by Gary Erskine.

eOne and the De Laurentiis Co. (Hannibal) teamed to develop the late Pohl’s beloved book last year, the companies both acquiring rights following a bidding war and expands SyFy’s hard SF portfolio, which includes Childhood’s End, based on the novel by Arthur C. Clarke, and The Expanse, created by James Corey.

“We’re delighted to develop this fascinating First Contact story with long-time partners UCP and Entertainment One. Gateway is thought-provoking and unsettling, raising profound questions about mankind’s possible relationship with alien life,” said Syfy original content exec vp Bill McGoldrick.

The option pact was set with Frederik Pohl IV, co-executor of the Pohl estate alongside Elizabeth Anne Hull, the author’s widow, an academic, political activist and science fiction expert, who occasionally continues his blog. Curtis Brown Ltd. handled the deal on behalf of the estate.

Novelist, science writer, editor, literary agent, lecturer, environmentalist, historian and futurist, and one of the last remaining founders of science-fiction fandom and the fabled club The Futurians, Frederik Pohl  died in September 2013, aged 93. He was the author of more than 40 novels, including such notable books as Jem, Man Plus, Gateway and The Space Merchants, (a collaboration with Cyril Kornbluth),  Frederik Pohl’s distinguished career began in 1937 with the sale of a poem, “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna,” to Amazing Stories magazine.

The Gateway book saga also includes Beyond the Blue Event Horizon (released in 1980), Heechee Rendezvous (1984), The Annals of the Heechee (1987) and The Boy Who Would Live Forever: A Novel of Gateway (2004).

Read the latest Variety story

Frederik Pohl’s official obituary | Official Site: www.frederikpohl.com

• Gateway and Heechee novels by Frederik Pohl on amazon.co.uk

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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