Jeff Gomez, part 2

Written by: Matt Hutaff · April 15, 2008

Can you tell me more about Get a Life? Who came up with the idea? When was it initially given the green light?

Andy Mangels was the sole brainchild behind Get a Life. It was one of a number of submissions, and we all liked it, so it got the green light. There weren’t too many pitches we were dealing with at the time, and Fabian Nicieza, our editor-in-chief, loved it. That’s how we got a go project.

Get a Life was slated for a February 1997 release. What, roughly, was its budget?

I seem to recall that it was a double-sized issue, which made it close to twice our normal issue budget of $14,000 for art and editorial.

What happened within Acclaim that led to its cancellation? With 1/3 of the art done, why not complete it?

Good question! I sure wanted to finish it and put up an argument for it. The publisher’s bottom line was that, based on the projected numbers many of the comics (not just Sliders) were getting, it would be almost impossible for the print run and distribution of Get a Life to recoup the money invested not just in finishing the art, but in printing and distributing it.

What other storylines were approved while Get a Life was in development? How far along was The End before it was cancelled as well?

The End was in the form of a verbal pitch directly from Tracy. When he was delivering it to me, goosebumps were rising on my arms — what a thrill! We were in the process of writing up a treatment when the plug got pulled. I don’t believe one exists, unless Jeof Vita has the notes on an old back-up.

Your web site actually has a fairly complete listing of all the pitches we ever received. We were very discreet about soliciting pitches so as not to overwhelm ourselves. We liked Andy’s other pitches but went for the ones that told really unique stories that would be hard to tell on TV, and from there we simply picked the ones that resonated for us the most. We very well may have gone on and done “Lycanthrope” and “Our Secret Identities” at some point.

“LeapSlide” was something we were really excited about. We had permission to do it and were trying to settle on the best concept for it.

What happens when a project is canceled? Is the art shelved at Acclaim alongside the script in case they decide to revive the project? Do the rights revert to the author/artist?

There are differences on shelved projects, depending on whether the company owns the characters (or licenses them in the case of Sliders) or the artist does. In this case, the artwork was split between Rags and his inker (I forget whether Rags was inking himself) and returned to them, and Rags was paid for all completed artwork. Andy was paid for his entire plot. Comic book publishers rarely keep the original artwork after a job is done or shelved.

Why was Sliders seen as the place to cut the budget instead of other licensed properties?

Sliders was by no means the only project cut. The entire licensed comics line was killed — Quantum Leap, Waterworld, Baywatch (not all of them were winners, to be sure). The regular super hero line was streamlined as well. My Magic: The Gathering comics were also cut. Acclaim wanted to focus on its original super hero intellectual property so characters could be cultivated for use as video game content. That’s why Acclaim bought Valiant.

Did Acclaim or Universal make any in-roads toward a post-Arturo comic, where Maggie and Colin were a part of the crew?

We never got there. I would have been sad to do a book without Arturo, but would have loved to include Colin, simply because Jerry’s bro was the coolest.

How would comic writers come and pitch to you? Was it via e-mail or in person?

Sliders was done almost entirely by email, sometimes following brief verbals by phone. To get the stories approved with Fabian we needed them on paper.

The comic bible you sent to Dan Chichester features a radically different nemesis for the first mini-series than the Zercurvians. What brought about the evolution from sentient robots to two-dimensional villains?

At the time, there were no Zercurvians, just some notion that there’d be alien-style villains. We couldn’t wait for Tracy’s development so we forged ahead. I’m glad we were able to switch as soon as we did, though. The flat dudes weren’t my favorite.

The first mini-series is jam-packed with stuff — giant ants, aliens, pan-dimensional creatures, and Atlantis? Why the overload?

We were encouraged by the showrunners to tear it up with stuff they never had a chance to put on television, and I guess that was the editorial edict on the part of my bosses as well. You’ll notice once my hands tightened on the reigns things settled down a bit, but were still ambitious.

Regarding Ultimatum, Armada, and Narcotica: How do you feel these comics stack up against their television counterparts. Episodes like Invasion, Prophets and Loss, and Just Say Yes have similar themes.

I think most of them played out nice theme and variation. As long as our characters played to their own core truths, the day was successful to me. I’m especially proud of Narcotica, because in some ways it allowed for the development of the Just Say Yes show, and it painted such a dark portrait. Dennis Calero also came to our rescue in the last minute after Butch Guice was forced to drop out from the art chores for personal reasons.

Jerry had pitched Narcotica to the producers, who simply could not do it with Fox in their allocated time slot. When Tracy pointed Jerry our way to write a book, we asked him to pitch a few stories that he knew could never be made. Narcotica was the first, and I told Jerry to stop right there. I was in love!

What makes Blood and Splendor the “Lost Episode?” After Dan did the majority of the comics up ’til then, what prompted you to hire another writer?

The very most basic premise of Blood and Splendor was another of Tracy’s can’t-shoot-it-for-TV concepts. Jeof Vita was on the phone with me and he just went nuts for the concept. Jeof had been working with me for some years and I knew he was a good writer, so I let him take a shot. Tracy encouraged us to bill it as a “lost episode” simply because that’s what it was. It turned out great. As for moving away from Dan, that had nothing to do with his talent and incredible ability to deliver on time. We were simply looking for unique twists that would take the characters a bit further out. Andy had that.

Were there plans to bring the sliding “antibodies” back in future comics?

Not to my knowledge, though had we continued it would have been likely.

During Deadly Secrets, were you aware the show was creating a similar episode dealing with Wade and her double’s parents? Was there concern you were moving Wade’s backstory out of range with normal continuity?

We were unaware of the episode, unfortunately, and would have compensated in Deadly Secrets had we known.

How was your job impacted when Sliders was canceled? Was that the only project you were overseeing?

Fabian wanted me to move back into the super hero biz, especially since I’d been successful bringing Turok and Shadowman to Acclaim’s video game universe. So after Sliders I immediately had my hands full with eight or ten ongoing books.

What have you been up to since moving on from Acclaim? Did you follow the show after the comic ended? Any post-1997 favorites?

I left Acclaim Comics a year or two before it folded and formed Starlight Runner Entertainment. We help to create and cultivate huge fantasy universes for some of the biggest studios in the world — check out our web site for more information. As for Sliders, I stayed friendly with Jerry and Charlie until both left New York for Los Angeles. I watched the series after the jump to Sci-Fi but perhaps not quite as loyally. I always preferred the Charlie-centric episodes; I even watched “The Bachelor” because he’s just so goofy cool. What you saw on “The Bachelor” was pretty much really what Charlie is like.

« »