Step into the world of Croix-Noire via your newsagent this month, but watch your back. This is not the safest place to be, because Croix-Noire is one of the roughest areas in France, full of deadbeats, drug addicts and hookers. And that’s just the municipal library!
Spearheaded by huge names in the comic, game and music industries, including singer-songwriter/producer Mike Batt, singer-songwriter and entrepreneur Jean-Charles Capelli, author David Quantick and Doctor Who and Star Trek artist Mike Collins, the dangerous world of Croix-Noire takes the form of a 140-page graphic novel, is being released in seven monthly comic issues, the first issue on sale in newsagents from 18th May 2022 – and the first two issues are also available now from GetMyComics. Look out, too, for the game hosted on the ROBLOX platform, available now, and an upcoming full-length music album, out in July.
Prior to the 15th July release of the album Songs from Croix-Noire, on vinyl, CD cassette and digital, each issue of the comic will coincide with the release of one new track from the album, the first single, “A Whole New Day“, welcoming the listener into the moral kaleidoscope of the streets and clubs of Croix-Noire.
This cross media project has its origins in a chance 2020 meeting between top singer-songwriter/producer Mike Batt and singer-songwriter and entrepreneur Jean-Charles Capelli, which led to a chain reaction, in which EMMY-winning writer and novelist David Quantick, comic artist Mike Collins (Spider-Man, Superman, Doctor Who) and executives from leading online games corporation DUBIT (Disney, Brit Awards) created a dramatically interlinked world starring hypersensitive, reluctant protagonist Ace Hansel Jr.
“Ace Hansel Jr is a fictitious, B-list, capeless superhero,” says Batt. “He lives in and looks after a dark and dangerous world based on a real French red light district familiar to Jean-Charles.”
When the two met, Batt was struck by the unusual imagery in Capelli’s notebook and the duo used these pages as direct inspiration for the project.
“Everyone has a place they return to in their dreams. It might be real or imaginary. It might be a mixture of the two. You might spend the rest of your life trying to work out why you keep going back there. For me, Croix-Noire is that place,” says singer-songwriter (and the voice of Ace Hansel Jr) Jean-Charles Capelli.
While writing the songs for what would become the Songs from Croix-Noire album, and knowing that they were creating an entire world that had to be strong in character and plot, Batt and Capelli turned to acclaimed writer David Quantick.
“We invited David to write a 50,000 word novella expanding the mythology and dramatic range of the characters,” Batt explains, “so the reality and the fantasy would merge as seamlessly as possible.”
Jean-Charles adds “Every song on the album is either about, or inspired by someone in my life, either just as they are, or as developed in David’s novel. At the same time, David was feeding off our album ideas to write the novel. It was a fascinating process.”
Ace is equipped with the means of manipulating emotions using new and unique technology, enabled and facilitated by his senior-citizen sidekick, inventor and strategist Colonel Talbot. Readers will be immersed in a grim world filled with intrigue, mystery and all manner of lowlifes, villains and rejects.
To give fans just a taste of the graphic novel before its full release, a flipbook of the first 13 pages was included SHIFT Volume One #10 anthology. Unusually, Quantick’s prose novella chapters will also be bound into the printed comics so that readers may compare the two formats. Ace’s first single, “A Whole New Day” may also be accessed via a QR code contained within the comic.
Meet The Croixe-Noire Team…
Mike Batt is known mainly for his work in music, as a singer, composer, lyricist, arranger and producer (Bright Eyes, A Winter’s Tale, Phantom Of The Opera, The Wombles, Nine Million Bicycles etc). He works across many art forms, directing, designing, conducting and engaging in entrepreneurial activities in the entertainment industry.
He has conducted many of the world’s great orchestras (London Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Stuttgart Philharmonic, Berlin Opera Orchestra, Irish National Symphony Orchestra) in a variety of classical repertoire and contemporary recordings and concerts. He designed the set and directed his musical The Hunting Of The Snark at the Prince Edward Theatre, London, and served for seven years as Deputy Chairman of the British Phonographic Industry.
Singer and songwriter Jean-Charles Capelli was born in Lyon, France, where he was educated at an international school from the age of three, Jean-Charles began playing keyboards at the age of eight. In his early teens he started composing lyrics and wordplay which he describes as “streams of consciousness, in free-flowing, formless phonetic French”. Often, he would accompany these with home- made arthouse videos he shot with a friend. As a teenager his musical tastes were already very eclectic. In his teens, he developed an interest in the guitar.
He describes his central influence as hard rock, nu-metal and cites Korn, Deftones, Eels, System Of A Down, and reggae (Bob Marley, Damian Marley, Jesse Royal, Buju Banton) and US Rap (Eminem, GZA, NAS) among his influences. Although running the family building business for many years (for which he is developing plans to build villages to provide free holidays for disabled and autistic people and their carers), his natural instincts have drawn him back to the “mind games” of his youth; hence his new partnership with Mike Batt.
In that context he has a strong interest in the potential of the Metaverse, setting up Metaverse Gaming League (MGL) and becoming involved with other game-relevant enterprises such as Dubit/Metaventures Ltd. and FrenchCrypto.
David Quantick writes movie scripts, television series and books. He wrote Book Of Love, a romantic comedy movie now available on Amazon Prime. He won an Emmy for his work on the HBO series Veep, wrote on The Thick Of It and Harry Hill ’s TV Burp, and is currently working on HBO’s Avenue 5, starring Hugh Laurie.
David is also the author of several novels, his latest, Ricky’s Hand, out in August, and is currently adapting his horror novel, All My Colours for Duncan Jones’ Liberty Films, while his script John Lives, a black comedy about John Lennon, is currently in production. David ’s radio sitcom, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane Austen starring Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, launched on Radio 4 in April.
Artist Mike Collins has been drawing comics and storyboarding for TV and movies for over 30 years. An original Transformers artist, and the first artist to draw Gambit in the X-Men, Mike is best known for drawing Doctor Who in comics, merchandise and for the TV show. He ’s drawn all the Big Guns for Marvel and DC over the years in addition to The X-Men – amongst them, Spider-Man, Namor, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Hawkman, Justice League and the Flash. An extensive range of 60s comics-inspired Doctor Who merchandise art is by Mike, as are several volumes of the official How To Draw Fortnite books. He was the lead artist on the How To Draw Marvel magazine for 100 issues.
Mike has also storyboarded some of the biggest hits in genre TV including The Witcher, Good Omens, War of the Worlds, The Midwich Cuckoos, His Dark Materials and Doctor Who.
Madhouse Rag Records is a brand new imprint formed by Mike Batt and Jean-Charles Capelli, especially for this project, via their jointly-owned company Batt-Capelli Ltd. It is distributed physically and digitally Worldwide by Warner (ADA) and run using the infastructure of Batt’s Dramatico Entertainment record label, one of the dominant indie record labels of the past 20 years. Madhouse Rag also acts as the initiating publisher for the Croix-Noire comics/Graphic Novel and is the initiator of the online game of Croix Noire.