Behind the Creation of Croix-Noire

CROIX-NOIRE is an album, a comic book series and a Roblox game, a microcosm of pop culture. After you enjoy this interview with the creative minds behind the different aspects of this massive project make sure you check it out.

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Picture this. You have been developing a story for decades and carried these notebooks full of ideas around with you. Before the first lock down, you’re introduced to another creative genius by way of mutual friends. You discover that your love of music coincides with theirs and decide to work together on something. But what? As the friendship deepens, so does the desire for you two to make something of your most personal and private work… Croix-Noire.

Suddenly you have more time on your hands than you could have imagined, thanks to the global pandemic. This is the short version of how the project Croix-Noire came to be.

This narrative that spans across a comic book series, music soundtrack, and eventual video game is all encompassing and sparked interest in other circles of talented creators and artists. People who have worked on such projects as Transformers, Thundercats, Dr Who [graphic novels], Street Fighter, DC, Marvel comics, Good Omens, A Winter’s Tale, London Symphony…the credentials stretch for miles and decades.

It’s time to learn more about Croix-Noire, from some of the talent themselves. Jean-Charles Cappelli, David Quantick, Mike Batt, Mike Collins.  Enjoy!

GeekPost: Jean-Charles Cappelli, obviously the concept for this started with you. Tell us the origin story.

Jean-Charles: It was kind of accidental because I had a notebook full of thoughts and Mike noticed the district mentioned a lot, and various people from my life. The first song we wrote was about the district (which in reality has a different name- not Croix-Noire!) Then came the idea to give it more of a dramatic/fictional base so we brought David in and it grew from that.

GeekPost: This project is quite the undertaking. With all the expansive experience you have, what drew you to wanting to work on Croix-Noire?

David Q: It was exciting! A concept album, a musical, a game, and a graphic novel. I’m only sad we’re not doing it on ice.

I like writing different kinds of things – and I’d never done a graphic novel or a superhero series. The chance to work on Ace and the other extraordinary characters in Croix-Noire – as well as with Jean-Charles and the two Mikes was also exciting. It was all exciting!

Mike B: Jean-Charles and I were deciding what to do together when I saw his notebook full of ideas, and I just said- why don’t we do THIS! IT’s right in front of us. Of course we didn’t expect it to be a multi-platform thing, until we realised that a record on its own is an even bigger risk that it used to be, with streaming the main prospect of monetisation. So we decided to broaden it and try the comic and the game. It was that depth and back-story that attracted me, together with the characters based on real people.

Mike Collins: All of my varied career in comics, TV and movies drawing strips and doing storyboards for shows and superheroes, it’s been rare that I’ve gotten to be part of something as exciting and unique as this at such an early stage. The thrill of designing characters and an entire world for them to exist in was irresistible. The fact that it was to be part of a multimedia experience just made it all the sweeter.

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GeekPost: And what unique challenges presented themselves when working on Croix-Noire?

David Q: For me, the combination of superhero adventures plus private eye narrative plus fleshing out the many characters. Creating a world that would translate from music and then translate into a comic.

Mike B: Covid! That was the main challenge, Jean-Charles being in France and me in the UK. But in a way it gave it something different. Time to tweak and explore. Also, the linking to the characters in the book, the feeding into the book and comic the characters from the songs. It was the unusual (and simultaneous) cross-pollination that I enjoyed.

Mike Collins: A large part of my comic work has been on licensed books- predominantly Star Trek and Doctor Who. I’ve had to hone my skills as a likeness artist- a skill in itself when you have to make an actor recognisable an average of six times a page. The extra challenge here was it wasn’t some distant Hollywood star but Jean-Charles. There was no studio filter to go through, the art was being seen by the man himself! Of course, the mentor figure being ‘played’ by Mike Batt is just the cherry on the top

Jean-Charles: Mike and I were working at some distance because of lock-down, so that was a challenge, but in a way the distance allowed us to concentrate separately and then compare our work, so it was a big positive too.

GeekPost: Who is your favorite character in this series? Why?

David Q: Ace! He’s tough, he’s sensitive and he’s got all the best lines.

Mike B: Ratface. He’s the one that the world is dumping on, just after it has already dumped on him and and just before it dumps on him again.

Mike Collins: I should say Ace I guess, or one of the many femme fatales but y’know- it’s probably Ratface- amongst all this sexy glamour he’s just the smelliest, grubbiest little recidivist you could dread meeting. he’s a joy to draw.

Jean-Charles: In my heart Lucie is my favourite character, although I say that with some unease. She was a real person and her story is sad but she had a wonderful contribution to make when she was on this Earth.

GeekPost: What are your hopes on what people will take from this project, beyond entertainment?

David Q: A sense of well-being that only the best entertainment provides. And the desire to demand more.

Mike B: Whatever they find in it. I often think we find stuff in other people’s work that they never put there. Or people tell me years later that they got something from something I did, and I never intended that hidden thing to be there. But they found it.

Mike Collins: I think there’s a great canvas that David J-C and Mike have created, one that feels like it really exists beyond the panel borders and the needle groove. You’re getting a glimpse of a seedy, sexy world- somewhere to lose yourself for a (good) time.

Jean-Charles: Sometimes you make something because you feel you want to express yourself, and you don’t really know what people will get from it. I hope they see the cleverness of David’s story and also how funny he makes it amongst the dark action. In the songs there is a feeling throughout the writing (Mine, Mike’s) that is quite hypersensitive, – we hope in a good way.  The emotional side of music is what makes it connect- even in a rock-based song – and also in the songs there is an underlying morality even it’s a community looking after each other, or the criticism of secret societies. Ultimately people can take it on whatever level they like.

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GeekPost: Do you consider yourself geeks? Tell us about it.

David Q: I’ve got a toy Dalek, if that helps.

Mike B: I’m not a geek at all really. I feel a bit left out! I’m not a geek about games and comics – but I’m an orchestration geek, if it just means being obsessed by it and wanting to immerse yourself in it. Jean-Charles is a games geek and Mike Collins is a comics geek! I like comics but I don’t claim enough knowledge to call myself a proper geek!

Mike Collins: Everyone’s a geek about something- comics, SF, your local football team, steam trains. I think it just means you’ve found a subject that delights and excites you, that raises you out of your mundane life.  There’s no difference between dressing as a Starfleet officer at a Comicon, or wearing a full Arsenal kit to the Emirates Stadium. You’re showing your love for your interest.

I grew up with comics and SF books and movies, thrilled by the exotic and fascinating environments they create, transported through galaxies and distant dimensions. I have a studio full of TARDII, starships, action figures celebrating that joy.

So yes, I’m absolutely a geek but one who has had the extraordinary honour and pleasure to be part of those worlds I adore.

Jean-Charles: Not really a geek, no, – in terms of knowledge, or following something.  I am fascinated by the Metaverse and by gaming. I’ve gamed since I was six. I love playing and fantasy, but I’m not really a fully paid up geek.

GeekPost: What are your hopes for the future of Croix-Noire?

Dave Q: I want more adventures for Ace Hansel Jr. And a movie! And a kids’ cartoon… and a range of toys… and leisurewear…

Mike B: To take over the planet, the universe and the entire known solar system for a start.

Mike Collins: I can easily see this becoming a stage show, a Netflix mini series- we have a wonderfully realised world, with music! It’s a place that bears more exploration and I would love to be part of any aspect of that wider story.

Jean-Charles: I’d love the music to be listened to like old-style albums were listened to, from start to finish, so that people can hear the shape of it, not just a track here and there. I’d personally like to make more records and we will have to decide whether it will be as Ace or something else. Croix-Noire now exists, and we’d like to see it grow but we don’t know where it will take itself!

GeekPost: The last question goes to Jean-Charles. How did it feel to work with so much talent, on a project that you initially had, many years ago? And to see it come to fruition?

Jean-Charles: From a simple notebook full of thoughts to a beautifully drawn and painted graphic novel and an album full of coherent colourful songs is a massive joy for me. To have a team like this helping me to express myself is something I could never have imagined. It’s gone far beyond what I could have reasonably hoped for at the start. It’s thrilling.

Geek Post would like to say thank you to all of the creative minds behind Croix-Noire, although thanks is not enough. This large multimedia project sounds absolutely amazing and everyone was gracious enough to answer our questions, allowing our readers to find out about Croix-Noire!

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Learn More About This Awesome Project and Those Behind It Below.

(Provided by Press Release)

Synopsis: Ace Hansel Jr doesn’t know what it is about Croix-Noire that keeps drawing him here, but through the frames of the comic strip that reveals his world to us, it isn’t difficult to figure it out. Reflected in the rain-soaked cobbles of this medieval town is the pink neon of dive bars and strip joints. Red lights glowing through renaissance architecture and pharmacies that stay open all night to service the needs of this lawless locale. Ace isn’t all he appears to be at first; and neither are those close to him. His first love, Lucie is never too far. She doesn’t understand why he keeps returning here, but superheroes don’t have too much to do if they stick to the nice part of town. And besides, it’s to the Croix-Noire HQ of his sidekick Colonel Talbot that Ace has to collect the accessory which gives him his superpower: the belt which allows him to disarm his enemies by manipulating their emotions.

David Quantick

David writes movie scripts, television series and books. He wrote Book Of Love, a romantic comedy movie which will be in cinemas from February 14th 2022. David 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 the author of several novels 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, is coming to Radio 4 soon.

Jason Cardy

Based in Wales, Jason is a professional illustrator working in the comic, graphic novel, trading card & board game industries for the past 20 years. He has worked as an artist & colourist on comics & merchandise tied to a large number of well-known franchises such as Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Thundercats, Spiderman & many others across multiple publishers in the UK & US. His work can also be seen on trading cards produced by one of America’s biggest gaming companies featuring licensed videogame properties such as Street Fighter & Mortal Kombat.

Mike Batt

Mike Batt LVO 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. He served for seven years as Deputy Chairman of the British Phonographic Industry.

Mike Collins

Mike 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. The 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.  Currently storyboarding some of the biggest hits in genre TV including The Witcher, Good Omens, War of the Worlds, Midwich Cuckoos, His Dark Materials and Doctor Who.

Ian Sharman

Ian is probably best known as the award-winning writer of Alpha Gods, Hero: 9 to 5, Hypergirl, The Intergalactic Adventures of Zakk Ridley, The Lady & The Lost World and the webcomic, Spacescape, and as the editor of and contributor to the Eagle Award nominated anthology, Eleventh Hour. Ian is also an accomplished inker, having inked Spider-Man, Iron Man and the X-Men for Panini Comics, and also a successful letterer, having lettered many comics including the Doctor Who graphic novels from BBC Books, the acclaimed Apollo graphic novel from Self Made Hero and the AX Collection of underground manga published by Top Shelf. He’s also Editor In Chief of Markosia, one of the leading independent publishers of graphic novels in the UK, and he runs Orang Utan Comics, a UK based collective of comic book creators.

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