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Pat Croce Offers Zenescope “No Quarter”

by  in Comic News Comment
Pat Croce Offers Zenescope “No Quarter”
“No Quarter” #0 debuts at New York Comic Con

Entrepreneur Pat Croce has been successful in many and varied business ventures, but he came from humble beginnings. The Philadelphia native began his career as a physical therapist for the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers. He founded Sports Physical Therapists in 1984, which he grew into a 40-store chain before selling the business in 1993 for $40 million. Croce invested some of that windfall to become co-owner and president of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team in 1996, and under his leadership, the once-languishing team went from last place to winning the Eastern Conference Championships in 2001. Croce has also become a successful non-fiction writer, penning a number of New York Times best-selling self-help books.

Croce is adept at turning his passions into successful business ventures, and one of his latest endeavors is to build a brand showcasing his life-long fascination with pirates. A fervent collector of artifacts of and relating to swashbucklers of days gone by, Croce decided to put his collection on display for all the world to see at the Pirate Soul Museum that he opened in Key West, Florida in 2005. He also wrote a pair of non-fiction pirate books, is developing a big-budget Blackbeard movie, and is co-writing a pirate graphic novel called “No Quarter,” to be published by Zenescope Entertainment.

CBR News caught up with Croce to get the details on “No Quarter” and his ever-evolving pirate brand.

“No Quarter” tells the tale of a sea-faring brigand named Charlie Drake. “The pirates that you know, Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, Anne Bonny, Calico Jack, any of the pirates that you may have heard of, you heard of them because they’ve all been killed or hung,” Croce told CBR. Henry Every, the so-called Arch Pirate, was one of the few renowned pirates to never be caught, and Every’s uncertain fate was a big influence on “No Quarter.” “As a matter of fact, I have the wanted poster, the wanted proclamation from King William III offering 500 pounds of silver for Every’s head. And the guy was never caught, we don’t ever know what happened to him.”

Page from “No Quarter” #0

“No Quarter” posits the existence of a pirate like Every who was so skilled, so successful, that he was never caught. Main character Charlie Drake, much like the real-world pirate Blackbeard, started his career as a wartime privateer. “But because the war ended, those privateers, continuing to do what they did best, plundering the enemy, all of a sudden became pirates with a stroke of the Queen’s pen,” Croce explained.

Drake is a ruthless, conniving, bloodthirsty genius who surrounds himself with an equally battle-driven crew. “But Charlie has an ancestry that goes back 100 years to Sir Francis Drake, who the British called a knight, and the Spanish called the Dragon, the pirate.”

Croce traces his love of pirates back to the 1935 Errol Flynn film, “Captain Blood.” “I used to watch it with my dad on TV, I think it was even before it was colorized,” he said. “It was Errol Flynn’s first movie, and that really turned me on to the swashbuckler, the no-quarter attitude, and to this day, I have his coat, facing me right now as I speak.”

For all intents and purposes, the term “no quarter” is interchangeable with “no mercy.” Pirate ships would announce their intentions by hoisting a black flag and firing a shot across a merchant ship’s bow. Crews that surrendered without a fight might lose their ship and all their worldly possessions, but were likely to leave with their lives. “But if you decided to fight back, then no quarter given,” Crose said.

Pat Croce has an impressive collection of authentic pirate artifacts that are currently on display in his Pirate Soul Museum in Key West, Florida. “I have hundreds of piratic artifacts from Captain Kidd’s journal of his last voyage to Blackbeard’s gold to one of two Jolly Roger flags in the world,” Croce said. Designed by the same imagineers responsible for the Holocaust Museum and the International Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame, Pirate Soul showcases not only Croce’s sizeable collection of pirate paraphernalia, but also borrowed exhibits from the likes of the North Carolina Maritime Museum.

Pages from “No Quarter” #0

Pirate Soul marked the beginning of Croce’s pirate brand, which the entrepreneur continued by writing the non-fiction “Pirate Soul: A Swashbuckling Journey through the Golden Age” and the children’s book “My Pop-Pop is a Pirate.” “Then, two years ago, I pitched a Blackbeard movie to Barry Josephson of Josephson Entertainment,” Croce said. “Spielberg and DreamWorks wanted it, but recently in November, they split from Paramount. So Paramount’s keeping it, and so now it’s going to be a Paramount picture — and big time, we’re talking a big $100 million flick.”

With “Gladiator” screenwriter David Franzoni attached to pen “Blackbeard,” Croce said the film will be more serious and less light-hearted than Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise.

“No Quarter” is just one more extension of Croce’s pirate brand. “What better way to allow your imagination to take the pirate history that I know and to take it to another level?” Croce said. “We’re not doing a cartoon here. There’ll be blood and there’ll be sex and there’ll be violence and there’ll be plots, intrigue, that’s what I want. You can have reality and authenticity, but at the same time, go nuts.”

An accomplished author of non-fiction and self-help books, Croce is finding that fiction writing provides its own set of unique challenges. Starting with a blank page is equal parts exciting and scary, which is why he often chooses to work with co-writers who are accomplished in their own right, be they “Philadelphia Inquirer” sports columnist Bill Lyons (who co-wrote Croce’s non-fiction books), “Blackbeard” screenwriter David Franzoni, or “No Quarter” co-author Adam Slutsky. “Adam is great, we work hand in glove with each other, which is fabulous,” Croce said. “And he knows that I want to keep the authenticity, but at the same time I want to push it a notch.”

Page from “No Quarter” #0

Pat Croce couldn’t be happier with his other “No Quarter” collaborator, artist Mark Sporacio, recruited by Zenescope’s Ralph Tedesco and Joe Brusha. “I don’t personally know any comic book illustrators, so they brought Mark to us,” said the writer, who praised Sporacio for his openness to creative input and his timely page production. So much the better, because a preview issue of “No Quarter” is on the fast track to be debuted at New York Comic Con in February. The preview issue includes a 10-page story, as well as insight and background into some of the most famous pirates in maritime history.

Croce is represented by William Morris, and when he told his agent Josh Pyatt about his intention to expand his growing pirate brand into the realm of comic books, the entrepreneur was surprised to learn the management company already had an entire division devoted to the medium. Pyatt and his partner turned Croce on to a number of comic book publishers, one of which turned out to be close to home. Croce was impressed by the Philadelphia-based Zenescope outfit, and ultimately decided they would be the right fit for “No Quarter.”

“I’m a big believer that the secret to success is to do what successful people do, and Joe and Ralph have been successful with Zenescope,” Croce said. “I like their attention to detail, I like their no-quarter attitude, they’re driven, they were very behind us. And I like guys who are young and hungry even in their own business. They’re not set in their ways, they’re not fat, they’re hungry.”

Zenescope’s Brusha and Tedesco even put their own stamp on the project, the **Party Like a Pirate** contest, which will give one lucky reader the opportunity to win a pirate’s bounty for themselves. Each issue of the initial six-part “No Quarter” story arc includes a game piece. Fans who amass all six pieces can enter the drawing for the grand prize, a three-day, two-night weekend trip to Key West Florida, a VIP pass to Croce’s Pirate Soul Museum, and a VIP invitation to Croce’s Rum Barrel bar for a huge “No Quarter” party to be thrown by Zenescope, currently scheduled for February of next year.

“No Quarter” #0 variant cover

As excited as Pat Croce is to produce his first graphic novel, he definitely sees the potential for “No Quarter” to branch out into films, video games, and all manner of ancillary products. And Croce does not intend for “No Quarter” to be his last foray into comic books. “I don’t plan to be one-and-done here,” he said, adding that he has no illusions that getting a foothold in the competitive comic books industry will be easy. But fortunately for Croce, the entrepreneur is no stranger to building businesses from the ground up. “I started as a physical therapist, built a big enterprise, I started with the Sixers when they were awful, in the basement, so I know what it takes when it comes to building fans.”

Croce’s upcoming appearance at New York Comic-Con to promote “No Quarter” will be a first for him. “But that’s exciting, because it opens up a whole new door to a whole new world,” he said. “I’m just hoping that we get some exposure from the New York Comic Con, and slowly but surely, someone picks up the first teaser, and says, ‘Hey, this is fucking good.’ And boom, we’ll keep them going.”

The “No Quarter” preview issue debuts next weekend New York Comic Con, and “No Quarter” #1 is slated for release this June from Zenescope Entertainment.

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