IT WAS to be a story of the normalcy amid the madness. Instead, picked from the shards of violence, it became a mosaic of life before and after an oasis was targeted, and lives were lost, and that fierce normalcy was reclaimed like a phoenix.

In the spring of 2003, American documentarian Jack Baxter sought a sanctuary from the Mideast violence. He landed upon Mike’s Place, a beachfront Tel Aviv bar where live blues music and dancing provide the percussive life-beat of normalcy for many Israelis, some Arabs and the ripple of foreign travelers — all within a stone’s throw of a heavily reinforced U.S. embassy and the backdrop of conflict and tragedy as a way of life and cycle of crisis. It’s a social cocktail of blended patrons who seek peace from the Molotov cocktail. It is in some ways akin to Rick’s place, “Casablanca’s” Cafe Americain, if Sam would play it again at the piano with 12-bar blues. The beer and the bended note are like statements mouthed against the madness.

But perhaps inevitably, that madness comes to the door.

AD
AD

On April 30 of that year, about an hour after Baxter’s cameras stopped rolling at the packed pub, a suicide bomber — one of two conspiring British men of Pakistani origin — detonated his explosives at the entrance, killing three and injuring 50, including Baxter, who endured burns and a brain contusion.

But both Baxter and Gal Ganzman, the bar’s owner, would not be deterred. They pressed on. Mike Place’s would reopen within weeks, on Israel’s Memorial Day. And Baxter, the Bronx-born Catholic, would roll film again — only now with a more dramatic narrative about Mike’s Place.

The next year, Baxter and his director/co-writer, Joshua Faudem, released their award-winning documentary, “Blues by the Beach.” The two men had met at Mike’s Place, and Faudem went from being Ganzman’s Detroit-born Israeli bartender to documentary cameraman.

AD
AD

Now, a decade later, Baxter and Faudem will tell their story with a new graphic novel, “Mike’s Place: A True Story of Love, Blues, and Terror in Tel Aviv” (First Second Books).

“I wanted to write a firsthand account based on my experience of an infamous suicide bombing,” Baxter tells The Post’s Comic Riffs, “and through it show the convergence of personal stories of survival with historical events.”

“My hope is that readers of ‘Mike’s Place’ can have a better understanding of the modern-day Middle East and the nature and ramifications of international terrorism,” says Baxter, who previously worked as a freelance reporter for the New York Post.

“Surviving this suicide bombing at ‘Mike’s Place,’ and making a film about it immediately after, took [a] huge toll on me,” Faudem tells The Post’s Comic Riffs. “Writing this graphic novel 10 years after the bombing has given me an opportunity to find peace with these events.”

AD
AD

Turning their words into visuals will be Israeli-born Brooklyn artist Koren Shadmi (“In the Flesh,” “Antoinette”).

“Working on ‘Mike’s Place’ was like a prolonged visit to the homeland after a very, very long absence,” Shadmi, an SVA grad, tells Comic Riffs. “Every line I drew brought back memories of life in Israel. The contradictions and complexities and beauty of this unique place all came back to life for me, and hopefully will come alive for the readers of the book.”

That book is due out next June. Here is an exclusive preview of the cover:
AD
AD