Welcome to the archive of the John Barleycorn blog, produced by Howard Gayton and Rex Van Ryn during the process of creating their graphic novel John Barleycorn Must Die. As part of that process, you'll find discussions of magic, of creativity, and 'Around the Table' discussions with a range of internationally known artists, writers and film makers. The graphic novel was printed in a limited edition, so if you managed to get one, good for you! Although this project is over now, we're leaving this blog online as an archive and as a snap shot in time.

Friday, 11 February 2011

fortes fortuna adiuvat part 2

H - Rex, what’s the matter with you? You're trembling like a two year old! 
R - No, it’s just, it’s… I’m really excited!
H - I can see that.
R - I want to say it now.
H - No, you’ll have to wait! We need to get on with today's post.
R - I won’t be able to concentrate.
H - Pull yourself together!
R – Wait a moment.... Okay. I’m fine now.
H - Good. Last week we posted the first draft of the Prologue. And I'd like to say “thanks” to our readers for the encouraging comments asking for more. We will indeed be posting more comics pages in the future, and we're also working to make the site more navigable. So then, after the excitement of posting our first proper comics pages last week, this week we're going to introduce some more of the characters in the novel, as represented in the John Barleycorn Tarot deck. Rex, the next five cards are of characters from the 'inner world,' the mundus, of the story, aren’t they?
R – Yes, that's right.
H - The mundus is populated by both historical and fictional characters. They live in a very strange reality born out of the inner life of our main characters, the inner life of the population of London (both present and historic), and the actual history of London (and the world beyond it). It is an odd soup of enfolded archetypes and consciousness. Umm...have I managed to explain it?
R – Yes, and no! One of the principal aspects of the mundus is that these characters don’t die but, instead, evolve into caricatures of themselves.
H - Maybe the most succinct way to explain it is to give an example: One of the characters in the mundus is King Henry VIII. He is now a Judge in the mundus’ bizarre justice system. He still looks like a Tudor King, still claims to be the King of England, but in fact is just a drunken slob of a justice minister living on a run-down housing estate! 

Norma Jean Baker - L'Amour.

H - The sixth card in our tarot is Norma Jean Baker. She is a police inspector.
R – And, obviously, she is Marilyn Monroe.
H - Okay, that’s a little surreal! So why is she in the story, Rex, and why is she the L’amour card?
R - I thought it would be fun to put Marilyn Monroe into an authoritative position in the metropolitan police. I like the irony of how all the men who work under her have to do as she tells them. She is L’Amour because she is the archetypical ‘sexy blonde,' as well as the love interest in the inner world.  

Vali - Le Chariot.

H - Vali is the Chariot?
R - Yes.
H - Can you explain who Vali is, and why you've made him this card?
R - He's the son of Wotan, and an emissary of a Wise Woman, in the realm of the Gods, who sends him into the mundus to aid our heroine, Maggie. I've made Vali the Chariot because he is a dancer. He achieves trance states through ecstatic dance, which allows him to journey into other realms.

Henry VIII - La Justice.

H - The eight card is Henry VIII. We've already discussed him.
R – I've made him the Justice card because that's his job in the mundus. And it's just a coincidence that he's the eight card in the deck.
H - You mean you didn’t do that intentionally?
R - About as much as I do anything intentionally.
H - Unbelievable! 
R - Hmmm.
H - I have a feeling that you have a certain fondness for this character, Rex -- am I right?
R – Absolutely. Next to Reeve, he’s the one I most identify with.
H - A drunken slob…
R – Yes, back in the day.
H - …living on a run-down estate…
R - …..
H - ...with no prospects whatsoever of…
R - Steady on!

Vali - The Hermit.

H - So, Vali. Again!?!
R – Yes. Here he is the Hermit card, in the 'Warrior Monk' guise that he adopts when he manifests in the mundus

The Scribe - The Wheel of Fortune.

H – Now we have The Wheel of Fortune, represented by a rather Dickensian looking scribe. What’s all that about?
R - He is the writer of fortunes.
H - He makes only a brief appearance in the book, at a point when John Barleycorn is crossing a threshold towards his destiny...
R - Yes.
H - ...and we are still debating his role in the book overall. We have several ideas, some of which may be too far-fetched to work, even though we like them! Since this character appears quite a ways into the story, and we are still only making our way through the first draft, I'm sure it will all become clearer in time.
R - Clear as an unmuddied lake!
H – Hmm?
R - It’s a quote from Clockwork Orange.
H - Is it?
R - Yes. Howard, have we finished with the post?
H – Yes, Rex, why?
R - Can I say it now?
H - You are such a kid! Okay, you can say it.
R - Next week we have Part One of our 'Around the table' chat with Rima Staines! So stay tuned....


  1. I love Vali, a shaman trance dancer, wonderful! And he shares a name with one of my all-time favourite artists, even more wonderful. This is all sounding so amazingly complex and rich, I love it. And I'm excited about next week too now!

  2. I love these tarot cards, and hope that at some point you'll produce an actual deck that people could purchase along with the book....

    And I, too, am looking forward to next week's interview.

  3. Ok, now I'm John Barleycorn-addicted!


  4. Yep. Me too.

    - Jon (in L.A.)

  5. I really like the way your mundus works. It opens an infinite number of paths to strangness.

  6. That Rex is a handsome fella isn't he, judging from his photo?!

    This is stunning artwork from a talented artist .. really hope you guys go far.

    Signed: The real Anonymous

  7. Thank you all so much, we really appreciate this feedback.

    Rex wants to send a special 'thanks' to the real anonymous, who clearly recognises beauty when they see it!

  8. Hi, the entire thing is going fine here and ofcourse each one is sharing information, that is in actuality fine, keep up making.
    Trolls wigs

  9. What a funny blog! I actually loved watching this comic video with my family as well as including my mates.
    mens party wigs