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, 6 May 2011

fortes fortuna adiuvat part 4

H – In this week’s post, we're going to wrap up our introductions to the characters in our story, covering the last of the Major Arcana in your Tarot deck, Rex. It seems a good idea to finish these because I'm going off to Portugal soon, to direct a production of The Tempest --
R - And I get to take over the blog while you're away!
H – Yes. A worrying thought indeed. But I haven't left yet, Rex, so let’s look at the last of the characters:
13: Death - Ray Butcher.

H - Ray Butcher is Death.
R - Death Ray! Flash Gordon conquers the universe!
H - You see, this is exactly the kind of nonsense that makes me worried about what's going to happen whilst I am away! 
R - It's exactly the kind of nonsense that has been edited out of this blog, time and time again -- and exactly the sort of nonsense that it needs, in my opinion.
H - Like I said, I haven't left yet, so let’s get back to Ray. Ray, who is represented by Death.
R - He brings about the demise of a central character! ...Or does he?
H – Yes, he does, in a manner of speaking; and that will be in the next set of comic pages that we post, on my return to Blighty. We’ve met Ray before, of course, as the alcoholic, feebleminded ne’er-do-well who threatened to kick Maggie out of her home. One reason why we didn’t post his Tarot card last week was that we'd originally cast him as The Devil, but that card is now…

15: The Devil - Maximillian Knight.

H - …Maximillian Knight, who is a fire-and-brimstone preacher.
R - Enough said. That's all this character needs in order to be the Devil, in my book.
H - Although there are also greater depths to him, plot wise.
R – Yes, for he's another of the 13th Conjuror’s puppets.

18: The Moon - ?

H - Number 18 is the Moon.
R - Yes, she is one of my favorite characters and absolutely critical to the story.
H – Actually, we have absolutely no idea who she is yet, do we Rex?
R - Er, no. 
H - We hope that the process Jon described in the Comments last week is going to start to work with this character: that she will make her role known to us in the next couple of months. Luckily, she doesn’t first appear until quite a way into the book.
R – Ah, but she's the subject of a fourteen-page spread that I plan to draw in your absence, Howard!
H - Hmmm. Well, Rex, if you don’t mind having more cut scenes, then fill your boots (or, for our American readers, ‘go to town’).  
R - My word!
H - Next week will be the last post before I go. We’ll talk about what's supposed to happen on the blog while I am away – such as posting art from some of our previously cut scenes, which I know you are excited about.
R - Oh yessssss!!
H - Seriously, though, getting back to this Tarot card: we do have a few ideas about this character, but nothing fixed yet.
20: Judgement - Oliver Hardy.

H - So, Oliver Hardy. Obviously a character in the mundus.
R - Yes. He is the Oliver Hardy of the films, as in Laurel and Hardy, but within the mundus he dresses like Doctor Watson, as in Sherlock Holmes. He is a detective who works for D.C.I Norma Jean Baker (Marilyn Monroe). 
H - And his partner is…

21: The World - Stan Laurel.

R - Stan Laurel, of course.
H - So, we have Henry the VIII as a judge, Marilyn Monroe as a Detective Chief Inspector, and Laurel and Hardy as detectives!
R - Yes.
H - Quite a strange police force! But the piece de resistance is that the Chief of Police is none other than…

22: The Fool - Will Summers.

H - ...Will Summers, Henry the VIII’s fool. I think he's one of my favorite characters! And it's clear why he represents the Fool in the Tarot deck – although, unusually, he is number 22 instead of the usual 0. Why is that, Rex?
R - “Whoever shall be first shall be last, and the last shall be first.”
H - That may well be true, but why is this card number 22 instead of number 0 in your Tarot?
R - Because that’s how it was in the Bacchus Tarot, which I based my Tarot on. And I wanted to keep the 0 as a substitute number, in case of emergency.
H - Very wise. So, there they are: all the major characters in our story...except one. 
R - Yes, Glady, the fortune teller. But she is the one who ‘lays’ the Tarot, so she is not ‘in’ the Tarot.
H - That sounds very profound! Be in the world, but not of the world.
R - Don’t try to bend the spoon, but know that there is no spoon.
H - Many a mickle macks a muckle.
R - What!?! What does that even mean, Howard? 
H - It’s Scottish.
R - And you’re worried about me taking over the blog for a month!


  1. I am mentioned on the John Barleycorn blog! Gentlemen, you have made my day.

    This post had me laughing out loud. The art is fantastic, the characters intriguing, and better still...Laurel and Hardy are in the mundus!!! Laurel and Hardy are tarot cards!!!

    This may be my favorite post yet, and not JUST because my name is in it.

    But Rex without Howard on this blog? That's like Laurel without Hardy (or is it vice versa?). How dare Shakespeare break up a perfect team?! Purely selfishly, I hope it won't be for long.

  2. Oh this post made me laugh! Howard and Rex, the Laurel and Hardy of comic creators.

  3. Funny posts, great drawings. Thanks.