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, 13 May 2011

nihil declaro

H – I'm going to be away for the next four weeks, Rex. How are you going to cope?

R - I shall cope perfectly well, thank you.

H - Good! I’ve set the posts up, so all you have to do is to press a button. Can you manage that?

R - I’m not a complete Luddite, Howard. I know how to press a button!

H - We’ll see, we’ll see. In this week's post, I want to wrap up a few themes that have been developing here on the blog and in the Comments section over the past month or so; and to talk about what's supposed to happen next, while I'm away. Are you ready?

R - Yes.

H - Let’s pick up on something we spent a long time discussing when we started this blog: our decision to post our first-draft comics pages here. This is primarily a “making of” blog, examining the process of creating a graphic novel (aimed at readers interested in “creative process” issues as well as comics fans) – rather than the kind of comics blog where a final story is presented in weekly installments. Because of this, we spent a good while debating what we should post here by way of comic pages, since normally one doesn't publish first-draft work!  However, we realised early on that in order to discuss the ‘making of’ our novel, we'd need to introduce some of the characters and plot lines --  otherwise the blog would be full of story references that readers wouldn’t understand. It would become nonsensical!

R – Yes, but on the other side of the argument,  we didn't want to lead people down plot routes that might end up changing radically in subsequent drafts; we didn’t know if that would be fair to them. Or to let them become invested in characters that might have to be altered or cut.

H - Ultimately we took the decision (for our American readers: made the decision) to post the first-draft pages and be damned. Partly because we had no idea whether anyone would even be reading our blog at this stage --

R - We hadn’t anticipated such an avid audience!

H –  -- and partly because these kinds of changes between drafts are part of the creative process. So we're going to carry on posting first-draft pages from the novel...but I’m afraid those of you on the edge of your seats waiting for more story are going to have to be patient! In between postings of those pages, there will continue to be 'Around the table with' discussions with other creative artists, and 'making of' posts like this in which Rex and I ramble on about…

R - …stuff.

H – ...our working methods. For example, as the world within the mundus has developed, we've realised that we need to do more research into some of the historical periods we touch upon: Tudor England, the English Civil War, America in the 1920s and 1960s, etc..

R - We don’t have to go into enormous depth, though, Howard. We don’t have to become experts on these subjects, do we?

H - No, but I'm sure that as we look more closely at these periods, our research will throw up ideas and themes that will influence the feel of the comic. I'm reminded of a comment that Mermaid left here on JB a few posts ago, about living in a time of change.  The periods we've just listed were all times of immense turmoil. Did people living in these times, I wonder, have a clear understanding of just what they were living through? This quite fascinates me, this idea of how we view, and are viewed by, history. Will future generations look back on us, then, and wonder why we allowed so much bloodshed over religious ideas that are based on such antiquated texts? Or will we be the generation that finally breaks away from this? And if not us, then which generation will?

There's a technique I use when I'm going through a difficult situation, or want to achieve something new in my life, which is to accept the fact that my current situation will change, because ultimately it can’t not. Even the mighty Roman Empire vanished into the dust of history. Once I have meditated on this and truly accepted that change is inevitable, then it's just a matter of negotiating the point in time when that change is going to happen. In my mind, it’s no longer a question of if, but when.

R - I agree entirely. “I am Great Ozymandis, King of Kings…”

H - Ah, Shelley!

R - Exactamundo!

H - And now, Rex, we must discuss a more important issue than the overthrow of tyranny and the tides of history….

R - Which is?

H - Last week, in Chris’s comment, we were referred to as the ‘Laurel and Hardy of comics creators.' So, the question is: which one of us is which?

R - Well, I’m clearly Stan Laurel.

H - How so?

R - Because I’m the one being picked on and insulted all the time, which puts me squarely in Stan Laurel’s shoes.

H – Oh, right. Okay...I guess.

R - Why? Do you think differently?

H – It’s just that I kind of think of you more in the Oliver Hardy role.

R - Why do you think that?

H – Well, you know…you have a similar physique.

R - Are you saying I’m fat?

H - I’m just saying you have similar physique to Oliver Hardy.

R - How dare you!

H – Well honestly, Rex, how much do you weigh?

R - About sixteen and a half stone.

H - I rest my case.

R - You can’t rest your case, Howard! You’ve proven nothing.

H - You’re right. I can’t rest my case...because…I have to pack my case for Portugal, as I Ieave tomorrow!

R - Nice segue, Howard.

H - I thought so. It leads us nicely into explaining to our readers what's going to happen to the blog while I’m away. You'll be in charge for the next three weeks, posting deleted scenes of Maggie and Ray Butcher, and discussing why they were axed. Then, when I return, we'll have the next set of first-draft comics pages ready to post; and then the week after that, we have the next installment in our ‘Around the table with…’ interviews.

R – Yes, I’m really looking forward to that one! Tell them about it, Howard!

H – A week ago, we had the privilege of chatting with Yoann Lossel, an amazing French painter and illustrator, and his partner, Claire Briant, a ceramicist. We're not able to post the discussion sooner as we haven’t had time to transcribe it yet, but we'll do so when I get back from Portugal. It was a very fascinating dicussion, and one not to be missed.

R - I had the pleasure of spending a day with them afterwards, and truly Howard, they are such a charming couple.

H - So that's all to look forward to in late June, when I return to Devon. And now I can put the moment off no longer. Rex, I place the blog into your capable…I place the blog into your hands. Look after it, care for it, nurture it….

R - Hooray! Now I am at the helm of my very own star ship!

H - Oh god!

R - It will be Warp Factor Ten all the way! The engines will ne take it, but I will boldly go where no man has gone before! Brace yourselves. I am setting a course for the heart of the sun -- a three week ride of thrills, spills, and crazy pills. I will finally allow the scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor to see the light of day.

H - Rex, next week's post is all set up and ready to go; you just have to press a button. That's all.

R - I know, I know. But on the basis that a picture speaks a thousand words, there’ll only be a fraction of the drivel our readers have become accustomed to. And each week I will be presenting a special, in-depth introduction to the series of sequential images: explaining the thought processes behind their creation, their heroic struggle for recognition, and their tragic demise at the hands of the tyrant. It will be my very own Director’s Cut...and like Ridley Scott, Alfred Hitchcock, and Orson Wells before me, I will blaze a trail, defying the studio bosses and speaking truth unto the nations. It will be the John Barleycorn blog, Howard, but not as we know it!

H - Rex, what on earth are you talking about? What studio bosses?

R - Will Rex survive the weeks of solitude? Will he triumph over technology? Will the button be pressed on time? Tune in next week, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel….


  1. Damn near spit my coffee out I was laughing so hard. Can't wait to see what Rex Blog will be like. And eagerly awaiting the next comic pages too and the interview with your French guest. Till then, thanks again, gentleman. I was worried when there was no Friday update earlier, and now I can go off to bed content.

  2. Laurel and Hardy? More Mighty Boosh...love it x

  3. Ahhh, same Bat Time....now that takes me back! If I was Howard I'd be very worried now...can't wait to see what Rex does!

    History is a fascinating thing, and we do love to section it up and make neat labels...in hindsight. The Roaring Twenties, as if everyone was under the age of 30 and out having fun, the Swinging 60s (kind of the same really). And I'm sure my grandparents weren't really thinking about the fact that they were living through 'The Depression' (in capitals), they were just trying to survive. Times of great change are a maelstrom that just need to be survived...it's only later you can look back to find a grand scheme. Even on a very personal level, I think it's probably quite rare for someone to think "THIS is THE moment, what happens now will change everything." It's often only much later that we can identify those moments in the past.

    Looking forward to next week!
    (wanders off singing....."star trekin' across the universe, only going forward coz we can't find reverse....")

  4. All of this has happen before... And all of this will happen again...