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, 24 June 2011

ad referendum.

H - So, Rex, we have the next sequence of first draft pages this week, where we catch up with Maggie's tale.  
R - Yes.
H - Okay. What’s wrong?
R - I'm sulking today. 
H - I can see that. What’s wrong?
R – Well, just when I thought it was safe to go back to the studio and re-engage with our book, I find there's been a further three scenes cut, making a total of 60 pages of art work gone from my original story. That’s six, zero, Howard. 60.
H - Well, yes, Rex. Coming back to the story after my stint in Portugal, we both decided that those scenes were holding up the flow of the piece. 
R - I'm not saying it wasn’t a mutual decision. I’m just saying.
H - Right. Is that why you've just shown me the comment that The Real Anonymous made on one of your posts whilst I was away?
R – Maybe....
H - Well, let’s look at it then. He (or she) writes:
“When does one decide to collaborate, or not to collaborate in production? Is it inevitable, ie: is     everything essentially a team effort to bring a work to fruition? How do strong minded creatives blend seamlessly together? What are the individual skills and contributions? Does it help to have a tolerant personality - or at least a strong business model?! What are the advantages and disadvantages of collaboration - are there unacceptable compromises etc? Does it help to be crazy? Must there always be a ‘fall guy’?!! What is the give and take?”
There are a number of interesting questions in TRA's comment. It seems that at this moment we're addressing the subject of compromise: how must one compromise in order to create a collaborative work of art?  I grant that you are having to do more than your fair share every time we take art work out of the book. I know that each page of art has entailed a lot of work, and it must be hard to let it go for the good of the overall project.

R - Well, thank you, Howard. I just wanted an acknowledgement of that.

H - So are you feeling better now?

R – Yes, I am. 
      H - Talking about the skills and contributions that we each make to this collaborative process, it's obvious to me what yours are. Your ability to draw scenes in such an interesting and skillful way, and at such speed, still amazes me.

      R - It’s okay, Howard. I told you, I’m fine now. I'm not sulking anymore. 

      H – Oh, good. And, of course, the plus side of cutting those scenes is that you get to draw 70 new pages. That’s seven, zero, Rex. 70. 

      R - Don’t push it.

      H – Well no, I probably shouldn’t. Um....I wonder what my contribution to the graphic novel is?

      R - 
H – Rex...? I was saying: I wonder what my contributions are? I guess one contribution is that I'm helping you to tell the story in a comprehensible way. Creating a story out of pre-existing artwork certainly has its challenges, but there are also advantages to working within these confines – similar to the way that working within the restrictions of the haiku or sonnet form can shape a poet's ideas. I don’t think we would have come up with this particular plot and set of characters if we hadn’t started in this topsy-turvy fashion, with the art work first.

      R - But we'll work differently next time, won’t we? 

      H – Yes, we will. Definitely. This is a crazy way of working! Next time, we'll create the story first, illustrated with rough sketches -- and only once each spread has passed muster will the pages get pencilled and inked. No cut scenes! What will you have to moan about then?

     R - Don’t worry, Howard, I’ll find something.

     H - I’m sure you will! Talking about accepting changes, we have to ask our readers to accept a little change too, don’t we?

     R - Yes, and I hope they can do it with the same magnanimity and good spirit as myself.
     H - Quite. So then, dear readers, we have warned you before that the comic pages posted here are in first draft form. As you read the following pages, one thing you need to know is that the earlier scene where Vali first meets Maggie in the Mundus has changed a little. In the scene we're showing today, she says: “The Tattooed man knew my name.” This wasn’t in the first draft of the previous scene, but will be inserted into the second draft. Rex and I hope you all enjoy the new pages:

- 38 -

- 39 -

- 40 -

- 41 -

- 42 -


  1. So, Rex, would you say it does help to have a tolerant personality? And also, is it possible that your art's getting even better? I know nothing, as you know, but it's seeming more expressive to me - more human.

  2. Now I too am close to sulking, gentlemen, because I'm worried about Maggie, want more John, Drake, and Vali, and in general long for MORE STORY, please!!!

    But I shall try to be patient....

    Excellent post as always.

    (Is there a 12 step group for John Barleycorn addicts? Just asking.)

  3. My name! In black and white! Immortalized in the John Barleycorn blog! Heh heh - thanks fellas – I’m honoured - truly!

    Next stop – the lights of Broadway!!! Fame! Glory! Writing day & night to earn a crust! Sleeping in a cardboard box to save on rent ... wait a minute??

    Fascinating to hear your respective thoughts on the collaborative process and your individual creative input – seems you both bring unique & impressive talents to the table which weave beautifully together. Plus money can’t buy the great sense of humour with which you regularly entertain us! Yes, like Jon, I have to admit I’ve become addicted to the weekly dose of JB banter!

    Re the artwork – am loving the moodiness and oppressiveness of Maggie’s world. Dark stuff indeed! - thanks Rex.

    Thanks guys.

    Signed: The Real Anonymous

  4. @Jon, Hi my name is Laini and I'm a John Barley Corn addict.

    Well dang nab it! What the hell happens next?? Great, just great, now I have to wait till next week! How am gonna get through 7 days of work and school not knowing what happens next? I knew this following blogs stuff was a bad idea!