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, 3 June 2011

Rex Week III

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

R - Okay, this is getting crazy now. I’ve lost my notes about this week's post, and I’ve wiped my hard drive, whatever that is, and I can’t think of what to say about these scenes. I'll be glad when Howard's back. I need help! Hmmm, maybe his wife will help me. She's good with words. TERRI! TERRI!

T – Good lord, what is it, Rex?

R - I need help with the blog!

T – What are you doing here in my kitchen? Why aren’t you working at your own house?

R – I don't know. This is where I come to work every day, isn’t it? Isn’t that what I do?

T – Well, yes, when Howard’s here, but —

R – When is Howard coming back?

T – (sigh) How many times are you going to ask me that? He'll be back from Portugal next week. Now, what's the problem?

R - I don’t know what I’m doing! What am I supposed to write? Howard usually starts a post by asking me questions, but I can't very well ask myself questions, can I? I don't want to run the blog anymore! I've gone from being Captain Kirk to the guy in the landing party with the tight red shirt who gets killed on the planet.

T – Rex, what are you talking about?

R - I don’t know!!!

T - All right, calm down. I'll make you a cup of tea. Just take a deep breath while I put on the kettle. Would it help if I asked you some questions about the art?

R – Yes!

T – Okay then, let’s go through this week’s deleted scene. Isn't that what you're meant to be doing?

R - Thank god somebody knows....

T - The first few frames of the sequence are close-ups of hands and feet, which seems to slow the action down. Why did you decide to draw it that way?

R - I wanted readers to have a sense of: I don’t really know what is going on here, but I don’t think it's going to be good. Hitchcock does this a lot in his films. In The Birds, for example, when the protagonist finds a body in the local school, there is a long sequence of the man searching the building looking for his friend. He goes down a lot of long corridors. This was designed to agitate the audience and create a sense of stress. When the man finds the body, Hitchcock focuses on the corpse's eyes in a series of three jump cuts...and we see that the eye sockets are empty. The birds have pecked them out.

T – Gross.

R – It is truly a horrific sequence.

T - Is that why there are birds in your scene, too? As an homage to Hitchcock?

R - No. They're just there because Ray keeps pigeons.

T – Oh. So then talk me through the rest of the scene.

R - We don’t see the antagonist immediately, just his hands and feet. We don’t know who it is, until the reverse cut, which reveals Ray, looking at a photo. On Page 3, the flight of the birds emphasizes his madness. Ray has actually ripped open the feather pillow that he used to smother his mother-in-law, but the idea here is that in his mind he sees the feathers as a flock of birds. Then, when he leaves the flat and enters the hallway, he is confronted with himself -- as in: What have I done?

In the first set of notes Howard wrote for this scene, the cat in the hallway talks to Ray, instructing him to confess to the murder. We were intending to imply that the 13th Conjuror was manipulating the cat. Both Howard and I really liked the idea, but in the end, Ray wasn’t an important enough character to justify the length of this sub-plot, so the whole thing was cut.

T – The same thing happens when writing a novel. Sometimes there are scenes that are perfectly good in themselves but that don't serve the overall plot, or that slow down the pace of the story. You have to take those scenes out, even when it's painful to do so....  Is there anything else you want to say about this art, or are you finished?

R – I'm finished.

T – Well done!

R – Thank you! I feel much better. But Howard will definitely be back next week...?

T – Just press the button and publish your post, Rex.

R – This button?

T – No! No! Good lord, don't touch that one!!!

R – This one?

T – (sigh) Yes.


  1. The best laugh I have had in a loooong time! Best art work yet as well...sorry to see it be dropped but now I am really excited to see the finished product!! Yeah Rex, you did great! Yeah Terri, you saved the day! Yeah, Howard is back next week! All is well in the universe!

  2. Goodness, I do hope Rex survives the rest of the week!

  3. Well, that made my night! You two must have had such a good laugh, I can't wait to see Howard's response when he gets back. And great artwork as always Rex!

  4. That made my night too!

  5. So twentyfour hours since my last post. I think I've proven I can manage the JB blog all by myself.

    I ran into Terri in the Courtyard today and she assured me Howard will be back in town on Thursday. I must say he's cutting it a bit fine. What if he's tired from the journey?

    Stay tuned for Rex week four.

  6. The blogs of the past few weeks have brought an important question to mind - about the nature of the collaborative process in producing a work of art.

    To an outsider, for eg, many artists and writers might appear, of necessity, to be solitary, unique individuals needing to work in isolation and privacy in order to produce their best creations. In film or theatre production, however, collaboration might seem unavoidable.

    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?

    So many questions gents – so many possible answers! I would be most interested to know your views about the collaborative process - without giving too much of the game away of course!

    Signed: The Real Anonymous