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, 16 September 2011

We're back!

                                                      First Draft!

       H - Here, we are then, Rex, back from our ‘holiday.’ Feeling refreshed?
R - Yes. Exiting the space shuttle one mile above the earth was certainly a refreshing experience.
H - ‘Exiting?’ that’s an interesting way to describe being thrown out! 
R - I thought we agreed not to bring that up again, Howard.
H - You're right, Rex; what happens in space stays in space.
R - Indeed. In space no one can hear you scream. 
H - Although I did hear you scream, didn’t I? Very loudly. In my ear. For a mile. 
R - I refer you to your previous comment: what happens in space, etcetera.
H - What was your favourite part of the holiday, then?
R - I liked painting the Grand the Canyon.
H - Yes, that was fun…
R - 
H – And…?
R - And what?
H – And, what was my favourite part of the holiday…?
R - Oh, yes: what was your favourite part of the holiday, Howard?
H - Well, since you ask, it was the peaceful two days I spent on the Great Wall of China when you were unconscious after your spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to walk through it! 
R - Hm!
H - I’ve been looking at the postcards we sent, and at some of the comments people made, and I wish I had taken Fernanda’s advice and taken a hat with me because the sun in Cairo was very hot…though due to ‘events’ we weren’t there very long!!! There seems to have been some concern about the arm and leg you took with you on holiday, Rex. Perhaps you’d like to explain? 
R - They were from a classic chesterfield chair!
H - Which you took on holiday?
R - Yes, of course, I never leave home without them.
H - Unbelievable! 
R - No comment.
H - While we were away, during all our mishaps, missed flights and misunderstanding-induced adventures, we were also working, weren’t we?
R - We were indeed.
H - Before we left on our trip, readers may recall that we had just finished the first draft of the comic. During our long waits in departure lounges we've been hard at work on the story: taking scenes out, putting them back in, taking them out again, putting them back in again in a different place, finding massive plot holes, fixing massive plot holes, creating new massive plot holes, fixing new massive plot holes, re-ordering scenes, re-re-ordering scenes, extending some character’s roles, reducing other character’s roles...and then doing the reverse. I think it’s fair to say that the story has changed.
R - Unrecognisably. 
H - Indeed. We now have an air-tight plot.
R - And a new character!
H - Yes. And in the last couple of days we've hit upon a new way of working for the second draft.
R - We are kind of working-shopping the story and characters, like you would a play. I've never heard of a graphic novel being created this way before.
H - Rather than working with your images on the computer, as I did in the first draft, I am using the original art work and telling the story to you, out loud. After each telling, we discuss ideas that come up, and then incorporate these ideas into the next ‘telling’ of the story. This is quite similar to how I devise theatre shows, and it is working really well at the moment. 
R - And it’s fun for me because it reminds me of when my Mum used to read comics to me as a kid. Also, I’m more engaged with the writing now than I was with the first draft, when you would write alone and I’d read it later.
H - That’s right. Now, as regular readers of John Barleycorn will be aware, the blog (as promised) has undergone something of a re-design. We hope you like it! But for anyone who is feeling nostalgic, I’ve taken a screen capture of the old version of the blog, so you can reminisce about the good old days.
R - Ah the good old days, when there was rationing, teachers could cane children, and smoking was good for your chest.
H - Rex? 
R - Yes?
       H - Shush! I need to tell the readers about some of the exciting things coming to this blog over the next few months. We've got some great 'Around the Table' sessions coming up: artist Alan Lee discussing the early influences on his work; writer Amal El-Mohtar on creativity and Tarot; artists Brian & Wendy Froud on the subject of artistic collaboration; and more.  We'll also be showing you more pages of art from our graphic novel, both pencil roughs from early in the process and the final inked spreads that we're working with now. We've got a special musical project in the works, drawing on many local talents...and a 'podcast' post...and the Grand Opening of the John Barleycorn shop. All served up with the usual witless rambling, I mean, the usual insightful dialogue from me and Rex. 
  R - And are we going to put up any more of the first-draft pages of the comic, Howard?
H - Well, funny you should ask that, Rex, because as you well know, we are undecided. Since the story has been changing as it solidifies, those early pages are almost irrelevant now in terms of plot…
R – But…
H – But they might be interesting for our readers nonetheless, as an archive documenting the evolution of the tale.
R - So…
H - So we’re going to leave it to the will of the people. If you’d like us to post out-of-date and pointless scenes every few weeks or so, then leave a comment and let us know, and we’ll be happy to oblige.


  1. Welcome back travellers - we've missed you - here's to witless rambling xxx

  2. Ramble on, witless ones.
    No, hold on...
    Welcome back, like Andy said.

    (And keep posting scenes, no matter how out-of-date - it all shows us something about the workings of your creative journey, eh?)

    See you both soon in one or other of the available worlds, I hope.

  3. As a champion witless rambler myself, I'll second that! I'm sure there's no such thing as a completely pointless scene, so please carry on posting them...you never know, a scene you've discarded might be the inspirational spark for some young (clearly not me), timid scribbler (could be me) to begin an epic that will rival...oh well, some book that's really big and famous (and thick of course, all epics are thick)!

    Good to have you back, arms and legs in their respective places!

  4. Tom got in first, so it appears I'm 'thirding' that...is that possible?!

  5. Welcome back, Howard & Rex! And congratulations on the blog re-design, which is beautiful. I, too, vote for pointless page, and look forward to plenty of witless ramblings and gorgeous art and interesting conversations around the yellow kitchen table.

    I'm a little worried about whatever it is you brought back from space, though, as Howard's suitcase seems to be glowing in the dark....

  6. Oops, that was supposed to be "pointless pages" (plural)....

    And I agree with Tom and Christina (Mermaid) that even the changed or discarded bits of a manuscript reveal interesting things about the creative process.

  7. Out of date and pointless....sounds wonderful....please post!