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, 14 October 2011

Coincidence or Zeitgeist? You decide! Part 2

H - Well, Rex, we have a follow-up to last week’s post, don’t we?
R – We do; and I have this pre-written statement: “While we've been writing our graphic novel, we've been using the term 'sky-fall' to describe an event which our protagonist is trying to prevent. Lo and behold, last Friday, the very day we posted ‘Coincidence or Zeitgeist? You decide!,’ the title of the next James Bond film was announced, and it was...Skyfall.” 
H - Hmm. Does that go beyond coincidence into espionage, do you think?
R – Well, yes. Yes I do.
H - Though our lawyers have pointed out that there should be an ‘allegedly’ in there somewhere. (NB: we have no lawyers.) 
R – But I think we should get some lawyers, fast! I can’t wait to be be in legal dispute with the biggest film franchise in the world. It will be fun, won’t it, Howard?
H - No!
R – Oh. Okay.
H – Last week we had some interesting comments on the subject of coincidences, which has lead to one of our many work-avoiding discussions. Claire Briant thought that perhaps mankind works in cycles and so ideas keep naturally cycling around. This made me think of Shakespeare’s plays, and how they remain relevant to audiences far removed from the audiences of his day. (Assuming, of course, that Shakespeare's plays were written by Shakespeare...but that's a conspiracy theory for another day.) I think it's because the plays examine such deep, archetypal work, in terms of themes and character, that these archetypal themes inevitably keep resurfacing throughout history. There will always be political intrigue, people who over-reach themselves or are lost in indecision at crucial moments. There will always be young lovers confused over love's passions, or separated by religious, family or social conventions.
R – Mermaid's comment highlighted mythological and historical figures being relevant in cycles. These figures become archetypal in our minds.
H – Ninnian Kinnear-Wilson (the mask-maker we used in my theatre company, Ophaboom) says that often people have an archetypal story that they live out, and almost as if they are helplessly tied to its plot -- which is why one often sees a public figure heading towards a car crash while seeming unable to stop it happening, even though the coming crash is glaringly obvious to everyone else. It's almost like they become the story, or the story becomes them! I used to wonder sometimes, whilst putting a Commedia mask on, whether those archetypes were hovering above the earth somehow, waiting for an actor to put on the mask so that they could play in the human world for a brief spell. Sometimes two actors, who had no knowledge of each other, would find the same voice or laugh or movement in a mask – which supports my idea. This links to Plato’s ideas about 'the plane of the ideals,' which has influenced our graphic novel, hasn’t it?
R - Yes. I'm reminded of my own experience of running myths until they are done....
H - Go on, then, do tell.
R - When I worked in advertising, I played out the myth of 'the ad-man fueled by alcohol and cocaine.' Everyone warned me this would end in tears, and I knew they were right, but I couldn’t let the myth go until it was finished with me.
H - Hmm. Was it the myth that you couldn’t let go of, Rex, or the cocaine and alcohol?
R - That’s a good question, Howard. Um….
H – Getting back to Comments on our last post: Katherine wrote about synchronicity. What do you know about that, Rex?
R - Didn’t Sting invent the word? 
H - No! Sting wrote a song about it, but the concept was originally Jung’s. Synchronicity is about events that seem to occur by chance but that actually having meaning when observed together. So what might be the meaning of the synchronicities that have surrounded our comic over the past weeks, then Rex?
R - I have no idea.
H - Might it be that we are on the right track with our novel?
R - Well, yes, obviously that.
H - Or that we are on the wrong track, and should abandon it and go back to our day jobs?
R - I don’t have a day job! This is my day job. So if I were to abandon it, and go back to my day job, I’d get caught in a paradox of my own design, from which I may never return!
H - Hm. Yes, there is that attraction. Anyway, below are some photos of your initial draft from over a year ago, Rex, mentioning sky-fall: partly to prove to our readers that we're not just making this all up in some crazy paranoid delusional state, and partly because it might be of interest to some of them to see some of the very first, First Draft pages of John Barleycorn Must Die

Next week, finally, as we've been promising: ’Around the Table with...Alan Lee’!


  1. I've said it before, but I do love Vali, a great character. One of the things that really appealed to me in Robert Holdstock's novels, particularly 'Mythago Wood', was the idea that humankind recycles ancient archetypes to deal with the problems of each age, and that within the primeval forest all those different versions of the same archetype continue to exist. It seemed to me to be expressing a very deep truth.

  2. It is most encouraging to know that the creators of the John Barleycorn Blog have already become such an inspiration and creative influence in Hollywood!

    Signed: The Real Anonymous

  3. This problem with other people using ideas we have long cherished seems to be widely experienced. Maybe the essence or seed of great ideas exist somewhere before they come to us, on some inner, unmanifested plane. When we get access to an idea, or it flies to us or whatever, we nurture it with our attention and it gains density or something in the inner world until it can be perceived by those less far-sighted, in your case some word guy from the production team of the Bond film, who, because he's working on a shorter-term project than yours, gets to use it first. It's happened to me a few times and it's really irritating.

    I just want to say that I got the same thrill of anticipation and wonder seeing the beautiful images on this page that my teenage self got from the best of the Nemesis graphics. Your text is both lyrical and snappy and your pleasure in your joint work completely evident. Please make haste, you two, and reveal more of your vision to us!