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, 18 November 2011

Happy Birthday!

H - Happy Birthday, Rex!
R - Thank you, thank you, Howard. And may I say the same to you?
H - You may. 
R - It’s one year ago today that we pressed the button for the first time, and the ‘John Barleycorn Must Blog…,’ I mean the ‘John Barleycorn Must Die’ blog entered cyber space.
H - And it’s been quite a year! For the blog, for our graphic novel, and for the world at large, hasn’t it Rex?
R - Yes.
H - One year ago we were fledgling bloggers, our hands held by Rima Staines as she talked us through the process of throwing off our Luddite selves and becoming cyber-men. We'd no idea that we'd have the 'Around the Table' series of chats with so many interesting and talented people, did we?
R - No, and some of them have done very well for themselves since then! Also, we didn’t know that our blog would be read by people all around the world, even in Tonga.
      H – That was one of the most amazing things for me, that we could put up a post and within hours people as far afield as America, Brazil, and New Zealand were reading it. Our ideas about the novel itself have also changed dramatically over this year. We've just finished the second draft of the comic, and it's very different from the first draft. There have been changes made to the story, and to the characters, in reaction to the first draft -- almost as if the first draft had been a proposal for the project that we had pitched to ourselves. We'd liked the proposal, but we'd then sacked the writers and gotten newer, better, writers on board. We're pretty pleased with the result! There's still a lot of work to do, but it does feel like we have the book now -- whereas at the end of the first draft, it just felt like we had a jumble of ideas that didn’t really correlate to each other. So what do you think of this creative process, Rex? Of 'discovering' the book as we worked on it? Was it in any way how you expected it to be?
R - You know it wasn’t, Howard.
H - What did you expect it to be like?
R - Initially I thought we'd just be tweaking my original story, even though umpteen people had told me that my story had failed miserably and was totally inaccessible. I actually thought I would give it to you, and you would line it all up, and that would be it. Three months, tops! Instead you ripped the novel to pieces, threw out about a third of it, and made me draw seventy new pages!
H – I'd just 'line it up,' huh? Your incredible self-delusion is worrisome sometimes. So what’s next then, Rex?
R - We start the third draft…
       H - ...which will involve going into the story in even greater depth and ‘seeding’ specific plot points throughout. It should be a 'consolidating' draft, rather than a 're-constructive' one. I’m sure you'll prefer that, won't you?
R - I will!
H – It's not only our story that has changed in this past year; the world around us has changed too, hasn’t it? Regular readers of this blog will know of our increasing obsession with the synchronicities we've observed between our work and world events. It's as if the world is 'waking up' at the moment, with a light being shone into the corruption that is inherent to our system. This is something that you and I talk about a lot each day, Rex, in reference to our work...yet rarely discuss on the blog. Why is that, do you think?
R - Because our blog is about our book, rather than our politics.
H - But we both believe the book to be a product of our philosophy and politics, do we not?
R – That's true. We do. These things underpin the story.
H - Our novel is influenced by and comments on ideas that are bubbling in the world at the moment, albeit in a metaphorical and metaphysical way.
R - Yes, in that sense we are diametrically opposed to the views of the right-wing reactionary Frank Miller...
H - ...who recently wrote that the Occupy movement was made up of ‘thieves and rapists’! A bold, confrontational, and factually inaccurate statement if ever there was one.
       R - I never liked Miller's work anyway. It's saturated with violence and abuse, most often towards women. 
H - And what are your views on Glenn Miller?
R - He’s dead, isn’t he?
H - Is he? 
R - Yes.
H - Oh. Is Elvis dead?
R - Yes.
H - Did a man land on the moon?
R - Twelve men landed on the moon.
H - Did Dianna die in an ‘accident?’
R - Yes.
H - Was Kennedy killed by Lee Harvey Oswald?
R – No, he was actually killed by a man who lives in our village, who claims that he shot him from the grassy knoll when he was just a ten year old boy. He’s an expert marksman and I, for one, believe him!
H - Was Obama abducted straight after his inauguration and replaced with a puppet of the 1%?
R - The evidence would suggest that is a distinct possibility.
H - Can a millionaire from Eton ever really understand the needs and difficulties faced by ordinary people?
R – No, he bloody well can’t!
       H – Okay Rex, calm down! On a lighter note: here, for the faithful readers of this blog, are some more first-draft John Barleycorn pages – which, we admit, become exponentially more irrelevant to our story with every ticking second! But first we'd like to post a clip of Stewert Lee, our favourite comedian, in celebration of  this blog's first birthday. (We posted a clip of him on our first-ever post.) Enjoy! And thanks, everyone, for following us for a year!

      R – Howard? I have a statement to make. Marilyn Monroe was my mum, and all I know about my father was that his initials were JFK…
H - Shut up, Rex.


  1. Happy birthday! And thank you for a wonderful year.

  2. Yes indeed, many joyous felicitations to you both and what a marvellous, most memorable, momentarily maddening and yet mainly magical year of merry mayhem it has been!

    Signed: The Real Anonymous

  3. Happy Birthday to you both, and to John Barleycorn himself. May his nut-brown bowl ever prove capacious enough for his own good self.

  4. Happy Birthday, John Barleycorn -- and congratulations, Howard and Rex! This blog has found it's "voice" over the year...creative and funny, insightful and surprising, and always a pleasure to read. Long live JB!

  5. Happy Birthday from down under! You have brightened my Fridays immensely over the last year, and I look forward to many more.

  6. Happy anniversary, John Barleycorn! Hope you also had a glass of ale to toast him in!

  7. Incidentally I just gave John Barleycorn's blog a 'Liebster Award' - details at http://bit.ly/uVVkSk - hope some of my reders come to visit.