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, 25 November 2011


H -  After a week-long bender celebrating the first birthday of our blog, we are shattered and tired and other adjectives of a similar kind. We have just handed the completed second draft of John Barleycorn Must Die to our editor, and now we're awaiting her comments, nervous and excited in equal measure. So...

R - So this week we're presenting a couple of pages that didn't even make it into my very earliest draft of the comic.

H - Ah, then it's not just me that wantonly orphans whole pages of artwork, Rex! 

R - No, apparently not.

H - I'm vindicated!

R - <sigh> Meanwhile, we're keeping our fingers crossed for the well-being of the second draft while it's in our editor's hands. Wish us luck, everyone.

H - And thank you for your birthday messages last week!

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.

Friday, 11 November 2011


11/11/11/11/11/11 by Rex Van Ryn.

The 11th millisecond of the 11th second of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year of this millennium. We hope this moment in time brings you good fortune!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Coincidence or Zeitgeist? You decide! Part 3

H - Well, Rex!

R - Yes, indeed, Howard, well!

H - After our sojourn chatting around the table with Alan over the past two weeks, we are returning, like dogs to a bone, to our ever increasing obsession with coincidence! We hadn't planned to...

R - That's true.

H - But....

R - But there has been such an avalanche of coincidences/synchronicities over the past few weeks that I am starting to think that maybe Barry Manilow was right: "Could this be magic, now?"

H - I had a very interesting discussion about coincidence and synchronicity last weekend with Dis, the co-publisher of Hadean Press. Dis mentioned that in esoteric thought, this repetition of coincidences is known as the Golden Thread, and can be viewed as an indicator that one is on the right path.

R -  ...As distinct from the Silver Thread, which keeps you attached to your body when you are travelling on the astral plane.

H - ...Or the Copper Thread, which is used to conduct electricity.

R - ...Or the lead sheets that people pinch from church roofs and turn into gold.

H - Over three months ago, Rex, you drew the page below as part of a spread for the very last scene of our book. As readers can see, the 'camera' is pulling back from St. Paul's Cathedral to a small sapling. In our story, the sapling is of great symbolic significance. It represents a re-imagined, transformative process. Little did we know at the time that St. Paul's would it itself become so topical a symbol around precisely these issues!

R - Incidentally, the price of gold is at an all time high. Does anybody want to buy any lead?