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.

Sunday, 10 June 2012


H - We’re back! 
R - We surely are. As night follows day, we’re back.
  H - Sorry we’ve been away for so long! We stopped posting weekly on the blog 
in February, and had planned to make ‘ad hoc’ postings instead -- but this proved to 
be impossible, due to a combination of life events and finding ourselves deeply immersed in the last draft of our graphic novel. 
R - It’s been…emotional.
H - But now we are back on track, and back to weekly posting. We're also gearing up towards the release of the comic, finally! During the time we were away, we finished the book's third draft, which was the hardest work of all the drafts, bringing all the different story-lines together fully for the first time. The comic's text was then line-edited…
R - Which means?
H - Which means that it was gone through with a fine-tooth comb! We had a few days of intense, detail-oriented work to make sure that there were no plot holes, and that narrative information was divulged at the right times for pacing purposes. Certain scenes were re-worked to introduce more tension, speed up the pace, or, conversely, to slow the pace down.
R - I have one question.
H - Yes, Rex?
R - Can you go through something with a broad-tooth comb?
H - No. 
R - Oh!
H - I have a question for you, Rex.
R - Go on.
H - Looking back at the first post of this year, you claimed that (and I quote) "the stars have dictated that our book must be out by Easter." Would you like to comment on this statement?
R - Yes, I'd like to take this opportunity to explain. On the surface it seems I was in error . . . however, if one examines my claim more deeply, it becomes apparent that I was in fact correct. I had observed the stars in the Southern Hemisphere, forgetting that we are producing the book in the Northern Hemisphere. Had we been in the Southern Hemisphere, of course, our book would have been out by Easter -- but now that I'm in full possession of the facts, it's clear to me that what the stars were really saying is that our book will be ready some time very soon. 
H - Thank you for the clarification, Rex. I was starting to loose faith in your prophetic ability, but now my faith is fully restored. It's clear to me that you are indeed the Chosen One. 
R - At last, recognition!
H - And it is true that it would not be unfair to say that it isn’t an un-truth that our release date hasn’t been a tad un-malleable. 
R - Absolutely!
H - And your new understanding of the stars does appear to be correct…
R - Oh, without a doubt, the stars are never wrong!
H - …because even as we post this, the comic is nearly finished -- except for the copy-editing of the text, which is happening at this very moment!
R - And then what happens, Howard?
H - The copy-edit will catch any remaining errors in grammar or spelling, then these edits will be put into the book, the pages will be exported from Comic Life (the software we used to create the comic), and the whole bundle will be ‘zipped up,’ digitally speaking, and sent to the printers. Once the printer has it, we'll get a Proof copy to check for any printing errors, and once the Proofs have been approved, the book will be printed, and then it will go on sale….
R - 
H - Rex, Rex? Are you all right. Do you need smelling salts?
R - Yes, I do. 
H - Here.... What happened?
R - I fainted. I was so stunned at the words: “It will go on sale.” It has taken so long to get to this point that I thought the comic would never be finished!
H - Well, we haven’t actually finished yet. There is still plenty of time for delays....
R - That would be par for the course, wouldn’t it?
H - Yep!
R - And what happens to the blog now, Howard?
H - Well, after promising two new ‘Around the Table’ chats at the start of the year, we are honestly, definitely going to be posting them. 
R - 
H - Rex, Rex? Are you all right? Do you need smelling salts again?
R - Yes, I do.

      H - I know it seemed like we’d never get these chats up on the blog, but at last they are finished, formatted and ready to go. Next week we'll begin with Part One of our discussion with artists Brian and Wendy Froud, and soon after we'll sit ‘around the table’ with writer and Goblin Fruit editor Amal El-Mohtar. Our apologies to all of them, and to our readers, for the lengthy delay. 

  R - Indeed.
H - So, Rex, is it good to be back on the blog?
R - Absolutely!  
H - To celebrate our return, the video above is our very own version of the old English folksong, ‘John Barleycorn Must Die’ (using the Robert Burns lyrics of 1782). The song was lovingly produced by the multi-talented and amazing David Wyatt, who also played all the instruments on the track -- with the exception of the snare drum, which was played by me…
R - …and the scythe, which was scraped by me. 

      H - The vocals are by me and Amal El-Mohtar. Enjoy!


  1. We all wait (some not so easy at waiting, another story) for The Book.

    Jane Yolen

  2. Yay! Good to see you back. Dis and I are waiting eagerly for the book!

  3. HOORAY! So good to see you guys back! Also, MAN, the fiddle on the track completely transforms the song! David did a fantastic job, and I'm so happy to be part of it. I can't wait to see the discussion with Wendy and Brian, too!

    And, of course, I am looking forward to the book with longing looks and graspy hands.

  4. Rex v R - masterful stroke of scythe at song's conclusion!
    Howard - verily, the voice of a true songstrel!

    Signed: The Real Anonymous (returns)

  5. Good to have you back, you have been missed!