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, 27 July 2012

Friday, 20 July 2012

Two steps forward. One step back!

H - So, there I was, Rex, in rehearsals with Nosey Crows, the band I’m in with David Wyatt
R - Yes?
H - ...tuning my guitar, as you do…
R - Yes?
H - ...when I took the opportunity to ask ask his advice about formating issues regarding the digital version of our comic.
R - Right.
H - As you know, I'm keen to make the comic available as an ebook as well as a printed book....
R - That’s all I ever hear from you these days: iPad this, iPad that, iPad the other. 
H - ...so I says to Dave, I says, “You know, since the book is being printed in black and white, Rex and I will have to remove all the greys in the art. (Not the aliens, the colour.) So do we have to change it for the ebooks too? And if we do, what's the best way to do it?” And then David said, “You’d change it into bitmap.” 
R - Ah ha!

H - “But of course,” he continued, “you’re going to have a problem with your word balloons, because they are all in grey, aren’t they?” “Oh Dear, I hadn't  realised that,” I said. “Is it going to cause a problem?” David replied: “It will indeed, because as soon as you 'greyscale' them, all the greys (again, not the aliens) will disappear.” 
R - Ah! So we'd simply have words floating around the panels, without any balloons!
H - Yes! And worse yet, this will occur in the printed books as well! So although we thought we were within striking distance of completing this book and sending it off, we now have to spend a couple of days changing all the word balloons, and also redesigning some of the titles....hence the title of this post!

No Greys....

R - I look at it as a blessing, my friend.
H - Really, Rex? How so?
R - Well thank goodness David mentioned it, otherwise we would have sent the art off to the printers and our book would have been ruined!
H - Hmm. I see what you mean. It was a lucky, lucky chance that I asked David about it when I did. This is one of the perils of self-publishing: we've taken a professional approach to the process by ensuring that the comic has been edited, proof-read, and produced to a professional standard, but when you are doing everything yourself, it's all too easy for mistakes to creep in.  
R - True, true….
H - And the work doesn’t stop when we send the book off to the printer, Kablam, or finish preparing the digital version.
R - Does it not?
H - No, because then we'll have to become our own Publicity and Marketing Departments. But don't worry, Rex, that’s a whole other story and needn’t concern us for another fortnight....
R - Wait until we make John Barleycorn: The Movie, Howard! Then you’ll see what hard work really is!!!

Friday, 13 July 2012


H - So what do we want to talk about today then, Rex?

R - How close we are to publishing our comic...again.
H - Go on.
R - We’ve just received the manuscript back from our proofreader--who liked the book, incidentally, despite having no interest in comic books whatsoever. She particularly liked the Realm of the Archetypes sections, which she found funny.
H - That’s good then! 

R - So all we have to do now to finish the comic is to correct the small text errors that our proofreader caught, add our own last-minute flourishes to the Front and Back Matter, then zip the book up and send it to Kablam. If nothing goes wrong, the book will go on sale in about three weeks time.
H - Hold on a minute, Rex. You’re sounding worryingly knowledgeable about the publishing process, using terms like ‘zipping up,’ and ‘Front and Back Matter.’ What’s happened to you? Have you had a bump on the head?
R - I have had a bump on the head, Howard, as well you know, having been used by scientists as a baby to test Newton’s theory of gravity...which, I'm proud to say, they were able to prove beyond doubt. 
H - Right....
R - However, apropos of your question, I've not recently received a bump to the head. My newfound publishing knowledge (as you call it) is nothing but a sham. I use the words, but I have no idea what they mean.
H - I see.
R - I do, however, have complete confidence that you will find out what they mean, and what to do with them. This belief in your ability is what gives me my present rose-tinted view of the world. Everything will be all right.

H - Well, good. That's a real vote of confidence, Rex.
R - Now, I have a more pressing matter. It’s been raining here on Dartmoor constantly since March, and I want to know if it's possible to get truly waterproof clothing.
H - Okay, that came a little out of left field, even for you. Is your Mac not waterproof then?
R - It's water resistant, for sure, but as to whether it's water proof, I am not so sure. Also, it only goes down to my midcalf, so I'm sitting here in your kitchen with soaking wet shins.
H - Have you tried Wellington boots?
R - I have, and whereas they keep my shins dry, they are slippery when wet and so I keep falling over.
H - Hm. So what you need is something that is completely waterproof and yet non-slip.
R - Yes!
H - Have you tried goose fat?
R - You mean, cover myself in goose fat when I venture to your house, like a man preparing to swim the English Channel?
H - Yes. That's exactly what I mean. Considering how much rain we're having this summer.
R - No. I haven’t tried that. 
H - No?
R - No, and I won’t be trying it.
H - Why not?
R - Because I hardly think that goose fat would be non-slip.
H - Fair enough. Now back to the post. The 'Front and Back Matter’ for our book consists of the Copyright Page, the Acknowledgements Page (our ‘thank yous’ to all of the people who helped us and gave us support), the About the Author/Artist Page, plus other bits and bobs of information. We're sinking images from your John Barleycorn Tarot very faintly into the background of those pages, almost like watermarks. These are the 'flourishes' that you referred to. The ‘zipping-up’ procedure is one that I have no prior experience of, I’m afraid, Rex. I know what it is, but not how to do it. I do, however, know a man who does. It's something to do with digitally compressing the files to make them small enough to send to the printers over the Internet without destroying their integrity. 
R - So it’s like when children have those sponge snakes that they squash into a tube, and when you take the top off, the snakes spring out at you, hitting you in the eye, and knocking you over?
H - Yes, Rex. I guess it's a little like that.
R - Oh. I have another question.
H - Has it got anything to do with the weather, or clothing, or sponge snakes?
R - No.
H - Good. Go ahead then.
R - Why are we now posting on Fridays again, instead of Mondays?
H - We tried Mondays when we came back to the JB blog after our spring hiatus, but somehow it never really gelled for me. This blog is, as much as anything, a kind of round-up of our work week, and posting on Monday didn’t really have that feel. We tried it and it didn’t work for us, so we changed....
R - And we’ve done enough of that over the last couple of years haven’t we, Howard?
H - Yes, Rex. We have!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Returning to Friday...

After experimenting with posting on Mondays, we have decided to return to posting on Fridays. we feel it is better suited to how our week flows. We will thus be posting this week's blog post this Friday. Until then, here's another page from the proof copy of our graphic novel.

Monday, 2 July 2012

I am but mad north-north-west...

H - The last couple of week’s sojourn into the World of Froud was interesting, wasn’t it, Rex? And if you just say “yes” to that question, I’m going to hit you!
R - It was interesting, Howard, yes.
H - And...?
R - And, it was so long ago, I couldn’t remember anything we’d discussed -- so I was delighted to find that I hadn’t disgraced myself in front our guests.
H - Yes, I was relieved about that too. Brian had some fascinating ideas about the creative process, and the fine line that most of us tread between creativity and madness, didn’t he?
R - What do you mean most of us?
H - Terri has picked up on those comments, and started a 'Moveable Feast' round of blog posts on exactly that topic. Meanwhile in the last two weeks, whilst our readers have been Walking with Trolls, we handed a final draft of the comic to our friend and neighbour, Billy O’Brien, for an objective outside critique. (Readers may remember that he was our first guest in the ‘Around the Table With’ series.) Billy was the perfect critic for us because he's a film director and screenwriter (thus he works in a visual medium), and he loves comics. Also, he was untainted by any prior knowledge of the book's plot or characters, so it was a good test for whether the comic, in its final form, was intelligible. 
R - By ‘most of us,’ are you saying I’m mad?
H - Happily, he understood the story, and loved it. As a result of his notes and insights, we've been making small adjustments to the comic. Some of these are just tinkering with details, but you also drew another four pages of art for the ending, didn't you, Rex? Which Billy suggested could be more dynamic. 
R - Because I’m not mad, you know.  
H - So this week I'll be putting that new art into the comic, adding the front and back material, and then printing out a proof-copy to hand over to another untainted reader who has no interest in comics whatsoever, which makes her the perfect copy-editor/proof-reader. That will be our last chance to pick up any typographical or continuity errors. The book is, basically, finished. 
R - I thought the fine line that was trodden was between genius and insanity?
H - For most people, Rex, yes.
R - By ‘most people,’ do you mean me?
H - We also had two rather inspired mornings where a good part of the plots for Books 2 & 3 in the John Barleycorn trilogy revealed themselves to us. I find it often happens that when one is absorbed in a particular project, another one pops into your mind. I used to find this in theatre, where I would often go off on a tangent during rehearsals as other interesting ideas surfaced. Sometimes those ideas would eventually turn into projects themselves, but more often than not they’d fade and be forgotten. I’m sure there are a lot of writers and artists who have drawers full of ideas that never see the light of day. If only we all had more time!
R - Are you implying that I’m mad?
H - Will you shut up, Rex? I’m not implying you’re mad...
R - Good.
H - ...though you are clearly paranoid.
R - What makes you say that? Is someone talking about me behind my back? Who is it?
H - To answer your three questions, in order: 1: The fact that you would ask such questions is what makes me say it. 2: Yes, people are always talking about you behind your back. 3: Everyone you know. Satisfied?
R - Yes!
H - Now can we get on with this week’s post?
R - Absolutely. What do you want to talk about?
H - Oh, you know. The usual stuff.
R - Great.
H - Oh, and the book is effectively finished!
R - Hurrah!

Rise of the Demons.