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.

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.


  1. Ah, the wonderfully, reassuringly, madly paranoid world of Howard and Rex Rambles. A relief that you have returned gentlemen. All is well in the universe once more and the cosmos is back on track! Marvellous to hear you are so tantalisingly close, nay 'button ready', for launch.

    Signed: The Real Anonymous

  2. I think our brains as part of our bodies, are basically very lazy. If I'm slogging with an idea trying to make it work, my mind drifts off to tantalising new ideas that seem wonderful and exciting and above all else easier then the idea I am currently battling with. I remember reading that the Coen brothers had severe writers block when writing their third film, the prohibition gangster movie Millers Crossing. But they turned that problem on its head by writing what would become their 4th film; the sublime writers block themed Barton Fink! Then they went back and finished Miller's Crossing.