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 January 2012

Yet more second drafts....

H - While we work furiously on the third draft, which takes us ever further away from the second draft in terms of story, here is the next sequence of second draft pages to keep our readers entertained.

R - Shouldn't I say something?

H - No!

- 76 -


- 77 -


- 78 -


- 79 -

Friday, 20 January 2012

Friday, 13 January 2012

Magnifying glass?

R - Howard, why have you made me bring a magnifying glass over?
H - Because I need it!
R - But why do you need it?
H - I’m glad you asked that, Rex.
R - Because...?
H - Because I want to talk about the process that I’ve been going through this week to get your artwork into the right format for Kablam (the print-on-demand company we’re using) so that we can then begin our third draft.
R - All right.
H - I’ve been learning to use the Photoshop Elements program, because we need to take the scans of your new artwork and merge them.
R - Merge them?
H - Yes. The new scans we have are in two halves because the art was drawn on A2 paper, which is larger than the A3 scanner we’re using. So the pages were scanned in two passes, and the images now need to be ‘merged’ together. Thankfully there’s a tool to do this in Photoshop which works on most of the art. Occasionally it doesn’t work, and then I need to merge the pages manually -- which can take rather a long time, as I need to match the two pieces up in layers and then ‘feather’ the join.
R - Feather...? Are you using a feather to join them up magically, like a shaman?
H - Yes and no. Mostly no. ‘Feathering’ is where I use another tool in Photoshop to blur the edges of the join so that any obvious join marks disappear…like magic!
R - Wow.
H - Then I have to ‘flatten the layers’ so that the two scanned halves become one piece of art again.
R - Do you use a rolling pin to flatten the layers, like some kind of magical pastry chef?
H - Yes and no. Mostly no. I press a button, called ‘flatten layers,’ and the computer does it…like magic.
R - Wow.
H - Once I have the picture as one piece, I then import a template which has our Kablam guidelines on it for the ‘trim,’ ‘bleed,’ and ‘live’ areas which we were talking about last week...and which I didn’t understand, in much the same way that you don’t understand computers. So Rex, do you think that computers work by magic?
R - Yes and no. Mostly yes. I have objective proof that computers are the creation of devil.
H - Where is this proof?
R - I just know it to be true, and I will reveal the evidence at the appointed time.
H - You always say that. What I think is that you don’t understand how computers work, and therefore you fear them; thus you project your fear onto a medieval personification of evil, called the devil, to deny your inability to come to terms with modern technology. Now, isn’t that the truth?
R - No!
H - Anyway, devil device or not, the computer is helping us to create our graphic novel.
R - The computer? All I recall is drawing endless pages with ink and brushes and pencils and hard labour...sweat pouring off my brow...hunched over a drawing board in a freezing cold attic, with nothing to warm me but a candle and a god given talent!
H - I told you last week, Rex, you really need to lay off the Kool Aid.... 
R - I can’t help it. How can something that tastes so good be so bad?
H - And I can’t help thinking we have somewhat wandered off the point.
R - Sorry.
H - So getting back to what I was trying to explain to you: After I have aligned the artwork up with our guide lines, I then export the picture as a .tiff file, which we can then import into Comic Life. That’s what I’ve been doing this week. A rather time-consuming task, I’ve discovered.
R - But you still haven’t answered my question, Howard. Why did you ask me to bring a magnifying glass over?
H - Because when I’m going through my files trying to find the various halves of artwork to bring into Photoshop, the images are so bloody small I can’t see them properly. It’s been taking me ages to find the correct halves to match up. Computers are great, but sometimes the old fashioned way of doing things is better. I can’t enlarge the tiny images on my computer, but your Sherlock Holmesian magnifying glass will do the job wonderfully.
R - Let me ask you a question then, Howard. Are you the devil?
H - Yes and no. Mostly no.
R - I knew it!
H - Unbelievable!



Top half of a prologue page...




Bottom half of the page...




Abracadabra: Two become one!


Friday, 6 January 2012

A new year begins!

H - Happy New Year, Rex! How are you feeling as we start 2012?

R - I'm as well as can be expected, Howard, under the circumstances.

H - And what circumstances would those be?

R - The fact that this is the year in which the world ends.

H - I thought that was going to happen back in the year 2000? Was I wrong?

R - Clearly you were.

H - So why is the world ending this time, then?

R - Read the Mayan Prophecies!

H - I have. And from what little I understand of them, 2012 is the year that their calendar ends. Nothing to do with the end of the world. My calendar for 2011 finished a week ago, and the world is still here.

R - Look out of the window at this bloody rain and tell me the world isn't ending! I got soaked on the way over today.

H - Oh yeah, that's an unusual occurrence, Rex. Rain in Devon!

R - Look, we don't have time for this now, Howard. We have to hurry up and concentrate on publishing our comic.

H - Before the world ends...?

R - Yes! Or at least before one of us dies, for heaven's sake. 2012 will be the fifth year I've been working with this art work, and I want to move on! People get less time in prison for rioting than I've been subjected to with this art work!

H - Do you realise that you're inferring that rioting is less offensive, in the eyes of the justice system, than your artwork is...? Anyway, rioting is so last year, Rex. Get with the times!

R - Time is of the essence, Howard.

H - Time waits for no man.

R - Time and tide wait for no man.

H - Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth...

R - I've never heard that one before!

H - David Bowie: Rock n' Roll Suicide.


R - That's so last century, Howard. Get with the times.

H - Okey dokey. So what does this year hold in store for John Barleycorn?

R - Our publication date is April 8th. Easter day, in honour of the pagan Goddess, Estra.

H - And before that we have to finish the comic, of course! After receiving our editorial critique in December, we managed to make a good start on the third draft by reinstating the 'Q and A' characters, before flu and the holidays interrupted our work. Then we began this year by making sure that all the technical requirements are in place for the printers: that we have the right size areas for live, bleed and trim (whatever they are), etc...

R - The 'live' area, Howard, is the area where the standard art has to be situated; the 'bleed' area is for any art work that leaves the page; and the 'trim' is the size of the page after the printers have put it through the guillotine. We need to leave the appropriate 'tolerance' for the process, to make sure that the bits we want on the page stay on the page and don't get cut off.

H - I see. I always forget that this is an area you actually know something about.

R - What, print production?

H - Yes. We're using a print-on-demand supplier called Kablam. We created our book using the computer program 'Comic Life,' and we want to make sure we have all of its technical issues sorted before we get our teeth fully into the third draft. When we present this next draft to our editor, and to a select few others for their feedback, we want it to look as nearly as possible like the final published comic.

R - Indeed we do.

H - This week we did a re-read of the story in order to see how much work we still have to do...and we were quite pleased with it overall, weren't we?

R - Pleasantly surprised!

H - There are still some character and pacing issues to address, and some scenes are still being shifted into new places...

R - ...and there are a few new spreads to be drawn, as well as some changes to already-drawn artwork. But it's close now. I can feel it, like a giant shift in the force.

H - What force is this of which you speak?

R - You know, the one of "may it be with you" fame.

H - Oh, that force. Good.

R - And what about the John Barleycorn blog, Howard? Where will it be going this year?

H - I'd like to apologise to our readers for the way it petered out towards the end of last year. Between flu and the holidays, the JB blog was a little neglected...plus the comic itself, as it nears completion, is now taking up more and more of our time. We do have two very interesting Around the Table discussions coming up, however, with writer Amal El Mohtar and artists Brain and Wendy Froud. I'd promised to get both of them up online before Christmas...but I failed, due to flu and general holiday stress. I shall now get them up just as soon as possible, so that's something for our readers to look forward to. Other than that, the blog will continue to track our progress as we near our comic's completion date...which you have just set in stone, you fool!

R - I didn't set it in stone; the stars have dictated that our book must be out by Easter, prior to the end of the world. Talking of which, what was all that nonsense clip art you put on my perfectly good John Barleycorn Christmas card two weeks ago?

H - I thought is made the art more festive, personally. You hadn't put anything Christmas-y in it.

R - I would liken your additions, sir, to putting graffiti over DaVinci's last supper.

H - There you go again, with your delusions of grandeur...

R - As I've told you before, these aren't my words, Howard. DaVinci himself came to me in a dream...

H - You really, really have to stop drinking the Kool Aid, Rex. 


The JB blog 2011 Christmas card, pre Howard's clip-art fest!