Old Man Grey by Steven Ingram
In 1970 the singer Vashti Bunyan was faced with a decision. Her debut album Just Another Diamond Day had run into delays and her attempts to settle into an idyllic life living in a horse-drawn caravan in the Scottish Highlands had faltered. The album, when it was finally released by the record company, sold poorly. She had to choose between staying in London to promote her record or moving back to Scotland to share a house with members of the Incredible String Band. She chose the latter.
This world of struggling electro-folk artists is the one in which Old Man Grey’s principal character Taylor Kite inhabits. One half of duo A Field of Kites, he is on the way to a gig when a badger runs in front of him. He swerves to avoid it, and wrecks his car. When a young woman offers shelter and assistance he thinks his luck has changed.
Old Man Grey draws on the powerful folk horror roots of the British Isles, where pagan sacrifices lingered long in remote valleys and isolated islands (see for example the Records of the Presbytery of Dingwall and their accounts of bull sacrifices to the god Mourie.) The spirit of tradition that the folk revivalists embraced contained all manner of dark remnants.
Steven Ingram is both artist and writer on Old Man Grey. He conjures up a particular period very well – the late 60’s and early 70’s. A time when the peace and love ideals of the hippies were developing the harder edge heard in Bob Dylan’s lyrics. A time when flower power was engulfed in napalm. A time when you could realistically break down without any idea of where you were and with very limited means of calling for help.
Steven’s line art is perfect for conjuring a sense of the past. It has an unsettling quality that works especially well in black and white. Panels merge human and animal, the real and the otherworldly. Bodies feel distinctive and the tastes and smells of blood and animal scent are vividly evoked.
Many decades later Vashti Bunyan found that her album had become an underground hit and the very rare copies changed hands for serious money. The folk revival that she represented was reinvented once again, just as the tales of Old Mourie and the like fed into our culture in numerous ways, notably through films like The Wicker Man or Midsommar. This tradition continues in comics, especially indie comics. Old Man Grey gives you a chance to keep it going…as if you could stop it.
Old Man Grey is created by Steven Ingram. You can find it via his website https://www.steveningram.art/
Thanks to Rob Young’s book Electric Eden – Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music.