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Stagger Lee Paperback – June 13, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 205 pages
  • Publisher: Image Comics; 1 edition (June 13, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582406073
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582406077
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 6.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #664,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tracing the factual origins of a legend that has undergone hundreds of permutations over the years, McCulloch and Hendrix blend a fictional narrative with a detailed look at the documented information and myths of Lee Shelton, or "Stagger Lee." Best known to today's audiences thanks to Lloyd Price's 1959 #1 hit recording, the tale is a prototype for the "gangsta" image in black American song-story, an archetype even presented as a Caucasian character when the story headed west in the late 19th century. The basic account revolves around a fatal dice game in which Lee shot and killed one Billy Lyons. McCulloch's script interweaves the recorded facts of the incident with close scrutiny of many of the song's versions and its changing significance as American society progressed, bolstering the cultural archeology with a fictional account of the political upheaval caused by the murderer's trial. McCulloch covers much territory, and sometimes loses its thread, but sharp dialogue and characterizations maintain interest. Hendrix's solid art captures the story with a documentary precision, making this worth a look for those with an interest in America's musical history. (May)
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[R]emarkable....As a work of scholarship as well as a roaring good tale, Stagger Lee is one of the finest graphic novels of the year. (Grade: A) --Entertainment Weekly

This outstanding and well-researched historical fiction spins its own compelling version of the tale, focusing on Shelton's black lawyer, a young legal assistant, and a local piano player who writes a song based on current events. While recounting the circumstances of Stag's two trials involving racism, political corruption, prostitution, and drug abuse it masterfully interweaves flashbacks that reveal a possible motive for the killing and accounts of the various Stagger Lee songs, with some insightful commentary on how the legend has changed depending on the singer and the times. McCulloch creates convincing, multifaceted characters, and Hendrix's sepia-toned artwork is effectively realistic. With sex and mature situations, this is for adult collections. With historical notes and a list of Stagger Lee songs appended, this is strongly recommended. --Library Journal

Stagger Lee brilliantly puts the shooting in the context of the politics of the time (1895) and place (St. Louis), and puts the politics in the larger context of race. Most of the characters in Stagger Lee are historical, although McCulloch and Hendrix throw in an entirely fictional love story. It's great stuff. --Jon Carroll, San Francisco Chronicle

More About the Author

Derek McCulloch is an author of graphic novels and books for children. His critically acclaimed first graphic novel, Stagger Lee, illustrated by Shepherd Hendrix, was nominated for the Eisner and Eagle awards and won four Glyph Comics Awards, including Best Writer and Story of the Year. His second graphic novel, Pug, with Greg Espinoza, was nominated for Best Crime Comic/Graphic Novel in the 2011 Spinetingler Awards. He has contributed numerous short pieces to comics anthologies and wrote a book for children, T. Runt!, illustrated by Jimmie Robinson. His Gone to Amerikay, an original graphic novel, illustrated by Colleen Doran release by Vertigo in 2012, was selected for inclusion in The Best American Comics 2013.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Guy L. Gonzalez on December 31, 2006
Format: Paperback
The first time I read Stagger Lee, months ago when it first came out, I was blown away by its ambition, a sprawling blend of [loosely] historical fiction and docu-drama centering on, but not confined to, the "legend" who spawned a multitude of songs, Stagger Lee, aka Stacker Lee, Stagolee, Stack-A-Lee, Stack O'Lee.

As writer Derek McCulloch lays it out, the underlying truth of the story, and the sole point upon which every version of the song agrees, is that Stagger Lee shot Billy Lyons. From there the details vary, sometimes drastically depending on the teller, and McCulloch incorporates that variety into his own version of the tale as colorful, informative interludes to his main storyline, the defense of Stagger Lee, aka Lee Shelton, and the toll it takes on those involved.

Injecting several key fictional characters into the tale, McCulloch crafts a compelling take on the truth behind the legend -- equal parts courtroom drama, love story, and social commentary -- that deftly weaves together the corrupt political dealings of late-19th century St. Louis and the personal interactions of a handful of its negro citizens whose lives are touched by Lee Shelton's crime in various ways. Among those affected are Shelton himself, whom McCulloch wryly posits was likely to have heard at least one of the earliest interpretations of his crime first-hand.

In many ways, Shelton is a spectactor to his own story as Justin Troupe -- legal assistant to the morphine-addicted defense attorney, Nathan Dryden -- takes center stage in a sub-plot that pulls several of the underlying historical threads together into a story that would be noteworthy on its own, separated from the "musical" interludes.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By James Hauser on June 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
I was drawn to this book because I'm a blues fan and a bit of a Stagger Lee geek--I've been researching the music and folklore related to the badman for several years now. Having read Cecil Brown's book "Stagolee Shot Billy", I was familiar with the historical events that this graphic novel deals with, and I had my doubts that these events could be translated well into a work of historical fiction. But writer Greil Marcus, the man who chronicled the Stagger Lee legend in his classic rock 'n' roll book "Mystery Train", praised McCulloch's and Hendrix's book in the June issue of Interview magazine, which is about as good an endorsement as could be made as far as I'm concerned.

So I started reading "Stagger Lee" with high expectations, and the book certainly delivered. Writer and illustrator have teamed up to create a great piece of storytelling, mixing fact, fiction and folklore in a compelling way and presenting it with graphics that do a convincing job of conjuring up a place and time where it all happened. I just wish that more time would have been spent in developing the character of Lee Shelton, the man who shot Billy. I don't think that the book brings out the fact that Shelton was a pimp. It would have been interesting to probe his psyche and his relationships with his fellow pimps and the ladies who worked for him.

I had never read a graphic novel before this book. If you're in the same boat, don't be put off by the mistaken idea that you're reading a comic book. For me, it was like reading a script with the bonus of having it completely storyboarded. When I was a kid, comic books were for children and most movies were made for adults. It's a different world now: most movies are made for children, and comic books have evolved into an intelligent, new form of entertainment for adults. Reading "Stagger Lee" is a wonderful introduction to this new art form.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Rory Conneely on September 2, 2006
Format: Paperback
I just finished reading Stagger Lee and wanted to compliment the writer and the artist on their accomplishment. I have always been a fan of well written historical fiction. I define "well written" as re-telling a familiar story in way that the reader is still wandering what's going to happen next. That makes Stagger Lee very well written.

The story plays out in some ways more like a docu-drama than pure historical fiction as it compares fact and folklore while interweaving compeling fiction. The art serves to compliment the story rather than to compete with it. Bravo.
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