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