Stagger Lee

By Derek McCulloch and Shepherd Hendrix

Publisher: Image Comics

Format: Black and white, $17.99

Subjects: Comics and comic books, etc.

ISBN: 1-58240-607-3

Reviewed by: Library Journal

On Christmas Eve 1895, "Stag" Lee Shelton shot and killed Billy Lyons in a St. Louis saloon after an argument involving a hat. This event inspired many songs, recorded by artists ranging from Ma Rainey to the Grateful Dead to the Clash, which made Stag into a figure of folklore, with Lloyd Price's "Stagger Lee" becoming a pop hit in 1959. 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.   

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