I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got two new comics plus a hard cover collection:

  • Supernatural – Rising Son – 2
  • Usagi Yojimbo – 112
  • The Immortal Iron Fist Vol 2 – “The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven” (HC)
  • And now for a review of something I’ve read recently.

  • “Stagger Lee” by Derek McCulloch and Shepherd Hendrix
  • One of my favorite songs is “Stagger Lee” by the bluesman Taj Mahal. My interest in this song lead me to discover that it is a folk song with many different versions that have been written and performed for over a hundred years. The song tells the story of “Stag” Lee Shelton who shot and killed Billy Lyons in a dispute over a hat. Both of the parties were black and the song is firmly tied to race in America. Sometimes it’s sung by whites as a cautionary tale about the dangerous nature of black men, sometimes is sung by blacks so that Stagger Lee is such a bad ass that whites better respect him, sometimes it’s sung as a white western story, sometimes it’s a classic folk tragedy tale, and sometimes it’s just sung.

    “Stagger Lee” a big book weighing in at about two hundred pages. No decompressed storytelling so there is plenty to see and read. It tells a historical fiction story about the trial of the actual Stagger Lee (Lee Shelton) intertwined with an examination of some of the various “Stagger Lee” song variations and their narratives. It mixes well.

    The book does a real good job of taking us back to the St. Louis of 1895 and makes a lot of the local characters involved in politics and the trial come alive. We get glimpses of people interacting and going through their lives as they deal with a murder trial. Some want Stagger Lee hanged and some want him aquitted. Either way it is made clear that it’s more attention than black on black crime got at the time. Something special was going on. With scant historical records to go on the author (Derek McCulloch) reminds us that this is fiction but it has a ring of reality to it.

    Since the real Stagger Lee and Billy Lyons were black men in 1895 Missouri this book also delves into the politics and racism of the time. It’s not always pretty and sometimes down right ugly but is integral to the story.

    The art by Shepherd Hendrix is good stuff. I haven’t seen any of his work before but the man can draw, tell a story, and spot blacks really well. He has a large cast of characters to draw and manages to keep most of them distinctive looking. That’s no easy task and really helps the storytelling in a tale such as this.

    I am a big fan of history and historical fiction and this is the best comic I’ve read in a while in that genre. It’s one of the best I’ve read in a while in any genre so track it down if you want a good read. Talking ’bout the bad man – that mean ol’ Stack-o-Lee.