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Stagger Lee

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  174 ratings  ·  34 reviews
On Christmas Eve 1895, shots rang out in a St. Louis barroom. A hundred years and a thousand songs later, this ordinary little murder had become a legend. This is the true story of what happened after Stagger Lee shot Billy.
Paperback, 231 pages
Published June 13th 2006 by Image Comics (first published May 3rd 2006)
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Average rating 3.67  · 
Rating details
 ·  174 ratings  ·  34 reviews

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Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
Man, this was a disappointment.

The authors took the great legend of Stagger Lee and buried it under a dull pile of lawyers, politics and unrelated subplots. This was honestly a chore to read, and I was so, so tempted to just yank my bookmark and plop this mess in the library donation bin.

Who really cares WHY Stagger Lee shot Billy? It only matters that HE DID.

The choice of sepia tones to illustrate the story was a mistake. I guess it was supposed to add an air of historical importance to the ev
Quentin Wallace
Jun 09, 2017 rated it liked it
This was interesting. I'm a big western fan, particular the "Weird Western" genre which I've written some books in, and I thought this would have enough legend in it to qualify as "Weird". That part is debatable, but this is still an interesting read. It focuses on trying to determine how much of the story of "Stagger Lee" is real and how much is legend. He was in fact a real person, and there seems to be a lot of truth in the legend. But really, it's hard to tell. I gather he did shoot and kill ...more
Jun 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
A fascinating blend of history and fiction. This book aims to get to the bottom of the traditional song "Stagger Lee," and it accomplishes the feat with aplomb. I had heard many versions of the song before, but never really imagined that it had roots in actual events. The mystery isn't quite solved, but the journey is a remarkable one.

The coloring has a monochromatic sepia tone, which helps establish the mood, but sometimes also makes it hard to distinguish between characters. At any rate, I hig
Sep 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Damn, this was a lucky find. I was checking out another book at the library, and saw this sitting on a re-shelving cart - I snagged it at the last moment, not going off of anything but the cover & the title. It turned out the be engrossing & entertaining, as well as educational - the three Es! Plus, the author lives in Oakland. Wowzers. Five stars for totally knocking my socks off. ...more
Larry C
Jun 24, 2015 rated it liked it
Interesting but dry history and fictional history of the story of Stagger Lee, a man who has been sung about for decades by various folk, blues, jazz, and rock artists.
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: loeg-archives
This book is the fictional recreation of the real story of Lee Shelton, the man who inspired the legendary folk/murder song "Stagger Lee," alternately known as "Stacker Lee," "Stag O' Lee," and about a dozen other variations. Lee, a black man, shot and murdered Billy Lyons, another black man, and has been adopted as one of the first gangsta "characters" in history.

Although by no means as copious as From Hell's appendix, McCulloch does provide some notes in the back to explain the real history of
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novel
Clears up some of the mystery....
Sep 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very solid, very entertaining, and very thorough. I’d never heard of Stagger Lee before, so reading this was a blast.
Todd N
Nov 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Here's a good Christmas story: On Christmas Eve, 1895 in St. Louis, Missouri, "Stag" Lee Shelton shot and killed Billy Lyons during an argument at a bar. A four-dollar Stetson hat may or may not have been involved.

This incredibly good graphic novel starts with the killing and then follows the Stagger Lee or Stack O Lee or Stagolee legend as it grows, splinters, and transforms into various songs. I was most familiar with the versions by Mississippi John Hurt and Nick Cave, though a quick search o
I was not even interested in Stagger Lee before I picked up this comic, but it is so well written I read it all without realising it. It is so easy to read, a well-paced story with interesting and sympathetic characters, it was impossible to put down.

The book itself is a commendable piece of work. The shitload of research that must have went into making this is immense. It tries to shed light, not only the man himself, the truth about whom has sunk into obscurity as his legend rose to fame, but
Nov 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Wow, this wasn't at all what I expected from this. I love the Stagger Lee song as much as anybody else (with the Nick Cave version being the absolute pinnacle) but didn't quite realize the complexity of its journey through the ages. This graphic novel is a reasonably serious academic survey through its history and its sociology (details about slight lyrical differences between black and white artists versions). And it is an attempt to untangle the "when legend becomes truth, print the legend" ma ...more
Mar 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
In the utterly unique Stagger Lee, McCulloch and Hendrix investigate the origins of a folksong and use a conflation of historical record and lyrical evolution to recreate (and, partly, re-imagine) the inciting incident on Christmas 1895 when Stag Lee Shelton shot Billy Lyons. It's a brilliant concept, and perhaps the most interesting re-frame of historical material I've seen in years. Sadly, this does not keep it from being more than a little dull.

Stagger Lee is full of musicians, whores, and po
Thurston Hunger
Mar 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
I reckon (and this is a graphic novel that beckons to be reckon'd with) that we all end up choosing the version of history that we want. Well, perhaps in some of the larger cases, that version is chosen for us by people who we might consider less than choice. But the dead, they lack a voice even if they are captured in song.

I was not as familiar with the many renditions of "Stagger Lee" as are enumerated in the appendix, but did listen several more times to the Nick Cave spleen-spitter a few tim
A fictional account of the history behind folk legend Stagger Lee and the song that was inspired by his murder of Billy Lyons. “Stag†Lee Shelton shoots and kills Billy Lyons during an argument in a St. Louis saloon in the 1890s. Billy Lyons’ family has political clout in the community and they want to see Stag hang. But Stag has connections of his own and lawyer Nathan Dryden is hired to keep Stag from hanging. Other characters of interest include Mama Babe who runs a local whorehouse; Jus ...more
Jun 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
It's hard to say that I didn't like this book, but It's harder to say that I did like it. Personally, I think it's one of those books that, if you were a history buff about Lee Shelton, you'd like this book. I'd never heard of this story before I read this book, so I think that's what killed it for me. For not knowing anything of this backstory, the book did have enough to stand on to make someone who IS a history buff of this like it. The graphics were quite good, and I did like the comedic bit ...more
Jul 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Being a St. Louis native / resident, any story that covers history in St. Louis gets my attention. When that story becomes a legendary folk tune, it's got my attention even more.

Derek McCullough and Shepherd Hendrix have created an illustrated novel that not only is captivating for its illustration, but for its ability to cover the myriad changes to the Stagger Lee story that have occured through the years, as many urban legend stories do.

If that wasn't enough, there's a great CD with the book
My favorite parts were the discussions at the beginning of each chapter about how the details of the Stagger Lee-Billy Lyons ordeal played out, but I found it hard to follow the various fictionalized plots that jumped around giving the story context. Still, got some good info, and the story of Stagger Lee is fascinating. Maybe I'll get a chance to do a little scavenger hunting this weekend to find a few of these locales in the story.

Panels Read Harder: Comic about a real life historical
Oct 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comix, favorites
I wasn't sure i was going to enjoy this, but I was pleasantly surprised! Aside from the simple speculation, the authors actually draw from essays that explore the history of the song as well as the (possible) actual event. The result is a thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking piece of historical fiction.

3.5-4 stars. Can be read quickly or savored thoughtfully. A must read for any fan of the classic song(s).
Mar 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I picked this up shortly after seeing a reading of the first half of the musical which is currently in development. A few things really drew me into the story. The first was the basis - a song based on a real murder that eventually took on a life of its own. The other thing that really hooked me was the historical aspect. While some of the characters are fictional, others are real, and it was the politics they were involved in that kept me intrigued.
Mar 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a very enjoyable graphic novel that brings the history/legend/folk tale of one Stagger Lee to life. I loved how it incorporated the lyrics to various sung versions of the tale into the thrilling story.
Feb 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
This places the killing of Billy Lyons by Lee Stanton in historical context, while also adding new dimensions with a fictional narrative. This is a good example of how comics can demonstrate a layer of storytelling that is not available with novels.
Emily Brown
Sep 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
interesting story behind the legend of stagger lee--a legend intensely larger than the actual person. oddly, lee was around to hear songs about himself as a legend. great story line, awesome production, left me wanting to read more about stagger lee's legend.
Phil Overeem
Sep 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A great and apparently deathless Missouri story that's bound to keep living on in popular song. Fans of graphic lit, popular song, mythology, political chicanery, state history, and American archetypes will ALL enjoy this one.
Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was something that I normally wouldn't have read, but might have thought it was interesting due to the graphic novel format. I am glad that I got to read this for a class. Give it a read if you get the change although sadly, it's out of print now ,so finding it might be tough.
Mar 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Great legend, great book and also cool because I used to work with the artist.
Dec 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
excellent graphic novel mix of music history, era politics, random fictionalizing, and realistic yarning.
Aug 03, 2011 rated it liked it
An unusual tale of the well-known historical tune.
Oct 26, 2011 rated it liked it
My first experience with a graphic novel has left me with a taste for more.
Oct 22, 2012 marked it as to-read
Shelves: comics
Derek from Edmonton.
Vaile Adams-Fujikawa
Meh. Having a hard time finishing. Kind of dull, frankly.
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