Saturday, 15 March 2014

They Call Him Stagger Lee

Catching up with my reading and a few days ago finished the Stagger Lee graphic novel from writer Derek McCulloch and artist Shepherd Hendrix. First published by Image Comics in 2006, (see its original official website here), its a strange enjoyable but ultimately flawed read.

Telling an American tale of Christmas Eve, 1895 in St. Louis, Missouri, Lee "Stack Lee" Shelton shot and killed Billy Lyons during an argument at a bar. Said argument may or may not have been triggered by a stetson hat. But the story told here is not so much about the shooting but the legend it gave rise to. If like me, you think you recognise the 'Stagger Lee' name but not the story its probably because of the song versions it inspired. Most noticeable for me the Nick Cave version which has a great beat but probably the most explicit lyrics around! (For a comprehensive insight into the 'Stagger Lee' story and the 'Murder Ballads' it inspired, checkout Paul Slade's articles and website here).

A great example of artist Shepherd Hendrix's work

The graphic novel expertly traces the orgins of the various versions of the songs which include not just Nick Cave but Bob Dylan, The Clash, The Grateful Dead, Wilson Pickett and dozens more, handily listed in the book's appendix.

It cleverly highlights the different version of events relayed in the songs which artist Hendrix has a lot of fun with - at one point drawing the main characters in each others distinctive suits to illustrate doubts who the real protagonist was! 

The story of the songs and the basic known facts of the case, (based on a true story) would probably make for a satisfying read in itself. However the book has a further layer to it with regular vignettes from a supporting cast, some real, mostly fictional. These are actually well told on the whole, albeit sometimes confusing to recall who's who and how they fit into the scheme of things.

In my view though these episodic vignettes detract from the Stagger Lee story too much and jar with the courtroom scenes and song interludes. The fictional element would perhaps have made for a valid separate book in itself rather than 'shoehorn' it in here. Ultimately making for Stagger Lee to be a laboured read in parts but still worth picking up if you come across it. 

I contrast this with the Johnny Cash, I See A Darkness, graphic novel by Reinhard Kleist (Self-Made Here 2009), which I also recently read for the first time. It also juggles song lyrics with factual biography but cleverly keeps things moving without the need to add extra fictional elements and makes for a more entertaining read in my humble opinion.

Still, Stagger Lee was, (as the songs convey), a bad, bad man and his story endures to this day. A fact brought home when I noted the date I finished reading this graphic novel, the 11th March, which just happens to be the anniversary of  Lee 'Stack Lee' Shelton's death in the Missouri State Penitentiary Hospital in 1912!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014


Ian Knight's facebook post on the 135th anniversary of the little known Anglo-Zulu War Battle of Ntombe Drift reminded me that I'd  a couple of videos of our trip there in 2010.

These feature the Holts 2010 tour group at the scene of the battle with a plucky Jonathan G doing his 'Mr D'arcy' routine.....

Firstly the gloomy river itself....

 Then Jonathan's careful crossing.......
And his safe return........

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Comic Calendar!
Hi the 2014 comic calendar is starting to shape up with a few shows now confirmed. At the moment, the definite ones are all within the mighty MCM Comic Con brand with the Accent UK tour bus calling at;
We of course are very familiar with the MCM Manchester and Glasgow shows but Birmingham and Belfast are both new to us. We've not been to the MCM London show since 2010, when I think they had a mere 14,000 or so attending which was pretty impressive but I understand that they're now up to some 60,000+ !!
It's numbers like that and the recent success we've enjoyed at Glasgow and Manchester which helped convince us to make more of an MCM effort this year. It also helps that MCM themselves are expanding with some of these events being new or extended from before. We also quite fancied their Dublin show in April but it clashes with something else, but I think we're doing okay!
This doesn't of course mean that we're only doing MCM shows this year, we're aiming to match last year's total of 11 events, out of a long list of 24! Not all these shows have yet released tables/confirmed dates but we have applied for a further 3 and should find out soon if we're confirmed or not.
It is a fine art deciding which ones to attend and there's a number of factors that determine whether an event is right for us. Sometimes even informed choices don't work out so it can be a bit of a gamble and we've had to carefully look at the calendar and 'drop' a couple of our normal events to accommodate these newer ones. Particularly it was with regret we decided not to apply for this year's London Super Comic Convention and New York's MoCCA. These are both great shows and ones we'd enjoyed becoming regulars at but you can't do them all and its good to freshen things up.
Watch out for more announcements and see what new goodies we can take with us!

Monday, 3 March 2014

Dare2Draw New York Moments!

Nelson D Martinez gets ready...

while model Ann McManus Strikes a pose!
Received a great update and photos from Charles D Chenet the other day regarding the latest Dare 2 Draw event held at the Society of Illustrators in New York. Established a few years ago now, this is a great 'not for profit' drawing workshop and mentoring platform available to all artists. It gives them opportunities to connect, hear from professionals, have portfolio reviews and most importantly draw in an exciting live setting with actor/models in a series of short timed dynamic poses.

Charles is ably supported by his dedicated team to ensure the events are professionally run and with their industry connections, a 'top drawer' guest mentor usually attends alongside regular professional artist - and all-round nice guy - Simon Fraser. Last month was none other than Klaus Janson who by the looks of the pictures enjoyed his time in front of a packed house.
Klaus Janson in full flow with host & regular art mentor Simon Fraser
Previous guest mentors have included Kyle Baker, Dean Haspiel, Rebekah Isaacs, Phil Jimenez, Amy Reeder, Bill Sienkiewicz, Paolo Rivera and many more!

D2D's Eric Flores name checks one of the events sponsors!
Accent UK became involved when Dave and I met Charles during our first trip exhibiting at MoCCA in 2011 and we've been proud to support the Dare2Draw initiative since. We had an enjoyable taste of the lively D2D experience when Charles insisted we join him and his team during MoCCA 2012's workshop event and it was a blast.
Can you spot Accent UK in the crowd at MoCCA's 2012 D2D event?
It may be the other side of the Atlantic but its great to be part of something positive for comic artists of all levels to experience and be inspired by. If you live stateside, particularly in the New York area, its well worth checking out. Everyone can get involved by supporting the D2D volunteer team through donations which go towards venue hire, providing art materials and competition prizes.
March's D2D features Cliff Chiang!