MIKE GOLD: Sometimes the good guys win
As our Elayne Riggs reported this weekend, Derek McCulloch and Shepherd Hendrix earned themselves four Glyph Comic Awards at this weekend’s East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention for their ground-breaking graphic novel, Stagger Lee. They won Story of the Year, Best Writer, Best Male Character, and Best Cover.
Their efforts have also received an Eisner Awards nomination (“Best Reality-Based Work,” which is slicing the onion rather thin) and a British Eagle nomination (“Best Original Graphic Novel). The Eisners will be announced at the San Diego Comic Con this July; the guys lost the Eagle last week to Pride of Baghdad. But, as the old saying goes, it’s an honor to be nominated, particularly against Fables, Lost Girls, and Five Fists of Science.
As the headline says, sometimes the good guys win. However, I take their success as a personal vindication. Anybody who had come within 20 feet of me during the last year heard me proselytize about Stagger Lee. And, lucky devil that you are, now it’s your turn.
If comics are ever going to escape from the Retard Ghetto, and we are slowly doing so, it will be because of the reach of graphic novels. Outsiders and an increasing number of insiders simply do not see very much in the way of sophisticated storytelling in literature that consists of bizarrely enhanced people dressing up in even more bizarre costumes in order to beat the shit out of one another. Actually, there are more “sophisticated” superhero stories than one might think, but they’re farts in the blizzard of such product.
In order to reach out successfully, we have to reach out in all directions. Here’s what Derek and Shep did in Stagger Lee.
They painstakingly searched out dozens, maybe hundreds, of versions of this classic folk song. They painstakingly researched the reality of the story, or realities, actually, as lots of folks have lots of different opinions. They got their reference straight, they lined up all the different versions, and then sculpted a story that contains its own multiverse of alternate realities, investigating the story from a great many of its folklore roots.
Then they did it as one solid novel. A graphic novel that will appeal to comics fans, to music fans (blues, roots, rock and folk in particular – although that pretty much covers it all), to those with a passion for American history, to those with a passion for black American history, and to people who are interested in a damn good story told in an entertaining and seductive manner.
That’s no small achievement, believe me. You try it.
In fact, I really wish you would. The future of the medium depends upon it.
Mike Gold is editor-in-chief of ComicMix.com
Artwork copyright 2006 Derek McCulloch and Shepherd Hendrix. All Rights Reserved.