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lean years
pretty bad writing
skilled art
historical bonus 2
total score 4
Lean Years
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Only Printing / May, 1974 / 36 pages / Cartoonist Co-op Press
I'd like nothing better than to give this comic book a glowing review, but the fact is that Lean Years does not deliver on a promising concept. The idea of compiling comic stories about the Great Depression is a good one, but editors Barry Siegel and Bruce Simon ended up with a book that fails to provide much drama (or much laughter).

The opening story, "Man, Them Was Lean Years...," is representative of the book's problems. The nine-page story features two old codgers recalling their life growing up in the depression, but none of the memories they describe have anything to do with actual suffering, being poor or the consequences of the Great Depression. The adventures they recall could have just as easily taken place in the '50s as the '30s. And their adventures aren't especially interesting to begin with.

At least the seven-page follow up, "Spared Change," feels like it could have taken place during the Great Depression. The lead character Samuel Perkins, owner of a small diner, is a mean and cruel man who must confront multiple beggars and homeless people while trying to keep his business afloat during the depression. He's an asshole and we want to root against him, but most of the beggars he encounters are miscreants as well, so there's little satisfaction when he gets his comeuppance. The minor pratfall he suffers at the end doesn't deliver much satisfaction anyway.

The second half of the book doesn't deliver anything compelling either, with illustrated song lyrics, weak stories and unsympathetic characters. Some of the artwork is good and Kim Deitch delivers a nice wraparound cover, but Lean Years doesn't provide much insight on a fascinating era of American history. Siegel and Simon, co-editors and major contributors, performed similar roles for Savage Humor and People Are Phony (the best of the three) and there's some good stuff in all three, but Lean Years does little to elevate their oeuvre.
It is currently unknown how many copies of this comic book were printed. It has not been reprinted.

Barry Siegel (co-editor) - 3-11 (story), 12-18 (script), 27-33 (script), 34-35 (script)
Bruce Simon (co-editor) - 12-18 (art), 27-33 (art)
Kim Deitch - 1, 23-26, 36
John M. Pound - 2, 34-35 (art)
Chris Warner - 3-11 (art)
R. Duke - 3-11 (lettering), 27-33 (lettering)
Eugene Hackmore (aka Mike Royer?) - 19
Trina Robbins - 20-21
Leslie Cabarga - 22 (art)
Al Dubin - 22 (lyrics collaboration)
Harry Warren - 22 (lyrics collaboration)