THE COMICS: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION brings together the previously released two volume set (THE COMICS BEFORE 1945 and THE COMICS AFTER 1945) under one cover for $40.
Author Brian Walker writes the history of newspaper comics, with copious samples. If you know Brian and his work, you know this is an excellent book to add to your shelf. I have a number of his books, including his BARNEY GOOGLE and NANCY books.
Some fascinating quotes in this Denver Post interview with Brian, "a man born with cartoon ink in his veins," written by Dick Kreck:
Walker doesn't love all comics. "I did a book on 'Nancy.' I said, 'I hate this strip. It's the same every day.' But I went on an intellectual journey. I just realized it taught me an important lesson: You can be simple and be brilliant at what you do. Ernie Bushmiller (who created the round-faced girl with the spiky hair in 1948) was a very erudite guy. He said, 'My strip is for the gum chewers of the world.' A lot of modern cartoonists think it's the Zen of comics. The ultimate realization after finishing these two books on comics history is that it is so rich and rewarding, even to someone like myself who's been in it my whole life."