There are coffee table books, and there are coffee table books. Brian Walker’s Comics: The Complete Collection is the latter — meaning it’s a “coffee table” book in the sense that it’s large enough to be propped up and used as a coffee table. For a family of five.
If the very existence of a 672-page, 7-pound book crammed full of vintage American comics strips from the past 110+ years isn’t enough to interest you, then you probably have no soul. But maybe this will help: this book collects 1,300 of the best newspaper strips from some of the finest comics ever created, including Walt Kelly’s Pogo, Berke Breathed’s Bloom County, Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, Scott Adams’s Dilbert, Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, Will Eisner’s The Spirit, Gary Larson’s The Far Side, Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant, Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy, Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy, Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, Al Capp’s Li’l Abner, Roy Crane’s Wash Tubbs, Dik Browne’s Hagar the Horrible, Jim Davis’s Garfield, Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie, Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead, Johnny Hart’s B.C., Geroge Herriman’s Krazy Kat, Burne Hogarth’s Tarzan, Lynn Johnston’s For Better Or For Worse, Bil Keane’s Family Circus, Hank Ketcham’s Dennis the Menace, Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland, Dale Messick’s Brenda Starr, Richard Outcault’s Yellow Kid, Brant Parker’s Wizard of Id, Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, E.C. Segar’s Popeye, Mort Walker’s Beetle Bailey, Tom Wilson’s Ziggy, and Chic Young’s Blondie.
And others. Lots and lots (and lots) of others.
It’s called The Complete Collection because it was originally published in two volumes: The Comics Before 1945 and The Comics Since 1945. These survey volumes were useful in their own right, with comics organized by decade, and well-written biographical profiles, as well as thoughtful analysis of the different genres. But the omnibus collection is both an incredible value and a beautiful piece of work, the kind of gorgeous and massive tome you could place prominently in the living room, flip through for years, and never exhaust. Or use to prop up the foundation of your house, whatever.
Comics: The Complete Collection was published in April 2011 by Abrams ComicArts. It is 672 pages in hardcover, and there is unlikely to be a softcover or digital edition. It’s a bargain at $40, and you can find copies online for around $29. Highly recommended.