If you have a comics fan in your life, there’s a plethora of gift possibilities on shelves at comic-book stores and other retail outlets. Most comic stores should have staples including comic-book collecting supplies, graphic novels and even gift certificates. The following is a selection of some gifts that should please a discerning reader. For kids, a purchase that should provide hours of reading enjoyment is "The TOON Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics” ($40). This is one of the best collections of classic children’s comics, primarily from the 1940s and 1950s. These comics are aimed at young readers and have been selected for quality and relevance by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly. John Stanley (Little Lulu), Sheldon Mayer (Sugar and Spike), Walt Kelly (Pogo) and Carl Barks (Uncle Scrooge) are among the creators represented. John Stanley fans can also read the creator’s work in the ongoing John Stanley Library selections from Drawn and Quarterly. Stanley’s "Nancy” comics have much of the same charm of his "Little Lulu” comics, and "Nancy: Volume One” ($24.95) is designed by Seth ("It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken”). Not sure what you want to read in comics? Comic-book writer and "Comics Buyers Guide” columnist Tony Isabella is full of suggestions in "1000 Comic Books You Must Read” ($29.99). Isabella takes a decade-by-decade approach, highlighting what he felt to be the best comics of each era. You’re sure to agree with some selections and disagree with others. That’s part of what makes a project such as this so much fun. For a closer look at the early work of a master, check out "Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1” ($39.99). Edited by Blake Bell, who wrote the recent Ditko retrospective "Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko,” "Strange Suspense” offers 200-plus pages of pre-"Amazing Spider-Man” art from Ditko. Ditko, the co-creator of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, is a reclusive innovator who worked with Stan Lee in the early days of Marvel. This collection contains macabre stories from Ditko early in his career, in the pre-Comics Code era of 1953 and 1954. For an often-humorous, always enlightening look at the stories behind the comics, check out Brian Cronin’s "Was Superman a Spy? And Other Comic Book Legends” ($14). Cronin, a columnist for Comic Book Resources, investigates the truth behind many of the comic-book world’s urban legends. Fans who want a full-featured reference to the characters of Marvel Comics may like the newly updated "Marvel Encyclopedia” ($40), which covers everyone from The Abomination to Zzzax, and provides a decade-by-decade Marvel chronology as well.
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