Since we never got around to doing a gift giving guide because we’re so lame/lazy, we’ll steal this post from Jeet Heer on the best comics anthologies of all time — as proud owners of every volume on the list, we can very easily back up that any one of these books would make a great gift. Some are OOP, but you might be able to find a used copy for a reasonable price. You should avail yourself of Heer’s insights in the link, but our own comments are appended:
1. The Smithsonian Book of Newspaper Comics, edited by Bill Blackbeard and Martin Williams.
A fantastic grounding in the Golden Age of the comics strip, and a fine platform to show further outgrowths.
2. The Toon Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly.
An amazing compendium of two genres — the comical comic and the animation-influenced comic. Plus, great comics for kids.
3. Art Out of Time edited by Dan Nadel.
The dusty, weed-choked byways of the comics highway often produce the most gorgeous landscapes.
4. An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories, two volumes, edited by Ivan Brunetti.
Everything you need to know about Alt.Comix in two beautiful, essential volumes.
5. McSweeney’s 13 edited by Chris Ware.
An appendix, or sidekick to the above, combining the Alt All-Stars, conventional literary lions and a soupçon of the past masters. Call it the pluperfect ’00s guide to comics.
Heer disallows The Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics for its perfunctory superhero contents and poor reproduction, and indeed its 1982 viewpoint is a bit dated, but it is a handy guide to the essentials as they were once understood, and as Heer points out, with an anthology reflects autobiography, it’s useful to know that these are the comics that most of the folks now in charge of making them viewed as the Penguin Classics of the four-color world.
More suggestions in the comments.