Rick Manzella | File 2008

Rick Manzella has been a source for comic books in Oak Park since 1978, when he left his downtown job and opened One Stop Comics a stall in a bookstore at Oak Park Avenue and South Boulevard.

He moved to his current location in the Pieritz Brothers Building, at 111 S. Ridgeland Ave., over 30 years ago, and has been an avid participant in Free Comic Book Day every year for over 20 years.

This year, the day of comic book giveaways falls on May 6, and Manzella says he expects it will be the last day he’s able to offer this to the community out of this building. Manzella says his lease with the building’s owner is verbal.

 “He’s in the process of selling the building to someone who wants to knock it down to build condos,” Manzella said.

Local architect John Schiess, who has been hired to guide the development process, issued a written statement on behalf of the owners:

“While we are open for discussions about possible development of the property at 401 South Boulevard, our plans are in the feasibility stage and many options are on the table. It is premature, at this time, to have meaningful discussions until we move forward with possible development options.”

According to Manzella, the owner informed him in July 2022 that he was selling the building and that Manzella would need to move his shop. Manzella has been actively looking for a new space for his store.

Owner Rick Manzella walks through one of the aisles in his shop in 2021, at One Stop Comics on Ridgeland Avenue in Oak Park. | FILE

Manzella, who considers himself an authority in the field of comics, has loved his time in the historic building with two stone gryphons overlooking Ridgeland Avenue at the CTA Green Line.

With notice that his time in the space is short, Manzella has been looking for other spots to house his shop and hopes that he might have find a good fit a block away.

He states that if he is able to secure a lease, the new location will cost a lot more in rent for less than half the space, but he wants to remain the source of comics for the community.

“I’ve got over 1 million comics,” he said. “Now that I’m getting older, how can I move all of that?”

Free Comic Book Day presents an opportunity for him to decrease some of his stock. Everyone who attends can expect to go home with at least one free comic.

There will also be a special guest at the event. A former soldier who served in Afghanistan has created his own comic and will be in the shop, signing copies.

In spite of the looming move, Manzella says he looks forward to Free Comic Book Day.

 “It’s a really nice day. Every year, it’s like the beginning of the year for comic books,” he said.

For him, the day is a way to showcase a genre that continues to grow in popularity. Comic books gained traction in the 1930s and their demise was predicted with each new technology, from television to video games, but Manzella says the appeal of comics wins out.

“We have survived all of the trends, and now comics are at the top of everyone’s interest,” he said. “It’s family fun, and it’s entertaining.”

Free Comic Book Day

Saturday, May 6, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., One Stop Comics

Here’s a low-cost way to beef up that expanding comic book collection. Also be sure to buy some of the great comics that the store has on sale. 111 S. Ridgeland, Oak Park. 

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