Comic Book Heaven

Story by: Gabriela Rodriguez

Photos by: Lynn Levitt

Comic Book Geek is Surrounded by his Favorite Things

Batman. Cat Woman. Spiderman. Wonder Woman. Red Lantern. Tank Girl. Mega Man. These are only a few of the hundreds of comic books that decorate the shelves of Collector’s Paradise in Winnetka like a never-ending superhero wallpaper.

“It’s the best experience I’ve ever had,” says Joseph Zelich, the owner of Collector’s Paradise.

Some stores continue the “comic book dungeon” reputation portrayed in “The Simpsons,” with the infamously rude “Comic Book Guy.” But Nick Ignacio, a Collector’s Paradise’s employee for six years and the manager for the last two, said this isn’t a stereotypical store.

“The idea is customer service,” he said.

Employees are open to suggesting titles and to offering customer service, as many other comic book stores do.

“He knows what I like, what I don’t, and what I might,” said customer Albert Acosta as he traversed the aisles.

Igancio is responsible for ordering comics as well as other merchandise.

“It’s kind of a tough business. You can’t treat it as a hobby, you have to treat it like an actual business,” he said.

As manager, one of his toughest challenges it to order two-to-three months in advance for what the store will need—without the help of a crystal ball.

“It takes years to learn how to order things correctly. It takes years of experience to guess what will sell well,” he said.

Much of that experience comes from his familiarity with comics. Employees are required to read featured comics, and Igancio never struggles to find something to read.

“Part of the job is reading everything. I read almost everything,” he said, looking through the lenses of his thick, black framed glasses and directly at his black high top Converse.

Collector’s Paradise has a reputation for having well known comic book creators, including Marc Silvestri and Eisner Award-winning comic book writer Ed Brubaker, hold in-store signings. Independent and self-published creators also make appearances.

The most anticipated day of the year for Collector’s Paradise devotees is the first Saturday in May, also known as “free comic book day.”

Once a year, comic fanatics gather outside the store hours before the doors open for the chance to fulfill their passions for adding to their collections without subtracting from their wallets. Creators, artists, and writers are part of the event.

Collector’s Paradise also hosts weekly Magic the Gathering card game tournaments. They offer a variety of cards, which they also sell, as well as original action figures, in addition to comic books and graphic novels. The back of the store has a small gallery for art by well known and upcoming local creators.

Wednesdays are typically the busiest day of the week. It’s “new comic book day,” for which the store sets aside a section for new releases.

These days Igancio usually buys comics based on creators, but he did not always have the same expanse of options.

“We didn’t have a lot of money growing up. So I would get comics here and there. X-Men and Spider-Man were my favorite books,” he said.

Aside from comics, he is fan of baseball, fantasy baseball, Dodgers, “Mad Men,” and “Game of Thrones.”

“I like just typical geeky stuff. I’m a TV/film junkie,” he said, as a smile of pride crept up the side of his face.

He also enjoys writing his original short stories.

“That would be my ultimate goal—to be a writer,” he said.

Having committed six years to his job at Collector’s Paradise, Ignacio said that what brings him the most pleasure is turning people on to his world of superheroes and to all things comics.

“I hope they will love it as much as I do,” he said.