John Clifton Bland was born and raised in Victoria, Texas, one of the oldest cities in the state located between Corpus Christi and Houston. The city was small and Cliff’s dreams were too big to become reality there. He moved to San Antonio and soon got a job at Sea World, but never lost his connection with that small Texas town and the friends and loved ones left behind.
Cliff wanted two things – he wanted a Corvette and he wanted to own a comic book store, and he quickly realized he wouldn't accomplish either of those goals by sweating half to death in a Shamu costume under the sweltering Texas sun. He spent several years working his way up through different comic stores learning the ins and outs of the business until he finally found his way to Excalibur Comics & Video, which was soon to become the first San Antonio branch of the Dragon's Lair Comics & Fantasy® chain headquartered in Austin.
When David Wheeler, the owner of Dragon's Lair, extended the possibility of owning the store as a franchisor, Cliff and his friend and business partner Gilbert Cavazos leapt at the opportunity and although it took several years to come to fruition they became the new owners of Dragon's Lair in January 2017.
Cliff was a soft-spoken man, with a dry and often irreverent sense of humor. He took great pride in being co-owner of a successful store that had topped the “Best Comic Book Store” list in the annual survey by the San Antonio Current several times and he worked with the staff to continually improve it. He also enjoyed being a geek among geeks, and interacting with people who shared his love of comics and games and could often be found at his store outside of working hours playing D&D, Pathfinder, or Blood Bowl or just shooting the breeze with customers and friends who happened to stop in.
Soon after taking over ownership of the store Cliff bought that Corvette. It wasn't new and it wasn't perfect, but it was his and it was exactly what he wanted.
The world is smaller for his passing, but the joy that he shared with others lives on.
Note: Bland's girlfriend, Jeannette Bohn, is running a fundraiser for funeral expenses, linked here.