BEACON PHOTO/BARB SHEPHERD
LONGEVITY — At left, Cliff’s Books owner Cliff Weikal rings up a book purchase Jan. 6 for Brooks Chandler of DeLand and Hannah Rush, who was visiting Chandler from her home in Rolla, Missouri. Weikal has been serving bibliophiles and comics collectors at his Downtown DeLand shop for nearly 40 years. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I could have lasted this long,” Weikal said.

Comics aficionados from across the region will gather in DeLand this weekend for The DeLand Comics & Collectibles Show at the Volusia County Fairgrounds.

Among the stars of the comics world they will come to see are John Crowther, an Orange City attorney by day and, by night, a writer of comic-book stories and, more recently, author of biographies of professional wrestling’s greats, such as Luke Williams and Butch Miller, known inside the ring as The Bushwhackers.

Crowther said the DeLand show is among the smaller shows on the “comic-con” circuit, but that has its advantages.

“You don’t have to fight the big crowds of the mega-cons,” Crowther said.

Those attending can easily do what comic-con fans love to do: Meet and talk with the artists and authors of their favorite books and comics, have books signed and buy original artwork.

It won’t be only comics. The show is also known for collectibles of all kinds, including toys, and will feature appearances by Phantasmagoria characters from the local Victorian horror troupe (maybe they’ll bring the fire-eater!) and the Thunder City Derby Sirens skaters.

“If you’re into that old vintage, the old toys you used to have, they’re going to be there,” Crowther said. “It’s just a little something unique and different for DeLand.”

“It’s a good little show,” said Cliff Weikal, keeper of the DeLand-area comics flame for nearly 40 years at his Downtown DeLand shop, Cliff’s Books.

“It’s very family-friendly,” Weikal said. “Everybody loves the kids coming in.”

The DeLand Comics & Collectibles Show was long produced by DeLand-history collector Jim Cara. When Cara moved to another state, Tom Raupp took it over.

Raupp, Crowther said, makes room at the show for the many West Volusians who have a connection to the comics world.

“He really tries hard to help the local creators,” Crowther said. “People like to see the people that they know.”

Crowther got his break in comics in 2015, with a character and series he dreamed up about a high-school athlete who fights crime with her superpowers.

PHOTO COURTESY JOHN CROWTHER
HE’LL BE THERE — Attorney by day, comics writer by night John Crowther greets fans at a comics show.

He contacted an artist he knew from his own love of comics, and formed a partnership. Rochelle: The Teen Cockroach was born, and made a good splash, launching Crowther’s second career.

A commission to create a comic-book series to tell the life story of professional wrestler Nikolai Volkoff tapped into another childhood passion of Crowther’s for wrestling, and sparked his next expansion into writing wrestlers’ biographies.

He learned his love of the sport at his great-grandfather’s knee.

“I became a wrestling fan when I was a little kid,” Crowther said.

After all, having a side career is a family tradition for the Crowthers. His brother, Thomas Crowther, plays in a heavy-metal band in addition to his work as a legal assistant in the Crowther firm. His father, a longtime attorney also named John Crowther, is a martial-arts fan who operates the Isshinryu dojo in Orange City.

“My workday is the law office. When I do the comics, the books, I do it at night,” John Crowther said, adding, “I’ve always felt that having a hobby is healthier for you.”

This weekend, the hobby takes top billing, as Crowther and his colleagues meet with fans of all ages at The DeLand Comics & Collectibles Show.

Planning to go?
WHAT: The DeLand Comics & Collectibles Show
WHO: Comics writers and artists, the Thunder City Derby Sirens, Phantasmagoria cast members, and dealers of collectibles including toys, Disney paraphernalia, Star Wars memorabilia and more
WHERE: Volusia County Fairgrounds, 3150 E. New York Ave., DeLand
WHEN: Show hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15
COST: $5 at the door. Children age 12 and younger are admitted free. Parking is free.
FOOD: Food and drink will be available for purchase on the grounds.
MORE INFO: www.delandcollectiblesshow.com

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