Comic Book Origins
As a young man in the 1980s, Brian Hillier developed a love for comic books while growing up in Belleville, Illinois. He was drawn to the vibrant worlds and larger-than-life characters in the medium and began buying comics from local stores. He even connected with industry insiders who provided him with signed copies of his favorite titles.
Building Twilight Comics
In 1993, Brian took over the struggling Fantasy Books store in Collinsville and turned it into Twilight Comics, a brick-and-mortar store that would serve as a haven for comic book fans in the area. However, the store faced many challenges in its early years, including the decline of the comic book industry and the challenges of operating as an independent store. In 1995-1996, the industry faced further challenges when Marvel distributed their own comics, leading to the closure of many stores. Despite these challenges, Twilight Comics survived and made its final move to Belleville in 1996.
Adapting to the Changing Market
In an effort to adapt to the changing market, Twilight Comics dedicated nearly 80% of its sales floor to gaming tables for Games Workshop. However, when Warhammer and Warhammer 40K began to decline, the store experienced a huge loss in sales. In June of 1997, Brian made the difficult decision to close the Collinsville location. After falling into a funk and letting the store become an awful mess, Brian wrote a business plan and worked to get Twilight Comics back on track. He cleaned up the store, restocked theback issue comics, repainted, built a decent selection of graphic novels, and added a game room. In just fourteen months, the store was in a better state and Brian began advertising on cable, which led to an immediately positive response from customers.
However, the decline of the Bellevue Park Plaza location proved to be too much for the store to handle, so, in 2006, Brian began negotiations to build the Metro-East's first premiere comic book store at Green Mount Crossing in Shiloh. Although the cost of moving and decking out the new store was much higher than starting the Belleville store from scratch in 1994, Brian was happy to see his dream store finally come to fruition in October of 2007. Despite the faltering economy of 2008/2009, the Shiloh location began thriving and the increased profile of the location grew the customer base by leaps and bounds! The new displays of comics (new and old), graphic novels, HeroClix, and Magic the Gathering were highly praised and very well received! With a new direction and focus, Twilight Comics was able to cultivate an active and friendly Magic the Gathering community beginning in 2009. Other game events were popular but none as mightily as Magic! After several successful years of events, other stores began to open, targeting the card game communities a little farther from the immediate Shiloh area. In 2014, Magic receeded into a smaller sideline as it had been before.
Changing Locations AgainIn April of 2015, Twilight Comics was forced to leave Green Mount Crossing due to increased rent fees and downsized to move to Frank Scott Plaza in Swansea. With a smaller sales floor and no event space to speak of, the heyday of Magic events at Twilight Comics came to an end in 2017. Twilight Comics struggled to find a layout that really suited the space but perservered, nonetheless. Covid hit just as the comics industry was at a crossroads. A lot of behind-the-scenes turmoil ensued. At the very end of 2020, Twilight Comics was able to completely refit the store with new fixtures, a new color scheme, and a snazzy new layout that really worked well!
Continuing to Serve the Community
Through the ups and downs of the comic book industry, Brian Hillier and Twilight Comics have remained a beacon of passion and dedication. They may have faced challenges, but they have never lost their love for the medium that has brought so much joy to their lives. Brian is grateful to his customers, his team, and his family for their support and encouragement over the years, and he looks forward to continuing to serve the comic book community for many more years to come.