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In the Heart of the “Ninth Art”

Who hasn’t spent hours enjoying the adventures of Tintin and his dog Snowy (Milhou in the original French)? Do you remember the lonesome cowboy Lucky Luke astride his horse Jolly Jumper, being pursued by the dreadful Dalton brothers? What about the office boy Spirou and his inseparable pals Fantasio and the squirrel Spip? And the little blue Smurfs in their mushroom houses, fleeing from the evil Gargamel and his cat Azrael? What do they all have in common? All their authors are from Belgium, which boasts its share of the Franco-Belgian comic publishing industry, the world’s biggest after those of the United States and Japan. Visitors to Brussels are soon aware of the importance of comics, dubbed “the ninth art” (the first eight, as everyone knows but forgets, are architecture, sculpture, painting, dance, music, poetry, cinema, and television), since comics are all over the place, in museums, shops, outdoor murals, and festivals.

Museums

In the heart of Brussels (rue des Sables, 20), in the sumptuous Art Nouveau building designed by Victor Horta in 1906, is the Belgian Comic Strip Centre (popularly know as the CBBD, standing for Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée), with a steadily expanding permanent collection and numerous temporary exhibitions that draw thousands of people to this popular venue.

Just down the rueis the Marc Sleen Museum, with a permanent exhibition, a reading room, and a programme of temporary shows focusing on the work of the Flemish cartoonist Marc Sleen, best known for his series “The Adventures of Nero & Co.”

Some 30 km. distant, in Louvain-la-Neuve, we find the Mecca of all Tintin fans, the Hergé Museum, in a building designed by the French architect Christian de Portzamparc. The museum displays original drawings, photographs, objects, films and other documents having to do with Tintin and his creator Hergé, whose real name was Georges Remi (1907-1983), the most celebrated Belgian cartoonist of all time.

A more relaxing spot is the Moof Museum (“Museum Of Original Figurines” spells MOOF –get it?) with three-dimensional representations of a host of comic book figures, and well as other collectors’ items, original artwork, and prints.

Comic Strip Route

Thanks to an initiative of the Belgian Comic Strip Centre in the 1990s, you can also enjoy cartoons in Brussels’ streets, where some 50 painted murals on buildings depict scenes from Lucky Luke, Tintin, the Smurfs, Nero, Asterix, and many more comic book series.

Shopping for Comics

Understandably, Brussels is a must for collectors of original comic artwork and for published comics. To start with the biggest, there is Brüsel (Boulevard de Anspach 98), three whole floors of comics, objects, silkscreen prints, and original drawings. For something a little more special try the Maison de la Bande Dessinée (Boulevard de l’Impératrice, 1), a bookstore featuring an ample selection of old comics, special editions, reprints, a Manga departments, and Dutch- and English-language sections. Tintin fans will not want to miss La Boutique de Tintin, (rue de la Colline 13) for every sort of Tintin memorabilia. Lastly, we recommend the Huberty-Breyne Gallery (rue Bodenbroeck, 8ª Place du Grand Sablon), with exhibitions of illustrations, and where original drawing are on sale.

Fairs and Festivals

Devoted comic fans should schedule a visit to the bi-annual Brussels Comic Strip Festival and the Strip Turnhout, specialising in Dutch-language comic strips. There’s also the even merrier Belgium Comics Festival, with a varied activity programme ensuring fun for all, including the Balloons’ Day Parade, a procession of giant inflated cartoon characters.

If comics are your passion, Brussels is the place to be. Check out our fares today!

Text: Isabel y Luis Comunicación

Photos:
Wallonie-Bruxelles Tourisme
Bruxelles, parcours bande dessinée (Stéphane Colman, Billy the Cat)_© CBBD - Daniel Fouss
Bruxelles, parcours bande dessinée (Jacobs, Blake et Mortimer)_© WBT - J.P. Remy
Bruxelles, parcours bande dessinée (Hergé, Quick et Flupke)_© WBT - J.P. Remy
Hergé Museum
Hergé Museum frontage - Nicolas Borel

 

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