Lost in the streets of Brussels.

In Belgium, Culture, Europe, Travel on March 11, 2012 at 4:57 am

Broussaille, the character created by Frank Pé, seen in this mural with his friend Catherine.

Tintin, Lucky Luke, Smurfs, Largo Winch, Ric Hochet, Spirou…. Belgium to me is the land of comics. Er, apart from the land of waffles, fries, beer and mussels, of course.

A mural in Brussels depicting Tintin, Haddock and Snowy.

But like I was saying, Belgium is the land of comics and nowhere is it celebrated more than in Brussels. The Brussels Comic Strip Centre website proclaims, “With more than 700 comic strip authors, Belgium has more comic strip artists per square kilometre than any other country in the world!”. Hmm, I suppose the size of the country must help with that. 😉 Jokes apart, Belgium and France together make for an amazingly rich comic-book tradition.

Comics became popular in France and Belgium after the second world war, it gave rise to the Bande-dessinée Franco-Belge or the Franco-Belgian comics, intended for the francophone public. The French-speaking Belgium is not the only part of the country that produces comics but the comics coming out of Flanders never gained the same popularity. One of my greatest motivations in learning French was being able to discover the absolutely magical and unsurpassed world of Franco-Belgian comics, which stuns me with its sheer variety.Unlike the usual American

The comic book character Olivier Rameau, seen here with Colombe Tiredaile, created by Daniel Henrotin (graphics) and Michel Régnier (scenario).

superhero and Disney series or the Indian comics which mostly either have a mythological theme or are meant for kids, this school offers something for everyone. You can have dark comedies meant for an older readership, you can have detective thrillers, light humour, historical novels, fantasy or science fiction.  It is also true of the Japanese Manga which caters to a much larger audience than just children. Of course, I am generalising a little when I talk of American or Indian comic-book culture. Let us not forget “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” which was an awesome American comic book series but resulted in an awful and better-off-forgotten movie starring Sean Connery. In India today, is developing what is called graphic novels ( a term coined in the USA, to get away from the cliché of the word “comics”). Comics is probably not the best suited word to describe the bande-dessinée (literally translated as drawn strip) either, because even though the word “comic” is not restricted to the use of something amusing or funny, that is unfortunately, the first thing that comes to mind. Ah well.

Belgians showcase their comic book culture in a way that France does not. Of course, France honours comic book creators, holds numerous exhibitions throughout the year and in various parts of the country and it also holds one of the most important international comic book festivals at Angoulême every year in January which is also the largest comic book festival in Europe and attracts thousands of visitors and professionals.

But comics in Brussels are a part of life and is therefore an important aspect to be discovered when you visit the city. To follow the comic book trail, you have a Comics museum or the Belgian Comic Strip Centre, a Hergé (creater of Tintin) museum, a number of sculptures of characters from various comics in different parts of the city and then of course these murals which are a bit everywhere in Brussels. And these are just some of the many examples of what you will find in Brussels related to comics. Ultimately, since I love walking in any new city and also for the element of surprise that it provides, I absolutely love the murals dotting the Brussels wall-scape. You could be walking in the most run-down or non-touristy area of the city and you might suddenly find yourself face-to face with a beautiful mural.

But then I also love Brussels because, what the hell, it is Tintin’s city! One can actually visit a lot of the sites which inspired Hergé when making the Tintin comics. Fans have made lists of various places you can visit, including the observatory (features in The Shooting Star) and the Royal Palace of Brussels (which is the inspiration for the Royal Palace of Syldavia in King Ottokar’s Sceptre).

You can also visit the Vieux marché or the Old Street Market as they translate it in the English version, situated at Rue de Jeu de Balle where Tintin bought the model ship of the Unicorn.

The start of the adventure "The secret of the Unicorn"which shows Tintin at the Vieux Marché in Brussels.

Or try to visit his supposed-residence.

Tintin fans have been trying to track down where he actually lives for sometime now. The address given by Hergé himself as “26, rue Labrador” does not really exist and so a lot of reading between the lines and analysing the graphics of the comics has gone into tracking the residence of  the world-famous reporter. Thanks to the fact that Hergé used a lot in real life to inspire his works and some careful deduction has led the experts in biography of fictional characters to come to the conclusion that the real address is 26, Rue Terre-Neuve in Brussels. Wow!

Also from the Secret of the Unicorn, showing the façade of Tintin's appartment.

So if you are a Tintin fan and you are visiting Brussels, you know where the real tourist attraction lies 😉


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