Where fantasy learns to fly
Tintin and Snowy, Spirou, Lucky Luke: These and many more world-famous comic heroes first saw the light of day in Brussels, the (chosen) home of a host of important cartoon artists and writers. Omnipresent in the life of the city today and raised to the status of "Ninth Art", the comic strips they created command a profound respect in Brussels
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Hunt around & marvel in the stronghold of the Ninth Art
Belgian Comic Strip Center:
Step inside - and immerse yourself in the crazy kingdom of imagination. Every year, some 200 000 children and adults tour the Comic Strip Center and emerge enchanted. A permanent exhibition carries you away to an imaginary universe filled with the most famous of Belgium's comic strip heroes as well as documenting the gradual development of the genre. The Center's greatest treasures include countless original sketches and drawings. And there's also a comic strip library, possibly the largest in the world, where enthusiasts can intensify their studies.
Belgian Comic Strip Center: Zandstraat 20/Rue des Sables, Tel.: +32/(0)2/219 19 80. Opening times: daily except Mon, 10am-6pm. Admission: €8 (adults), €6 (young people of 12-18), €3 (children under 12).
Generally frequented by nerds and teenagers, the comic shops in Brussels also attract fastidious browsers in business suits. Many shops in the Belgian capital specialize in comics and stock not only new publications but also rare collectors' pieces. Most of the comics they sell are naturally in their original Dutch or French, but with a little patience it is possible to find some in English and German, too. Some comic shops double as popular meeting places for enthusiasts and also host events like festivals.
A selection: Stripotheek 9de Kunst: Brusselsesteenweg 44, +32/(0)2/270 19 46, www.stripbib.be. Librairie Galerie Brüsel: Boulevard Anspach 100, +32/(0)2/511 08 09, www.brusel.com. Het “B”-Gevaar: Greepstraat 15, +32/(0)2/513 14 86, www.b-gevaar.com.
Marché de la BD:
The Brussels comic strip scene assembles every first Sunday in March, June, September and December at the open-air Marché de la BD on Place Saint-Géry or in the nearby Halles Saint-Géry building. The market offers visitors an incredible selection of new publications and second-hand comics - and also the chance for a personal chat with one of the authors/artists present.
Marché de la BD: Outside or inside the Halles Saint-Géry depending on the season. Opening times: 1-5pm. www.marchedelabd.be
Street art & memorial site
Comic strip heroes also feature heavily on the streets of Brussels and scenes from their adventures have been immortalized on the walls of many buildings - like the main characters in the popular Lucky Luke series created by cartoonist Morris. This wall painting on Rue de la Buanderie shows the "man who shoots faster than his shadow" and his companions Rantanplan (dog) and Jolly Jumper (horse) as well as the Daltons, Lucky Luke's eternal adversaries.
The best-known and by far the biggest wall cartoon can be admired inside the Stockel subway. It depicts over 140 characters from a total of 22 different Tintin comics. Hergé, the legendary creator of this and other comic adventures, had sketched the drafts for it himself, shortly before his death in 1983. His company, Studio Hergé, then completed the impressive work.
Hergé informed the European comic strip culture like no other: Born Georges Prosper Remi, he created not only the legendary comic strip heroes Tintin and Snowy, but also the series featuring Quick and Flupke and Jo, Zette and Jocko. Hergé worked his - often controversial - political views and also his nightmares into his stories. Musée Hergé in the small town of Louvain-la-Neuve, not far from Brussels, is a museum dedicated entirely to him.
Musée Hergé: Rue du Labrador 26, Louvain-la-Neuve, +32/(0)10/48 84 21. Opening times: Tue-Fri 10.30am-5.30pm, Sat+Sun 10am-6pm. Admission: €9.50 (adults), €7 (students), €5 (children, 7-14). www.museeherge.com
Pictures: Timo Junttila, Designmuseo, Kai Kuusito, Jouko Lehtola, Corbis, PR