4 March 2014

The Belgian Comic Strip Center is wonderful

Until I went to Brussels I did not know that there was a Belgian Comic Strip Center, much less that it was just a few minutes walk away from my hotel.

And it was not until I got there that I discovered that it was in a classic Art Nouveau building designed by Victor Horta.

Comics and Victor Horta came to define my stay in Brussels and that was more than I could have hoped for.

The museum filled most of the former fabric warehouse with the remaining space on the ground floor occupied by a cafe where I started my visit. I had a long day ahead of me and I wanted a slug of coffee to set me up.

The museum was arranged over the top three floors of the building and consisted of several sections.

The first section, on the first floor, gave an introduction to comics that I was pleased to see included a few mentions for Ally Sloper and a full strip from the magical Little Nemo in Slumberland.



The next section explained how comics are produced, from pencils to printing. This was done with several worked examples including an interesting short video of a panel being drawn, shaded and coloured digitally.

Other sections on the first floor covered different genres that are common in comics (from sci-fi to animals) and the graphic novel Alois Nebel which, coincidentally, I had seen an exhibition on just a few months previously at the Riverside in Hammersmith.

The main display was on the second floor and covered leading Belgian creatives and their creations. Obviously Tintin featured heaviy. The only other character that I knew was Spirou though there were others that I recognised but could not name.

I only knew a few of the creatives too and that was part of the fun. It meant that I was learning new things rather than wallowing in familiar territory. One of the things that I learnt was that the Disney character Marsupilami that I knew from children's TV started life as a character in Spirou.

I learnt somethings about Tintin too, such as who I consider to be the main supporting characters (e.g. Capt. Haddock and Prof. Calculus) did not appear in the earliest books and the Thomson/Thompson word-play is repeated in all languages, and, bizarrely, Milou/Snowy's name in Dutch is Bobbie.

It did not matter that I could not read the comics either, the point is they have pictures as well as words.






The building was also part of the exhibition that is housed in a glorious self-referential way. That was to happen again a few days later.

The photo above was taken from the third floor looking down on the second. The display around the atrium was on the history of the building.

After falling in to disrepair the building had been restored specifically to house the comics center and some works of art had been produced to celebrate this.

My favourite showed Capt. Haddock apparently having tumbled down the main staircase that leads up from the ground floor.

There were other displays and more comics to enjoy. And as I found at the Cartoon Museum in London, looking at comics can take a lot of time!

I even went around some of the displays for a second time to make sure that I had to missed anything and to enjoy again the things that I had seen before.



I suppose that it was only natural that Tintin would be so prominent in the exhibition and these life-sized models were by the entrance on the first floor. I think that everybody took pictures of this.

Eventually I had seen as much as I could absorb in one sitting so I went back to the cafe for lunch, which was an extravagant fruit waffle (I had to have a waffle sometime) and a Mort Subite (Sudden Death) beer.

After that the only sensible thing to do was head back to the hotel and rest by reading some comics.

I had expected to go to some museums and galleries in Brussels and modern art was top of my list but that museum was closed. Finding the Comic Strip Centre was even better and to have it housed in such a beautiful building was better still.

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