The Comics Pimp: The World’s Comics City
As a comics fan, I’ve often dreamed of a place where comics are given their proper due. Until recently, I never thought such a place existed. Last month, I was fortunate enough to visit Brussels, the capital of the European Union, and that long-thought mythical place where comics take life in its charming, slender streets.
Brussels is certainly known for its chocolate, fries, beer, and waffles, but it’s also known for its long history with comics. As soon as I began strolling through its streets, Brussels unveiled its greatest comics heroes. Huge murals are painted on the side of buildings, and they feature some of Europe’s most recognizable characters; there are classics such as Tintin, to more modern champions like the swashbuckling Scorpion.
After a healthy helping of fries with curry ketchup (delicious, by the way), I made it to the statue of Gaston Lagaffe, holding a potted cactus, and sporting his familiar green sweater. It led me to my ultimate goal, the Belgian Comic Strip Center.
Designed by Victor Horta in 1906 to be the now-defunct retailer Waucquez, the art nouveau gem houses the museum with the world’s largest collection of original comics art. Open since 1989, the Belgian Comics Strip Center holds the art of the masters of European comics.
At the foot of the grandiose staircase stands the most recognizable fictional rocket ship on the planet, taken from Hergé’s Destination Moon. In addition to a coffee shop, an impressive bookstore, containing all sorts of books and trinkets, flanks the marble staircase leading to the museum’s collections.
The second floor is where you’ll find the great artwork: countless rows of boards of the original inked pages. The museum also has a tiny projection room, with re-runs of a documentary detailing the history of European comics. Finally the second floor has a space reserved for temporary exhibits.
The final and third floor, in addition to offices, has more original artwork, tools of the trade (the pencils, brushes, and ink bottles used by the masters), and some of the original publications (Spirou and Tintin magazines), which gave birth to most of the great comics heroes.
If you ever find yourself in Brussels, and even if you’re not a great comics fan, I recommend you visit the Belgian Comics Strip Center. It’s certainly not a place just for kids, but once you’re visiting, you might just rediscover the child inside. For a reasonable 8 Euros, isn’t that worth the price of admission?