The Belgians are complex and diverse. Many are aware of the country’s varied assortment of accomplishments: like producing some of the world’s best chocolate, lace and beer. But did you know that Belgium is home to the world’s largest population of cartoon artists, over 700 reside in this tiny country. They even have a museum in Brussels dedicated to what has become known as the world’s “Ninth Art”, Comics.
Walking into the Belgian Comic Strip Center, you’re greeted by a glistening red and white checkered rocket and a candy apple red convertible. The building itself is the perfect home to the museum. It was designed by Brussels very own Victor Horta, a leader in Art Nouveau design. The whimsical glass and iron scrolls compliment the playful characters waiting upstairs to greet the curious visitor.
No English translations here, no matter. One of the beauties of comics is that they’re visual. Our family was entertained by the colorful displays of stories. There were also hands on activities incorporated into several displays. I especially loved seeing my childhood favorite, The Smurfs (Les Schtroumpfs)! It was fun discovering the actual height of a Smurf, only three apples high. There was even a true-to-size mushroom village, tiny of course and behind glass. As my feet moved forward, my childhood seemed one step closer in memory.
My husband liked the exhibits on some of his pint sized heroes like: Tintin, Spirou, and his personal favorite, Lucky Luke, the gun toting cowboy that could “Draw faster than his shadow”. There are original posters and cartoons from Lucky Luke’s past. Like the poster of him smoking his trademark cigarette. When his popularity began to spread, health officials started to rally to have the cigarette removed. In the mid 1980’s it was replaced with a piece of straw. All of the exhibits walked you through the cartoon’s history, including the politically incorrect (and there are many!).
Meandering through life’s paper heroes turned out to be reassuring. It was a relief to see 21st Century kids and adults get lost in the world’s “Ninth Art”, comics. Everyone needs a hero, even if it’s only on paper. It turns out my super hero was sitting next to me on Saturday mornings…but it would take a Smurf to remind me.