Monday, June 17, 2024

Belgium's Comic Strip Trail

Last week, I returned from a vacation in Amsterdam and Belgium. When I visited Brussels, one of the top things on my list was to find as many murals on the Comic Strip Trail that I could. I actually did not realize before this trip, that many European comics that I have seen were actually created by Belgian creators. I knew of Tintin and XII, but didn't know the creators were from this country. I am still reading more and expanding my horizons here.

Tintin mural

The mural I most wanted to find was Tintin and this was actually the easiest! First, we visited the infamous Manneken Pis statue in the historical area. Just up the street from that, in the direction of La Grand Place, there is a comic book store, "Moule a Gaufres". I could have bought so much here, but with limited suitcase space, I settled for a Tintin mug. I was fascinated by the quality of all the comic albums (graphic novels), literally hundreds of them and most looked appealing. Emerging from the store, I turned around and saw...the Tintin mural (above)! It was very cool.

Olivier Rameau

Actually, the first mural I saw was not Tintin but Olivier Rameau, a short distance before I got to the Manneken Pis statue.

Smurfs in Belgium

A short walk away from La Grand Place, near the Central Station, there is a tunnel, where the ceiling is covered in an enormous mural of The Smurfs. I had no idea the Smurfs were created in Belgium! This one photo does not do this justice. It is large and contains many easter eggs related to Brussels.

I think I found these three, then I did not find any others the rest of the day, which spent being mesmerized by La Grand Place and the historical center. 

XIII mural

I went back on my last day and figured out a route to find the other murals near the historical center. It was pouring rain on this day; luckily, I had an umbrella. I really wanted to find the one for XIII, which was near a cafe. Mostly the character resonated with me from the PS2 video game, but I started reading his adventures on this trip. It's a cool spy comic with some elements in common with the Bourne Identity.

Young Albert

The other one I had hoped to find was Young Albert. I have not read this strip but I love how the trams and trolleys operate in both Belgium and Amsterdam. It gives me a quaint European feeling that no American city does. There is a volume of this on Kindle Unlimited, so I will give that a read.

Here are some other photos I took...

It was all I could do to see these murals on my last day. We were worn out by the end of our two week trip. At least I had seen a majority of the murals in the historical center, although I missed a big one: Thorgal! You really have to plan out where you are walking in order to see these things. I had marked the Thorgal location on a map but I took a wrong turn and by the time I realized it, I was too far north and too exhausted to go back for it. I love barbarians but I don't have their stamina! However I did download a collection of Thorgal comics and will be reading those soon.

There are many more murals outside of La Grand Place - this site has a complete list of them. For example, in the Sainte-Catherine area, there is a Corto Maltese mural - I wish I had seen that. Hmmm...Hugo Pratt was not a Belgian, right, he was from Italy? Perhaps not all the murals feature characters by Belgian creators.

Walking around and ogling these photos, I felt kind of strange - I was apparently the only one on the street truly excited about seeing them. Everyone else was more interested in the pissing statue or eating a waffle.


I also ran across an advertisement for a Blacksad escape game!

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