Belgium – Comics, Cartoons, and The Ninth Art
Exploring International Art & Design
I had the opportunity to travel to Belgium with my wife recently. I have visited before, but like all tourists I had mostly stuck to the beaten path. This time however, I was delighted to explore the more artistic side of the country.
The first noteworthy stop was the Brussels Comic Museum.
Did you know that Belgium is the home of both “Tin Tin” and “The Smurfs“? I wan’t aware that cartoons and comics are held in relatively high regard in Belgium. It was really cool to see the evolution of both characters and series. Fun fact: the Smurfs were originally guest characters in another of the author’s series!
The museum itself was a beautiful example of Art Deco architecture. The ground floor was dedicated to a dense bookstore and gift shop, with the lobby populated by giant statues of other popular Belgian cartoon characters. Up the stairs to the first floor (the ground floor in Europe is Zero) is home to the ticket desk and a sweeping history of “the 9th Art.” Visual storytelling has a rich background dating even before the Middle Ages. The museum contained only a few ancient examples and quickly jumped to a wide perspective to examine the fundamentals of the craft.
The next floor up contained several exhibits including the record of Belgium’s two most famous characters: Tin Tin, the adventurous journalist; and the tiny blue Smurfs. Tin Tin was created by Belgian cartoonist named, Georges Remi, who worked under the pen-name: Hergé. Similarly, the Smurfs were created by another Belgian cartoonist, Pierre Culliford, who worked under the pen-name: Peyo. Both men created characters that would become world famous.
The Art of the Cover Art
Wrapping up the museum was a rotating exhibit that examined the craft behind making a comic book cover. More goes into it that just picking a font and drawing a cool picture! This is actually one of the most important aspects of the entire work and most commonly where the book’s publisher has the most influence. The primary purpose of the cover is to attract readers to the content that lies within. I especially enjoyed the interviews the museum portrayed with authors and their colleagues who helped them design iconic covers.
Be a Patron of the Ninth Art
I highly recommend the museum if you happen to visit Brussels, Belgium. Whether you are just a Sunday comics browser, or a faithful comic book nerd, I think you will really enjoy the art and history of this museum.
Please Enjoy the gallery below to see some of my favorite pieces.
Also published on Medium.