Belgium has an obsession. No, it’s not with waffles, french fries or beer; ok, it is, but that’s not what I want to talk about. Their appreciation of and respect for the 9th Art known as the cartoon is the real obsession and although it’s seen throughout the city, this comic love culminates at the trendy Comic Strip Museum.
Housed in a gorgeous Victor Horta designed building (it was originally a department store), walking into the Comic Strip Museum is like walking into another world. The guest is first welcomed to this popular attraction by a variety of Tintin relics, without doubt the country’s most famous comic export. They add a certain whimsy to the experience that doesn’t fade throughout the tour.
The one slightly annoying thing about the Comic Strip Museum is that the exhibits are only in French and Flemish, no English. Seeing that I was American though, the ticket attendant gave me a notebook with English translations, “Just be sure to give it back,” she warned. Armed with my awkward book and camera in hand, I set out to learn about the history of comic strips in Belgium.
I tried following along with the translations but soon gave up, instead preferring to interpret the displays for myself. The museum examines both the process of how comic strips are made as well as their importance in Belgian popular culture dating back to the 1920s. More importantly, they have countless displays of famous strips, harkening back to a different era.
Tintin of course has a wall of homage, but so do other strips like the Smurfs and Asterix. The displays are beautifully arranged into works of art in their own right, and the juxtaposition inside the vintage building transforms the entire museum into a living, breathing masterpiece.
I can’t say that I learned a lot at the comic strip museum, but it was a highlight of my visit to Brussels. Nothing better encapsulates the Belgian love of good design and art like this quirky little museum.