Article by Patricia Harris and David Lyon, originally published in the Atmosphere magazine. Read the latest edition here.
Our writers succumb to the adventure, mystery and wit of graphic art on Brussels’ city walls
We barely step off one train when a giant image of another almost smacks us in the face. Outside the Gare du Midi station in Brussels, we find ourselves staring at a gigantic black-and-white mural of Tintin clinging to the side of a speeding locomotive, his signature quiff swept back in the wind. Who better to welcome us to town than Brussels’ most famous citizen, cartoonist Hergé’s eternally youthful newspaper reporter with bad hair?
Tintin isn’t the only comic strip hero out and about in Belgium’s capital. Since 1991, Brussels has been covering its walls with fantastic images by some of the country’s most celebrated graphic artists. We surrender to the whimsy of the city’s comic strip route and tumble into its alternate universe.
Tintin Computes “The Calculus Affair”
After perhaps one too many lunchtime lambic beers on Grand‐Place, we stroll down rue de l’Étuve to see Manneken‐Pis. In a city that prides itself on this statue of a urinating boy, the real and the surreal mingle at will. On the facing wall, Tintin reappears, this time in Sunday-comics colour. He’s running down a fire escape with his white fox terrier, Snowy, and his whisky-sipping buddy, Captain Haddock.
They’re out to free Professor Calculus, inventor of an ultrasonic weapon, from the nefarious clutches of Syldavian secret agents. Will they arrive in time? Or will the weapon fall into evil hands?
Ric Hochet Saves the Day (Again)
We’re casually ambling down rue du Bon Secours when we stumble into a crime scene. Journalist Ric Hochet swings from a failing gutter to rescue his girlfriend, Nadine, from a sinister, dagger-wielding villain entering her second-storey bedroom.
In front of the building below, her police inspector uncle’s hat and pipe fly off in astonishment as his
poodle dances at Ric’s derring-do. We have no doubt that the hero from Tibet and André-Paul Duchâteau’s tongue-in-cheek adventure series will succeed. After all, Ric has made a habit of saving lives since 1955. He seems to be less versed in fashion, though, decked out in the same polo-neck sweater, black-and-white tweed jacket and raincoat for years.
Spirou Strolls Through the Place du Jeu de Balle
We never knew that Spirou was a bargain hunter! Why else would the bellhop-and-elevator-operator-
turned-international-sleuth subject himself to vendors’ entreaties at Brussels’ leading flea market in the Marolles district? We recognize him by the red uniform and spiky red locks peeking out from under his bellhop’s cap (what’s up with plucky Belgian world travellers and their haircuts?). Among the vendors in this mural, can you identify the portraits of the authors behind the tales of Spirou since his 1938 debut?
We’re not that great at it, but all’s not lost. Is that his sidekick Fantasio lounging in an armchair? Is the man with a flask in the background their inventor friend the Count of Champignac? Of one character we’re certain: Spirou’s pet squirrel, Spip, scampers front and centre.
Asterix and Pals Rout the Romans
History class was never this much fun! Julius Caesar claimed he conquered all three parts of Gaul, but apparently no one told the Belgians (allegedly the fiercest of the Gauls). In a giddy panorama across two
buildings on rue de la Buanderie, Asterix, his beefy buddy Obelix, his pup Dogmatix and assorted colourful villagers invade a Roman encampment with gusto. Asterix may be slight of frame, but he’s bolstered by magic potions from the druid Getafix. Obelix just loves a brawl. Forget the Ides of March, Caesar! You have Asterix to pacify! More than 350 million comic book sales and their own theme park later, Asterix and Obelix have conquered the world.
Lucky Luke Rides Again
John Wayne in his prime had nothing on Luke! After all, the comic book cowboy is faster on the draw than his own shadow. We quickly identify Luke’s recurring foils, the dastardly Dalton brothers, by their squinty eyes and matching moustaches.
The four dim-witted villains don’t stand a chance of a clean getaway from this bank robbery. Averell Dalton might get off lightly, since the biggest and dumbest of the gang swiped a ham and left the money behind. But Lucky Luke has them dead to rights anyway. Bang! Bang!
Fly to Tintin’s country of Belgium in a few clicks with Air Transat.