Last week, an enormous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, a giant Smurf, a huge Betty Boop and many others floated through the streets of Brussels. They were all inflatable comic book character balloons.
I don’t often get to talk about Brussels in this blog, but I like Brussels (I’ve been through there a couple of times), so I was happy to discover a reason to write about it. In this case, that reason was last week’s celebration of all things comic strip.
I didn’t know this, but Belgium (of which Brussels is the capital) is a country with a very rich comic book history. The most well-known Belgian comics (Tintin and Spirou) are much more popular in Europe than in the U.S., but the Belgians are also responsible for a comic that is near and dear to all our hearts: The Smurfs.
Last week the city celebrated what it calls “the 9th art” in a series of events aimed at promoting Belgium’s comic book heritage. In addition to the parade of inflatable characters, there was also an exhibition of 60 comic book authors, free handouts of comic books, and the opportunity for everyday people to draw their own comics alongside professionals. The climax was a big light show at the Palace Royale.
There were also free tours at the Belgian Comic Strip Center, a popular tourist spot where visitors can learn all about the local history of the art.
So it's settled then. If you like comic strips or comic books, you must go to Belgium.