Thursday, April 26, 2007

Le Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinee

Although I cannot in good conscious recommend a trip to Brussels, Belgium, I can offer you a nice place to visit if you ever find yourself stuck there for a day.

Le Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinee, or as I shall call it, the Cartoon Museum of Brussels, is a place worth visiting if cartoons and comic strips interest you in the slightest. The museum is bigger than I expected, 4 floors I believe, and has an extensive gift shop offering thousands of comic strip collections, many of which I had never seen before.

Of course, most of them are in French, but there are sections that cater to other languages, and heck, many of the books are worth perusing for the artwork alone. Most of the displays, as well, are labeled in French and Dutch, which can cause a little displacement after a few hours, for those of us who read mainly in English.

Still, there are larger than life displays, numerous activities, and rows and rows of artwork to see. Altogether, it is a very nice presentation, covering everything from the artists, their tools, their influences, popularity, etc.

Tintin, of course, prevails over the museum, although I was disappointed that another favorite of mine, Asterix, was resigned to a small statue in the lobby and a tiny little alcove on the top floor. I really wanted to see several examples of original art from Asterix and Obelix, but could not find any. The museum is a big place, as mentioned, and after a while I found myself walking faster to assure that I didn't miss anything particularly interesting.

A majority of the Artists found here ar European, if not specifically Belgian. I recognized some of the artwork here, but knew very few of the names. There were a few examples of American Artists, so I assume the museum is not strictly European in it's representation. If so, there were many great Artists from America, Japan, and others that I would have liked to see present there as well.

One problem with the Eurocentric displays is that so many of the European artists are very, very much influenced by Herge's Tintin, Asterix, and a few others, to the point that so much of the art starts to blend together. I mean, why look at copy after copy of Tintin, when there are Herge originals to enjoy? None of the copies seemed as interesting as the original, but the amount of them shows there must be a high demand for this kind of work in Belgium.

Now, I do not wish to disparage all of the European Artists. As I mentioned, there were several that I recognized, and many that I want to learn more about. American Artists could learn a few things from the European Comics Masters, especially in the areas of Backgrounds.

We all know that backgrounds are not my forte, so I was especially fascinated to see so much artwork where the backgrounds are so rich in detail, and truly set a scene in mood and place. Very inspirational, which is what a trip to a museum should be.

All in all, a worthy place to visit, although prices in Brussels are very expensive right now, especially for travelling Americans. And if you take the Chunnel train, like we did, I can highly recommend a little cafe near the train station called Le Brunch, which has great food, and, more importantly, friendly people.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

What's on my iPod today? 'All is Full of Love' video by Bjork


Brian Hughes said...

"...why look at copy after copy of Tintin..."

Because it's a European museum with the emphasis on European cartoonists, I suspect, John. If the European cartooning style is 'In the Flavour of Tintin' then that's how it is. After all, in a Museum of Japanese cartoons you'd expect a lot of Manga type cartoons, and in an America Cartoon Museum you'd expect to see an awful lot of American Style cartoons. (Come to think of many European cartoonists are displayed in America galleries at all? And how many can you name?) That's culture for you. I don't think it was meant as a personal affront against you or America in general.

Having said that, writing signs in French in a Belgium Museum is utterly disgraceful when we all know that English is now the master language! For that the Belgiums deserve to be excommunicated from the United Nations and have their hairy eyebrows plucked!

Sorry...I think I need a mug of coffee.

John said...

Whoa, Brian, go get that cuppa and relax, huh? :0)

Seriously, I hardly see the use of other languages as an affront to Americans. Well, here in America, perhaps, but certainly not in other countries. I travel to remind myself that other cultures and viewpoints exist, and I thoroughly enjoy immersing myslef in the languages and cultures of other lands.

Personally, I believe that anyone visiting or living in 'foreign' country should learn the languages and customs of that country, instead of trying to impose their own.

What I was refering to was that I only know enough French to get by, and no Dutch, so that after 4 hours of perusing displays, I honestly felt a little lost. Quite natural, really, and I feel I did miss out by not being able to read more about some of the better artists.

In their defense, the museum does offer a printed guide in English, but I chose to go off on my own and just enjoy the art.

As for this being a European Museum, well, yes, I did mention that, didn't I? And yes, American Museums primarily feature American Artists, etc, etc. However, there is a diufference between being influenced by, and outright copying. I saw many artists that were just 'redoing' Tintin, and not dong anything remarkable or innovative. I call these hacks, not artists.

The museum does feature many excellent artists, as I did mention, and some that I did not find to be very special. Then again, there are many American Cartoonists who do not deserve the word artist, as well.

So there. :0)

Cheers, and cheer up! JOHN :0)