Brussels' comic strip trail: The murals that offer wall-to-wall comic coverage

How Brussels authorities nurture comic art with street paintings.

Brussels' comic strip trail: The murals that offer wall-to-wall comic coverage

More than 30 years ago, the city of Brussels launched what would be a successful campaign to remove the large billboards affixed to exterior building walls, a noxious source of visual pollution. However, once the billboards were removed, what was left were ugly dilapidated façades.

Working with the Belgian Comic Strip Centre, the city came up with the idea of commissioning murals. Comic artist Frank Pé was asked to design a mural, and in 1991 a picture of his character Broussaille with his girlfriend Catherine was unveiled at an intersection at the centre of the Saint-Jacques neighbourhood downtown.

This combination of art and urban renewal was a big hit and now there are almost 70 murals on the walls of the central city and Laeken. What was originally exclusively the work of Brussels authors then expanded to Belgian authors and then to foreign authors making the route a celebration of the Franco-Belgian comics in the widest sense.

Broussaille with his girlfriend Catherine

This is an active programme with several new murals appearing every year. Sometimes buildings are demolished, or walls are covered with new construction and murals need to be redone elsewhere (the Blake & Mortimer mural is now in its third incarnation). This creates the need for new walls and the city is actively searching for them.

Blake & Mortimer

The murals are all marked up on a Comic Book Route, which has its website with a map and a breakdown by themes and artists. Following the route is a way to discover little-known areas of the city as many of the murals are in backstreets rather than major thoroughfares.

In addition to the murals, keep your eyes peeled for the various statues of comic characters that grace the streets of Brussels as well as the white street signs that bear the names of comic characters. You can do the route on your own or do the guided tours offered by the Belgian Comic Strip Centre, Itinéraires or Bruxelles Bavard. Bike tours are offered by Pro Vélo and if you're a runner, City Run will guide you.

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