If you love comics, then you will certainly love Tintin and when it comes to Tintin, Belgians love him. He is fondly considered as the first citizen of the capital city Brussels. No doubt that Brussels celebrates every year a festival dedicated to comics and comic strips. A unique event of this type anywhere in the world. Belgium has actually created a niche for itself in organising some exclusive festivals, and Comic strip is one of them. This year, festival will be from 2nd to 4th September. So, if you are a comic lover, then it is time to pack and head to Brussels. Here is everything you would like to know about this year’s edition of Comic Strip Festival.
Belgium, and Brussels in particular, have been fertile ground for comic strips from the very beginning, so it’s entirely fitting that they dedicate a full weekend to the rich cultural heritage that is the “Ninth Art.” Since it began in 2010, the Brussels Comic Strip Festival has grown by leaps and bounds and acquired a reputation as a premier festival in the Ninth Art world. More than 100,000 people are now expected to attend each year as well as 250 renowned authors. And there will be a lot to entice everybody: The endless mazes of the Brussels Comic Strip Festival, the superb collector’s items from the great Journal Tintin Rally, and the impressive giant floats of the Balloon’s Day Parade. A wide array of offerings to delight little kids as much as grown-up comic strip fans and Sunday readers.
At the Brussels Comic Strip Festival, which will set up shop in the Parc de Bruxelles, there will be hundreds of signings, exhibits, a packed international pavilion, workshops, and activities in every direction. Sales, and contests awaiting festival-goers. This year the Brussels Comic Strip Festival will also provide the perfect occasion to celebrate several important anniversaries: the tenth anniversary of the Raymond Leblanc prize for Young Artists, the 70th anniversary of Le Lombard’s publishing house, as well as Lucky Luke’s 70th birthday. This is the chance to top off the weekend with a few extra surprises!
Finally, it should be noted that this year, the Brussels Comic Strip Festival will play host to a greatly expanded international programme. Just like the multiculturalism in Brussels, the stands under the tents and the outdoor activities will be conducted in various languages. French, Dutch and English will of course be widely present, but also Spanish, Italian, Finnish or even Korean will be heard. As to help the visitor to quickly identify the language in which an event will take place, a free programme of the Brussels Comic Strip Festival, mentioning all languages of all events, will be distributed in the tents.
Brussels will show more than ever that it deserves the title of comic strip capital. Comic strip walls, museums, and bookstores will be in the spotlight while special comic strip activities will pop up around Brussels throughout the weekend and beyond. The whole of Brussels will be decked out in comic strip colours for the first weekend of September. The occasion to highlight the fact that Brussels is bursting with can’t-miss comic strip places: whether it is the 53 comic strip walls scattered around the city, the numerous specialised bookstores and museums, ninth art lovers have found their headquarters.
A Little Train will link these hotspots throughout the weekend. Free of charge, it will make its way through the streets of Brussels from the Brussels Comic Strip Festival’s marquee entrance. It will take visitors on a tour several kilometres in length, passing by, or stopping at, the Comic Strip Museum, the MoOF (Museum of Original Figurines), the Korean Cultural Centre which will present its second comic strip exhibition, comic strip walls, specialised bookstores, and other points of interest.A free Comic Strip Pass comes with this tour and offers discounts at museums and stores.
Another way to explore these comic strip sites is to take advantage of the free guided tours led by professional guides specialising in comic strips. On one hand, there will be a walking tour of comic strip murals dotting the European capital: over the course of an hour and a half, the guides will share the unique history of the murals, these sections of abandoned walls decorated with comic strip themes. On the other hand, there will be a three-hour bicycle tour departing from, and returning to BIP (Brussels Info Place) that runs to Laeken, off the beaten path, and visits jewels like the Corto Maltese mural and the Parc de Laeken.
Special Comic Strip Festival activities
The Improv League, in addition to its performances under the marquees, will offer fans the chance to take full advantage of two weekend performances at the Marni Theatre. The Improv Match will obviously be enhanced with the concept of randomness: along with three comedians, the show will include two cartoonists. Together, they will share a funny improvisational moment, combining theatre and drawing. The Cinematek will also play along by presenting a comic strip film each day during the Brussels Comic Strip Festival weekend. Personalities from the comic strip world whose works inspired the film or vice versa will introduce “Paul in Quebec,” “The Army of the Twelve Monkeys,” and “Planet of the Vampires.” The films will be shown in their original language with subtitles in French and Dutch or English.
In addition to the five major publishing houses, and tens of small and micro publishers, the many merchants and BD booksellers and 250 authors present, the chapters of the Comic Festival will bubble with cultural, recreational and professional activities on first weekend of September. This year, the Comic Festival aims to launch on the discovery of the ninth art of close or distant lands. An international pavilion will welcome representatives from more than ten countries around the world, as well as their authors, their works and their curiosities.
Talks: For the third consecutive year, the Comic Festival programme is complemented by a double series of conferences, hosted by the authors and designers of all backgrounds. This year, the first series is entitled “Comics around the world”. Quebec, the guest of honour this year, and the participants of the International Pavilion will host discussions, round tables and presentations to lead visitors through the culture of the ninth art. The second series, “When Comics become teachers”, analyses how comics can offer everyone current topics, society matters and sometimes complex science.
Exhibitions: A number of free exhibitions will pop up under the big top. These vital partners are also bringing the renowned exhibitions and retrospectives of their author. It’s a chance to discover unexpected gems or original drawings! The Jeu de Bulles gallery in Brussels will also flaunt its impressive collection of pieces from the world of Hergé. Finally, the 22 cartoonists of The Cartoonist will celebrate the comic strip and its heroes in their exhibition, with which they have grown up and frequently referred to in their own drawings. And this is but a brief selection: the Centre belge de la bande dessinée, The Cartoonist, BD Enchères, Banque Dessinée, 501st FanWars Garrison and the 9th Art Gallery also provide a nice compilation of the most original surprises.
Workshops and entertainment: In addition to the necessary Spirou Festival and entertainment and games planned for the 70 years of Lombard, an infinity of other options are available to all festival-goers. Those who want to laugh uproariously can relax in the spectacle of the improvisation of the actors of the Ligue d’Impro, led by Quebec’s designers. Those who like to see things large can admire the giant fresco which Frank Pé will make during the Brussels Comic Strip Festival. Those who want to engage in the delicate art of caricature can follow the advice of the Atelier 24. Finally, the “geeks” and fans of manga can meet in Belgotaku to hunt for manga treasure, to read or to learn to draw the Japanese way. For the most avid of new horizons, the International Pavilion will reveal the comic in all its diversity.
Finally, toddlers and youth will see their creativity challenged; they will have fun tinkering, becoming revampers or by colouring in the Kids Zone, or learn the ropes of humorous comics by creating their own board at the Macadam Valley stand. The more adventurous will visit the “Sky High Survival”, an inflatable structure over six metres high erected by Éditions Kana.
The journal Tintin Rally: The Brussels Comic Strip Festival is organising the journal Tintin Rally for the third year in a row. In what has become an essential weekend tradition, the race of vintage vehicles will gather nearly 80 collector cars. On Sunday, 4 September, vintage vehicles found in the journal Tintin from 1946 to 1988 will be invited to participate in the great rally. After a journey of about one hundred kilometres and a stop at the Hergé Museum, these cars will arrive in Brussels from 2:30 PM. The public will then be able to come and admire the myriad of auto bodies at Place des Palais/Paleizenplein next to Parc de Bruxelles/Warandepark where the festival of the Brussels Comic Strip Festival will be in full swing at the same time. This should be a delightful spectacle for people of all ages and interests. At the end of the race, a panel of judges will award the prizes for the cars that best match the journal Tintin.
The Balloon’s Day Parade: On the occasion of the Brussels Comic Strip Festival, the 8th Balloons’ Day Parade will take place along the main streets of Brussels. Composed of famous Belgian comic strip characters, the Balloons’ Day Parade will give kids young and old the opportunity to see these gigantic balloons. This year, the Balloons’ Day Parade will take place on Sunday 4 September. For an hour and a half, a parade of giant balloons taking the form of comic strip characters will cross the city, turning it upside down. The Balloons’ Day Parade and the Comic Strip festival will plunge comic fans into the fantastic world of Belgian comics. Another brand new balloon representing a famous comic strip character will join this year’s parade. The impressive sight of the balloons being inflated will begin in the morning at the Place des Palais. During the afternoon, Billy, Spirou, Tintin, Le Chat and their new friends will parade through the city centre. The route comes to an end at De Brouckère, where the balloons will be deflated. The Brussels Police Band will open the parade. In addition, folk groups from around Belgium will join this colourful parade to provide entertainment.
(All photos: courtesy Visit Brussels)