Remembering the Importance of Playfulness at the Belgian Comic Strip Center
CONTRIBUTED BY HEATHER LIDOWSKI
Visits to famed European cities can easily be dominated by taking pictures in front of grand buildings or trekking from one location of a famed historical event to another. It’s easy to let monuments in honor of battles or stone structures erected centuries ago dominate a trip. With all that history to take in and ponder, playfulness can be left out of a trip. So, scheduling time to visit a museum that celebrates a playful aspect of life can add a welcome break to a trip heavy with historical sites. The Comics Art Museum/Belgian Comic Strip Center provides such a break.
Displays throughout the museum explain the deep history behind modern-day comics. In fact, the museum credits monks from the Middle Ages for creating the structure and format of comic strips. Many monks chose to decorate the texts that they copied with elaborate illustrations that divided the work into panels and used dialogue balloons, which are techniques commonly employed in popular comic strips today.
The museum provides several examples of this format to help visitors see how it resembles the comics we see in newspapers every day. Over time, artists and authors developed the medium of combining art and text until a common understanding of what a comic strip is emerged. As one display explains, “a comic strip is a series of images forming a narrative, in which the scenario is incorporated into the images.” It is up to the artist to see how far she can stretch her imagination to create something new and meaningful while working within that definition.
Once visitors understand the history of the comic strip, they can browse displays that explain how comic strips are created and printed. Displays illustrate the step-by-step process artists use to craft the comics starting with rough sketches and concluding with polished images and incorporated text. A brief film walks the reader through the process for taking the final drafts of a comic and turning them into a published work, such as a graphic novel, that is then marketed to consumers. A seemingly simple medium is revealed to be quite complex.
The final section of the museum explores the history and importance of several well-known comic strips and authors. The Smurfs get a lot of attention, and visitors can climb through mushroom houses while looking at samples of the comic and its evolution throughout the years. Most of the featured comics are popular in Europe, which makes the displays all the more interesting for an American visitor who may not be familiar with the storylines yet.
In addition to the child-friendly exhibits on popular comics such as the Smurfs and Tintin, the museum offers background information and examples of comics that aim to share social and political messages. The exhibits explain how the light-hearted and the serious can intersect.
By the conclusion of a visit to the Comic Art Museum, visitors understand what a comic is, how one is created, and which ones are popular enough to be noted in history books. Visitors also have the chance to snap a picture next to a favorite character and capturing a moment of playfulness before leaving the museum to seek out the next historical site on the must-see list.
More information about the Belgian Comic Strip Center can be found at www.comicscenter.net or by calling +32 (0)2 219 19 80. The museum is open daily from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. It is located at Rue des Sables 20, 1000 Brussels. Tickets are 10 Euro for adults and 8 Euro for seniors over 65. Youths aged 12-25 can purchase tickets for 6.50 Euro, tickets for those under the age of 12 are 3.50 Euro, and visitors under 6 years old are free. Family tickets for two adults and two youths under the age of 26 cost 30 Euro.
Tips For Your Trip:
Phone: +32 (0)2 219 19 80
Daily: 1000 – 1800
Rue des Sables 20, 1000 Brussels
Youth (ages 12-25): €6.50
Children (ages 6-11): €3.50
Children under 6: Free
Family (Two adults and two youth): €30.00
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