This week I thought I would tell you a bit about comics and their importance in Belgian culture.
Since the 1940s comics have been something Belgians take great pride in, with a number of famous comic strips developing here. Most of the originals of the comics strips you may know today were written in French, as they were geared towards a Belgian audience. The first and most known is TinTin, who was created by Hergé. At first TinTin and his dog Snowy were created to artistically relay the political opinions and views on current events.
Hergé based TinTin’s appearance and adventures upon his own early life as a boy scout. TinTin had many adventures to places like America, the Congo (which was once a Belgian colony) and India. His adventures took him all over the world and led to interactions with various cultures. While we are used to comics as strips, the stories created by Hergé were much longer and more in depth with the plot.
The development of many of comics series, including TinTin, was during a time when the European economy and the people were recovering from both World Wars. The public took such strips as a playful, cartoonish approach to real-life situations and thoughts on politics, economy and Europe in general.
Another famous comic that developed in Belgium was that of the Smurfs, which I’m sure most of you have heard of. The Smurfs are tiny blue creatures who inhabit the mushrooms of a forest. The cast of characters includes Papa Smurf who heads the bunch, Gutsy Smurf, and Smurfette. The villain of the comic and television series is named Gargamel, who is often followed around by his evil cat, Azrael. The Smurfs have a number of adventures in their forest and often have to outwit Gargamel and Azrael.
As opposed to TinTin’s story lines, The Smurfs was written more for entertainment purposes than anything else. The series became very popular in the United States as a television show throughout the 1980s. In 2011 a Smurfs films was released in the US, with a second following this past summer (2013), which many of you may have seen!
A number of other comic series have developed out of Belgian, however most of them are unknown in the United States due to the language difference and the development of American comic strips, like those we see today in the paper or magazines. Below are a few pictures of other comics less known to Americans, but well known in Belgium and Europe.
In Brussels there are a number of museums dedicated to the number of comic strip series that have developed here. In each museum are original copies of stories and strips, original drawings by the creators, as well as facts about how and why characters were developed.
It was interesting for me to learn about the creation and start of the popularity of comics. For me these cartoonish figures had been something I enjoyed as a child, but never put much thought into. It wasn’t until I read a book about Hergé and the development of his most famous character, TinTin, that I became fascinated in the history of comics! Do any of you enjoy reading comics or the comic strips in the paper? If so, which ones? Had you heard of TinTin or the Smurfs before?
I hope you have a fabulous week and had a great Halloween!