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Centre nationale belge de la bande déssinée.

From: Mince
Category: Exhibitions, Other stuff
Date: 08 March 2001


The centre nationale belge de la bande déssinée sits just off a backstreet in central Brussels, at the bottom of a flight of concrete steps leading down from one of the main roads through the city. Its presence is intended to be marked by the statue of Franquin's 'Gaston' at the top of the steps; but in a testament to the unrealistic proportions of comic book heroes, Gaston's legs were found to be too thin in real life to support his massive head, and Gaston is currently undergoing galvanizing procedures in the provinces.

The centre itself is three floors of statues of comic book heroes and exhibitions of comic book art. There are some real gems here. For example, it struck me that the sublime visual balance of the Tintin drawings - and their subtle political undertones - are entirely wasted on those with junior library tickets. (I'm not kidding - go and look for yourself.) Or again: that illustrated erotica excels its real-life counterpart in extending the bounds of the possible. I also saw a rather good visual joke, where a surgeon performing an operation on an Arab sheikh is taken aback when the Arab's blood suddenly gushes upwards out of his body like a great geyser of black gold.

The collection does however come across in the end as something of a miscellany. The difficulty is inherent in the concept. Cartoons or comic books are after all nothing but a succession of drawings which tell a story when viewed consecutively. While la bande déssinée is in the hands of some of its exponents undoubtedly an art form, it is nevertheless true that no matter how long you contemplate a Smurf, he, as Morrissey would have complained, "has nothing to say about my life". But then, as the genre belongs to that small set of activities for which the Belgians possess a genuinely disproportionate talent, it would perhaps be churlish to press the point. And they do at least deserve some plaudits for the sheer temerity of opening a centre of comic book art without making a single reference to a certain country on the other side of the Atlantic. I'll be upstanding for that! - and so would Gaston, if he could. CW

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