Brussels loves comic books so much that many walls have been decked with huge murals depicting cartoon characters. Those murals can be found everywhere in Brussels, although a majority is centered in the Brussels pentagon. This project started in the beginning of the nineties when the city decided to remove ugly commercial posters, which resulted in giant empty walls. In order to embellish those blind walls, they collaborated with the Belgian Comic Strip Center and brightened the city up with large murals that pay tribute to characters and authors of the Franco-Belgian comics. Today, more than 60 comic strip murals adorn the walls and a Comic Book Route has been outlined to explore them all.
Originally, I had planned on writing an article on how to spend a Sunday in Brussels, which involves eating delicious moroccan pancakes at marché du midi and strolling on the flee market on Place Jeu de Balle. But while walking around one Sunday morning, I stumbled on so many beautiful murals that I decided to dedicate an article to street art in the Marolles neighborhood.
If you start at gare du Midi, the first mural you'll see is Le Chat, an obese cat in a suit that is bricklaying himself on a wall. A creation of Philip Geluck, Le Chat appeared for the first time in the newspaper Le Soir and because of its popularity, he even became that newspaper's mascot. Typical of Le Chat are his elaborate reasonings that lead to hilariously absurd conclusions.
Walk up towards Hallepoort and you'll find this fresco depicting a naked man holding a pen. It is believed this is the work of Vincent Glowinsky, alias Bonom, the artist behind some erotical murals, such as a masturbating man and woman. This one, though, might be a selfportrait of Bonom. Is he looking nervously around because he's afraid of being caught by the police?
In the rue Pieremans 41, the cartoon Jojo decks the wall. The stove, fabrics with a flower mothive, a thick sandwich prepared by grandmother... This cartoon from André Geerts depicts a homely, almost nostalgic scenery. The peace and quiet is broken by Jojo, a cheerful seven-year old, here accompanied by his best friend fat Louis. Jojo doesn't have a mother, so he lives with his grandma.
On the corner of rue Blaes and rue Piereman, you'll find a cartoon of The Beaver Patrol, from the artist Mitacq. The Beaver Patrol relates the fictional adventures of a group of scouts joining Scout camp in foreign countries. As all Scouts should, they act honourably and charitably, but they face enigmas and puzzles in each region they visit.
Both on Place Jeu de Balle and in the Rue Haute, a yellow cat with wings and a huge grin makes its appearance. I don't know what it refers to or what it means. If you do, please let me know!
If from Place Jeu de Balle, you walk down the rue du Chevreuil, make sure to look back to see the Boule & Bill cartoon. Known in English as Billy and Buddy, this popular comic by Roba centers on a typical family: a man and his wife, their young son Boule, and Bill the cocker spaniel. The mischief and pranks of Boule and Bill have delighted readers of all ages for generations.
In the rue des Capucins 13, a beautiful lady is gallantly helped down by a sturdily-built missionary. This is a scene from the cartoon Odilon Verjus, by Verron and Yann, which tells the silly adventures of the missionary Odilon and his frightened disciple Laurent de Boismenu. Here Odilon is helping the Josephine Baker, one the most celebrated performers in the Folies Bergère in Paris. The leopard also dates back to those shows.
In the same street, at number 15, you'll find the cartoon Blondin et Cirage, from the artist Jijé. The cartoon narrates the many adventures of a white, blond-haired boy and his black comedic, but clever sidekick. On this specific wall, the grocery keeper is mad because the yellow beast is stealing his fruit. In the second image, the boys are less amused because they had to pay the bill.
The last cartoon in this street (number 23a) is Léonard, created by Turk & De Groot. Léonard centers on an eponymous inventor and his assistant. Here, Léonard is including a famous landmark, the Palais de Justice, in his painting.
The Spirou mural on rue Notre Dames des Grâces blends in perfectly in the Marolles district, as the busy market scene brings to mind the buzz of the daily flee market on Place Jeu de Balles. Spirou, always presented in his red groom's uniform, is a creation from Yoann & Vehlmann. Accompanied by his friend Fantasio and his pet squirrel Spip, Spirou fights all sorts of villains all around the world.
In the Rue Haute, Benoit Brisefer -from the hand of author Peyo- takes a giant leap to catch an escaping balloon. This simple scene reflects the kindness and goodness characterizing this little boy with a giant heart and a superhuman strength. Did you know that Peyo is also the author behind the Smurfs?
Finally, in the rue des Minimes, close to the Marolles lift, you'll find a cartoon from Passe-moi l'ciel, a humorous comic strip series by Stuf and Janry. The main character is Saint Peter who sits at the gate of heaven to decide whether the deceased will be sent to hell or heaven. On this mural Saint Peter is busy watering his cannabis plant, as such spoiling the barbecue of his downstairs neighbour Lucifer. The floating lawyer seems to approve of the quality of the weed, and the police is busy watching the nude beach. It is not a coincidence that this mural appeared so close to the Palais de Justice.