This is a slightly tardy post, as I went to Brussels almost a month ago, but better late than never. One of the first things you notice on arriving in this amazing city is how incredibly seriously comics are taken – to be honest, the English word “comic” seems a bit throwaway in this context, so I feel that the French term “bande dessinée” is more appropriate really. They are literally everywhere, from the impressively housed Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée, to the giant murals of famous characters adorning random walls around the city, to (best of all) the countless second-hand book shops filled to the rafters with works spanning the ages. Given all this, I thought it would be remiss of me to leave Brussels without picking up at least a couple of books to take home with me. Firstly, I think anyone familiar with the band and our recent album will be able to tell why I bought this one:
However, amusing personal associations aside, this is actually one of an extremely popular Belgian series known originally as Suske En Wiske and created by the late Willy Vandersteen in 1948. This is the French version, in which the central characters are known as Bob and Bobette, but I think the drawing style and content is very typically Flemish. Anyway, here are the “chasseurs” hunting some “fantômes”:
The other “bande dessinée” I picked up very much appealed to the part of me that used to read silly old adventure comics as a child, and now enjoys watching silly old exploitation thrillers. Bruno Brazil is another popular series that was originally published in Le journal de Tintin in the 1970s, and was written by Louis Albert (aka Greg) and drawn by William Vance. From what I can gather with my rather rusty French, the titular character is some sort of debonair super-spy/crime-solving hero, and in this particular story, the case seems to require him going undercover in a ’70s soul-funk band!
Many of Brussels’s second-hand bookshops also stock copious old records, and when I came across this mint-condition, seemingly self-released LP from 1980, I felt I had to take a chance on it.
The album turned out to be a one-off collaboration between the long-established, Brazilian-influenced Belgian guitarist, Stephane Martini, and a mysterious wandering poet/singer, the eponymous Benjamin. The music itself is an interesting mix of Brel-style Belgian “chanson”, hippy beat poetry, soft folk and light Latin influences. Overall, an understated, yet unusual and enjoyable listen. Someone (maybe Benjamin himself?) has put the album tracks up on the dreaded Myspace, so you can listen to them there.
I could actually write much, more about what I saw and did during the few days I spent in Brussels, but I’ll leave that for another time. Suffice to say, I highly recommend a visit!