Urban magic: Antwerp gets its 10th comic strip mural


The latest comic strip wall in Antwerp features Marc Sleen’s creation Nero, and is part of an alternative art walk

Comic trail

Anyone who often walks around Brussels will have seen plenty of them: stripmuren, or comic walls, large murals dedicated to one of the many cartoonists this country has produced. But Antwerp also has its comic walls. The 10th one was recently inaugurated, based on Nero, the most famous of Flemish artist Marc Sleen’s creations.

The Antwerp comic walls are an initiative of the people behind Mekanik Strip, a comic shop and gallery in the city. Initiator Linda Torfs says the idea of the comic walls in Brussels inspired her to do the same in Antwerp.

“With the latest comic wall, our trail along different murals in the centre of the city is completed,” she says. “Maybe we will make more of them later, but for now we’re focusing on promoting them.” The organisers have put together a two-hour walk along the murals that now runs from Central station to the city’s student area. “We have mapped out a walk, and the city guides of Antwerp have picked up the trail,” she says. “Another new walk leads visitors along both the comic walls and walls with poetry on them.”

The city of Antwerp is participating in the project, since the walls contribute to the image of Antwerp as an artistic and creative place. “But the neighbourhood is also happy with the paintings,” Torfs says. 

Breaking up the grey

“People come to us spontaneously to tell us when maintenance is needed on one of the drawings. It adds colour; it breaks the greyness of blank walls in a city. And the graffiti community respects our comic walls. We have little trouble with tags or graffiti on our drawings.”

This country is the home of comic strips, so there is plenty of choice for inspiration to brighten up a wall. How hard is it to choose from the overwhelming number of potential artists? “We do indeed have the luxury of choosing from a huge range of artists, so we change our approach from time to time,” says Torfs. 

It’s important to melt into the atmosphere

- Linda Torfs

“Sometimes we choose to present the work of more alternative artists such as Jan Bosschaert or Jan Van der Veke; other times that of mainstream comics artists like Willy Vandersteen or Marc Sleen. Usually it’s the artists themselves who create something special for their wall. But then we also look for a nice image that fits into the neighbourhood.”

Torfs explains that the wall itself, and the surrounding neighbourhood, define what the mural will look like. “It’s important to melt into the atmosphere of a neighbourhood,” she says. “A medieval quarter is different from a modern district, and that’s something we always bear in mind in our work.

“In this way, a grey, dull, nondescript wall ends up as a nice corner. It’s urban magic in my eyes. But equally, we want to promote the medium of comic books. Comics are really the ninth art.”

Photo: Brecht Evens