This article started simply enough, with a story about the proposed refurbishing of several statues in Charleroi, Belgium. Then I had the bright idea to have some fun with Google Maps, and here we are.
Charleroi is the home of Dupuis, the publisher of Spirou for the last 80 years or so. It’s a legacy that the city honors. (Charleroi, a former industrial town along the river, was also once voted The Ugliest City in Europe, which ironically led to increased tourism and something of an economic revival in the town…)
To help celebrate that comics legacy, a series of statues featuring Dupuis characters are spread throughout the city. Unfortunately, the years and the weather have not been kind to those statues, and there has slowly been a movement afoot to bring them in, clean them up or remake them, and put them back where they belong.
I took a Google Maps tour of the town to see the sights. This allowed me proper social distancing, and stayed within the zero dollars budget of this website. I’d love to one day visit and spend all day with a camera to document everything, but that’s not likely anytime soon.
Here are the offices of Dupuis in Charleroi. Google Maps won’t take you into private property, but you can see Spirou on the windows in the front of the building, at least.
Spirou and Fantasio
This statue sits in a traffic circle a block away from a soccer stadium.
That round black building behind them? That’s a police station. There’s a review on Google Maps that reads:
I just passed nearby to hunt Pokemon but I give a good note to the architect fan of Darth Vader.
I like how Google Maps blurred out Spirou’s face to protect his anonymity.
From the reverse angle, you can see that Fantasio appears to be proposing marriage to Spirou. It’s hard to see in this image, but that’s a camera in his hands. He’s taking a picture of Spirou and Spip. Yes, that’s Spip there, too! This might be the only large scale squirrel statue in the world.
Except for this one:
There is another Spirou statue in front of the Charleroi train station, greeting all visitors. Unfortunately, Google Maps can’t get you too close. This is the best I can do, but a Google search will get you better pics:
It’s in much better shape than the other statues. I think it was fixed a couple of years ago. You can’t see it here, but Spip is on his arm. TWO squirrel statues in ONE town! Amazing!
The interior of that train station has notable comic-themed decorations. Here’s a link to the Lucky Luke decorations, which include a fresco and a comic strip on the wall.
This is the greatest traffic circle in the history of mankind. For, in its center, there stands a Marsupilami.
It’s a pretty big statue, with a large Marsupilami up on a pedestal in the middle, surrounded by six pools. Looking back at previous years’ Google Maps pictures, I can see that there’s a series of water fountains shooting up around Marsupilami in the middle, with assorted fountains shooting up from the other pools, as well.
This statue is being replaced outright. They’re going to put a new Marsupilami in, standing on his tail. No more pedestal needed.
Here’s a closeup shot:
I haven’t yet found a solid source of information to tell me when all of these statues were installed. The only clue I found was on a message board, where one poster said that Marsupilami went up in 1988 in connection with a comics festival happening in the city at the time. It came down after that, but returned for good in 1989.
This isn’t the only Marsupilami statue on display in Europe. There’s one in Middlekerke, Belgium, which is part of a series of comic-themed statues that includes Smurfette, Lucky Luke, Spirou, and Natasha, amongst others. I may save that sight-seeing tour for a future article.
I’ve seen also seen references to another Marsupilami at the train station in Angouleme. I haven’t seen a picture of that yet, so I still considered that unconfirmed.
Lucky Luke and Jolly Jumper
Just outside Reine Astrid Park stands this 18 foot tall statue of Lucky Luke and his horse, Jolly Jumper. According to Lambiek, the statue was unveiled in 1994.
Once again, Google Maps enjoys blurring out Luke’s face from many angles. Profiles are ok, but views from the front get blurred.
Trust me when I say you don’t want to see a close up of this statue. Jolly’s face is just falling apart. It’s kind of sad. When they made these statues, they didn’t future proof them at all.
OK, fine, now that I said that, you really want to see it, don’t you? Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Once you see this, you can’t take it back. Wikipedia has a good picture:
This article (from the “Least Informative Travel Blog in the Low Countries”) says the statue makes the two “look like they’ve been on crack for years.” That same article also saw the same proposal thing with Spirou and Fantasio that I did…
If you want to see a picture of what this statue looked like in 2000 when it still looked fresh, check out Pete Scully’s Sketchblog for that, and an excellent series of sketches from his visit to Charleroi.
These Google Map images are a few months old. One of the reports I read indicates that this statue has already been removed from the Parc.
Boule et Bill
Finally, you teach kids not to play in traffic, but here’s one with his dog in the middle of a traffic circle:
That’s Jean Roba’s dynamic duo of Boule et Bill. Yes, there’s another soccer ball involved, and I read somewhere that he’s wearing the local team’s colors. It looks as though all of those colors have since faded, though…
Here’s a slightly closer image. Like with Jolly Jumper, you don’t want to get too close. The years have not been kind to their faces:
Brussels Bonus: Gaston La Gaffe
Near the Centre Belge de la Bande dessinée (“Belgian Comic Strip Center”) in Brussels, there stood a Gaston statue:
It’s been missing for a few months now, though the base of it is still there, surrounded by some fencing:
The statue was set up by the nearby museum. They brought it in for repairs, but the damage was too great. It would have been cheaper to make a new one.
According to the Generation BD report, there is a plan to replace it with a new statue, but no specifics are known.
If you want to continue on your travels but are looking to visit something with a more interactive experience, I can recommend three Smurfs theme parks that are open right now, too. You’ll find various statue photo ops, but also costumed characters, rides, and a gift shop or three.