Last week, in Charleroi, Belgium, the statue of beloved bande dessinée character Gaston, aka Gaston Lagaffe, suffered the indignity of a beheading. The head was later found abandoned in a field approximately 3 miles away. Police still consider it an active investigation and the City of Cherleroi has stated their intent to file a police complaint. The statue of Gaston is part of the city’s collection of famed comics statues, itself located on Boulevard Tirou.  

According to on the morning after the discovery:

“The residents of the Place Verte discovered with astonishment a headless statue this morning. No information at this stage on what happened.

“The city’s services are stunned. The police came down on the spot to note the “decapitation” of Gaston. The head could not be found. Picked up by a passer-by, a shopkeeper? Carried away by the perpetrator(s) of the crime?”

The decapitation took place late Thursday night. A police search was undertaken to locate Monsieur Lagaffe’s head. The discovery of the missing head assuaged fears that it would potentially end up on a collectors’ black market.

Charleroi police spokesman David Quinaux said on Saturday, via the Belgian edition of Paris Match:

“Our colleagues from the Germinalt police zone were alerted by a witness to the presence of the head in a field near the IMTR hospital. They retrieved it and brought it to us.”

Quinaux had said on Friday that the Gaston statue vandalism was “a case of theft” and the City of Charleroi intends to file a police complaint. It was probably not the perfect crime – the vandals themselves have been recorded by security cameras. If caught and found guilty, the perpetrators risk up to five years jail time.

How the statue looked before. Source: Wikipedia Commons
Statue on Friday morning. Image Source:

Charleroi, Belgium is the home of Dupuis – more specifically its district (and formerly independent town) of Marcinelle – where it was established in 1922. One of Europe’s major traditional comics publishing houses, it boasts a treasure trove of Europe’s classic characters – Spirou, Fantasio, Marsupilami, Lucky Luke, Boule et Bill, Yoko Tsuno, Smurfs, and more. To celebrate this, the city has statues of its characters. As part of the publisher’s 2022 centenary celebrations the statues were restored.

Gaston is published as ‘Gomer Goof’ in English with Cinebook

Created by Belgian cartoonist André Franquin, the character Gaston Lagaffe (‘la gaffe’ meaning screw-up) debuted in Spirou magazine in 1957. The strip follows the title character Gaston, an employee at a fictionalised version of the magazine’s offices who has a penchant for dodging work or finding amusing ways of creating shortcuts. It proved a hit and is beloved in many parts of Europe, especially France and Belgium. There have been sporadic translations of Gaston into English – including by Fantagraphics – but the most recent and sustained release has been with British publisher Cinebook who have been republishing Gaston’s antics as Gomer Goof since 2017, with ten books currently in produced.

Vandalism of Charleroi’s comics statues isn’t new. In 2018 the statue of Spirou was defaced and the head of his squirrel sidekick Spip was removed (but returned after a few days). In 2021 shortly after Gaston and his famous Fiat 509 car were installed troublemakers had damaged them and attempted to remove one of the headlights.

This isn’t the first time the beheading of a beloved Franco-Belgian character has slipped into the news in the last couple years, either. Angoulême, the home of France’s famous international comics festival, had the head of its train station’s welcoming Spirou statue removed and destroyed by youths in 2020. The end result meaning that the station’s other statues have been moved behind the safety of glass displays.

A Spirou statue in Angouleme, France, was decapitated in 2020. Photo ©Festival de la BD

Clearly the cartoons aren’t safe to stand alone.

Police Officer carries in the retrieve head of Gaston. Source: RTL Info
Police officer indicating additional damage. Source: RTL Info
Gaston has seen better days. Source: RTL Info