Satirical socio-cultural commentary from the Old Master

Alphonso Wong (also known as Wong Chak) is fondly remembered as the creator of Old Master Q, a truly long-running series that first appeared in newspapers/magazines in Hong Kong in 1962, was serialised in 1964, and is still in publication today. When Mr. Wong retired from his strip in the 90s, his son, Joseph Wong, took over the company, and he’s been managing the licensing ever since, as well as directing the team of artists writing and drawing the strip. Wong Chak passed away in 2017, at 93.

I’m no expert (the language barrier doesn’t help!), but people’s love for Old Master Q and Wong Chak is evident. To quote from Lambiek Comiclopedia,

[The strip] inspired its own magazine (“Old Master Q’s Crazy Comics”, 1965), toys, stationary, electronic scales, LED lamps, insulated cups, umbrellas and lunch boxes, as well as seven live-action film adaptations, four animated ones and two TV series. Copies of ‘Old Master Q’ can still be found in many Chinese hairdresser shops or doctor’s waiting rooms. Its success spread to the rest of Asia and translations in Europe, Latin America and Japan. Along with other well-known comic book characters, Old Master Q has his own statue in the “Hong Kong Avenue of Comic Book Stars” in Kowloon Park, Hong Kong. In August 2016 an Old Master-themed café opened on Nathan Road in Prince Edward, Hong Kong.

I prefer the art from the earlier days of OMQ, although I am glad that the strip is still around. (It’s a national institution!) To illustrate:

Please don’t forget to follow the numbers and read these top to bottom, right to left, as appropriate for a Chinese strip:

OldMasterQ1970aliens
“Space Monster”, 1970. In panel number 4 , Old Master Q is saying “I am the first person to land on Mars! Hee, hee!”. In panel 5, he says “Friend!” to the aliens; despite his attempts at friendliness, they flee in panel 6, alarmed by “the strange beast that comes from space”.

Judging how often jokes about mermaids crop up, Wong Chak had a thing for them.

Reminder-of-Love_1970
“Reminder of love”, 1970.

Wong Chak was impressively ambidextrous and could (and would) draw with either hand!

OldMasterQ1974

Here’s a strip from more recent days. As you can see, the reading order of the panels has been adapted to the Western palate, and there are English captions translating the Chinese text.

OldMAsterQSmallPersonBigGhost

There’s as many collections of these strips as one would expect from a series so popular, including special-theme collections released for various holidays.

OldMasterQCover

I eagerly await the day I’ll be able to read Old Master Q strips without having to painfully pore over a dictionary over every third character. (Especially given that I’m learning simplified characters, and Old Master Q uses traditional characters. Oof…) If that day ever comes, there’ll be a lot of material to dig into!

Old master Q

You can follow the modern-day strips by visiting the official website, https://www.oldmasterq.com/

~ ds

One thought on “Satirical socio-cultural commentary from the Old Master

  1. Barney Dannelke October 24, 2017 / 11:51

    Not five minutes after reading the mermaid reference above I came across this on my sorting table.

    Must be something in the water.

    Liked by 1 person

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