Old Master Q a 'painkiller' for readers, says writer

Still single, still unlucky, Old Master Q has been keeping Hongkongers amused for 50 years - and that's just the point, says writer Joseph Wong

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 January, 2013, 7:18am

The writer of one of Hong Kong's best-loved comic books says fans shouldn't read too much into them - they're not intended to be philosophical and should be seen as a "painkiller" for readers.

And that formula hasn't changed in half a century, says Joseph Wong Chak, who took over from his father, Alfonso Wong Kar-hei, in producing Old Master Q when he retired in the 1990s.

In the stories, created by Alfonso Wong in 1962, Old Master Q typically runs into bad luck, is scolded and has countless marriage proposals knocked back yet never loses his humour and wit.

"When life is tough, with mean bosses and debts to pay, I just want to give people a relaxing moment," said Joseph Wong. As well as continuing the series, he also teaches architecture at Shih Chien University in Taiwan.

In the 1960s when Old Master Q began, the stories were mainly situated on the streets of Hong Kong and featured typical scenes of people slurping down wonton noodles. As the city was exposed to more Western influence, cultural phenomena such as The Beatles and James Bond began appearing in the stories.

And when Hong Kong's economy took off in the 1970s and the city became more international, Old Master Q's life trajectory followed suit. "But despite all the changes, Old Master Q still has the same humour and same cheeky face and attitude," Joseph Wong said. "And after all these years he is still single."

But when it comes to the messages in the stories, Wong insists there is no deeper meaning: "Drawing comics isn't academic. It's something very casual and uncomplicated. I just want it to serve as a painkiller."

When his father became too old to pick up his pen, Wong - who grew up reading and drawing Old Master Q - decided it was time to take over. "I wanted to help him at first, then I fell into the trap," he said, adding that it was a "happy trap". While he has no plan to find a successor, he said he welcomes any interest: "I hope there will be someone crazy enough to do this."

The comic's 50th anniversary exhibition, including original manuscripts from the 1960s, is on show at Tuen Mun Town Plaza until February 24.