OMQ remembers Alfonso Wong

RIP Alfonso Wong

Beloved artist Alfonso Wong (王家禧) of Old Master Q comics quietly passed away on January 1, 2017 at 5:57am in the U.S.

Mr. Wong once said, "My life is like a comic strip, I will make Old Master Q captivate my audience as much as I can."

He was born in Tianjin in 1925 and moved to Hong Kong in 1956. There, he used the pen name of his first son Wang Ze (王澤), to create Old Master Q as a comic depiction of daily life. Not only did Mr. Wong enjoy drawing, he loved fishing and pottery, and was multi-talented as an active athlete in swimming, diving, and skating. His experiences helped to fuel the vitality of the comic strips. He also trained as a drummer, which helped him become ambidextrous with drawing. Mr. Wong’s son 王澤, now a retired architecture professor, has been growing and iterating upon the art of Old Master Q since 1995.

Alfonso Wong’s colorful life will be remembered fondly and his humor will continue to entertain generations of fans.

Read the full press release (Chinese).

A Brief Bio of Mr. Alfonso Wong

Mr. Alfonso Wong

If you want to ask which comic strip in Chinese history has never died out, has endured on the sales ladder, and has become a part of the international Chinese society, undoubtedly it is Alfonso Wong's "Old Master Q". Mr. Wong was originally named Wong Kar Hei, and was born in Tianjin. He studied Western art at Beijing Catholic University, and later resided permanently in Hong Kong. He was responsible for drawings in bibles for a French Catholic missionary there, and also the art editing in the church's magazine "Lok Fung Pao (Le Feng Bao)". Besides working, he also drew comics.

In 1962, Mr. Wong used his eldest son's name Wong Chak as a pen-name for his comic "Old Master Q", which was loved by many readers. In 1964 the series "Old Master Q, Mr. Chin and Big Potato" was published, and because of the liveliness and humour in the comic, it has kept the sales up to this day. The comic has since been known in every household and has grown up with us.

Mr. Alfonso Wong and the actor of the first OMQ live action film from 1965.
Father and Son visiting their home in Tianjin, China.

Q&A with Mr. Alfonso Wong

Q: What does the name "Lo Fu Gee (Lao Fu Zi)" mean?

A: It's a rather ordinary, but respectable title, denoting a "learned one" who can become a teacher ("Fu Gee") or, or one who has studied a lot. The term has been used for over two thousand years, often as a common name.

Q: How did the name "Old Master Q" come about?

A: It is a sort of translation from "Lo Fu Gee". "Old" is a respectable term, "Master" denotes the "learned one", and "Q"-- well it used to be "Cute", but it got abbreviated into "Q". Old Master Q also has some similarities with Lu Xun's "Ah Q", a rather humourous and satirical character. The "Q" also has some of its origins from there.

Q: What was your inspiration for Lo Fu Gee (Lao Fu Zi)?

A: Lo Fu Gee is about everyday matters, seeing the everyday world with humor. Kind of like newspaper editorials and political cartoons. I enjoyed reading those as a break or a relief from the other chaotic news that happens daily. I also wanted to create something funny, so people could take a break and find humor in their daily activities.

Q: How did you come up with the character "Old Master Q"?

A: Old Master Q has the traditional name and personalities of Chinese, so he would be a classic character in a comic. And in the 50's, 60's in Hong Kong, live was difficult for everyone, so through some local and Chinese people, it reflected the lives of the people, and showed the hard work and positive attitudes of the Hong Kong people.

Q: Is Q modeled after a real person?

A: No, he is just a comic character, just an invention. But you can find his characteristics in anyone.

Q: How similar is OMQ's personalities comapared to your own?

A: None that are exactly the same. Since Old Master Q reflects the lives of everyday people, and I'm just one of these people, so, when I was drawing I would sometimes bring out the way I behave.

Q: What are the clothes that Q is wearing?

A: It is a Ming Chu costume, from around the turn of the century. I used to wear those too! It was pretty common clothing, but often old gentlemen would wear them. In the comic Q's costume has been slightly shortened, to add humor to the strip. The three circles in front are actually buttons for his outfit. They close up the top flap of his outfit.

Q: How did the characters Big Potato and Mr. Chin come about?

A: Well I felt Q needed a friend or a sidekick, so I created Potato. He's like a joker, a comic relief. Mr. Chin came along for added excitement, so strip could be more exciting, with more things happening.

Q: What is the relationship between OMQ and Big Potato? Why are their clothes so similar?

A: They are good friends, and are close with Mr Qin. Big Potato and Old Master Q have very different personalities. In the comics, Old Master Q and Big Potato behave differently, but can support each other, hence their clothes are of the same design.

Q: OMQ is always fighting with some fashionable people, did you dislike these kind of people?

A: In the stories, OMQ belonged to the traditional society, but wants to catch up. In order to make the comics more interesting, exaggeration cannot be prevented. In fact, I am interested in new fashion clothing!

Q: Why isn't there a main female character (or girlfriend) in OMQ?

A: Miss Chen is seen more with Old Master Q, she is the girl whom Old Master Q pursues, and Old Master Q cares more about Miss Chen. But sometimes the material revolves around boyfriend-girlfriend relationships, so there would a need for other female characters to make the story more interesting. Therefore, besides Miss Chen, Old Master Q would need other female friends.

Q: Why do you always use "Loy Yunn Cheum Mei (耐人尋味)" as title?

A: Sometimes the significance of a comic would would leave readers an impression, which is even more meaningful. And "Loy Yunn Cheum Mei (Nei Ren Xun Wei)" might be too complex, other times it's because I could not think of a title!

Q: What was your biggest accomplishment in the creating OMQ?

A: I had never thought I would be so successful. I only thought of drawing a few strips per day to entertain myself, and others. The support from readers really surprised me!

Q: What is the most unforgettable moment (with readers)?

A: Now there are still female readers who write to me, thinking that I'm a young guy.

Q: What are you most satisfied or unsatisfied with this character?

A: Comic characters are only comic chracters, I continuously edit them no matter if I was satisfied or not. But after drawing for so many years, these characters seemed to have their own personalities. When I drew them in my comics, I naturally drew them according to their personalities.

Q: What is the difference between the old and new OMQ?

A: Not a lot of differences. The new one adjusts to modern lifestyle, his character would have some changes, there would be new ideas and the packaging would be more creative.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: I've always had many hobbies. I've liked fishing and pottery, which I still do at least once a week. When I was young, I was involved with a lot of sports. I played hockey, did gymnastics, judo, boxing, diving - you name it. I even did a little bit of ballet! I also enjoyed painting, hunting and riding motorcycles.. Basically anything that activity that OMQ has done, I've done!

Q: What other comics do you like and who was your favourite cartoon character?

A: I like artistic comics, and feel and observe the comic artists' creativity from them. My favourite list goes on. I've been reading comics since I was a kid. Comics from all over the world-- America, England, Japan, Germany.. They were all my "teachers". Let's see... Pink Panther, Snoopy/Peanuts, Punch Magazine (England), cartoons from French artist Sempe, Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, political cartoons from Paul Conrad.. just to name a few.