For more than four decades, Old Master Q (老夫子) has worn an outfit that would not look out of place if he were transported back in time to the Qing Dynasty. But in a fashion show at W Whiskey & Wine last Wednesday, the classic comic strip character was re-imagined as a hip-hop artist and winged eyeball, among other things, by four of Taiwan’s leading young designers.
Produced by OMQ ZMedia, the comic’s publisher, and style magazine Men’s Uno, the show was one of the penultimate events in Old Master Q’s yearlong 45th anniversary celebration, which draws to a close in January. This month’s Men’s Uno also features a series of drawings with Old Master Q dressed up in the latest styles from nine fashion houses, including Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton.
Young Tsao (曹智揚) sent Old Master Q down the runway as a caped crusader, while singer and actor Jack Chang (張永智) dressed him as an angel with a golden face. Xiao Qing-yang (蕭青陽) imagined him as a hip-hop artist who plays the ruan (阮), a traditional Chinese lute. And artist and environmentalist Mr Eyeball (眼球先生) transformed Old Master Q into an eyeball with flowing bat sleeve wings.
The first Old Master Q comic strip was published in Hong Kong in 1962. Since then the comic, with its mixture of slapstick humor and good-natured social commentary, has become a perennial favorite among Chinese readers throughout the world, selling nearly 100 million books in a dozen countries and inspiring 12 films. The comics, created by Alfonso Wong (王家禧), follow the misadventures of Old Master Q (also referred to as Lao Fu Zi, the romanization of his Mandarin name), a traditionalist who nonetheless acts (and looks) younger than he really is, and his sidekicks Big Potato (大蕃薯) and Mr Chin (秦先生).
As part of the 45th anniversary celebration, OMQ ZMedia, the company that Alfonso Wong’s son Joseph Wong (王澤) founded to carry on his father’s legacy, published special-edition comic books, launched a series of collectible figures sold in convenience stores, celebrated the sale of original manuscripts at Sotheby’s (the first Chinese comics sold by the auction house) and collaborated with Hong Kong designers EIB Studio on a series of designer toys.
“Years ago, we thought maybe we should focus on repeating what my dad had done with the comics, but after a while, I realized that my father is an individual and what he has in him, his own talent, there is no way to recreate it. So we decided to move on with Old Master Q and put what we like and how we feel into our work,” says Wong, who is also a professor of architecture at Shih-Chien University (實踐大學).
And lately, as the collaborations with Men’s Uno demonstrate, Old Master Q feels like being a high-fashion model.
“With fashion, and any kind of design, it’s about transmitting a feeling, a feeling that is up-to-date, able to change your mind and make you happy. Comic books and fashion are the same in that way,” says Wong.
Old Master Q has been drawn in nearly 100 outfits over the years, but most readers associate him with his quirky, old-fashioned clothes: a yellow tunic, vest and loose trousers.
“A couple of years ago I decided to draw different kinds of clothing on him, like blue jeans with jackets, and I thought he looked alright. Then I tried high fashion and thought, ‘God, he looks good,’” says Wong.