Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Old Master Q comics aka 'Lo Fu Ji'




I don't know what made me remember this all of a sudden...

Back in the day, before the Chinese Channel, before rented TVB videos, the only form of Chinese culture my family could get access to was in the form of Hong Kong magazines and newspapers. There were all indecipherable to me as I couldn't (and still can't) read Chinese but what I could read were the copies of Lo Fu Ji that would very occasionally appear in our house.

If you haven't seen these before, Lo Fu Ji (the official pinyin is Lao Fu Zhi but I prefer spelling it the way it sounds to me) is a comic strip featuring the main character of Old Master Q, the lanky Chinese equivalent of Mr. Bean and a cast of supporting characters: Mr. Chin, a tall man in a check shirt and Big Yam, a short, squat man with an enormous head who resembles a shrunk down version of Old Master Q himself.

The comic strips range from simple gags told over a few wordless panels, to full stories told over several pages (I always skipped over these). There is no main storyline. Each strip is pretty much a self contained joke or story. Sometimes the jokes rely purely on the comic appearance of the three main characters but often they are satirical too and refer to certain Hong Kong attitudes (e.g the constant mockery of Chinese people who try to look 'western' - typically portrayed as pouting, flared suit-wearing poncey idiots).

I've tried to think of a simple phrase that sums up 'Lo Fu Ji'. The best I can come up with is 'life makes fools of us all.'



The appeal of these comics when I was a child wasn't just the fact that there were often no tricky Chinese words to stump this illiterate 'bbc' - I actually found them funny too. There is a particular sense of humour in these comics. It's a mixture of cruel irony, surrealism and slapstick with the occasional note of seriousness thrown in too. Lo Fu Ji humour is similar in some ways to that of the films of Stephen Chow.

Quite often you find yourself laughing at a comic strip and then wondering, 'Why is that funny?' Lo Fu Ji taught me that there was a difference between Chinese and British humour.

If you'd like to find out more, here are a few links:

An Old Master Q fansite

Official (English) Old Master Q Website

Old Master Q blog

6 comments:

applegrass said...

God, I rememeber that! Memories flooding back! Now if only there were translations...

burntbreadboy said...

There are Old Master Q movies out too - haven't checked them out yet though.

theUglyChineseCanadian said...

Oh... man those were the classics! I remember trying to lift those comics from my parent's friend's home as a kid.

Now my kids got hold of a 3D animated version of Lofooji... but somehow, it's just not the same.

po said...

Alfonso Wong's seminal comic strip was a one off, social and individual comic strip of its time. in retrospects, the word I think best captures the feel is surreal. gathering from its visual contents, he was staunch anti Mao. his grotesque charactuers of Mao was less than flattering--it makes me wonder why Mao never listed him a marked man to assinate! he didnt too much get the 70's scene and didnt like flares. a man of his times, the 1950s and before boded well with his sketches. ultimately, the magazine was an individual, a voice not known before in the south pacific. best of all, it taught the reader how to think freely. not forgetting, it was fiercely entertaining and very, very traditionally chinese (great, mythic ghost stories--to give a prime sample)

Anonymous said...

OMG!!!
Lived in Taiwan for a year in '84, I was nine years old... And I remember doing nothing BUT reading these books/comics!!!! TOTALLY forgot about them until today for some reason... Wow!!! Great memories...

azileretsis said...

i remember these too.