Legions of fans of all ages are mourning the loss of cartoonist Alfonso Wong Kar-hei, the creator of one of Hong Kong’s most beloved and enduring Chinese-language comics, Old Master Q.
Wong, better known by his pen name Wong Chak, died in the United States on New Year’s Day, where he had retired in 1995. He was 93.
“Mr Wong Kar-hei left this world peacefully on New Year’s Day, January 1, at 5.57am US time, due to organ failure as a result of old age,” a statement on the comic publisher’s website read.
Wong’s Old Master Q comic strips first began appearing in local newspapers in 1962, just a few years after he had moved to Hong Kong from Tianjin. They were serialised in 1964 and became an instant hit. They continue to be published to this day.
His eldest son Joseph Wong Chak – whose name the elder Wong adopted as a pen name – took over the franchise following his father’s retirement.
The six-panel comic strips touch upon themes ranging from current affairs and pop culture to class divisions and social issues such as poverty.
Infused with offbeat local humour and reflections of modern society, the series revolves around Old Master Q, a quick-witted, lanky eccentric dressed in traditional Qing garb, the stumpy Big Potato and straight-talking Mr Chin, among many others.
Creations of Wong’s own imagination – aliens, ghosts and figures from the afterlife – also make frequent appearances. Recurring themes were summed up in four-character Chinese proverbs, perhaps the most classic being “intrigue and curiosity”.
Wong’s death was announced on the penultimate day of an exhibition held in tribute to both his and his son’s work on Old Master Q at the Comix Home Base in Wan Chai.
Tai Yim-kwan, an amateur sketch artist in his 70s, visited the expo on Tuesday to admire the elder Wong’s brush skills and to draw inspiration for his own work.
“His works really reflected modern society and cultural values [in the 1960s-80s],” he said. “He managed to make them entertaining.”